Sunday, September 04, 2011

Battery of Battery-Related Thoughts

I walked all over town to find a 386/301 battery for my IFR timer and a couple of AAAs for my pulse oximeter. Who knew there could be so many different sorts of small round batteries. When buying devices, it's worth including battery availability in the comparison between brands. Everything in aviation should run off AA batteries. I carry a charger and a little pile of spare rechargeables so that when my headset battery cops out, or my flashlight isn't bright enough, I can swap them out.

Mark that against the Bose A20: the batteries are trickier to change in flight than for LightSPEED. They didn't intend you to change them in flight. They have an elaborate system of green and amber flashing lights designed to tell you your battery health and give you a chance to change them before the flight. These don't work with rechargeables, because of their square power profile: they work fine until they are almost dead then drop off to nothing too fast to give a warning. Bose tells you not to use rechargeable batteries for this reason, but I'm not leaving a trail of mercury all over the country for the convenience of flashing lights.

I keep my spare and used batteries straight in the cockpit using a pair of little plastic boxes, one red and one clear, that hold for AA batteries each. I was using it in the north and my favourite captain asked me where I got it. I didn't remember exactly, but told him I'd get him one, and I didn't, but I had to leave before I gave it to him. I asked for his postal address to send it to him, but then he had to leave, and the e-mail I had for him stopped working, but I kept the box all this time. Last time I was packing, I couldn't find my box, so I 'stole' the one I'd been saving for him, but I tell you, if you're reading this, you who forgave me for ripping the REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT streamer off the engine plug on my first morning at work, send me your address and I will be honoured to send you one.

I have to plug the computer in to use flight simulator programs. The battery runs down too fast otherwise. When I'm flying my toy flight simulator, sometimes the panel lights spontaneously turn off, and I have to cycle the nav lights to put them back on again. Bug or feature to make the whole thing as inscrutably unknowable as a real airplane?

If you thought that last thought was disconnected, how about this one: Originally the forest moon of Endor was supposed to be populated by Wookiees, not Ewoks (wook-ee/ee-wok: original, eh?) but George Lucas decided that since the Wookiee Chewbacca was clearly proficient with advanced technology (i.e. he was pilot and mechanic of the spaceship the Millennium Falcon and also repaired the damaged android C3PO), it would be confusing to show the Wookiees with a primitive, "stone age" culture on Endor.

That's stupid. That's stupid enough to make me angry. That's racist 'logic'. That's the logic that didn't let women run marathons, because they never had. You don't have to be a whiny white moisture farmer with exceptional midichlorians to study and learn things, and it is perfectly possible to learn things that your parents didn't know. You'd have to be keen, and have some aptitude for the subject to make up for the not having the experience of growing up with technology, like Anakin building his own robots and podracers, but there's no reason Kashyyyk couldn't produce competent pilots and mechanics.

You may think this post has gone entirely into deep space, but I'll bring it home by examining Star Wars stored power technology. The Death Star had a massive generator, and no fuel tanks, but the society had batteries, power converters, power couplers and other means of transferring, transforming and transporting energy. I wonder if Han Solo ever had to walk all over Mos Eisley looking for the right sort of power cell for his blaster.


grant said...

Good timing on this post ... I'm currently hunting for a battery for my OLD ELT ... and I'm resisting "upgrading" to the 406 ELT because I consider it a waste of good money that I'd rather invest in a SPOT or Spider Tracks - technology that works on a fail-safe basis. As far as I can tell the 406 units only help reduce Search and Rescue costs in looking for the wreckage - when they work at all ... anyway - back to the battery hunt. (the "pack" is nothing more than six D-cells soldered together ... I could easily make on myself, but probably not legal . huh?)

Anonymous said...

You do realize that if you are conscious enough to activate it a $200-$300 406mHz PLB with built in GPS is a great way to call in the carvery. Go read some reviews at and start flying with one in your pocket all the time.

Will said...

Airplanes, electronics, and Star Wars. Outstanding.

amulbunny's random thoughts said...

Since you brought up Star Wars.....and I have seen it way too many times since 1977......Why didn't they give the Wookie a medal? He did just as much to save the Rebellion pilots in the first attack on the Death Star as old Lanky Han?

grant said...

@Anonymous - yeah I'm vaguely aware of those units, and the other excellent technologies that render traditional ELTs much less useful. Unfortunately, Transport Canada seems slow and unwilling to apply common sense to the way the regs are written... (like that's unusual) ...

Anonymous said...

I doubt Han Solo would have dared walked into Mos Eisley with the low battery power light blinking on his blaster.

Anonymous said...

"call in the carvery" I had not thought of using my EPIRB to order a roast beef sandwich! Could get the cavalry to bring it with them.

cockney steve said...

Not particularly a Star-Wars fan, but the Back to the Future "mad Prof's" garbage-powered (mister fission, IIRC) generator bodged onto the back of the time-machine Delorian, cracked me up.

I agree with the rechargeable observations and also have the AA/AAA frustration. You can actually buy adaptors, AA to "D" and similar. Try electronic component/R/C hobby supplies for "shells" to build your own battery-pack..the little plastic cases were/are available from 7-day shop, a Channel-islands company who even break your order into separate parcels to keep below the customs-duty limit in the connection,but a happy customer.

Dave W said...

Hi there,

I see you mention your simulator - how are you getting on with your points tally you proposed for the new year?

Love the variety in your blog - I can always rely on you for a new post when I'm supposed to be working!

All the best

Dave from the UK