Sunday, August 13, 2006

Life Before Cell Phones

Losing my cell phone in Dallas this week has forced me to find the answer to the oft-asked question, "What did we do before cell phones?"

Say what you like about cell phones in relation to driving, dining, and movie watching. They have greatly improved the pilot's life. We tend to spend a lot of time away from home, seldom have access to a landline for very long, and our rest periods are often at odds with our family's sleep time. Before cell phones, contact with loved ones was pretty sparse during trips. This probably contributed to as many aviation-induced divorces as layover infidelity.

Nowadays, you can talk to your spouse and kids during breaks. You can let them know if you're running late, which reduces spousal worry a lot. When I'm flying late into the night, Dawn leaves messages on my voicemail just to say she hopes I had a good day & she loves me.

Cell phones can be incredibly handy for flying itself. Theoretically, you should be able to contact ATC at uncontrolled airports with instrument approaches, either directly or via a Remote Communications Outlet (RCO). That's not always the case. I've been on airfields late at night, unable to radio anyone for our clearance. In the old days, you'd probably blast off, try to avoid going through too many clouds VFR, & get your clearance ASAP. In my case, I merely pulled out my cell phone and dialed 1-800-WX-BRIEF. I've also used my cell phone twice due to lost communications at a towered airport (while instructing, in airplanes with ratty avionics).

The biggest problem I've had in losing my cell phone is that I don't have any numbers written down or memorized. I don't know my closest friends' phone numbers. The only way to get ahold of them is by emailing the ones I have email addresses for, and then following the chain of mutual friends as far as it'll take me. Yesterday I resorted to contacting an aquaintance by driving around Vancouver until I found his house, which I'd been to once, two years ago. There are people who I'll probably never talk to again if I don't find my cell phone. I need to start keeping a little black book.

I think I left my cell phone on a railway platform near Dallas. My last hope is calling the Lost & Found when they open on Monday. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

On the other hand, it is kinda nice that crew sked can't get ahold of me so easily....


Aviatrix said...

I remember meeting people in busy public areas before cellphones. You would set up a recurring rendezvous. Synchronize watches, then "okay, if you're not here by ten we'll go in to the fair on our own. We'll try again to meet you at the flagpoles by the pink roller coaster at the top of every hour."

And I know about crew scheduling without cellphones. You have to stay home, or call dispatch before every move you make. "I'm going to the Northern Store."

Ron said...

Yeah, losing your phone (or, more accurately, the phone book inside the phone) can really be a bummer.

There are ways around it, though. I use Verizon, and they have a little applet you can download into the phone which will back up your entire contact list to their server every night. If you ever buy a new phone or lose the old one, your contact info is safe.

Olli Vainio said...

Indeed...the cell phones. They have made life considerably easier in some aspects.

Here in Finland, almost everyone has a cell phone and this has lead to some phone services for pilots as well. There is phone ATIS for almost every aiport, a WAP service to check weather and almost every GA pilot closes their flight plan by just calling to the center(or control radar in Finland's case) with their cell phone. Easy.

And I know quite a few lost comm situations with GA aircraft where cell phones have saved the day. So I'd say they have increased safety too. :)


Aaron DeAngelis said...

Here's a trick; get a memo pad. One of the little spiral bound notebooks. I've got all my friend's phone numbers, the phone numbers for a couple area airport's ASOS, my instructor, the airport, etc.

Flight time, next scheduled flight, and any tidbits o' information I need to remember are also in there. It's like a really cheap palm pilot! And they last two to three months.

I call it my "Brain." Picked up the idea from Gen. Doolittle's book.