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Thread: Stuck in the middle of nowhere, alone...

  1. #1
    hawgdrvr's Avatar
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    Question Stuck in the middle of nowhere, alone...

    I'm entering the world of backcountry flying next summer with a FX3 on order. I enjoy watching a lot of youtube videos and often see some people in the middle of nowhere all by themselves. I already got my garmin inreach mini and subscribed as it's also good to have while RVing which I do a lot of. But what if you're out in the middle of nowhere as I've seen on some of these videos and you break something. Engine issue, gear issue, etc. What do you do?

    I have not established relationships with backcountry anyone in my area of even know if they exist (Southwest Richmond, VA area) so it's not like all of us have circles of backcountry friends like these youtubers. What are your stories for those that have had an issue where you landed somewhere remote and had an issue needing help?
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    Charlie Longley's Avatar
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    Be prepared and make friends.
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    SJ's Avatar
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    Garmin InReach at a minimum... but also, it's more fun to fly with more than one airplane!

    sj
    "Often Mistaken, but Never in Doubt"
    ------------------------------------------
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    Self reliance is a lost art. When your self reliance is exhausted you need to have a plan. Different places, different plans. I carry a sat phone.
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    Welcome to the addictive world of aircraft repair!

    Seriously, you are going to need help some time. It might be a simple problem where you need help pushing the plane, it might be call the helicopter. Stewart is correct, no simple single answer.

    I usually have multiple days of food and supplies to be fairly comfortable- not just survive. In winter that includes a quality tent and lots of food. Summer it includes bug dope. I always have something to read to keep from going stir crazy; when you have a broke plane in the brush you will not be mentally relaxed.

    Not only for help, but finding folks with experience to fly with will save you thousands of dollars in repairs. It is not just a matter of plopping the plane down in the remote spot- lots of little things can give you pause.
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!

  6. #6
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    MRE’s are not tasty, but they are light and don’t go bad.

    There are lots of decent freeze dried food at outdoors stores.

    Why do I lead with that? Because you have to have food and water. Get a survival kit, keep it stocked up and with you at all times... cuz Murphy is always lurking.

    Figure out the basic tools you need to wrench on your plane and carry them too. Trent Palmer did a recent video on the tools he carries, yours will be different but you will get the idea.

    Lastly, It seems to this newbie that as soon as you start hanging out at the hanger you will meet lots of like minded people. You won’t be out there alone is my guess.

    Lastly... read Mountain, Canyon, and Backcountry Flying by Amy Hoover and Dick Williams. It is a really good read and will not put you to sleep. Mountain Flying Bible Revised by Sparky Imeson is a very good resource too, but it can be a hard read

    I suggest both though.
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    I tend to explore a lot alone.
    my general practice for risk management:
    Try to resist the spontaneous urge to land interesting new spots unless well within your comfort level and you can be relatively sure of no gotchas on the ground. You can always go back and explore with a buddy.
    Watch and plan around the weather, pay close attention to wind forecasts
    Always carry good ground tackle appropriate for the terrain. I religiously carry a set of duckbills in case I have to leave plane for extended period. As well as regular overnite tie down gear.
    Carry a reliable form of communication, inReach/sat ph.
    Know your plane! most mechanical issues provide some prior warning before leaving you stranded.
    Carry a reasonable tool set and some basic repair items. At least have some basic mechanical knowledge.
    As mentioned, extra supplies appropriate for the environment, in case you need to hole up for a few days.

    And lastly: bring some bail/bribe money.
    the most interesting places to land in the lower 48 are typically illegal.
    Last edited by Oliver; 11-01-2020 at 11:11 AM.
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    wireweinie's Avatar
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    First item to get is the sat phone. Very few places where it does not have coverage. And it's comforting and better communications when you can actually talk to a live human vs a text message.

    Keep in mind the tips in the above posts. I haven't seen anything there I disagree with.

    Web
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  9. #9

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    Survival gear. Appropriate set of tools. Some sort of satellite communication device (I like sat phone) and a phone list of friends and shops that can assist remotely. Which reminds me that I need to update my list. Leave a copy of the list at home so your spouse can make calls for you. And the most important piece of gear while you sit there for days is a good long book or two to read while you kick yourself for being so damn stupid.
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  10. #10
    cubflier's Avatar
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    The Garmin inReach has become the pacifier for the incompetent, unprepared backcountry pilot. Garmin really should have shaped the antenna like a nipple and make sucking on that thing (until rescue arrives) the way to activate rescue feature rather than the current activation scheme. This way you can't hear the ill prepared pilot crying about fearing an overnight stay in a place that the pilot chose to land.

    Jerry
    If it looks smooth...it might be

    If it looks rough...it is!!
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    Have you considered practicing on fields not so remote, but challenging, and within walking distance of civilization? Robertson had their own demo backwoods strip in the 1970s, and I think it was quite close to a good road, and not ten miles from Renton.
    Go easy at first, and work your way up to difficult.

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    Awesome advice! Now the kicker for me. How do I find guys nearby that like and want to do this?? Seriously - I’m based at a small airport and the only guy there trying to learn all I can to go do this. I do have one buddy with a Super Cub at a neighboring airport, and as long as I’ve known him it’s been being rebuilt.....pretty sure I’m not going to live long enough to see it completed. Seems crazy to ask, but I’m fairly remote and don’t know how to find folks. There isn’t any EAA chapters nearby. There’s probably a techie way to put it out there, but I’m fresh out of helpful teenagers to get it done.
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  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by cubflier View Post
    The Garmin inReach has become the pacifier for the incompetent, unprepared backcountry pilot. Garmin really should have shaped the antenna like a nipple and make sucking on that thing (until rescue arrives) the way to activate rescue feature rather than the current activation scheme. This way you can't hear the ill prepared pilot crying about fearing an overnight stay in a place that the pilot chose to land.

    Jerry
    Very obviously you’ve never had anyone “go missing” in the backcountry. We did. Our son-in-law and 2 others who were well prepared and faired well over night in the mountains, the only thing was, no one knew if they we ok or not. Well prepared in every aspect except for communication capability. They had become bogged down with their sleds and were unable to continue in the darkness so they made camp. When they got out of the woods he bought a Garmin InReach so he could let his young family know he would be ok. That’s important “I’m ok, be out tomorrow morning”.
    I’m surprised at your response. Do you do backcountry aviation fully prepared for everything imaginable but without modern communication?
    Last edited by RoddyM; 11-01-2020 at 02:41 PM.
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    I help to reduce the possibility of any mechanical issues every flying season by performing the annual in May.
    Spot or equal is also piece of mind.
    Mechanical issues have been minimal and manageable for the last 15 years.
    If I'm hoteling it for a break like in Joseph, OR, I take advantage of the the local shop for oil changes, loose parts etc. New airplane shouldn't have much to worry I would think.
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  15. #15
    cubflier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoddyM View Post
    Very obviously you’ve never had anyone “go missing” in the backcountry. We did. Our son-in-law and 2 others who were well prepared and faired well over night in the mountains, the only thing was, no one knew if they we ok or not. Well prepared in every aspect except for communication capability. They had become bogged down with their sleds and were unable to continue in the darkness so they made camp. When they got out of the woods he bought a Garmin InReach so he could let his young family know he would be ok. That’s important “I’m ok, be out tomorrow morning”.
    I’m surprised at your response.
    You are not understanding my response. The Garmin inReach as a communication device is how it should me used most all of the time. But, over time it has been used as an excuse to be unprepared. If you look at the rescue calls up here in Alaska there are plenty of them that are made as a convenience rather than a necessity. I have had friends go missing and they survived just like your son-in-law. Would he have called for rescue if he had the inReach? I suspect and hope not.

    We lost some damn good people on the Helo-1 for no good reason. Similar (and common) snow machine got bogged down scenario etc. Calling for rescue is a tall order responsibility and when you push that button people will risk their lives and sometimes die without question.

    Just look at what's being said here in this thread. "Garmin InReach at a minimum". I prefer to say be prepared as a minimum and supplement that preparedness with an inReach or similar device.

    Jerry
    If it looks smooth...it might be

    If it looks rough...it is!!
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    I understand your points! Our son-in-law is an avid backcountry sledder and well prepared. He had given our daughter a time he’d be home and didn’t show. She was beside herself to say the least, and he, felt terrible about not being able to simply say “I’ll be out in the morning I’m fine”. He’s the kind of fellow that wouldn’t want anyone to have to come get him.
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  17. #17
    wireweinie's Avatar
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    You saved me, Jerry! Thanks for the cool down time.

    Web
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    cubflier's Avatar
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    I think it's all meant as good discussion. I could have phrased things better but I do have strong feelings about this one. And..I have called for rescue once. I hope it never happens again.

    Jerry
    If it looks smooth...it might be

    If it looks rough...it is!!

  19. #19

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    First we will do a story telling. If you are new to tailwheel/backcountry flying you are going to want to follow advice given to me the first time I was taken to the Knik river (Lots of U-tube videos done there) it is only 30 min from from my house. My fellow pilot said "this is a great place to train for off field stuff, the first couple times you come bring another plane in case someone has to run for parts!!! I heard about a guy that got his prop on a hilltop a strip located just North of nowhere few hundred miles from home. It was more than just a tip issue or he would have used the hacksaw blade he carries to shorten both ends. Used his sat phone to call a friend with his GPS location, need for a prop, and info that Sat phone battery was low. The friend did not have any resources in the area but talked to the local wrench turner that knew someone in the area. Next morning a plane landed next to the guy with a prop onboard and note of where to send a check once he got back home. Only about 12 hours from first call placed. This type of event is very common in Alaska. No one throws out old stuff including struts, tailwheels, gear, props, they just get stuck in the rafters or under the stairs until someone needs them to get home. Now for the advice.
    You need to find a crew to fall back on, Just a bunch of fellow pilots/wrench turners/strip owners you can network with. With social separation going on the first place I would start is forums like this and Facebook. Don't be a plane snob! I have done several day fly outs to remote Alaska with other pilots having everything from a Cessna 152 to Cessna 185, and most fabric planes in between. Go to every local fly in even if you have to drive!! Become a social butterfly!! Once you start showing up you will meet people that know of areas to fly too and other pilots with similar goals. The other part of flying to remote locations is being able to fix simple things yourself. Learn to replace a tail spring/tailwheel in the field, patch a bushwheel, file a prop, replace a set of points and time a mag, diagnose a stuck valve. I carry enough tools to complete disassemble my plane with exception of cylinder wrenches (have added them for some trips) so if I had a jug separation or similar we could do teardown for complete parts list to be flown it with mechanic. So go down to local runway and bring coffee/beer/doughnuts to get in the door and learn as much as you can about turning wrenches. As mentioned before carry plane survival gear also. Tools, duckbills, duckbill driver, axe, air compressor. NEVER fly without survival gear in the plane. Very few pilots are good enough to notice an extra 30 lbs of gear in the plane (and yes 30 lbs is about what a good kit weights). Never look at a U tube video of the STOL contests or guys landing on the KNIK river and think that is how every day is. Most of them are made with as much as 40 mph hero wind on the nose. So start very slow with 1,000 ft long easy grass strips when you think you are starting to get good bring another plane along and try not to bend yours in the middle of the strip so the friend can get in with parts. Do not discount wives on the phone list, I heard of one that does a lot of recovery work!!
    DENNY
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  20. #20
    Farmboy's Avatar
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    Quite a range of answers here, largely I expect based on actual bush flying.

    I'm going to perhaps buck the trend a bit and ask, where do you expect to fly?
    - I'll make the assumption that as mentioned southwest of Richmond, VA, you're likely going to stay based there.
    - I'll also make the assumption based on your lack of tail dragging buddies, that you don't currently have a cub/husky/bearhawk/rans/scout/citabria or other off-airport capable machine, but with the purchase of a smoking FX-3, you're about to own a weapon.

    So, if correct, your fly-out radius may be as much as this to start with -

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    Which will provide all sorts of entertainment, grass strips and great people, once you find them. They are on here and other forums, and with a little time you'll find out who's close, who flys a lot, and who might be willing to pass along some of their knowledge. (Back when Tim Allen flew he started passing on some of his experience to me, but then he stopped flying and went into hibernation. lol...either that or he's just a grumpy old codger. )

    One of the places that might help find places is the Airfield Guide, by the RAF. Here's a simple screenshot but it's worth a visit to the site for all the info.

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    So back on topic, and particularly knew to the type of flying you want to do, flying with a friend is highly advisable. An experienced one is ideal, and except for CFI's, two are typically better than one.

    Denny has good advice above. And I don't expect you'll be traveling in wilderness that will require a Sat phone quite yet. And perhaps not all the gear mentioned above. I don't see your daily fly-out range involving a packed cub and a full equipment vest. But as you drink the water and develop a greater thirst, all those things mentioned by others will start coming into play. Patience is key. Take your time and learn from everyone. On Supercub.org. On the airport. On the pasture and on the sandbar. Listen listen listen.

    pb
    Last edited by Farmboy; 11-01-2020 at 04:27 PM.
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  21. #21
    Steve Pierce's Avatar
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    About 20 years ago I got bored going to flyins etc and started landing my PA16 on gravel bars. No cell phones back then. Almost spent the night out when I got stuck one evening after work. Luckily my brother noticed I hadn't returned and some friends in an airboat came looking. I hiked out when I wiped out a gear leg on rough ground on small tires another time and friends helped hike parts in to fly it out. Over the years I have learned what equipment to use on my airplane, what to carry in the airplane and also met a bunch of like minded people who enjoy the type of flying I do. Five of us met up on the river this morning, all from 60 plus miles away. I play out here a lot by myself but wouldn't land here without a wingman.

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    After posting here about a planned trip to Idaho I was contacted by a member here who lived half way across the country and wanted to know if he could tag along. He did and we had an epic trip. Hearing him yelling "I'm alive" so loud upon his first off airport landing at Nokai Dome you could hear him above the engine was awesome. We have made several trips together and always picked up others who have never been where we have, wanting to learn from our experience. Got to hang out with him at ArkanSTOL recently and it was nice to catch up. Lots of people all over the country willing to help when something happens or share in an adventure. A few weeks ago a friend was picking up his EX2 from his place in Idaho. One TK1 was flat and he didn't know what to do. One text and another friend had a friend at the same airpark with a nitrogen bottle and all was good. Last night another friend/customer called with a bad starter on his Maule away from home. Told him I had a buddy there that could prop him. A few texts and the guy is on his way. There is a network here but it is a give and take of help, knowledge, and comradery.
    Last edited by Steve Pierce; 11-01-2020 at 04:39 PM.
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    For the past 35 years my family and I have left town on Friday and returned Sunday evening. Wife, kid, dog, and I go to where people are scarce. You make mistakes, you correct them, you get by. You learn. What I've seen on YouTube isn't bush flying. It's exhibition flying. Bush flyers don't need action cams and most bush guys don't take crap they don't need.

    I've spent plenty of unplanned days out. Once you suffer a little you revise your go gear. How little survival skills some guys have is amazing. If I hadn't seen it I wouldn't believe it. Choose your company like your life depends on it. Some day it might.

  23. #23
    aeroaddict's Avatar
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    Great discussion. For tools I think it depends on the plane, food and shelter is a given.

    But what about the choice between a sat phone or the newer sat devices that text, such as the InReach?

  24. #24

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    Voice communication has saved my family a lot of sleepless nights. I have an Inreach but I never go adventuring without my sat phone. If I'm hunting I usually leave the phone in camp and carry the Inreach. Different expectations, different gear.

    PS- while some of you might think it prudent to have a communicator in case you ever get stuck? Some of us expect to get stuck out multiple times every year. That's a factor in my own gear choices.
    Last edited by stewartb; 11-01-2020 at 05:05 PM.
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    The advantage of In-Reach over sat phone is it is also a real time tracker. My wife/friends get a ping every 10 min with my location altitude airspeed. If for some reason a search had to be conducted they would have a very good place to start. If you are flying with several planes a ground based person can assist with operations. Also messages can be sent to other pilots. Think Iron Dog race when planes are trying to get ahead of racers with supplies/parts and something brakes. A quick message to plane allows for early backup. The advantage of a Sat phone is you can call FSS direct and talk to them about weather. Very important when you fly in a country that can see 3-4 different weather conditions in only 100 miles. I have a big crew of experienced pilots I can text for weather and cam updates for flight planning when out on long trips. I think if I had only one it would be In-reach due to the tracking. DENNY
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  26. #26
    Scooter7779h's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DENNY View Post
    The advantage of In-Reach over sat phone is it is also a real time tracker. My wife/friends get a ping every 10 min with my location altitude airspeed. If for some reason a search had to be conducted they would have a very good place to start. If you are flying with several planes a ground based person can assist with operations. Also messages can be sent to other pilots. Think Iron Dog race when planes are trying to get ahead of racers with supplies/parts and something brakes. A quick message to plane allows for early backup. The advantage of a Sat phone is you can call FSS direct and talk to them about weather. Very important when you fly in a country that can see 3-4 different weather conditions in only 100 miles. I have a big crew of experienced pilots I can text for weather and cam updates for flight planning when out on long trips. I think if I had only one it would be In-reach due to the tracking. DENNY
    Not really true Denny, latest sat phones have GPS and device tracking. Look at the Motorola 9575.

    https://youtu.be/sZWN65NqNOc


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  27. #27
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    Just 5 years ago, there was no cell coverage in this area I landed this morning, now it's 4 bars! And, it's remote, but the ranchers need cell coverage also so it is much better in much of southern Idaho then just a very short time ago. I can have my cake and eat it to, often though not all the time of course, get remote while staying in touch with my work clients/victims, and also have a way to nag someone to bring me a new prop or whatever. Today, before landing this site, I put my PLB in my jacket pocket (and just now realized it's still there: note to self, put it back in the plane's jockey box ASAP), "just in case." All my off airport flying, except for the local gravel bars, is solo, it's just the way it is. As much as I concur with the concept of doing it with a group or at least one other, I would be loath to give up the freedom of making it all up as I go, without having to consider someone else. Guess that's why I'm not married too.
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  28. #28

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    Great discussion and thank you hawgdrvr for starting it. Very timely for me as I’m still working on my skill sets to be able to enjoy it.

  29. #29

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    I stand corrected!! That would be the best of both worlds. Any ideal of service pricing?
    DENNY
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  30. #30
    www.SkupTech.com mike mcs repair's Avatar
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    One thing I don’t see mentioned is alway let someone know where you might be going and when you plan to return. Many still missing planes full of people up here. One used to park at the hanger. Said they were going to Seward? But instead flight tracked them to Denali 4 people still missing in just that one.


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  31. #31
    Scooter7779h's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DENNY View Post
    I stand corrected!! That would be the best of both worlds. Any ideal of service pricing?
    DENNY
    Like all sat/trackers, the service package depends on your use needs, lots of options. We switched our survey crews to them as we can do flight following, sms or voice between workers or to anywhere worldwide with one unit. Think a basic emergency package is in ballpark of spidertracks/inReach-Garmin/Spot. Device cost little more than $1k


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  32. #32
    hawgdrvr's Avatar
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    It looks like around $1500 for the phone and $80/mo for service.

  33. #33
    RVBottomly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike mcs repair View Post
    One thing I don’t see mentioned is alway let someone know where you might be going and when you plan to return. Many still missing planes full of people up here. One used to park at the hanger. Said they were going to Seward? But instead flight tracked them to Denali 4 people still missing in just that one.


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    Good point and something I've tried to do. Reminds me of Steve Fossett in California. Lots of search resources turned up nothing.

  34. #34
    www.SkupTech.com mike mcs repair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scooter7779h View Post
    Like all sat/trackers, the service package depends on your use needs, lots of options. We switched our survey crews to them as we can do flight following, sms or voice between workers or to anywhere worldwide with one unit. Think a basic emergency package is in ballpark of spidertracks/inReach-Garmin/Spot. Device cost little more than $1k


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    I wonder what the markets gonna look like in 2 years, as far as all those starlink satellites going up..... no mobil gear announced/released yet, but even the small dish will only be $500 and $100 a month.....

  35. #35
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  36. #36

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    Re: remote weather? I use the sat phone to call flight service and ask them to look at a camera view and tell me what they see. Or I can call my wife, daughter, or a number of friends for the same thing. Inreach weather isn't very useful. FIS-B weather requires me to be flying before I get reception. I need the info before making that decision.
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  37. #37
    algonquin's Avatar
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    As said above, anything you need for sure strap it to your self. If the wreck burns or sinks you have what is hooked to you.
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  38. #38
    RVBottomly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike mcs repair View Post
    Well that's something. The "lower expectation" beta beats my current connection by a factor of 10 at least.
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  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by RVBottomly View Post
    Good point and something I've tried to do. Reminds me of Steve Fossett in California. Lots of search resources turned up nothing.
    They found Fossett about a year later, and around five other 'missing' aircraft during the search. As pointed out above, still lots of aircraft out there waiting to be found.

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    Life's tough . . . wear a cup.
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  40. #40
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    Last edited by Cub Special Ed; 11-02-2020 at 12:50 AM.
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