Time for a Beat Down, Becker

Talk about art imitating life.

I snapped this photo today while Sunrise’s chief mechanic worked on the Becker com radio in our Extra 300. I had taxied out to the non-movement boundary and been attempting to contact clearance delivery (and ground, and tower, and company, and…. you get the picture) to no avail.

Matt working on the Extra 300's com radio

It was curious. We seemed to receive transmissions perfectly well. There was side-tone. The radio indicated that it was transmitting.

Now on the one hand, if a radio is the weakest part of your airplane, life can’t be too bad. On the other hand, it costs about $6 per minute to operate this aircraft, and the only other person on board the plane is the guy footing the bill. And he came all the way from Thailand to get some professional aerobatic training, not pay for me to idle there in the taxi lane. So we shut down the aircraft.

I knew the camera system processor had just been reinstalled. Perhaps something was loose or got bumped during that maintenance? Nothing looked amiss, but I double checked the antenna connections, tried a different helmet, checked the front seat headset jack connection, circuit breakers, etc.

Nothing.

Eventually, I called our mechanic, who knew enough to come over with a replacement radio. You see, this wasn’t the first problem we’ve had with this piece of equipment. Maybe it’s the 15 years worth of 10G pulls, but that radio has been back to the manufacturer more often than Joan Rivers has been to the botox clinic. Every time, Becker fixes it, certifies it, sends it back, and it works great.

For a while.

So when Matt pulled out the old radio and set it down on the pilot’s seat, I got the impulse to find a baseball bat and re-enact that classic Office Space scene where they take their frustrations out on a recalcitrant printer. Oooh, that would be so satisfying. The radio frequency knob shattered into a thousand tiny black pieces. The rectangular LCD screen leaking black fluid onto the ramp. Vengeance!!

I suggested this to Matt, who said he’d already tried that tactic and it hadn’t worked. From the tone of his voice, I got the impression that, unlike the printer, this thing fights back. “You want a piece ‘a me??”

Don’t tempt me, punk.

With the new radio installed, we were able to complete the flight without any light gun drama. And I will admit, at least the radio had the decency to fail on the ground and not in mid-air. Still, that Becker better hope I don’t find it just sitting on a shelf one day. I might have to steal something from work…

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