Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Now with the recent heightened security threat in the States it will impose more dilemma especially going through airport security.
There are two early morning departures for Barbados tomorrow and there is one seat available with 20 other airline employees wanting the same flights. We are betting on mis-connections to accommodate a family of five.
Because of the load factors we did not even book a hotel. Should be interesting for us airline gypsies.
Friday, December 25, 2009
The morning started with a 5:15 check in. I took my visiting sister-in-law with me to the airport as she was returning to Halifax. I should have been in a good mood.
I meet my F/O and we notice significant thunderstorms on the radar covering most of South Carolina, Georgia and the northern half of Florida. Oh great! I call flight dispatch and they give me a song and dance that they have not intensified. Yes, but they are still there. While others are opening gifts, I'm thinking convective turbulence.
I had to get rid my morning grumpiness by getting a coffee but you would not believe the Toronto airport. It was packed including Tim Hortons and plan B Star bucks (two coffee emporiums). I had to resort to a "Second Cup" airplane coffee.
As you know, I always offer the F/O the first leg. He couldn't decide so I flipped a coin. It was my leg to Miami.
A major system was skirting Ontario and we got light chop in the climb. The thunderstorms started to pop up further south. We had a full load of passengers and could only get to FL350.
Not high enough. We skirted overhangs, convective clouds not "painting" on the radar coupled with heavy precipitation encountered at flight level 350 with a temperature outside of -57c.
I.E we were in updrafts. I must admit the blood pressure was elevated. I was maneuvering on heading mode for almost half the flight of three hours.
Finally in the descent into Miami we found smooth air. Miami approach vectored us really tight to the FAF (final approach fix) and kept us high. Here we go - a slam dunk approach. Plus she wanted us to keep the speed up. In order to regain a stable approach it was flight directors off with the gear down out of sequence. She did say, "Merry Christmas" while passing us off to tower. We land. But in 30 minutes we will be returning to where the skies were not happy.
I notice the flight plan back was basically the same way we came but we only had 60 passengers so we were light meaning we could fly higher.
We encountered light to moderate turbulence from 20,000 feet to 35,000 feet. At flight 390 it was smooth and we managed to duck around the thunderstorms with only a few bumps.
I set the park park back in Toronto one minute early. Singer Nelly Fortado was on my flight. I asked the in-charge to get her to sign my book, but she slept the entire flight.
Oh well, it's off to relatives for Christmas dinner.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
What happens because Santa does not have a TCAS (Traffic alert and Collision Avoidance System)
Unlimited visibility prevailed in winter’s star lit darkness on a recent “over the top” non stop flight from Toronto to Hong Kong, offering a rare glimpse of the North Pole as I scanned the frozen terrain for hints to Santa’s whereabouts. Though my last pilot medical still deemed my eyesight faultless, it was uncertain I spotted the glowing lights to Santa’s busy toy factory with elves working frantically inside. (On returning home, my six year old son was ecstatic to hear of my bird’s eye view).
During my search, I pondered the similarities and differences between an airliner and Santa the aviator. It’s a well known fact Santa Claus prefers a snow covered landing pad but not so for airplanes. Pilots prefer runways to be bare, and if dubious conditions exist, ground equipment will leap into action incorporating snow ploughs, sweepers and vehicles to spread a non corrosive chemical to melt snow and ice. We also consult charts to determine if the reported braking action and crosswinds are within limits, if not, it’s off to another runway or airport for landing.
It’s well known Santa lands on roof tops with very steep pitches. Our tolerance for take off and landing must be within two degrees of slope.
Very sophisticated landing instruments both on board and at the airport is a must in order for us to find the runway in snowy conditions. I’m certain Santa doesn’t navigate using global positioning satellites, or laser mounted gyros to detect momentum shifts…or does he navigate by ‘dead reckoning’ from a magnetic compass labelled ineffective in extreme northern latitudes?
While traversing the North Pole our airspeed is about 83 percent the speed of sound. One website armed with statistics on Santa Claus, postulated Santa’s required speed must be 3000 times the speed of sound to reach everyone on Christmas Eve. He must also have special permission to bust the mandatory airspeed restriction of 250 knots (460 kilometres per hour) below 10,000 feet (3050 metres) above sea level. Rules must also be twisted for not having appropriate navigation lights although Rudolph’s red nose could improvise for a red anti-collision light. There’s also deicing systems required as he enters cloud and the gamut of instruments necessary to keep the sled upright in disorientating cloud. (A non trained person flying in cloud is statistically proven to last under a minute before plunging into a spiral dive). Department of Transport could easily ground Santa’s sled on hundreds of violations but in the name of “Christmas spirit” Santa has been given a special flight permit.
As you know, in order to stay current, airline pilots must undergo rigorous testing every six months in a flight simulator. For the pilot, one of the toughest hurtles to nail down during a “check ride” (flight test) is the “loss of an engine” on take off. This reminds me of a story which circulates the aviation world in reference to Santa’s “check ride.”
Apparently even Santa Claus could not escape the required flight test with a Transport Canada flight inspector. In preparation, Santa had the elves wash the sled and bathe all the reindeer. Santa got his log book out and made sure all his paperwork was in order. He knew the inspector would examine all his equipment and truly put Santa's flying skills to the test. The examiner walked slowly around the sled. He checked the reindeer harnesses, the landing gear, and even Rudolph's nose. He painstakingly reviewed Santa's weight and balance calculations for the sled's enormous payload. Finally, they were ready for the check ride. Santa got in and fastened his seat belt and shoulder harness and checked the compass. Then the examiner hopped in carrying, to Santa's surprise, a shotgun. "What's that for?!?" asked Santa in disbelief. The examiner winked and said, "I'm not supposed to tell you this ahead of time," as he leaned over to whisper in Santa's ear, "but you're gonna lose an engine on takeoff."
Recently, all airliners around the world have been equipped with devices to interrogate other aircraft in close proximity, determining direction, altitude and if need be a resolution advisory given. It’s not known whether Santa’s sled has been updated with this new technology so it will be hard to see him coming. However, having flown many Christmas Eve’s, we generally make a passenger announcement advising passengers air traffic control has detected an unknown blip on their radar originating from the North Pole.
This Christmas Eve I’ll be flying from Calgary to Frankfurt (Generally speaking junior crews both in the flight deck and cabin will have the distinction of working through Christmas. Last year I spent it in London and the year before, Paris). Our flight plan will take us over Baffin Island and Greenland…two great vantage points to spot Santa and his hard working reindeer. So if you’re on my flight, expect a briefing on Santa’s whereabouts and a “Seasons Greetings” from the flight deck.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The day started with a 4:40 wake up call (3:00 a.m Toronto time). One can hear the wind pounding on the hotel window. What a morning, the aircraft was rocking and rolling and that was just at the gate. We had a very light load to CYOW (Ottawa) and the flight plan showed nearly 40 minutes under sked because of a rare easterly wind aloft. During engine start on push back we get the cautionary message: AUTO FLT RUD TRV LIM1. The rudder has two limiters for travel limitations and one failed. Just what I need during one of my windiest take offs. I was uncomfortable with this degradation, but by consulting the MEL (Minimum Equipment List) and MOC (Maintenance Operations Control) in Montreal we decide to go. "Jacques from Airbus" built the airplane with two limiters and it's deemed safe to go with only one. Hmmmm?
We taxi out. It's dark, windy as hell and raining. Dispatch sends us a SIGMET (Significant meteorology) forecasting severe mechanical turbulence due to strong gusty surface winds at 4000 feet and below. No kidding.
The winds were 070 degrees true or about 090 degrees magnetic so they were close to being down the runway. It was the first officers leg. He asked me if I prefer to do the take off, but I bestowed faith in him.
We took a gust to the side at about 80 knots and thought...hmmm. We used full thrust (we did not use a flex take off because of potential windshear). We get airborne and the instruments are all over the place. Remember from my last post...CYYT has precipitous terrain.
Also on the plate it states: Moderate to severe turbulence, windshear, and downdrafts may be encountered. This place is not for the faint of heart. The F/A said two ladies in the front seats were holding on to the seats pretty hard.
Through 3000 feet it smooths out nicely. Arrive in Ottawa early only to wait ten minutes for a crew to marshall us in.
I do the walk around in Ottawa after feeling kind of bad sending the F/O out in storm force winds in Tore Bay. The temperature is minus 20 and blowing 20 knots. I froze. We push back after an aircraft swap and the "LEAD" rampie observes frost on the wings. It's to the deice center we go.
Now home in Toronto and the weather seems so docile.
It's festive time so eggnog is on the to-do list...but with rum in it.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
At Montreal's deice center at 7:00 a.m getting rid of frost with Type 1.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Toronto’s Central De-ice Facility: 30 deicing trucks each costing one million dollars.
Air Canada’s flight planning department: Alive 24-7 pumping out 650 to 700 flight plans daily.
Airplane tires: What are they filled with? How long it takes to change an airplane tire?
Thunderstorms: Pilots avoid them like the plaque. What is an airport “red alert” ?
Exploring the inside an airplane: What’s it like inside the tail of a jumbo jet?
Fuel: How much does a jumbo need for a flight to Hong Kong? Where is it stored?
The walk around: How often are they done and what is the pilot looking for?
How do pilots find the airport in fog? How does the Instrument Landing System work?
Sinning in the Simulator: What can they replicate and what can’t they do?
How do I become a pilot? What’s the outlook? How much will it cost?
Moving the heavy metal: How controllers move airplanes on the ground and in the air?
What time is it? Pilots, weathermen, air traffic controllers converse in UTC time.
Runways: What do the blue, white, green and red lights mean?
Paint by numbers: How does one paint an airplane? How often are they painted?
Why the Bumps: Explanation of the six different types of turbulence.
Under pressure. Is the cargo hold pressurized and just how dry is the air?
Highways in the sky: What air traffic controllers see on their screens? How tough is it?
What’s found at an airport?
Monday, December 14, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Hi Tim. Thanks for going out of your way to email and thanks for the kind words. So MidContinent Airlines is a virtual airline? Maybe I could post something on my blog about what you guys do, because I'm certain many of my readers/followers are aviation enthusiasts to the Nth degree. They would love to hear more about this.
F/O T.H Interesting stuff! Wow, you even went through a virtual merger. I went through a real one and it wasn't pretty.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
The boss came up and schmoozed a little saying things are looking up and our loads next week should be nearing 100,000 a day for Christmas. He even acknowledged my enRoute column.
Enough of the P.R stuff, it's off to U.S.S LaGuardia. We noticed there is a new FMS arrival onto runway 31. The Expressway Visual has given way to the "Melro FMS Expressway Visual 31." That way we let the airplane navigate as well as adhere to low altitudes needed to get the airplane on the runway. One has to be "dirty" (flaps and gear) ahead of time. We checked the LGA ATIS in Toronto and they're doing the Visuals on 31. Yes! However, as we near the lights of New York the winds are becoming more northeasterly, a precursor to the East Coast's first winter storm. Translated, it's the ILS on 04. Bummer!
Having said that, about 30 miles back ATC told us to notify them when we had the Hudson River in sight. What does he have up his sleeve? The river is in sight and we are told to "fly the river' at 3000 feet. An eerie sense on uneasiness came over us as we both mentioned "Captain Sully." The same place, in the same make of plane and nearly the same time of year. The view was spectacular as we flew downwind with Central Park, the Empire State building and an infinite amount of bright lights."Air Canada 722, do you have the B757 at your 10 o'clock in sight?" Here we go, as mentioned, I don't like following airplanes at night over bright cities. A hesitant, "traffic in sight" comes from my F/O. The B757 throws off some wicket wake. In fact it's deemed a heavy for that very reason although it's lighter than the 300,000 pound cut off.
Sure enough as I night navigated New York we hit his wing tip vortice. Lucky it was only one and I gave him a wide berth watching him on TCAS and staying above his profile. We get to New York, New York 25 minutes early only to wait for a gate until schedule arrival because we have only three gates available at LGA. "Hurry up and Wait!"
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Q: What do pilots look for in their visual inspection?
Tony Martins, Calgary
A visual or “walk-around” inspection must be done before every flight. Nearly 120 items are checked, from tires and navigation lights to access doors and engine intakes. Since many service vehicles approach aircraft, we also scan for dents and bumps, and during winter, we scrutinize the exterior for snow and ice. You’ll see pilots wearing a bright fluorescent vest during this safety check. This check is usually completed by mechanics on the wide-body fleet.
You too can get your name up in lights. Send me your questions....please.
P.S I noticed enRoute has a period at the end of the email address. It works from my MAC but maybe not from a P.C. Calling all you techies, does it matter if the period is there?
Monday, December 7, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Minus 26C excluding the wind chill. I won't be venturing too far from the hotel. Next night is in YUL via YYZ. Montreal is forecast to see some snow, but then again, it's holds the record for the snowiest (large) city in the world.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Some simulator... we can't simulate eating in the flight deck.
– PARKING BRAKE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ON
– ATC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . NOTIFY
– DELTA P . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CHECK ZERO
– ENGINE MASTERS 1 AND 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . OFF
– FIRE PUSHBUTTONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .PUSH
(ENG & APU)
– AGENTS DISCHARGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . SAD - DISCHARGE
(ENG & APU) OTHERWISE - AS REQUIRED
– PA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . EVACUATE
– BATTERIES 1 AND 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . OFF
This last ride taught me a great deal. I'm wise enough to treat every ride with respect because they can turn on you in a whim. The instructor mentioned there are at least 4 to 5 pilots a day in the sims practicing. Rest assured yours truly will be one of them for the next ride.
Friday, December 4, 2009
MANOEUVRES VALIDATION TRAINING. You see, even the acronym does not jive.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
I received an email today loaded with positive feedback from an American living in France. I thought I'd share it as well as promote her son's website. She mentions a young girl in Nairobi wishing to pursue an aviation career. We all know it's a challenge for most aspiring pilots, but to grow up where becoming a pilot is as far away today as it was 50 years ago is unfathomable. As stated in my talk I did a week ago, "to achieve the goals you have set out for yourself, that is success." I hope someday she too will have the opportunity to repeat those words.
Flying Kites is the charity which my son and a colleague founded in 2007 which is based in Newport, RI but mainly working in Kenya and India at the moment.
Good morning from an American living in deepest rural France.
I've been following your postings with great pleasure- guess I'm a sort of "should've been" pilot - too late now, but....it's at the very top of my Next Life List!!!
I bought 2 copies of your most interesting book, one of which I enjoyed greatly. The second copy went out to a 15 year old high school girl in Nairobi who I've been helping with her determination to become a pilot. Not an easy career path for a girl in Kenya but I feel strongly about her ambitions and your book exactly fitted the kind of real aviation material I've been bringing or sending out to her. She has Internet access (of a sort) and your website is one that I know she is reading when she is home from school. So, little you may have known your writings are helping someone very deserving to work along her career path!
Through your recommendation I've begun following The Flying Scotsman- love it! I think I've found most of the pilot blogs but finally this one from the UK as I lived there for 26 years and have flown BA since it was BOAC. So as I regularly fly two Triple 7 routes with BA and always stop on the FD after every flight (where possible) to say hello and thanks perhaps Ian and I will cross paths at some point.
I've tried to put my finger on what it is that makes the pilot blogs such terrific reading and I think the main factors are the intelligence required to do your job combined with the acute sense of observation (SA) and the large dash of humour which result in giving people like me who won't make the FD in this life such a good window on your working world!
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Air Canada's new simulator building is open for business.
They paired up with CAE (the world's biggest simulator maker)
Even though it does not look impressive, this new three story facility located north of Toronto Pearson is very impressive. Not only does it have seven sims (Air Canada's), but all the training classrooms, mock up flight decks, PTM (Pilot Training Modules) and even all flight operations management is under one roof.
One of two large rooms filled with four sims (two Embraers and two Airbus 320s) at $20 million a piece.
The other side has one B777, one B767, another A320 with one bay open patiently waiting for the B787 (Dreamliner).
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Air Canada Jetz flies five Airbus A320s configured with 64 business class seats catering to sports teams, rock bands and corporate clients. Famous guests have included the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Montreal Canadiens, U2, the Rolling Stones and the Boss (not mine – Bruce Springsteen). Customers dictate everything from the departure point and time to the menu and entertainment, and the gourmet meals are second to none.