April 09, 2004

The Bob Channel

Cessna 36BRolls-over-the-top, clover leafs, barrel rolls, hesitation rolls, aileron rolls, loops... but what about the instruments?! I watch 36B's heading indicator spin wildly as it loses its tiny mind again (it always makes me think of The Exorcist when it does this...). The AI is stuck about 5 degrees off horizontal for minutes at a time whenever we level off. Revenge for the other day, definitely. We -- my aerobatics instructor Ben Freelove, and I -- spin, roll, loop, and otherwise maneuver around the Diablo aerobatics practice area 6,000' over the Delta in the club's little aerobatics taildragger.

In the background there's an intermittent soundtrack on what I'm starting to call the "Bob Channel" -- the 122.75Mhz air-to-air frequency we use to announce entry and exit from the practice area and coordinate with other aerobatics planes in the area. In reality, whenever we're out here, the Bob Channel (a.k.a the Geezer Channel) seems to be mostly used by old guys named Bob or Jack to give running commentaries on the scenery below them or to give rambling and often confused-sounding position reports to no one in particular. Or to carry on long-winded conversations for minutes at a time without letting anyone else get a word in edgewise. From our altitude and position you can clearly hear Bobs on-frequency from as far away as Tahoe, Marysville, Panoche, or Gustine (or at least that's where they say they are); you never hear a woman's voice on the Bob Channel. A sort of CB of the air without the 70's lingo -- even upside down in the middle of a loop I have to stop myself responding to one of the unknown Bobs ("Uh, Jack... Jack... are you there Jack...? It's Bob… I'm over Placerville, I think.") with an upbeat "Breaker Breaker 10-4 Bob good buddy!!". When I initially announce on frequency that we'll be commencing  aerobatics at 6,000' in the Diablo practice area, a crackly voice responds with "Bob? Was that you? Say again?". I figure it'd confuse him more to repeat the announcement, so I just say silent. There's no one else in the practice area, and Bob and Jack are probably pottering along about a hundred kilometres away over somewhere like Merced anyway. It's a different world out here....

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