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When Technology Fails

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    When Technology Fails

    My fathers Piper Arrow is equipped with various modern electronics. The most modern, installed 6 months ago, is this Aspen flat panel display.

    They were flying home from the beach this morning in the clouds, on autopilot, and my dad noticed that the heading and attitude on the Aspen were slowly turning. The auto pilot was flying the plane and it gets it's heading information from Garmin 430 GPS which showed no turn. A look at the old fashioned magnetic compass showed no turn. Their destination here in Roxboro had clouds down to 800ft so they knew they would need everything working to land so they turned around and headed back to the beach where they knew they could land in the clear weather.

    Your Father is obviously a smart man, and not pressured by commercial consideration, like Airline Pilots.


      Interesting reading.

      Which reminds me of a marine-related episode from the early 70's.

      I was engaged in testing of what was called the "Databridge".
      Made by Norcontrol, later Kongsberg.
      Compass, Radar, Speed Log and a few other things were integrated into a "for that time" sophisticated computer.
      If I remember right, the RAM was of 64kB, that is the same as the later Commodore 64. :-)

      The main program was in an EPROM, and had its own autopilot.
      Which was very accurate - point one of a degree was held, except in bad weather.

      Because of the low memory capasity, additional navigation systems like Decca was stored on perforated paper rolls,
      that had to be entered when useful.

      On sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, we tested the South African Decca chain.
      When activated, the ship started to alter course slowly.
      One by one degree, until she was sailing due South.
      Obviously some holes on the paper in wrong places.

      To reprogram we had a teletypemachine that could make these paper bands, but to do it "onsite" was impractical.

      Some time later when Navstar (later GPS) came into common use, I had the pleasure of helping "ironing-out" some of it's
      startup bugs.


        Re: When Technology Fails

        I did not want to start a separate thread but my parents just flew down to the coast. The controllers notified them of a mayday of a small plane that had run out of fuel. They vectored my parents to the area to search. After about 15 minutes they spotted the plane in a field with the two people walking around and waving so apparently they are OK. Dad radioed their position and circled until help arrived.


          Re: When Technology Fails

          Nice to hear such a story with a good outcome for those that issued the mayday.
          Your charts, your radar, your eyes and ears - if all 4 agree, you may proceed with caution.