Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Foresworn II

So when we last left our intrepid pilot, he was on a sandbar somewhere in the greater expanse of Alaska, with a malfunctioning GPS. I was on the other end of a satellite phone connection, warm and dry in a pilot shop in Anchorage, having just realized that I'd broken my fervent promise never to do help desk.

With clearly great reluctance, our lost pilot turns off the GPS, and I hear the sigh of relief when it boots back up just fine. "Oh! The numbers on the lower left hand side are..." And he rattles off a software version number that makes me want to facepalm. He hasn't updated the software on this thing in years... in fact, I'd bet good money he hasn't updated since he bought it. "And here's the satellite page! It's searching! It thinks the date is... what??"

I nod, even though he can't see it, and pitch my voice low and soothing again. "Was that the last time you'd used the GPS, sir?"

"Oh. Uh. Yeah, I guess it was."

"Your GPS basically went to sleep when you shut it down, and now it doesn't know that time passed, so it's staring really hard in the wrong spot of the sky for the satellites, sir. It's okay. Turn it off again, and listen to my instructions before you turn it back on. I want you to repeat back to me what you're gonna do. You're going to hold down these two buttons, and continue holding them down for three seconds after you push the power button again. What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to... do I hold the power button down for three seconds, too?"

"No, sir, just those two buttons."

I wait. Approximately three second later, the full-pitched panic returns. "It's not finding them yet!"

"It's going to take about ten minutes." I soothe, and desperately reach into my bag of tricks for ways to distract, soothe, and generally de-panic pilots. Time for the biggest one I have. So I pitch my voice up bright. "While we're waiting, what kind of plane do you have?"

He perks up by reflex. "Oh, it's a supercub!"

"Really? What mods have you put on yours, and what are you planning?"

A few minutes later, in the middle of an extended discussion on the best way to spend a limited budget at the amazing and wonderful world of airplane mods known as F. Atlee Dodge, he breaks off. "Hey, it's working! I see where I am! How'd I get... never mind! I can get back to the airport!"


"Um, how much do I owe you?"

I contemplate the absurdity of trying to take a credit card payment from the middle of nowhere over a satellite phone for telling a guy to press three buttons, and reply brightly, "You owe me coming into the shop to get that GPS software updated, next time you get back into the Big City!"

"Okay! Thank you So Much! I'll be right there!" He hangs up, and I put the phone back on the hook with a shake of my head and a sigh.

Fearless Pilot Shop Leader asks all the questions she needs to by just raising her eyebrows. I check - there are no other customers in earshot, just one back by the used avionics counter. I hold up my fingers and waggle air quotes. "I'm on a sandbar and my GPS doesn't work."

She nods, and points over to the GPS update computer. "I got another one over there, waiting for you."

"Can do!" I shift my but off the stool, and head off to another day in the life of tech support. At least I get to talk about airplanes while doing it!


  1. I can SO relate - people are the same, no matter what. At least you made that guy's day, and made him think you're wonderful. Which, I believe your Calmer Half would agree, you are. :)

  2. LOL, I'm betting he never missed an update again, nor did he shut it down and leave it off while flying again... :-)

  3. All I ever got was a shut down due to proximity to military airspace (one of the enormous MOAs [military practice areas] that was cold at the time and that started 6,000' above me) and a RAIM alert and shut down just after entering the clouds on a stormy morning. Since we were taking the "scenic" route from Big-ish City to Podunk Western Base, I just turned the box off and went VOR to VOR once we were able to get back on course-ish.