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Blog Central

3 Reasons Piloting a Plane is Like Radio Engineering

Posted by Marty Sacks on Mar 6, 2014 9:22:00 AM

Marty Sacks, PilotMost of my friends in the industry know that I’ve flown small airplanes for a number of years. As I’ve learned, I share this passion with a lot of folks in the industry. This got me thinking a bit. I asked myself, “Why are so many radio technical types also involved in aviation.” I have a few ideas about what those who excel in both fields have in common:

1. Radio engineering requires planning ahead

A good pilot is constantly scanning the horizon. They are looking to avoid meeting other airplanes and/or bad weather. They are aware of their fuel quantity and the health of the airplane’s systems as well as that of their passengers. Good pilots use their superior planning skills so that they are rarely surprised by problems. They’re always thinking about their next flight or their last flight with an eye on making better plans in the future.

Good radio engineers are the same way. They’re thinking about where their facility needs to be as equipment ages or new technologies offer enhancement or old technologies force change. Those dedicated to radio engineering are studying and watching others for ideas worthy (and not so worthy) of adopting.

2. Radio engineering requires dealing with problems quickly and effectively

Marty Sacks, Radio EngineerThe biggest issues for pilots occur in the critical phases of flight (generally defined as takeoff, climb, descent and landing). Some would say that anybody can be prepared for an engine failure at a high cruise altitude - a good pilot is prepared for one at a low altitude and has already thought thru the best place to go with the remaining performance the airplane can deliver to ensure survival.

The best radio CEs I’ve known can solve problems with great speed and effectiveness. Problems never surprise good engineers. They expect them and, in many cases, they’ve already thought thru how to fix them when the inevitable occurs. Not only do they know that problems will occur, they know they will occur at the worst possible time so they are ready for that, too.

3. CEs are continually learning about radio engineering

Great pilots want to understand more completely how the airplane works. The same can be said for great radio engineers when it comes to the new systems that are frequently integrated with computer networks.

Great radio CEs have continued to learn as the state-of-the-art moves forward. They’re not afraid to dig in to new radio engineering topics. Perhaps the greatest example of this is Telos founder Steve Church. Like many of us, Steve started as a station CE with very old tech (tubes and discrete transistors) and taught himself every new technological development to impact broadcasting that we’ve seen since. While most will never be able to commercialize new technology as Steve did, CEs and pilots are always learning about the new things that will impact their world. They embrace the process of learning. They want to know more. They have a natural curiosity.

So, what are the non-broadcast passions and skills that you bring with you to the station everyday?

Topics: Broadcast Engineering