Unlabeled switch

I was working on a fire in Montana when the topic of switch labeling came up in casual conversation since we had just been through a USFS audit. We were joking about labeling the left cyclic stick “FWD rotor” and the right cyclic stick “AFT rotor” after the comic we drew in which Sally doesn’t quite understand how a Chinook flies.
My avionics tech Trevor said, he always loved to have a random unlabeled switch in the cockpit that didn’t really do anything other than count how many times it is flipped just to see how many times pilots would flick it to find out what it does. I thought the idea was great and had “Chuck and Julio” written all over it! So, here we are.

I also remember a story that was quite the opposite. I once was flying a Twin Star offshore that was originally built in France. It still had one switch labeled in French (it was a French acronym or something) and nobody knew what the switch did. I asked the pilot who was checking me out on the aircraft and the offshore routes and he just said “I don’t know. Don’t touch it!” I never did. And nobody else ever did either. The switch was very close to the arm-switch for the pop-out emergency floats. Turns out nobody was brave enough to mess around with a mysterious switch while being miles and miles offshore. We flew this thing for 3 years and nobody ever touched the switch. 😉

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4 comments on “Unlabeled switch
  1. DeanRW says:

    What about the AFM? Didn’t it say anything about that Twin Star switch?

  2. Bernd says:

    Reminds me of the old computer hacker jargon story about the magic switch: http://catb.org/jargon/html/magic-story.html

    Labelled “Magic” and “More Magic”, it was only connected with a single wire to a grounded point on the PCB, so by any reasoning shouldn’t do anything. Yet when it was flipped from “More Magic” to “Magic”, it would crash the computer, repeatedly.

    Unlike airplanes the worst thing that can happen when flipping an unlabelled switch is normally that the computer crashes, and after making sure that no critical programs are running, computer nerds simply *MUST* do it to find out what it does.

  3. sparkplug54 says:

    Reminds me of the rock labeled, “How to keep an idiot busy. See other side.” When flipped, the other side reveals,”How to keep an idiot busy. See other side.”

  4. L says:

    This hits very close to home.
    Do you know the kind of pilot who you ask “what does this switch do?” and he answers “I don’t know, I don’t use it”?
    Well, I know a few. Needless to say, it scares me to fly with them.
    I always preach “know thy systems”. Because you never know when your detailed knowledge might save your hiney. It has for me, twice. Can’t complain. 🙂

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