!!!!! GONE FLYING !!!!!

If you need to contact me... email: [email protected]


"Pic of the day" sent in by Craig M from Ottawa. He watched flight tracker for days until he got the shot of all shots. It's beautiful.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tailwind/headwind/ground speed?

Received this query from my Ask Doug Column:

Why does the flight time from YYZ to YYC differ by around 30minutes outbound versus the return? The most common answer I get is tailwinds. If the plane, on both trips, travels at the maximum cruising speed of500 mph, how do tail winds factor in ?

It's true airliners travel about 500 mph, but one has to factor in the ground speed (speed in relation to the ground). Winds aloft generally flow from west to east and can have speeds as high as 200 mph (actaully they have been known to blow 250 knots (290 mph) in the winter time. If we consider a wind of 100 mph from the west, then a westbound flight would have a speed over the ground of 400 mph whereas the return eastbound flight would travel across the ground at 600 mph. Air Canada's flight dispatch will try to keep flights out of the headwinds and capitalize on the tailwinds, but there are many other factors to consider. Typically for scheduling, Air Canada uses a component of 40 i.e. the speed of an eastbound flight will be on average 540 mph and the westbound flight 460 mph across the ground.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The "goings on" in the flight deck.

This recent email queries the "goings on" in the flight deck:

I'm sure you have been asked this question many times before. I just can't seem to find the answer on the blog anywhere. Anyways, during long 5 or 6 our flights what are the pilots doing in the cockpit to whole time? I understand that their can be weather problems to deal with, computer to programing for flight and many other complications, but what is it you do that whole time? I know that you responded to an earlier question saying that it never gets boring in the cockpit.

I just flew a six hour flight from YUL (Montreal) to YVR (Vancouver).

Duties are divided into PF (pilot flying) and PNF (pilot not flying).

The PNF's duties include talking on the radios, paperwork (filling out the log book, getting weather, and doing fuel/time checks at each waypoint). The PF flies the airplane, but once at cruising altitude with the autopilot on, there is not much to do.

We talk, but sometimes the conversation runs out. We eat (mostly out of boredom) and unfortunately, we have no visitors after 9/11. That means even flight attendants rarely visit. We are all on our own. Even going to the washroom nowadays is a major 'SOP' adventure.

Many pilots will find commonality, just like most conversations, and go from there. I've been on flights where the conversation doesn't stop (well except during "sterile" times (+/- 10,000 feet) and I've been on flights where a mere few personal sentences have been shared. Two of the many prequisites for being an airline pilot is good communication and being gregarious. Introverts need not apply.

Most airlines forbid the reading of newspapers, etc. So reading non aviation material, doing sudokos, crosswords are not allowed. However, neither is speeding on highways, making false claims on tax returns, and buffing up your resume.

One overused depiction of our job: It's hours and hours of sheer boredom coupled with moments of sheer terror.

For long haul flights we fly with extra pilots allowing us to take breaks in designated crew rests.

Hope this helps.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A pilot on "make up?"

Golden Gate. (It makes for a great walk)

Most airlines pay pilots by the hour - actually it's by the minute but who's counting? How many hours a pilot is paid varies from month to month. The computer program spews out our "blocks" as near as possible to the designated monthly value. For May, I was blocked to fly 67 hours (a low block). In order to top up for the month,we pilots have the option of going on "make up." Crew sked called and offered a flight to San Francisco with a layover and then a flight back to Toronto the next day topping me up to 78 hours. For the rest of the month, I hope to get some "block growth" as well. (A pilot is either paid the scheduled time for the flight or the actual time of the flight- whichever is longer). "Block growth" is pretty well guaranteed during the winter months due to deicing, but the summer months bring delays because of thunderstorms.
Who would think flying an airliner would be so complicated?

Speaking of making things complicated, the approach into San Francisco offers four varieties on runway 28R alone. For example: LDA DME RMY 28R, ILS RWY 28R CAT II and III, Quiet Bridge visual 28R, FMS Bridge Visual RMY 28R. Incidentally, the reference to the bridges is not the Golden Gate bridge, but the Dumbarton or San Mateo bridges.

To make things even more interesting NORCAL (Northern California) approach informs you the type of approach well into the descent. Some fast finger programing may be required. We were given the FMS Bridge Visual on 28R. Another thing SFO ATC is noted for is keeping you "high" i.e. "slam dunk" approaches. Even our flight plan warns us of over speeding the flaps due to rushed approaches. The trick is to get the airplane dirty (flaps and perhaps landing gear extended well ahead of time).

The first officer greased it on awing a full load of passengers. It was off to the hotel to get our oven fresh chocolate chip cookie at check in and then for a debriefing beverage. You gotta love it!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Across the Rockies FOUR times in a day


Left Calgary under beautiful sunny skies only to be greeted with overcast skies and rain in Vancouver.We broke out about 600 ASL and the F/O greased it on the wet runway. (You gotta love wet runways). My leg back to YEG was uneventful. The winds in YVR for our return flight were 16010g25 knots for the ILS 08L. The F/O elected to use medium on the autobrake which was a good call although she didn't second her greaser. The weather over the "Rocks" was uneventful. Had to dodge some convective stuff with lots of virga in Edmonton. We did get some mountain wave action on the last leg. Fluctuations of 20 knots and we ascended about 150 feet above FL350. Descended to FL 330 below the tropopause sitting at 34000 and got a better ride. 

The in-charge flight attendant called about seven minutes back from landing saying there was an elderly lady
refusing to leave the washroom. Here I was stuck with the dilemma of landing with leaving her in the washroom or circling in bumpy conditions to get her out. I told the in-charge to haul her out of there. One F/A had to pull the ladies pants up and place her in a nearby seat. The flight was full so a young gentleman was asked to move.

It all ended in a happy ending but with some embarrassment. As one flight attendant who had the honours of dressing the woman said, "what a glamourous job!"

"Behind the Scene Teams"

I'm sitting in blustery Edmonton (YEG) on a layover and thought I would muster up a list. It's been stated there are at least 65 "behind the scene" teams  required to get a commercial airliner airborne. (Okay, it's blowing a gale here and I'm not venturing far from the hotel so I'm stalling for time until pick up).

Maybe you can add to the list?

Getting an Airliner Airborne

1. Pilot training and checking

2. Crew scheduling (pilots)

3. Flight Attendant training and checking

4. Crew scheduling (flight attendants)

5. Maintenance (maintenance can be subdivided into numerous subsections)

6. Air Canada Jazz (connectors)

7. Flight dispatch

8. SOC (Systems operations Control) The "nerve centre."

9. Weight and balance

10. STOC (Station Operations Control) Individual airport "nerve centre."

11. Marketing

12. Financing

13. Customer service agents (even the grumpy ones)

14. Maple Leaf lounge (for some)

15. Ramp attendants (baggage, water and lavatory service)

16. Groomers

17. Fuelling

18. Commissary

19. Air Canada Cargo (also dangerous goods section)

20. ATC (Air Traffic Control) (Tower)

21. ATC (Radar)

22. NavCanada (navigation supply and service)

23. GTAA (Airport authority)

24. Ramp controllers

25. Customs (Canadian, American, etc)

26. Immigration

27. Security (passengers)

28. Security (airport and aircraft)

29. De-icing

30. Fire services

31. Snow ploughing and airport maintenance

32. Airport heating and support

33. Weather observers (I had to support the weather man, at least 3 times...)

34. Weather forecasters 

35. Upper air weather launch sites for upper winds 

36. Advertising

37. Public relations

38. Human resources

39. Management (even though not many care to admit it)

40. Communications (internal communication, data link, internal mail)

41. Payroll

42. Corporate security

43. Transport Canada 

44. Medical department for pilots and flight attendants

45. Police, RCMP

46. Commissioners

47. Food industry (restaurants, book stores, even Tim Hortons)

48. Airport cleaners

49. Transportation (taxis, buses, subways)

50. Crew buses and taxis

51. Hotels (layovers)

52. Parking (passenger and employee)

53. Baggage carts, porters (may not seem important but...) 

54. Supplies and stores

55. Websites, computer technology

56. Uniform companies

57. Records department

58. Safety (all divisions)

59. Research (projects)

60. Technical (aircraft performance)

61. Jeppeson (pilot charts, maps and company amendments)

62. Ambulance service

63. FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and other world aviation bodies

64. enRoute magazine and entertainment, newspapers (my biased opinion)

65. International operations (includes the numerous airports around the world we fly to)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Here's a question from a follower:

Tell us about the most spectacular sunrise you've ever seen from the flight deck.

There's no doubt I've seen a few sunrises as an international pilot. This photo was taken on a Beijing pairing (pre-Olympics) somewhere over the Pacific enroute back to YYZ- I think. It may have been crossing the International date line. That same pairing I visited the Great Wall. The two hour ride to the wall has got to be up there with the drive to the Taj Mahal as far as "fear factor."

One memorable sunrise was enroute to London, England. The captain was an armchair astronomer and he talked throughout the wee hours of the night about the stars we saw, the moon, Venus and finally about the rising sun. He was a wealth of info especially when I know very little on the subject. That sunrise over Great Britain proved to be in the top ten.

Another time I was doing a flight from LHR (Heathrow) to YYC (Calgary) in the short day lit hours of winter. Because of the time of year and high latitude we saw the sun set over Britain and rise over Calgary. (Think about it). That layover in YYC was also memorable because we visited the Canadian Legion (the captain was ex-military) and we won about $250 in lotteries while drinking copious amounts of "de-briefing" beverages.

During my flight last night into YVR (Vancouver) we saw the sun the entire time even though it was 9:20 PDT when we landed. A sign we are out of the winter doldrums. One thing I notice and cherish, is the fact both sunrise and sundown look a heck of a lot better and vivid now I am in the "left seat."

Posted from Beautiful British Columbia.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"Been There" places

"Helpmefly" sent me this link to post airports I've been to. I think one can only post an airport at a time so I'll be here all night.

"Been there airports"

Air Canada pay info, interview process

A friend of mine sent this American website: http://www.airlinepilotcentral.com/airlines/canadian/air_canada.html

It has a neat pay calculator. It also has standard HR questions asked at AC interviews and samples from
the EQ (Emotional IQ) tests. 

Note: Starting salary at A.C is $37,000.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jumpseating on the Dash-8 YSJ-YUL

The only way I got out of YSJ (Saint John, N.B) was via the jumpseat. The flight, filled to the brim , meant two hurdles to get over in order to get the jumpseat. First, the aircraft was near gross weight. They did a male/female break down which turned out in my favour. The second hurtle was whether the Air Canada Jazz pilots would be receptive to an Air Canada mainline pilot. There's animosity between the two groups so the jumpseat is not guaranteed. Turns out the two Montreal based pilots were great.
I have not been in a Dash 8 flight deck in over 14 years and I forgot most of it. Funny, one would think after amassing over 5000 hours on one it would be second nature. Having said, I had lots of time to familiarize myself, because I forgot how slow things happened in a turboprop. I couldn't believe the climb rate. Yesterday I went to PUJ (Punta Cana, Dominigue) with a fully loaded A319 and we smashed through the first 30,000 feet. The Dash has been certainly upgraded in the navigation department. I was impressed with its vertical NAV.
The captain did a great job in the 30 knot westerlies that greeted us in YUL.
Before I left, I told them they were both welcome in my flight deck. They saved the day.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Aviation safety presentation in Saint John NB

Maximum flight hours per month: 90 (contract)

Pilot can’t exceed 13 hours duty per day

15 hours with three pilots, 18 with four

Can’t exceed 40 hours in 7 days CARs (Canadian Aviation Regulations)

120 hrs in one month, 300 hrs in three months, 1200 in one year (CARs)

Can use the “f” word (fatigue), or “unfit” to fly

Can now have controlled naps up to 40 minutes

Mandatory retirement: age 60

12 hours from “bottle to throttle” (Transport Canada’s: 8 hours) 

Just finished a 45 minute presentation for the New Brunswick Safety Council. Talk went well although the previous talk overshot 15 minutes which bit into my time. 

I talked about Aviation Adages, flight simulators, how pilots stay current, deicing, safety in numbers (see above),Polar operations, TCAS (Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System), CRM (Crew Resource Management), Human Factors (Swiss Cheese Model- Prof. James Reason) for accidents.

Now I'm waiting for a flight back to YYZ. Although YSJ is living up to a typical spring day with visibility in 1/8 mile in rain and fog.

CYSJ 011535Z 21031G39KT 1/8SM R23/1600FT/N -RA FG VV001 09/ RMK FG8

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