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Editorial: Single Source

By Ed Downs

It was a dark and stormy night. This aviator had just departed the primary routing and initiated my approach to destination in worsening weather. My advanced GPS should have helped, but something was not right. Having carefully reviewed charts prior to departure, I had a good mental image of how things should look. Clearly, something was wrong. Was it the GPS program, or had I selected an incorrect mode? An immediate missed approach was executed to give time for thought. My old-fashioned paper charts were quickly clipped in place, and the approach tried one more time, being hand directed with no help from automation or satellites. All ended well. Now for the “rest of the story.”

This “aviator” was not in an airplane, but in a car, arriving at a downtown hotel/convention center where I was to speak the following day. It was dark and stormy, and and an advanced GPS was being used. The convention complex was new, in a redeveloped area with highly stylized roadways, curving three-way intersections, and center mediums filled with plant life, blocking the view of any vehicle smaller than an 18-wheeler. 

Clearly, this complex, however artful, was designed by someone who had never driven a car, especially after a long, tiring work day and even longer drive. My “holding pattern” was a pull-off into a lit, but deserted, parking lot, where previously downloaded and studied maps were called into play. Key buildings were named, and those buildings with lit logos now provided landmarks to use as a guide post to locate my destination.  And yes, a re-check of my GPS program showed that the address of the hotel in question and convention center were the same, with the GPS taking me to a convention center service entrance, over a quarter mile away from the hotel. 

Click to read more…

Smoke in the Cockpit

By Eric McCarthy

It was a hot, humid August day in the year 2000. My wife, youngest son, and I decided to take a quick flight over Massachusetts’ North Shore. I had done this flight many times: we’d depart Lawrence Municipal Airport (KLWM) to the east, climbing to 2,500-3,000 feet, following the Merrimack River as it winds its way 15 miles or so to the Atlantic, passing the quaint town of Newburyport before reaching the mouth of the river. There, I would usually proceed out to sea a couple of miles before executing a 270-degree, descending left turn to align the aircraft with the coastline at an altitude of 1,000 to 1,500 feet.

We’d fly southbound along the beaches of Plum Island, past the majestic Crane Estate and its magnificent grounds, then Crane’s Beach before turning east to round Cape Ann, the nub of land that projects into the Atlantic north of Boston. We’d pass the aptly named and picturesque town of Rockport, and  Thacher Island, a small island just off the coast and home to the twin, 124-foot tall, lighthouses known as Ann’s Eyes, built in 1861.

Then southwest past Good Harbor Beach and Bass Rocks, turning north around Eastern Point, over Gloucester Harbor and past Hammond Castle, up the Annisquam River, past Wingaersheek Beach, then we’d retrace our steps up the coast for the return to the airport. My wife, boys, and I had spent many a summer day at the various beaches and towns we’d be flying over; this flight would provide a fresh perspective on these familiar sites. It’s a pleasant, scenic flight and only takes about 45 minutes to fly.

At least, that was the plan…

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