Of the many boat related magazines I get every month, there are at least two that I read cover to cover. One is Soundings, and another is Passagemaker. These are both great sources of information for boaters of all types and they help keep me up to speed with what’s going on in our industry. In the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of PM News & Notes section there is a nice little tidbit about radio controlled foghorns. It begins with “The US Coast Guard is replacing many of its fixed sound signals with foghorns that mariners themselves activate. All we have to do is set our VHF radios to a specified frequency and key our mics five times.” Cool! Nothing like having a little autonomy over a navaid that would normally do no one’s bidding but its own. And of course, because it’s the Coast Guard, we’ve even got a snappy acronym to denote the system which I’ll likely have to memorize before going in to my next Capt license exam: MRASS, which stands for Mariner Radio Activated Sound Signal. (feel free to insert your own interpretation of that acronym with your boating pals for comic relief as needed)
I like this concept.
Back in my flying days, I made frequent use of a similar ability with airport lighting. Airfields that are not manned 24/7 may have what’s known as pilot controlled lighting (no acronym as far as I know). Using the appropriate frequency, you click the mic a certain number of times to activate the airfield lighting, and poof! it appears out of the gloom. I used to thoroughly enjoy doing this even if I didn’t need them. On long cross country flights, especially in a helicopter when all cross country flights are long, finding something to do other than make fun of other crew members was a useful way to stay alert. I would scour the VFR sectional chart for little podunk airports and look them up to see if they had pilot controlled lighting. If they did, I made it a point to dial up the frequency and start gleefully clicking the mic like mad to watch the lights come on. I might even have giggled when I did it. It also would not be untruthful to relate that I might have flown a few miles out of the way if I found an interesting airport with lots of lighting just to see it flick on. I don’t know for sure why I got such a big kick out of that, and I’m pretty sure judging by their looks my co-pilots and crew chiefs didn’t either. Maybe I thought in the sometimes rigid, don’t-do-this-don’t-do-that world of military aviation, that I was sticking it to the man by making these lights do whatever I wanted. Or, I was just being a sophomoric juvenile.
I can’t wait to find my first pilot, er, mariner controlled foghorn.