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Disappointing Airplane Use


pratzert
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I just took a plane ride from Vegas to Baltimore and had a 76CSx and an Oregon 400t along.

 

I was excited to think I'd be able to track our speed, course and progress on the GPS.

 

But I was wrong... I was in the aisle seat and could not get a satellite acquisition at all on either unit.

 

Bummer.....

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Yeah that's a drag. Last summer I went to Texas with my girlfriend to visit her brother. I was lucky enough to get a window seat. When they came over the speaker and said electronic devices were ok to turn on the first thing i went for was my 60csx. I didn't think I'd be able to get a fix but, managed to by pointing the antenna out the window. I was really surprised when it finally locked. I had tracks enabled, got to see our relative position, and even got to see the 500 + mph we were doing on the speedometer. The 76 and 60 are pretty much functionally identical, so hopefully for your next flight, you grab a window seat.

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My experience on commercial airliners is that I pretty much had to hold the thing right up to a window to get a signal. Makes sense -- in a metal can with few RF-transparent openings, your only hope is to press it up to the window and still only get something like half of the sky in view, at best.

 

Next time I fly I think I'll take a couple of clear plastic suction cups with hooks (the kind people use to hold decorations on windows) and some rubber bands.

 

Wonder what the TSA screeners will think of that :(

Edited by lee_rimar
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As everyone else has said, you need that window seat - a metal tube is not the best place to be sitting when trying to get a GPS fix. I had my USB GPS dongle attached to my netbook during one flight over the Pacific, and managed to track a fair bit of the flight using Google Earth (I'd pre-cached the required tiles...). It did take AGES to get a fix first though (about 10 minutes), but seeing your location in GE was pretty exciting, especially the altitude - now that's cool!!

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As everyone else has said, you need that window seat - a metal tube is not the best place to be sitting when trying to get a GPS fix. I had my USB GPS dongle attached to my netbook during one flight over the Pacific, and managed to track a fair bit of the flight using Google Earth (I'd pre-cached the required tiles...). It did take AGES to get a fix first though (about 10 minutes), but seeing your location in GE was pretty exciting, especially the altitude - now that's cool!!

Well, not really "need"... I took my 76CSx on a few planes last year. From the aisle seat..nothing. From the middle of three-wise seats, it took a while, didn't get many sats, but finally enough for a fix and a dandy track log for most of the flight. But the window seat was sweet!

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Normally the narrowbody planes allow better acquisition of the sats. Last week I came back home in a flight of about an hour in an A319, I was seated in a window seat just close the the trailing edge of the wing (maybe row number 17), and wow! I got quite a good lock all the way thought the flight with my Oregon 300, and this is not normal to get. Perhaps it depends on the "ceiling" of the aircraft in that point, wiring, equipment, etc...

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Next time I fly I think I'll take a couple of clear plastic suction cups with hooks (the kind people use to hold decorations on windows) and some rubber bands.
I use a Gilsson external antenna with the windshield mount that they also sell. I stick the antenna on the mount to the window, and can put the unit where it's easy to see and push buttons. For about $6, the window mount was money well spent. Ordered at the same time as the antenna, I don't think it even increased the S&H cost.
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You need a GPS that is designed for aircraft use. The refresh rate on the auto or hiking units isn't fast enough to track the satellites.

Not so ...

 

The main issue is to have a high-sensitivity receiver, and get the best line-of-sight to a window that you can. A window seat is best, but I have used my Summit HC successfully on many flights, including from an aisle seat, and even with my GPSr in my bag in the overhead locker, or under my seat.

 

As was pointed out by others above, get a good lock just before you board the plane, and keep it turned on the whole flight, and you should be able to get a reasonable track-log for much of your journey. Trying to get a cold-fix from a moving plane can be difficult, but reacquiring a "warm" fix with a high-sensitivity unit is generally quite achievable, especially if you are near a window. You may get drop-outs from time to time, but it will keep sniffing out the satellites, and whenever it gets a 4-satellite lock (however briefly), it will resume tracking again.

 

Note that the elevation record will be meaningless on units with a barometric altimeter in a pressurised plane, unless you switch the altimeter off so it records GPS elevation, not barometric elevation.

 

Hope this helps!

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You need a GPS that is designed for aircraft use. The refresh rate on the auto or hiking units isn't fast enough to track the satellites.
I'm not sure you'd call my Summit HC "designed for aircraft", but it's plenty fast enough. More to the point, even my old TomTom 720 works well - was the first one I owned and tried it that way. Of course, the TomTom can't have road-snap disabled, so that's pretty wild to watch from 30k feet when you're not traveling due E/W or N/S!
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I was somewhat "naughty" by using my bluetooth GPSr with my netbook on the last flight I took - with the European version of Autoroute enabled I could get a nice track of where we were overflying with the GPSr on the table in front of my son (by the window) and me in the aisle seat.

 

Bluetooth is supposedly not allowed on the flight (for no good reason!), but it did work nicely.

 

Next time I'll cable it up though to avoid having to go wireless on a plane.

 

Matt

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Of course I had to shut it off before I onto the plane, so it lost it's location and probably had to work harder to figure out where it was.

 

A couple of times it did see a couple of Birds, but a pretty low signal and it never saw more than two at once.

 

So... never got a lock.

 

I didn't think of an external antenna, it may have helped, but I don't think the other two people in my row would want the cable drapped across their laps to the window..... :blink:

 

I thought for sure I'd get a hassle going thru security... but not at all.

 

I travel with my CPAP machine too and I got a LOT more attention for carrying that thing.

 

Besides my CPAP, I had an entire bag filled with electronics..... I had a Handheld VHF radio, a three pack of the FRS handhelds, two gps units, the entire eneloop charging kit with all the batteries, chargers for the FRS radios and VHF and binoculars. It looked like a "James Bond" kit.

 

They never even bothered to open up the bag to look. I guess they could tell exactly what everything was with the x-ray machine.

 

But they sure wanted the CPAP out of the bag so they could swab it. But that's SOP for those.

Edited by pratzert
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Of course I had to shut it off before I onto the plane, so it lost it's location and probably had to work harder to figure out where it was.

 

A couple of times it did see a couple of Birds, but a pretty low signal and it never saw more than two at once.

 

So... never got a lock.

 

I didn't think of an external antenna, it may have helped, but I don't think the other two people in my row would want the cable drapped across their laps to the window..... :blink:

 

I thought for sure I'd get a hassle going thru security... but not at all.

 

I travel with my CPAP machine too and I got a LOT more attention for carrying that thing.

 

Besides my CPAP, I had an entire bag filled with electronics..... I had a Handheld VHF radio, a three pack of the FRS handhelds, two gps units, the entire eneloop charging kit with all the batteries, chargers for the FRS radios and VHF and binoculars. It looked like a "James Bond" kit.

 

They never even bothered to open up the bag to look. I guess they could tell exactly what everything was with the x-ray machine.

 

But they sure wanted the CPAP out of the bag so they could swab it. But that's SOP for those.

Much the same experience. At one time TSA didn't care about the CPAP. I never took mine out of the bag. Now it's a different story. They not only want it out, they walk it over to a different area and really go over it. Meanwhile, all the electronics get a simple xray - although I now have to take the laptop out.

 

I had good look on flights with a 60CS from the center seat. Good signal and fun to track. I asked if I could use the GPS and the flight attendant said it was OK above 10,000 ft. I didn't realize until later that the airline did not allow GPS use. On the way out, the pilots asked me how well it worked.

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If, like me, you have no idea what a CPAP thingamyjig is, I'm assuming it's this (Wikipedia link)...

Yep - that's it. Sorry for not explaining it.

 

The type I have is shown it the top photo. It's about a foot long and 6 inches high/wide. They are used in the case of sleep apnea, where the tissues in the throat close down when your your jaw muscles relax as you sleep. It is a dangerous condition for a number of reasons; and many do not realize they have it.

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I asked if I could use the GPS and the flight attendant said it was OK above 10,000 ft. I didn't realize until later that the airline did not allow GPS use. On the way out, the pilots asked me how well it worked.

Regardless of the airline's official policy, the flight crew has the final say in-flight.

 

But usually it goes the other way - airline says it's OK, flight crew asks that you not do it.

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I asked if I could use the GPS and the flight attendant said it was OK above 10,000 ft. I didn't realize until later that the airline did not allow GPS use. On the way out, the pilots asked me how well it worked.

Regardless of the airline's official policy, the flight crew has the final say in-flight.

 

But usually it goes the other way - airline says it's OK, flight crew asks that you not do it.

 

I flew Southwest and in their booklet it lists all the things you can and can't operate above 10,000 feet.

 

It said a GPS is OK to use above 10,000 ft.

 

And I agree... it is up to the Captin & Flight crew and they can impose stricter rules... but they can't relax the rules if it's dictated by the FAA.

 

They didn't even give me a second glance when I pulled my GPS unit out and sat it on my tray.

Edited by pratzert
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