2757: Towed Message

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Towed Message
"Hi, what you do is fly over a designated zone and detach the--" "WE'RE SORRY, THE MOBILE CUSTOMER YOU ARE TRYING TO REACH IS OUT OF SERVICE"
Title text: "Hi, what you do is fly over a designated zone and detach the--" "WE'RE SORRY, THE MOBILE CUSTOMER YOU ARE TRYING TO REACH IS OUT OF SERVICE"

Explanation[edit]

In this comic, an aircraft is towing a banner. These aircraft do not take off or land with the banner in tow, but instead have a hook and release mechanism to add and drop the banner in flight. The banner could be interpreted as a recruitment ad by an aerial advertising company looking for additional pilots. But the humorous interpretation is that the banner is a distress signal – the pilot of the aircraft doesn't know how to land, and is hoping that someone will see the banner and give assistance. This makes the banner self-referential, because the presence of the banner (which makes landing difficult) is the very reason for displaying the banner. It is paradoxical, because printing and deploying the banner requires planning,[citation needed] and if the pilot had anticipated that they would need assistance to land with a banner, they could have simply chosen not to deploy a banner in the first place.

The aircraft in the illustration is similar to a Piper J-3 Cub, which is popular for tasks such as towed banners for its low operating cost and good performance at low airspeed.

The title text features a caller who dials the "555" phone number from the banner (see Trivia) and starts to explain the correct method for landing (detach the banner over a designated empty location then land the plane regularly), but the call is disconnected halfway through. Presumably the number is that of the pilot's cellphone. The call could have disconnected because the aircraft moved out of range of the cell site the phone was connected to and the phone failed to automatically connect to an adjacent cell; or possibly the cell network detected the call on multiple sites due to the phone's altitude and disconnected it from the network; or the plane crashed and the phone was destroyed on impact.

Transcript[edit]

[A small propeller-driven high-wing airplane tows a banner from left to right. Around the plane and banner there are four small clouds, two above and two below. There are also five birds far in the background, three above and two below the banner. The text on the banner reads:]
Do you know how to land a plane that's towing a banner? Call 555-0127 now!

Trivia[edit]

  • Phone numbers beginning with "555" are commonly used for fictitious telephone numbers in movies, TV shows, and other related media. The numbers 555-0100 through 555-0199 are specifically reserved for fictional use in North America, and are used to avoid inadvertently publishing someone's real phone number, which might get the owner of the number bombarded with unwanted calls from curious callers.
  • Related concepts were shown in 1897: Self Driving and 1927: Tinder.
  • In a similar joke, a pilot used skywriting to write "How do I land?" as a prank in 2013.
  • Banner towing is generally safe for an experienced pilot, though not entirely without risk.
  • The comic may have been inspired by a recent article in the Washington Post [1] on how a person who is not a pilot is unlikely to be able to land a plane.
  • The aircraft in the illustration is similar to a Piper J-3 Cub, which is popular for towing banners due to its low operating cost and good performance at low airspeed.
  • Aircraft communication is usually done using radio. The aircraft emergency frequency at 121.5 MHz is reserved for aircraft emergencies including pilots in distress and needing assistance.
  • The emphasis on the word "you" in the banner is reminiscent of ads such as the well-known US Army recruitment poster.
  • This was the first year since 2017 that Randall missed the opportunity to release an April fools' comics on April 1st (this comic was released on March 31st and the next comic was released on April 3rd).


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Discussion

I hear there were plane(s) pulling banners (Draftkings) around the Boston area yesterday (MLB opening day), perhaps that influenced Randall. JohnHawkinson (talk) 23:31, 31 March 2023 (UTC)

I think that he edited the sign midflight somehow. --Purah126 (talk) 00:06, 1 April 2023 (UTC)

Also, how do they answer the telephone call mid-flight? --Purah126 (talk) 01:59, 1 April 2023 (UTC)

Well, they didn't, but that means they flew out of range of any suitable cell towers before any call came in. Which is their oversight/error given that it should be easier to maintain line-of-sight than if you're stuck on the ground in a canyon or something.
Otherwise, I'm sure they could waggle the stick with one hand whilst holding the handset to their ear with the other. I'm sure the FAA has rules against it (given that many jurisdictions don't like drivers driving whilst on a phone) but probably the least of the problems for a pilot who has to deal with a banner that they don't know how to handle... 172.71.242.87 03:06, 1 April 2023 (UTC)
Or, y'know, voice control... remote headset...172.70.86.127 08:53, 4 April 2023 (UTC)
I also don't think that there are any exchanges left in the USA which will accept a seven-digit number, the area code must be included. I reckon Randall understood this, and drew accordingly, to further protect against an 867-5309 incident. As for the call that went through, convenient for the joke. Or maybe White Hat made it.172.70.207.183 20:52, 3 April 2023 (UTC)

Is it some kind of self-reference? 2659: Unreliable Connection 02:03, 1 April 2023 (UTC)

Actual answer: Fly over an open field and pull the lever that releases the cable, letting the sign fall to the ground. Then land normally.


Is this supposed to be the April Fools comic, but a day early, or is that comic late?20:21, 1 April 2023 (UTC)

I can't wait for the April Fools comic! --Purah126 (talk) 15:19, 2 April 2023 (UTC)
April third, still no april fools comic :( Mushrooms (talk) 09:18, 3 April 2023 (UTC)

I noticed that image quality on the comics seems to have dropped, I wonder if this is some kind of quiet joke.

There is a similar theme in 1927: Tinder -- KingPenguin (talk) 01:52, 6 April 2023 (UTC)

I like the alternate title text explanation that the pilot has been flying for so long that their cell phone service was deactivated. Kind of like the bus driver from that one Cyanide and Happiness video. 172.71.158.216 02:31, 7 April 2023 (UTC)

Is the title text a pin on the word 'mobile'? As in, the pilot has a mobile phone, but it also moving too fast (=is too mobile) to use it? 172.70.247.43 18:30, 31 August 2023 (UTC)