Just for the record, I do not own the featured image on this page. It is the property of Mag Instrument of Ontario, California.
I have been fascinated by trains and railroading since infancy but didn’t have the time to take up a strong interest in it until I was twenty-four going on twenty-five.
Likewise, I had been fascinated by all sorts of watercraft and marine logistics since my early teen years but didn’t get seriously interested until I was twenty-eight going on twenty-nine.
I have had a waxing and waning fascination in aircraft and other subjects aviation-related (especially avionics) since childhood, but I’ve never been able to flesh out this interest as I wanted to.
What does railroading, marine logistics, and, aviation all have in common?
If you, the reader, guessed something along the lines of transportation, you are technically correct.
Why just technically correct?
Well, there is something else that brings these hobbies into a common thread, at least here in The States.
What is it, then?
It’s simple, really: Their communications can all be heard on a scanner and on an entry-level budget-friendly model at that.
And I’ve been fascinated by scanners since I learned of their existence at the age of fourteen.
Well, for now at least, all of these communications can be heard on just about every scanner. Sadly, American railroads are slowly upgrading their communications to a system that could only be heard on a premium or deluxe model of scanner. Also, Positive Train Control when fully implemented might make listening to railroad traffic on a scanner a thing of the past. Railroads in Europe and Asia already use a sophisticated communications system similar to cellular phones. Its very technology and backbone are based on GSM. Scanners are at best frowned upon and at worst downright illegal in most of Europe and Asia, anyway. For those who wish to know, scanners are perfectly legal in Oceania and the railroad communications there are still in the clear, but they operate on UHF as opposed to VHF, which strikes me as odd, but apparently, it works for them. As for Africa, I’m not sure at all, but if I had to make an educated guess, railroad communications probably are considerably variable from one location to another. The laws concerning scanners in Africa are likely just as variable.
VHF Airband and VHF Marine Band are implemented Internationally so their communications on even the most basic scanners will be in the clear for some time to come. Like, maybe even decades.
For the first thirty-one years of my life, I pretty much lived within scanning distance of busy mainline railroad and even a branch line. Therefore, I could hear both the train crew as well as the dispatcher clearly on my scanner. Fun fact, I didn’t own a scanner until I was fifteen and didn’t hear railroad communications on my scanner until I was sixteen and I didn’t truly understand them until I was twenty-four.
Then, I moved to the Northern outskirts of Houma, Louisiana.
At this new location, I usually can only hear the train dispatcher’s side of the conversation but not the train crew side. When conditions are just right, I’ll hear both sides, but this is not too common.
Anyway, I don’t ever see myself having the funds to afford one of these deluxe or premium scanners that will intercept these future railroad communications even if I was located in closer proximity to a railroad line. So, I am slowly getting out of my railroad hobby and will continue to do so unless something drastic happens.
In my new location on the outskirts of Houma, I am just a few air miles from several navigable waterways and likewise just a few air miles from a moderately busy airport (KHUM.)
So, since age twenty-eight-going-on-twenty-nine, I have begun listening to marine communications much more often. I pretty much understand the communications about movements on waterways and I am trying to understand the communications that pertain to all the supporting operations heard on VHF Marine.
I also have some VHF Airband channels programmed in my scanner, mostly to give me something to hear while my scanner is not picking up traffic on other channels. Because of my relative proximity to the airport, I hear the tower with great ease and I also hear incoming aircraft contacting the tower. Most of the traffic that goes through this airport is small personal planes, some commuter and charter flights, corporate jets flying petroleum executives around, and, maybe even some cargo planes carrying petroleum-related equipment. This airport is big enough to be strategically important but small enough to be charming and friendly. Also, several heliports near me are used for helicopters bringing personnel to and from drilling platforms in The Gulf of Mexico. It would help me tremendously if I could learn to understand what is being said on these channels. I’ve watched a few videos on YouTube that explain aviation communications, but to no avail. The controllers and pilots talk way to fast and my hearing is slightly damaged as it is. Still, it seems fun to listen to and also looks cool to have that chatter in the background. It even makes me look important while I am out shopping in East Houma (the location of the airport KHUM) and I have aviation chatter coming from a radio on my person. I do a great deal of my shopping in East Houma because my residence is a shorter drive to the stores there. For example, I get my prescriptions filled at a pharmacy in East Houma. I also frequently make my groceries at the Wal*Mart in East Houma, because it is closer to my residence and there is less traffic to fight.
It was late September 2020 and I was making groceries one evening at the Wal*Mart in East Houma. Months before this, my interest in aviation had started to wax again. Since it is closer to the airport than my residence is and also considerably closer to a major waterway, I listen to aviation and marine traffic while I shop there. It makes me look important and it entertains me. Virtually every time I shop at any Wal*Mart, I visit the flashlight section. So on that evening in late September of 2020, I was looking at the flashlights before I began to make my groceries. I saw a Mini Maglite Pro (which is probably the only American made flashlight sold at this Wal*Mart) in the glass case. But this wasn’t the usual Mini Maglite Pro with batteries and a free nylon holster. No, while this one did also have batteries, it instead came with a lanyard, pocket clip, anti-roll lens retainer, and three lenses, Red, Blue, and Clear. But the price was about the same for a Mini Maglite Pro with just the holster. I knew that I would set aside some money when my monthly disability pension came in and purchase it. I did just that on the day my last check was deposited, after paying my rent, utilities, and other bills, of course. I hurriedly purchased it, then made a beeline home so I could register the serial number to my name. By the way, that aforementioned flashlight with those said accessories is actually what this piece will be a review of.
The Mini Maglite Pro flashlight has evolved slightly since its inception in 2012. I still have my first Mini Maglite Pro that I bought in September of 2012, actually but this new one is somewhat brighter.
When the Mini Maglite Pro came on the market in 2012, it boasted a whopping 226 lumens for about two hours. That was a huge advancement considering it ran on two AA batteries. But the color tint was too blue or cold, even though it was very bright for its time.
Fast forward to about 2019, the light engine in the Mini Maglite Pro was upgraded. It now boasts a whole 332 lumens and the color tint is now much more neutral white but maybe still a slight hint of blue. The run time is still the same, which means LEDs are getting more and more efficient as time goes on.
Here is a list of specifications according to Maglite’s website:
An Overall Length of 6.607 Inches or 167.8 Millimeters-Short enough to EDC in most pockets.
A Barrel Diameter of 0.709 Inches or 18 Millimeters/A Head Diameter of 1 Inch or 25.4 Millimeters-Narrow enough to EDC without being noticed until needed but wide enough to not be misplaced easily.
A Total Weight of 4.15 ounces 117.75 grams (including batteries)-Definitely light enough to keep the end-user mobile even on foot for an extended period.
A Beam Distance of 172 Meters or ~564 Feet-Ample range to see and be seen in the dark.
A General Light Output of 332 Lumens-More than enough light for most applications.
A Peak Beam Intensity of 7399 Candelas-Could be better, but, hey, it’s an LED.
A Drop Impact Rating of 1 Meter or ~3.28 Feet-Unless the LED engine is more fragile than we all think, this rating is probably listed for CYB purposes.
A Water Resistance Rating of IPX4-Again, this rating too is probably an underestimate but is officially listed for CYB purposes.
What does this have to do with my interest in aviation?
That is what I assume, you the reader, are asking, right?
Quite a bit!
I shall explain:
From my research I’ve done on aviators, they make decent money, so they can afford quality products. I’ve only seen them with high-quality flashlights many times, much more expensive than a Maglite. They want a product that is durable and therefore more reliable because all aviation is life or death critical. From what I read and seen in real life too, many pilots frequently carry some sort of Mini Maglite or another pocket-sized tactical flashlight on their person even when they’re not flying. Aviators appreciate a flashlight that can have varying degrees of brightness and light color options. Well, this flashlight offers those features, albeit in a very primitive way. Instead of multiple color LEDs or different brightness modes, lens filters came bundled. Without a lens filter, the LED puts out a whole 332 lumens of light. This comes in handy for pre-flight inspections of the aircraft. However, once in the cockpit and especially during a nighttime flight, only a slight amount of brightness is needed and excessive amounts of brightness can be harmful. I’ve read conflicting sources of information that Red is the preferred color for night time aviation because it doesn’t degrade night vision, and from other sources, I’ve heard Blue is better because it shows certain features on maps and charts better. Yet another source says Green, for similar reasons as Red. I’m not exactly sure why this didn’t have a Green lens filter bundled as well. After all, there is another Maglite that comes bundled with a Green lens, so why can’t this one? I was pretty disappointed when there was no Green lens but instead an extra Clear lens. Like what the heck-a-rooney were they thinking? I think I will stick with Red for night vision because I’ve seen other cockpit lights and they are always Red. As far as the pocket clip, this design has been around probably as long as the original Mini Maglite. Not sure how effective it is though. I’m sure it could clip quite well to a pen holder in a flight bag, but I wouldn’t trust it clipped to a pants pocket because of the flashlight’s top-heaviness. The lanyard is probably Maglite’s dumbest design there is! Countless Mini Maglites and even more Maglite Solitaires or Marquis have been lost forever because of this dumb lanyard design. Maybe instead there could be a ring with a loophole that fits under the head assembly, but what do I know? But with the current design, the body of the flashlight gets unintentionally unscrewed from the tail cap and falls only God knows where!
So, the fact that I purchased this flashlight at a Wal*Mart that is fairly close to an airport (sentimental, I know) and the fact that my interest in aviation is coming back to me are two factors that made me purchase this flashlight.
And yes, I am EDCing it with the Red lens in use.
But, I don’t think I will ever fly any type of aircraft.
I might be a passenger again. Regardless of what type of transport, this will come in handy for reading at night and not disturbing those around me.
But I don’t even have to think that high.
I frequently go on road trips with a friend and I do assist my friend while he drives.
I’m almost sure he is on the Autism Spectrum and a sudden bright light while he is driving in the dark would likely cause him to have a meltdown. However, since I am assisting him, I need to see to retrieve whatever item he needs. This is perfect so long as I have that Red lens filter installed.
And anyone who works in the transportation and logistics industry at night would appreciate this flashlight.
Locomotive Engineers, Captains in the wheelhouse of a waterborne vessel, and even long haul truck drivers could all appreciate this flashlight with its accessories.
I do, however, have some points to take off:
-0.25 points for the short run-time-Maglite can do better than this even if some brightness is sacrificed.
-0.50 points for lack of a Green lens filter-seriously, why Maglite?
-0.25 points for the lanyard design that plagues all Mini Maglites and Maglite Solitaire/Marquis.
Therefore, I give this product a rating of four out of five stars.
I know this was a long piece but I thank you, the reader, for bearing with me until the very end and I hope you have been informed and entertained.
May God richly bless you!