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Which is Best for a Helicopter Trip? GPS vs Maps

A growing body of research suggests that our reliance on navigational technology might be altering our brains in ways we’re only beginning to understand. Let us share a small anecdote on this topic with you.

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As a modern helicopter pilot, I usually take off with just my two essentials: a fantastic helicopter trip in mind and, most importantly, a GPS unit. What could go wrong? Do I really need to bring those old maps with me? It took a brutal week back in August 2015 to finally understand why yes, I still need those old maps.


Helicopter Fishing

On a bright, sunny afternoon, my friend Patrick and I decided to leave from the fly-fishing base camp, which was about 2 and a half hours from the nearest city. We flew for 30 to 40 minutes, landing once we found the perfect fishing spot. No one had ever fished in this particular area.


Great Fishing Spot for Atlantic Salmon

The first line was cast: FISH ON! Right away, I caught a nice 11-pound Atlantic salmon – not bad! An hour later, Patrick fought his first fish, a huge one that managed to pull free. According to Patrick, it was most definitely a 20-25 pounder (yeah right!). While impressive, that still left us with a single salmon for diner – we needed a second one, and quick.

I was taking a break, relaxing by the helicopter and taking photos, when I suddenly heard Patrick yell “FISH ON!” Looking his way, I saw the fish jumping out of the water: a beast this time, no doubt about it! After an epic fight of 20 minutes, we finally have our second salmon, a magnificent 18-pound Atlantic salmon. It was time to go back and see if our fishing buddies had been as lucky. 


The Helicopter Adventure doesn’t go as Planned

After firing up the helicopter, we discovered our GPS was not responding… and we weren’t sure where the base camp was… or where WE were for that matter! Even worse – our satellite phone couldn’t provide any GPS coordinates. We had a non-functioning GPS, no coordinates, and a satellite phone. We were lost – what could we do?

We called our friends to let them know about our situation. We started making plans about sleeping in the helicopter and eating our salmons for survival (which didn’t sound great at the time). But luckily, after about an hour, we heard the whirring of a second helicopter – our friends had found us.

Our friends took a quick look at our GPS: one of them pressed a button, and the GPS magically came back to life.

“Woah, how’d you fix it?” I asked.

“Not sure you want to know,” said my friend. Pressing him on, he finally explained. “I just set the brightness to 8. When there’s too much sun, your GPS turns off automatically. That’s it.”

You can imagine we didn’t exactly walk with our heads high when we landed at the base camp … and our misadventure ended up being the talk of the weekend!


What you can Learn from this Helicopter Trip

Always stay with your friends or make sure you know exactly where you’re located. If you decide to go explore a little further, know where you are at all times. The only 100% reliable way of knowing your exact location is still those good old maps!

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