by Mary Ellen Eagan
My first data collection (“field”) trip was in the spring of 1985. We were supporting litigation (at an unnamed airport), and needed to know how flight schedules had changed over time (in order to prepare comparison DNL contours). I was given the daunting task of going to Eastern Airlines Headquarters in Miami (at the time, Eastern was the only known source of historic flight schedule information) to copy pages from the Official Airline Guide (OAG), which looked something like this.
The data needed to be re-typed (into Lotus spreadsheets), sorted, etc. – just to determine average daily flights on any given route.
That’s how the glamor began.
From Miami, I flew to Portland, Maine for my first trip involving instruments (alas, I’ve been unable to locate a photograph of a Digital Acoustics 607 noise monitor). Nick Miller and I were measuring noise levels near Naval Air Station Brunswick, home of Pat Wing 5 and the P-3 Orion Naval Patrol.
What I remember most about that trip – and tell my girls every time we drive past the old base (the base is gone – it’s now Brunswick Executive Airport, but the Fat Boy Drive-in is still going strong!) is that I was so engrossed in managing the noise monitor that I actually screamed the first time an aircraft flew overhead. In my defense, that plane (a P-3) was on short final and probably at 100’ altitude (I know, because I got to figure that out later) and very quiet. It was my first experience with ‘startle’. What I also remember is Nick’s equanimity in the situation, while inside he must have been wondering just how long my career at HMMH would last.
There are so many differences between then and now, but the thing I miss most is the opportunity to get to know colleagues on a personal level. In those pre-Internet days, once the sun went down, we were done working for the day – no email, no work in the hotel room, no cell phones even to call home. It left lots of time for exploring neighborhoods, which could sometime be a challenge near remote Naval Air Stations – but who doesn’t like a challenge? For example, in the photo below, Bob Miller is seen defending me from an unseen rattlesnake near Midland (TX). We may be way more efficient these days, but are we still having fun?