Down At The Used Vector Store

The salesman was convincing. "All of our vectors are in top condition, error-free and guaranteed to last!" He leaned in. "You know...there are only three hundred and sixty of these things so you can be sure they were all used with care!" I peered across the lot. "Uhh, well I just transferred to an airport that has mostly East-West runways and..." "I've got just the thing over here!" he interrupted. "You're gonna need downwind and base leg headings, plus a few well timed turns to final. I can give you a good price on our traffic pattern package and I'll even throw in some extra headings for wind correction!" "How much?" I asked. He guffawed and slapped me on the back. "Well how much is a good vector worth to you?"

Hmmm. How much is a good vector worth?

"Need some time to think it over? I'm goin' back to my office for a cup of coffee and a smoke. I'll talk to my Manager and see if I can still get you in on that sale we had yesterday." I nodded my head. As he turned to walk away he hollered over his shoulder. "We've got a special section behind the building for no-gyro vectors! You've gotta provide proof of age to get in though. Those things can be pretty wild!" No-gyro vectors? What the hell? I was still trying to figure out how much a good vector was worth. I know I've paid dearly for some bad vectors but the good ones?

I once used a vector...it took a descending DC9 38 miles across our airspace, from the arrival fix to the final. That airplane joined the localizer just three miles from the marker and at a 20 degree intercept angle! Now that vector was worth plenty! But you know...it didn't work the next time I tried it. Of course, I was pretty new to the job. Like me, most new radar controllers needed almost all three hundred and sixty of em' to get through a shift. The more experienced folks used a lot fewer but seemed to use the same ones over and over. I wondered if well used vectors were worth more.

The salesman reappeared. "Make up yer mind yet?" "Uhhh, well..." "Didja look at our Specialty Vectors?" "Specialty vectors?" "Over there!" he pointed. I saw several rows; each with a sign. "Vectors for Spacing" "Vectors around Traffic" "Vectors around weather" There were dozens. I noticed a row of "Off-route Vectors" marked "50% off" along with "Delaying Vectors" and "Left/Right three-sixties."

The salesman shot his cuffs and pushed his hat back a bit. "I'll give you another twenty-five percent off the three-sixties. Honestly? There hasn't been as much demand for em' since the old PATCO days. Back then, everyone was spinning an airplane at one boundary or another." He shook his head sadly. "Whatever happened to those guys?" "Oh, I heard they crossed a few legal boundaries" I muttered. "Listen; I don't need the specialty vectors right now and I sure as hell don't need the three-sixties! How much did you say that traffic pattern package went for?" "Depends," he said wryly, "on how much you think a few good vectors are worth."

I conceded that one good vector is probably worth more than a dozen bad ones. He grinned. "Why don't we step into my office? Hey, did I tell you about my Uncle Zeke? He's worked out a way to convert repeat transmissions into fertilizer!"

"Well..." I said, "Repeat transmissions are a waste of time. He should make a lot of money."

"Say that again?"

© NLA Factor, 2010

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