I'm not sure if I mentioned that I have had some communications difficulties with ATC lately, missing calls, or having to have parts of calls repeated. I thought it was distraction, working with a new task or missing an unfamiliar callsign, but taxiing in at Vancouver I realized that moving the cord made a difference to whether or not I could transmit. What a time for my headset to die. I could get it repaired, but that would involve express shipping it to the manufacturer in Portland, Oregon and back. And I'd have no headset in the meantime.
Or no good headset. There are a couple of spare headsets in the airplane, but wow, sorry, if you've used a good noise cancelling headset for over ten years, passive no longer cuts it. I wonder how people managed with those things. I have to do a PPC ride and work in the flight levels. I can't not have it work.I was an early adopter of noise cancelling technology, reasoning that I only had the one set of ears. People laughed at my bulky earcups, but then they tried it and they bought them too.
I suppose there may be some readers unfamiliar with noise cancelling. It's also called active noise reduction (ANR), active noise cancellation, and probably some other things. Each manufacturer has its own jargon. It works by having a little microphone in each ear cup, sampling the sound that's getting in there, and then generating a noise that is the exact opposite of that noise, cancelling out the first noise. It works because sound is not a thing with form, but only exists as squished and stretched out parts in the air, so you play a sound that squishes and stretches the air in the exact opposite way, and the result is much less sound. There is no time travel technology associated, so it can't predict the future, therefore takes a moment to cut in, and works best on steady sounds, like engines, and therefore actually allows you to hear irregular sounds, like something going "clunk" or someone speaking, even better. The sound dampening provided by merely having something clamped over your ears is called passive protection, and the total hearing protection offered by a headset is the combination of active and passive. Less expensive headsets offer only passive noise reduction.
The noise cancellation still works on mine, but the wiring inside the cord has probably broken. Also the headband doesn't fit as securely and the earseals always fall off overnight. After five thousand hours of service, the headset owes me nothing. I was planning to replace it soon, but had hoped to have leisure to compare and test different headsets.
Fortunately there is a headset dealer at the Vancouver airport, less than a kilometre from where the airplane is parked. I bring my old one and then get straight to the point. "Hi, this is broken. I need a comfortable, high quality ANR headset that fits small. What do you have in stock?" The clerk asks me what my budget is. I know how much a good ANR headset costs, "A thousand dollars," I say, in a way that is intended to convey that I'll pay more if that's what it costs. (Yeah, none of the tools of my trade come cheap). I know that I can't buy new ears, that an airspace violation could cost me that much in fines, and a botched clearance could kill me. I can see the display case of headsets, but instead of going over to it and showing me what's available, he disappears to the back of the store without another word. Weird.
I look at headsets for a while. There are some David Clarks, but while they are the unrivaled leader in durability and movie appearances, they were late on the ANR bandwagon. I remember a guy who sold a homebrew ANR conversion for DCs, and it was better than what the company itself came out with. There's a Telex, but not the ANR model. I think the only ANR headset there is a Bose. Another salesman comes out to help me. I think the first guy figured he didn't know enough about the headsets to deal with me and went to get the expert. The Bose is comfortable, fits me, has good noise cancelling. You can't really tell if a headset is going to work for you until you've flown with it, but it's significant;y lighter than the old headset, and has an excellent reputation and warrantee, including a thirty-day satisfaction return policy. Ordinarily I'd buy a headset letting the seller know I was taking it for a test flight, but when I take off from here I don't know where I will land. I'll take this one based on reputation: I'm sure it will be good enough, and given a chance to test the newest model from other manufacturers, I can mail it back if they are significantly better for me.
I tell him I'll take one. But as I haven't pre-ordered, he doesn't have any in stock. And he's not getting more until September. Bose has a US military supply contract and therefore aren't super concerned about getting their headsets in small retailers' hands.
"What about this one?" I ask, of the display model. He quickly decides that it's worth selling it to me, and puts it in its box. Comes to over $1200 with the taxes. It's a Bose A20 with Bluetooth connectivity, an extra option I wasn't planning on spending $100 on, but that's what it has. Bluetooth is kind of a joke for me as my cellphone is so old it doesn't even have a jack for a handsfree headset, and I still have two perfectly functional non-Bluetooth MP3 players. Come to think of it, I bought the cellphone in a similar, "NEED PHONE NOW!" panic. Is this the way I live my life? I guess some people keep a constant awareness of products they might need, knowing which one they want most at any moment so that when their current one dies they can replace it with confidence. Actually, don't answer that. The normal way is to replace your stuff before it wears out, with newer and better. I like my stuff and hate discarding functional things. I'm going to see if I can get my camera repaired, for example.
So I stash the old headset in the back of the airplane and set up the new one. Comfy!
Also I've noticed that at least two numbers (37 and 107) have two takers each in the sunglasses contest. You don't have to read all the submissions, but to increase your chances, double-check your choice by using the "find" command on the comment list to see if it's already been picked. I'll leave the contest open until we run out of numbers or the first appropriate (not raining at destination) flight after I get a working camera, whichever comes first.