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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Breeding Grounds Survey: Digesting Spaghetti

May 14, 2014 - Northern Saskatchewan and Northern Manitoba
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By Walt Rhodes, USFWS pilot biologist, Northern Saskatchewan and Northern Manitoba

Staring at the tangle of wires and connections reminded me of a plateful of spaghetti and meatballs, but this serving of pasta didn’t look too appetizing. Due to a series of maintenance issues, my plane and I have been separated for nearly eight months. Like a relative who drops in for a few days over the holidays I got to visit it twice for some flight and visibility testing of a different exhaust-stack configuration, but in the end I had to leave the plane behind rather than fly it home. Over this time, N758 has been through myriad mechanical probes, two official inspections, and countless people have climbed in, over, and through her. It would be an understatement to say a few things got rearranged.

All of the pilot-biologists see our assigned planes as an extension of our offices. While many items are standard across the fleet, there are nuances in each plane reflective of the individual who primarily flies it. Each of us could sit in our plane with our eyes closed and find a switch, chart, or that secret stash of Jolly Ranchers or licorice. It’s similar to the fact that each of you can walk through your house in the dark without falling flat on your face. Someone reshuffles the furniture, and disaster ensues. Mess with the stuff in our planes, and we start tripping over the ottoman, too.

Part of my preparation before leaving for Canada was getting N758 back in order. This included straightening out the wires associated with the onboard computers where the duck data is recorded. While the initial task looked daunting, it went fairly smooth. Some Velcro needed replacing, but fortunately all of the connections were intact and nothing appeared broken. With everything back in place and some minor software tweaking for feeding GPS data to the computers, the system tested okay.

One preparation box checked and several more to go. Just like a bowl of pasta, a few noodles at time until it’s gone.




Before and after shots of wires and connections for onboard computers. Photo by Walt Rhodes, USFWS
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