Friday, June 25, 2010

Wrong Tool for the Job

I'm driving in an unfamiliar city, on my way to the airport in a rental car. I have directions that are supposed to get me right onto the main airport road, but the road unexpectedly bifurcates and I'm pretty sure I was supposed to be on the other half of it. It's not a strict grid system and there are bridges and underpasses, so I can't just turn right and reconnect with the proper road. I pull over and pull out my flight bag GPS.

Of course it's an aviation GPS, so it knows where the airport is. It doesn't know where the roads are, but it's a big enough airport that I figure if I can get going in more or less the right direction for the airport, I'll find a sign with a picture of an airplane on it, and I can just follow those to the airport. The GPS will tell me if I'm getting closer or further from the airport, the bearing direct to it, and if there are any large bodies of water barring my way.

With this dubious logic, I pull back into traffic, casting a glance at the screen once I have forward motion and the GPS can orient itself. Yep, this is kind of the right way. I continue. At the next light it's still showing that I'm going pretty much the right way. Then as the road curves I glance at it again and laugh. The whole screen has gone red! If I travel at a speed greater than would be commensurate with taxiing, terrain within a certain distance turns red to warn me of obstacles. The GPS is terribly concerned that I'm flying too low for safety.

As I go under a highway underpass I spot a sign on the highway above giving directions to the airport. I take the next right and get on that highway. The car is returned and I find my airplane.


ATC Happenings said...

So the GPS, in effort to save you from flying into terrain, was useless in helping you find the airport by car?

Gotta love technology. In an effort to save us it might just kill us too.

GPS_Direct said...

My old GPS had an aural warning for terrain or obstacles. When I'd fiddle with it while driving, it would "ding ding" like crazy as I kept aiming at all these 200' AGL towers! Talk about annoying.

My newer unit, a Bendix King AV8OR, has both a "Fly" and "Drive" mode and this is MUCHO USEFUL. Plays videos too for inflight entertaining of the pax! (As if flying wasn't entertaining enough...)

I think the new Garmin Aera's have "road" software too (not sure about movies) - but I'm doing my part to help David fight Goliath...

Aviatrix said...

A pilot I know managed to get an aviation GPS, I think it was a Garmin 296 or 496, stuck in "drive" mode and it kept telling him where the McDonald's restaurants were, and that he had to get on the highway to get to the airport.

Sarah said...

Garmin aviation GPS are always the wrong tool on the ground. A $200 car-only GPS is much better than a 396/496. I tried to use my 396 on a highway trip. First, you have to pre-load detailed maps on the memory card - it doesn't come preloaded with detailed street maps. Even so, the database was so inaccurate it kept getting confused, thinking I had taken an exit and was driving on a side street needing directions back to the highway. The poor thing panicked. "Turn Left! Drive 1/2 mile, then turn ... Recalculating... recalculating" I expected "does not compute" and smoke next, so I turned it off.

majroj said...

I can hear that snotty male Aussie voice on my wife's Garmin now..
"Pull up, terrain ahead. Pull up, terrain ahead. For the love of God, pull up, you're going to get us killed!".

And jamming on the brakes:
"Stall alert!".

Paul said...

You haven't lived until you take the stock iPhone GPS map thingy and try to navigate somewhere. This is the crippled app that won't do turn-by-turn navigation. So you try to sync the blue line on the map to what you see in front of you. I guess it works in the country, but in the city, I'm sure you'd kill somebody.

Funny stories.


grant said...

"Wrong Tools for the Job" vs. Two "Tools" who can screw anything up, even with the Right Tools. I think this clip is hilarious - too bad about the poor quality:
The Machine Knows!!!

Sarah said...

hahaha! Thanks for that, Grant.

"Make a U-turn, if possible."

The Office is just a little too close to home for me to watch regularly. I've worked under a Michael Scott before ( "That's what she said." )

grant said...

@Sarah - I can only imagine how creepy that is. I find Michael Scott is bearable when he makes those comments because he's such a buffoon and so much just trying to "fit in." It's his 'friend' Packer that really creeps me out.

Have you seen the original Brit version? The Americans softened most of the characters I find. The "Dwight" character (I forget his name in that series .. Garrith?) is the kind of guy I'd expect to bring a rifle to work and start shooting if someone really ticked him off. American Dwight is not so scary.

The Machine Knows!