Sunday, August 28, 2011

Connecting the Dots

Some people want to hear more about my flights and less about the hotels or the keys or the fuellers or the taxicabs, but my flights are a long sequence of lines with dots on them. Have you ever sat down to play a simple videogame, not a fancy one with a plot and cut sequences and realistic graphics, but the sort you get for your phone that mostly just have dots or blobs you have to shoot or catch, like Bejeweled Blitz or Pac-Man or Space Invaders or Stack the Cats and then looked up four hours later with sore fingers and almost no perception of the time passing? That's whatit's like flying photo survey, except that instead of being filled with guilty self-loathing over having wasted so much time, you have a great feeling of accomplishment of having taken seven hundred twenty three photographs without missing a dot.

Sometimes the lines are parallel with the endpoints lined up, so I can just turn around, and attack the next line, but sometimes the next line is longer or shorter or we skip one, so I need to be directed to the next one before it comes on screen. The scale jumps to zoom in as I approach the lines until it switches to what I call the "jumpscreen." (Yah, because it jumps. My creativity wanes when I'm totally focused on dots.) It depicts the track I have to cruise right down the middle of. The main dots appear on the screen green, then turn yellow and blue and sometimes red. Red is bad, and I should tell the operator if I see a red dot, but he has the same screen and has usually seen it before me, in that he isn't flying an airplane at the same time.

So there are two sorts of dots, the sometimes red one that I have to chase to make it stay in the middle and greem, and the ones on the line that I have to gobble up like Pac-Man. It makes me crave Skittles and Smarties (the Canadian kind: the American kind, which we call Rockets, aren't brightly enough coloured, enough).

I can do engine management, look up new frequencies, and all the other things you do while flying in the few seconds between dots, or in turns. And I listen to my MP3 player through the headset, on a setting that mutes the tunes as soon as there is any activity on the intercom or radio. This also has the effect of shutting the music off right away if I start to sing along, a blessing for the camera operator.


Robert said...

Thanks for your interesting and educational posts.

david said...

Even as a private pilot with under 1,000 hours, I understand that the FBOs, maintenance, taxis, hotels, restaurants, etc. are most of cross-country flying. I'm aware that there's also a machine with spinny bits that carries you from fuel pump to fuel pump, but it gets a bit monotonous even when you're not doing photo flights.

Brewster said...

"Some people want to hear more about my flights and less about..."

Wow, I finally found a use for an expression that my kids use all the time: "It's all good!"

Your unique mix of topics is part of the attraction of your blog. You have nothing to apologize for.

Wayne Farmer said...

What do you listen to while focusing on dots? Electronica? Ambient?

Somehow I don't think opera would work well.

Aviatrix said...

Late 20th century top 40 pop songs, from Abba to ZZ Top. "She's got legs and she knows how to use 'em" -- that's me. Never the Beach Boys, though. Some Beach Boys songs have a rhythm that sounds like a cavitating engine.

A Squared said...

Some Beach Boys songs have a rhythm that sounds like a cavitating engine.

Cavitating engine? what is that?

I know of cavitating props, a penomenon which occurs in water, where the pressure on the low pressure side of a prop blade becomes low enough that the water vaporizes and cretes a "pocket" of gas instead of liquid. This also happens in hydro-power turbines, and in both cases is quite destructive as the pockets will collapse cyclically and quickly as they form, causing rapid erosion of the prop or turbine.

I haven't heard of cavitation in the context of an engine.

Aviatrix said...

Cavitating is the wrong word, I suppose. It sounds like the hesitation in the engine when the fuel supply is intermittant, as the fuel lines unport in a hard survey turn.

A Squared said...

Ahh, I see. So, why are you unporting yout fuel pickups? are you making skidded turns to maintain satellite lock?

I recall this was a reccomendation back in the early days of kinnematic positioning of aerial photography. I was working for one of the early adopters. Ultimately we found that (at least for out antennae and installations) if we kept turns standard rate or less we didn't have loss-of lock problems.