!!!!! 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, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year from Barbados!

It's 18:20 local here in Barbados and I'm blogging from the beach. Just about to sit down for an all-inclusive gala. Looks like they are putting on a nice spread at the resort. My son also gets to celebrate his birthday. 

All the best to everyone out there for 2010!

Captain Doug in Barbados

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Blogging from Barbados

TBPB 291300Z 09013KT 9999 SCT020 28/22 Q1016

Above is the 9:00 a.m BGI (Barbados) METAR. Sunny skies prevail due to a semi-permanent Bermuda high pressure to the north with anticylonic (clockwise) wind flow. As a consequence a prevailing Northeast to Easterly wind dominates referred to as the "Trade winds."

Translation...it's sunny and hot!

We made the first flight but other contingency passengers a.k.a "cons" did not. Airline passes are dictated by seniority. Not by position, nor check-in time. Other airlines differ. However, at Air Canada we can "buy" seniority by upgrading the passes. Many airline employees dislike this because they deem it unfair. This was the only way a family of five had any chance. A senior captain who did not use this option missed it by one.

After switching hotels (the first one was not up to my wife nor kid's standards) we are settled. Although it took some doing. The only room available for New Year's eve was the penthouse. Next to unlimited passes, the second perk to being an airline employee is reduced rates at hotels.

Things are certainly slower here. The internet thing hasn't caught on quite as fast. In fact, I'm next door at another hotel capitalizing on their cheaper internet rate. (Another quality of airline types- thriftiness. But according to flight attendants it's just pilots).

There's no doubt about it, everyday is a carbon copy of the day before - except when the odd hurricane blows through. Having said, December/January are months of low probability of that happening. I hope I didn't tempt the weather gods.

Tanning in Barbados.

Capt. Doug

Saturday, December 26, 2009

B is for Barbados

Well I'm officially on vacation and the family wants to venture somewhere warm. One of pros to being an airline employee is travel passes but they come with conditions. The biggest hurdle is they are strictly stand-by. My family knows this and we experienced numerous times the drawbacks of stand-by. One trip from Arizona took us five days to get home via Calgary, Alberta. (We watched 22 fully loaded planes push back from the gate) A Canadian charter company went bankrupt and overloaded Air Canada's system. This time last year it took us two days to get out of San Francisco.

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.

Capt. Doug

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Miami!

I hope Santa paid everyone a visit. While enroute to Florida he must have encountered light to moderate turbulence this morning because I know I did.

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

Santa the Aviator

Pictures borrowed from the Internet.

Below is a similar article I wrote for the National Post (national paper in Canada) in 2004. Bear in mind this article was published when I was flying the international routes. But in keeping with the tradition of working Christmas, I have a 5:15 a.m check in tomorrow (Christmas Day).

What happens because Santa does not have a TCAS (Traffic alert and Collision Avoidance System)


According to the onboard navigation computers, the aircraft was precisely over the North Pole signifying Santa Claus and his workshop had to be directly below!

Note: None of the four polar routes go directly over the North Pole. The closest one is 60 miles away, but for this article I twisted the fact).

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


CYYT 220700Z 07033G48KT 1 1/4SM -RA BR OVC007 03/03 A2914

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

Down to minimums!

This photo was taken while lining up on the runway in New Delhi in the middle of the night enroute to Toronto - non stop. The airport was reporting an RVR (runway visual range) of 600 feet, but if you count the runway lights (separated every 200 feet) you'll see we had 800 feet and a bit. These take offs at max weight made for some interesting departures in the Airbus 340.

Yesterday, was a day of pushing the limits. For one, our scheduled duty day was 12:49 just 11 minutes short of a maximum duty day. This included the last leg to a place where the worst and most frequent weather in Canada occurs, St. John's, Newfoundland. Even though it meets duty requirements, it does not fit well in the common sense department.

The flight to KTPA (Tampa, Florida) and back proved uneventful - just the way I like them.
We encountered the westerly jet again over the state of Georgia, but it increased in intensity. Our wind read out had the winds clocked at 190 knots. Flight dispatch had us planned at significant lower altitudes going there and right in it heading home. We did get some bumps off it, but by listening to other pilot reports we changed altitudes accordingly.

The F/O just finished a gruelling one year "route" check so he gave some heads up as to what the pilot supervisor checkers are asking. Apparently, they are asking and conveying lots. Because of it, I too was in the books a little more than usual as I have my "route check" in January. I didn't have time to read the "weather maps" (code for newspaper, but this is classified info).

I did notice the go around in the FMS (flight management system) and what it said on our Jeppeson charts did not jive. The F/O's chart read the same. It was CAVOK so I did not query ATC. (CAVOK stands for ceiling and visibility OK - this is a short version. There is a technical definition for those writing pilot exams).

Our flight to Newfoundland was a continuing flight from Fort McMurray (a.k.a Fort McMoney). This flight is a very successful route because many Newfoundlanders are commuting back and forth to work the oil sands in Alberta. As luck would have it, it was running late. Now we have to look at busting our duty time. We have up to two hours discretion due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather delays, but it's at the discretion of the pilot. The flight attendants who were with us all day (this is rare) wanted to continue on their pairing as this was day one. They would be reassigned and this would prove too costly nearing Christmas. I could sense a little reluctance with the F/O, but it was his call.

Finally, the aircraft arrives and everyone scurries to get it turned around. However, during the approach into Toronto the airplane picked up ice. "Jacques from Airbus" did not implement a deice system for the tail wing (stabilizer). So it's off to the deice centre for a quick spray of the tail only. Now we are well past 13 hours. The flight is full. I have two flight commuting flight attendants - one just in from Hong Kong and the other from Tokyo - asking for the jumpseat. A pilot shows up so he out ranked them. I okayed it for him. Not what you want in the jumpseat during a long day, with a approach to minimums, because they never take off their checking hat. Luckily because of some misconnections everyone got a seat in the back. Meanwhile, we are watching CYYT's weather.

CYYT 210105Z 11010KT 1/4SM R11/1800FT/N R16/2200FT/N -FZDZ FZFG VV001 M00/ RMK FG8

To a layman this means poor visibility in freezing drizzle and freezing fog. To a pilot, it raises more than an eyebrow, especially after a long day. This is the same weather weather reported when Air Canada had an incident in CYFC (Fredericton, N.B) years ago in an RJ Challenger. Many things stemmed from this incident and one of them is the captain must do low visibility approaches. It was the F/Os leg so being "mister nice guy" I offer him to do the take off. (We all know where nice guys finish).

The flight plan shows us 10 minutes over 'sked' because we won't be getting the usual push from the prevailing westerlies, but instead we will buck rare easterly winds aloft. (Do not use the word "buck" in P.A announcements. It may sound like something else). See the Flying Scotsman's great post on oceanic procedures. He included a weather chart depicting the easterly jet over Newfoundland.


While airborne we are rattling off weather reports from our datalink. The entire east coast of Canada is being ravaged by a storm. Our alternate is CYYR (Goose Bay, Labrador). It's a military/civilian airport just under two hours north from a go-around in Tore Bay. I haven't been there in years and I didn't want to revisit it last night. I got another roll of data link paper just in case we ran out and things got busy. Our "have a look at alternate" was CYJT (Stephenville, Newfoundland). Dispatch includes a second alternate sometimes meaning it's more feasible to go there. However, this "built by the Americans in WWII airport," did not have readily deicing available. It did have a 10,000 foot runway. But the prevailing winds in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, P.E.I and Newfoundland were from the east meaning non-precision approaches. Not what you want after a long day.

I have a cousin in Stephenville and he would be tickled pink if I landed in this near "ghost town" airport. (I truly have a cousin there. For those in the know, "having a cousin" or "going to see a cousin" is code for something else. Think hanky-panky). More classified info.

My F/O has two small children with another one on the way. He is ready for bed. Dispatch sends us a datalink stating our flight from Halifax will be shooting an approach into CYYT soon. He got in! In fact, we notice a slight improvement in visibility with the forecasted wind shift. But it's minus one so I'm thinking icing on the approach and the runway is 20 percent ice covered.

One might wonder why Canada's foggiest airport doesn't have Category II landing or better yet Category III (Autoland)? They do have CAT II on runway 29, but this would have entailed exceeding our tail wind limits. I'm not sure why they put a CAT II approach on a westerly runway. A westerly wind in Canada generally means a clearing wind.

Westjet is a head of us and we have to slow up, but I have to descend. You can't slow down and go down in a jet. I'm getting high on the profile. I compromise by increasing the speed a little. Finally, we are cleared the approach.

At minimums, there are three calls, "runway in sight", "lights only" or "no contact." The response is "landing" or "go-around, flaps" in a loud shrill. The F/O calls "lights only". It's enough for me to curtly call, "landing!" Autobrake medium slows us nicely on wet runway 11. By setting the park brake at the gate the day is over.

On a side note, while enroute to Newfoundland I'm reading the approach charts extra hard -remember I'm spooled up for my pending route check. I notice this: "Precipitous terrain on approach." Okay, I'm an ex-meteorologist so I know precipitation and precipitate. I pull out my mini dictionary (used for crosswords) but the word does not exist. I feel better. It did have the word "precipice" meaning "very steep cliff or rack face." Okay, I get the drift. Now when I get drilled by the check pilot next month, I'll be armed with a question to counteract his barrage of questions. I'll bet he doesn't know what it means either.

I'm sitting in my hotel room. I have a great view of the approaches to St. John's harbour where waves are crashing upon the shore in easterly gales. (Update - visibility just reduced to 1/4 mile in fog - go figure.)

It's soon time to meet with the F/O for a debriefing beverage - or two.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

From Deicing to Cruise Ships

At Montreal's deice center at 7:00 a.m getting rid of frost with Type 1.

While on approach to 27 right in FLL. There were at least four cruise ships moored at the docks.

Minus 20 C was the temperature in YUL during the walk around. Lucky it was the F/O's turn.
After we started both engines the "push back" crew reported both engines were leaking fuel big time. This is typical during cold starts, but we have a limit of one drip per second. We were told the rate was greater. The procedure is to wait a few minutes and if it did not subside then we had to shut down the engines and restart. Luckily the seals to the engines warmed up and the leaking stop. Over to the deice center for a quick spray for frost.

We flew to Toronto and had an hour to get our flight plan, go through American customs and ready for our flight to Fort Lauderdale. The flight attendants dislike this run because the clientele tends to be demanding. We had a full flight (174 passengers) and sure enough a few passengers were living up to the F/As expectations.

The flight was good but we encountered some "bumps" due to a jet stream over southern Georgia.

During the flight back to Toronto we encountered moderate turbulence for a couple of minutes due to a jet stream. Winds got up to 160 knots from the west at FL350. We descended to FL330 and the winds dropped by 50 knots. A 25 knot shear per thousand feet. No wonder we had bumps. We were just getting served left over "business class" meals and we didn't want our meals flying about. The Airbus 321's wing span needed a few feet added to it. Because it's the same wingspan as the A319 and A320 it rolls quit a bit in turbulence.
Good ole Dougie boy greases it on in Toronto and I got about five "nice landings" from the deplaning passengers. I told them they know how to charm a pilot.
It was deemed a "nice landing" because we land using only idle reverse i.e. no loud rumbling reverse thrust. The landing is actually quiet. Plus I used "low" autobrake which works nicely on the A321 with braking applied smoothly and evenly. The bean counters determined by not using reverse thrust saves fuel and wear and tear on the engines. Plus we lease the brakes so it's better to wear them out. Of course this is done in the right conditions.
It's back to Florida tomorrow for a "turn." Then it's off to St.John's, Nfld where RDF (rain, drizzle, fog) will greet us.
Capt. Doug
P.S The Flying Scotsman posted a glowing tribute of "moi". With the "nice landings" from passengers, coupled with Ian's glowing tribute I will need a bigger captain's hat.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Air cadet talk flies

Captain Paul Simas with Captain Doug

Paul is an in-charge flight attendant with Air Canada but has moved up the ranks with the Air Cadet squadron. It was his last night at the squadron as he will be moving up the ranks. 

Besides getting lost for 10 minutes in downtown Toronto, the night went quite well. I plugged in Lakeshore East versus Lakeshore West in my GPS.  Glad I don't do that in the airplane- get mixed up with east and west.

I taught Air Cadets when I was a new instructor and realized then what a great package they were getting - private pilot license and making life time friends with most of them getting their license before their car license. Sweet!

Things were slowing up a little during dinner (they put me on the pedestal - I was guest of honour) so I suggested doing my talk a little out of order. I had a 5:45 a.m check in (4:30 wake up) and I didn't get home until 1o:30 p.m. I think I oohed and awed them with my PowerPoint presentation. I've been asked back to give talks to other squadrons.

It's noon in Halifax (N.S). I've already done a full Rapidair flight to YUL (Montreal) with a flight attendant in the jumpseat (he did an "all-nighter YVR red eye"). Then an aircraft change followed by de-icing to rid of frost in Montreal.  A back course approach on runway 32 in near gale winds greeted us in YHZ. One leg back to YUL where we get to stay at the "donut."

It's off to Toronto early tomorrow and then a Fort Lauderdale turn.

Capt. Doug

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Meeting goes well

As anticipated the flights were full this morning to Montreal so it was the jumpseat only for Doug. A flight attendant also wanted the 'jump' for an important meeting, but I had to pull rank.

When I entered the flight deck one could immediately sense tension but I quietly watched it play out. The captain was briefing like the take off will be off an aircraft carrier.

The "chatty" factor was not there between them and nor with me. Luckily I brought along a crossword.
During engine start, the #1 generator went off line. "Here we go," I thought. But a reset got everything back on line.

During cruise the F/O asked if the captain had been "checking" much. I come to attention. This guy is a checker and I have should have known. The only pilots which do flap 3 landings are checkers and he briefed a "flap 3" landing. The "bean counters" calculated we would save fuel and reduce wear and tear on flaps if we used one less flap setting (flap 3). What also raised an eyebrow was the captain sported a long sleeve shirt. Someone once told me there is a correlation to long sleeves and being a little different. (Ian, I hope you don't wear long sleeve shirts).

The captain asked the F/O to do a P.A to update the arrival time. The producer of Caissie productions (sitting in J class) said he sensed nervousness with her P.A.
I asked the checker his name. I have an annual route check next month, and if I see his name, I'll be coming down with the sniffles.

The meeting itself was just under two hours. The senior director of marketing was passionate about aviation and one could feel the enthusiasm. We also had to convince two 'reps' from Spafax (which produces enRoute magazine and all the in-flight entertainment). They did mention my column is well read and well received.

So now it's time to come up with financial proposals, meaning things won't get going until the spring.

I flew back to CYYZ stuck in the middle seat in the back of another fully packed airplane. It just reinstated the fact I will always detest commuting.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

From the Flight Deck - meeting

Well after several months, the producer of Caissie Images, promoter and I will be meeting Air Canada's marketing management to see if there is interest and financial backing for a series of aviation documentaries. The meeting is tomorrow morning in Montreal and the only glitch is... the flights are full to the brim.

Here's some of the ideas for potential documentaries:

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

Halifax -a city that is old, new, big and small

The Halifax Town Clock

If you get close to the Halifax clock you'll notice the Roman numeral for four is IIII not IV. They say it's done for aesthetic symmetry.

Our long layover hotel is located on the west side of Citadel Hill. The Town clock is on the east side overlooking the water. 

The Nassau turn yesterday was mostly uneventful. We took the super fast walkway to the international gates. This is the GTAA's white elephant. They have been working on it for three years trying to work out the bugs- it tends to be loud so passengers could not hear the generic announcements. It was up and running and you have to be stable on your feet to ride it. I'm certain it will knock off a few old ladies and rumour has it, it already did.
It's a great concept but the treadmill expands and contracts. It's interesting to see when there is a group with bags. They all get very close in a hurry. 

Started the APU and a "low oil level" on the APU page illuminated. The APU is suppose to be started 10 minutes before push back so we can save on excessive use. Just what I needed. We had to call maintenance, write it up in the logbook, get an authorization number and had to query maintenance whether it would work in the Bahamas. They said it could be run for 10 hours and then it had to be looked at.

I was flying with a new F/O on the bus and he warned me. I volunteered he fly to Nassau.
I thought we had time on our hands while walking to the gate, but I read somewhere, "he who thinks he as time on his hands- is late."

We dodged a few thunderstorms off the coast of Florida topped at 42,000 feet. There were easy to pick around with us at FL 380.

I used the Bahamian slogan in my announcement. "The latest weather in the Bahamas ( I pause)..."well as the saying goes...it's better in the Bahamas ....sunny and 30 Celsius." Didn't get any feedback.

Nassau's ATIS (incidentally it's now called Pindling International so I had to change all my Jeppeson charts) stated the NDB/VOR and ILS were all out of service. Hmmm. I guess that makes it the visual. Funny they are making millions in the casinos, but aren't putting it back for reliable approach aids. Apparently the ILS is there (FYI it was working) but it has to be FAA approved and tested.

Our flight to Halifax from Toronto late last night ran into another snag. The wing anti ice valve was faulty so it was set in the open position just in case we flew into icing conditions. This required a gamut of positions for the bleed air, cross feed, pack, and also required a cross bleed engine start. However, "Jacques from Airbus" neglected a few moot points.

We were confused so we took a delay of 1o to 15 minutes holding short of the runway while we talked to maintenance control. We arrived in YHZ 10 minutes late.

Sitting in YHZ. It's an RDF day. That's my patented meteorological term for "rain,drizzle, fog."
Could be worst. Could be sitting in YEG where it was the coldest place on earth yesterday.

Capt. Doug


Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's Better in the Bahamas

Taken from the Bahamas tourism site:

It's Better in the Bahamas!

After four days off it's time to go back to work. My wife had me installing hardwood for three days and painting today. It's time to go back to work and get some rest. Two posts ago we were talking about radio work, phraseology and effective communication. Next time my wife mentions a "to-do list" I'm not going to say, "no!" Because that doesn't work. Instead, I'm going to use my deep authoritative captain's voice and bark out, "negative!" After she stops laughing, I'll probably ask, "what's next on the list?"

Tomorrow I'm off to do a Nassau turn and then to YHZ (Halifax) for a long layover. I'm going to need it. I just realized I have a talk to do in front of a group of air cadets and their parents this week and I haven't done anything. I think I'm getting carried away with this blogging.

Doug bound for sunny skies in the Bahamas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Virtual Piloting

This picture is taken from MCA's (MidContinent) website:

Part of MCA's motto: Virtual Airline, Reality based and Reality focused

No, this is not another rant about my 'sim' sessions. I received a very positive email a few days ago and the topic of virtual airlines came up. I heard of people around the world flying on their Microsoft simulators, but never did I hear of something like this. What a concept! I thought I'd promote their site and who knows, a few of you out there may want to enlist.

Love the book, great job! I'm a flight simulator pilot for the only known FAR Part 121 compliant simulated carrier, MidContinent Airlines. We actually follow the FARs and have current real-world dispatchers releasing and following our flights. Just wanted to say "Hi!" and tell you that I really enjoy both your book and your blog.

Capt. Doug

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.

Capt. Doug. MidContinent Airlines is a FAR Part 121-compliant (the only one that is, as far as I know) simulated/virtual airline for pilots of Microsoft Flight Simulator 9/X who want an experience that is "as real as it gets". Our dispatch releases and flight following are performed by actual, current FAA-licensed dispatchers. The CEO and founder, Mike Collier, is a dispatcher with USAirways. The fleet is based on a "what if" merger between America West (which Mike worked for for 10 years) and USAirways (his current employer), which as we know has actually happened. Pilots are 'hired' and trained using Part 121-compliant training documents based on actual, real-world documentation. Studies for the new pilots include Ground School and IOE programs and takes several weeks to complete on average. At the conclusion of ground school tests both in writing and by means of a check flight assure the management that the new pilot can successfully and safely operate a flight according to FAR 121 regulations and airline procedures. Pilots hire on and fly one fleet type/type rating only. Unlike most virtual airlines, where a pilot can choose what he wants to fly for each flight, and where to fly, at MidCon pilots are hired to and fly only one fleet type. All flights are dispatched using releases formatted according to real-world requirements and in many cases are tailored to actual current flight conditions by a licensed dispatcher. Also, pilots must qualify for CATII/III and for ETOPS flying, by means of tests and/or checkrides. Pilots must demonstrate that they can read a dispatch release, and contact is maintained with the dispatch office before, during and after the flight. Also, practical knowledge of meteorology, ATC procedures and phraseology, navigation, CRM, and aircraft-specific training including recurrent training are provided. We have a small but dedicated group of pilots who are excited to be part of an organization that is radically different from 99.9% of the virtual airlines out there.I am currently a B737 first officer with MidCon. I have extensive simulator experience with a variety of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas aircraft. I have also spent time assisting in the training program in the past. Oh, I almost forgot that our captaincy upgrades are about as thorough as the real-world ones, and upgrades are based on company needs and proven professional ability, not on a certain number of flight hours as most VAs do it. If you'd like any more info about MidCon, I'm sure Mike would welcome your questions at or you can just write me as well.Thanks so much for your message. I really do enjoy your book and blog!
T.H F/O MidContinent AirlinesB737

Capt. Doug

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

Charlie Alpha Papa Tango

A question from follower D.A
Whenever I read your blog, I am always amazed at how technical airline pilot language is...and how fluent you are in this language. Take us back to the beginning. I'm sure that when you flew only single engine private planes, that you would not be able to understand much of what is written in your blog. How did the instructors introduce you to this airline pilot language? Can you remember your first words?

D.A I think one huge hurdle to get over for most student pilots is radio work. An instructor helps out for the first few sessions, but the student tends to be thrown to the wolfs. Radio work can be very intimidating. Not only do you want to sound professional, but you have to understand the instructions. To this day, I like talking on the radios,but many pilots dislike it and it shows. When I fly into the States you can tell the pilots are tired of talking. The RT (Radio Talk) quality tends to slip a few notches. The most "upbeat, lots of energy" prize goes to the WestJet pilots. I gotta some of that kool aid. :)
Again, radio work is intimidating during the first part of a pilot's career. For me, learning the phonetic alphabet would be my introduction to this new pilot talk. An instructor told me one way to get proficient with the alphabet is to read car license plates out loud.
As you can see, my plate would be "charlie, alpha, papa, tango"
Capt. Doug

P.S One would think my license plate is flaunting and ostentatious. I maybe some things but I'm not that. I figure it took me to age 45 to go captain so I thought I'd acknowledge my accomplishment. I also brought the BMW as another gift to myself when I went left seat. Maybe I am pretentious and showy?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Navigating New York at Night

Yesterday started with a "Rapidair" from Montreal to Toronto. I noticed we had our boss (Senior VP Operations) on board. I made sure I made a flawless announcement empathizing our "on time" arrival and as per our new company memo, ensure we use the words "Rapidair" in our announcements. We are losing passengers to the competition on the Rapidair flights and this is one way we are dealing with it. I guess every little bit helps. On short final, I joke to the F/O flying, "remember the boss is on board." He joked back, "thanks for jinxing me."Needless to say he put it on nicely.

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

enRoute's second December's question

This is yours truly doing the walk around in Toronto. It states the F/O is to do the walk around but us nice captains share. Having said that, I diplomatically asked the F/O to do the walk around in frigid Edmonton. 

Just so happens Air Canada's photographer was on my flight to Montreal last winter so he captured a few shots of me doing the clockwise "walk around" a.k.a the "run around" or "kick the tires, light the fires" check.

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

Frigid Edmonton

Even though this picture is old (compliments of a "rampie" in CYYC) you get the feeling of bitter cold. Incidentally, there are no three or four engine "Canadian" registered commercial airliners operating in Canada. Air Canada's fleet is entirely two engines.

Flight to Montreal was uneventful. Even though the F/O has not flown in weeks, he greases it on 24 left and we clear at the end with little braking and idle reverse. We now have to deadhead to Ottawa. It's a short flight and I'm having flashbacks of the sim ride as it's one of the same flights. I get J class because our contract states Captain always get business class (membership has it's privileges) but F/Os have the upgrade potential based on availability. For some reason this incredibly short flight is full and the F/O is seated in the back of the bus in a middle seat. 

Departure time has come and gone. The captain makes a P.A stating there is a maintenance issue. This is the same plane we are taking to Edmonton. After a circuit breaker reset the DFDR (digital flight deck recorder) is working.

We get to Ottawa at our departure time. The F/O does the walk around and I volunteer to get the flight plan meaning I have to walk the length of the terminal to print it. Just what you need when you are running late. The DFDR issue needs attending to. Gotta call maintenance. Flight plan and log book states #1 pack is U/S. We are restricted to Fl 315 meaning heading west we are stuck at FL 300 so climbing to get out of possible bumps is not an option. (Am I back in the simulator?) This is okay traversing Canada in the winter, but heading south dodging thunderstorms translates into a different story. We look out the window and moderate snow showers decides to pay the airport a visit. I brief the in-charge and make a P.A, it's off to the deice pad for a quick spray. 

The over four flight is smooth and during the flight we are getting the latest Edmonton weather noting the temperature drop. Upon arrival it's MINUS 35 C. We have to do a cold temperature correction to the ILS MDA  (minimum descent altitude) of 50 feet. Typically, when it's that cold, a one heck of a high pressure system is dominating, meaning VFR conditions except in local conditions. Local conditions are snow showers forming by scooping up moisture from open water sources or in this case, ice fog. At 50 feet above the runway, right at flare, the runway visibility gets a little mirky in ice crystals. The landing goes well with a long landing roll only to realize Edmonton is in a deep freeze with lots of snow on the ground. We arrive one hour late only to find our gate is occupied. Not a problem, we are told gate 54 is open instead of Gate 50. 
However, one of the wheels to the jetway is frozen. After 15 minutes of rocking and moving the jetway back and forth the passengers finally deplane.

It's great to be back in the saddle.

Just finished a buffet breakfast at the hotel. Another perk to the job, 50% off the menu.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Back to reality. Gone Flying.

Now that the virtual world is over with for another 8 months it's time to get back on the horse and go flying. Tonight I layover in CYEG (Edmonton) via CYUL (Montreal) and CYOW (Ottawa). Clear skies but frigid temperatures will greet me in Edmonton. How cold will get?
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.

Gone flying.

Capt. D

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day Two (LOE -Line Orienated Evaluation)

Some simulator... we can't simulate eating in the flight deck.
What about coffee spills, dropping crumbs over the pedestals and loosing a grape or peanut under the rudder pedals?

The second half of Day 1 (F/O flying) was somewhat of a rehash of part one. He also got to do a visual approach into CYVR to a successful landing, but upon braking we get SMOKE AFT CARGO with the in-charge calling to tell us there's smoke in the cabin.
I talk to ATC but they can't see anything. Decision time... "Checklist - Passenger Evacuation."
We always end the session with an evacuation to ensure pilots know how to handle this "read and do" checklist." The F/O reads it and the captain actions it.

– PARKING BRAKE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ON
– ATC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . NOTIFY
– DELTA P . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CHECK ZERO
– ENGINE MASTERS 1 AND 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . OFF
– FIRE PUSHBUTTONS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .PUSH
– AGENTS DISCHARGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . SAD - DISCHARGE
– PA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . EVACUATE
– BATTERIES 1 AND 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . OFF

It's November 30th and my license expires in hours. I also have be signed off as an instrument renewal. Firstly, the sim session is 14:00 to 18:00, right in my 'afternoon nap window." I forgot to request sim times, and as luck would have it, it's the same time I experienced another fair ride. A bit of foreshadowing.

We go over the flight plan together in front of the checker, as we know we are being scrutinized for CRM. (CYUL Montreal to CYOW Ottawa) Needless to say, it's a short flight. Better think about loading the approach (i.e. get YOW ATIS)and possibly briefing the approach while on the ground. During taxi we get ENG 1 FIRE LOOP fault. It will probably take a few minutes to ratify so we ask ATC for a good place to park. I notify the in-charge and make a P.A. We contact maintenance through dispatch and do the required "elementary work." This means eventually filling out a snag in the logbook and getting an authorization number, plus applying the appropriate stickers. Everything is in order. I call the in-charge and make a quick P.A stating " everything has been resolved to our satisfaction."

We get airborne and there are reports of icing between 9000-11,000 feet. Well low and behold, a cautionary ANTI ICE F/O PITOT goes belly up. Not a problem, we do a switch selection so the F/O's info comes from ADIRS #3 (big acronym for attitude and navigation system).

We are cleared the RIVER STAR arrival and to maintain 3000 feet. But wait, we are to cross the WATTO fix at or above 4000 feet. Even though Dougie boy is at his "nap time" low, he catches this. It could have been an automatic failure. I do notice the F/O seemed a little ascertained at this time and we were quickly closing in for the approach. True this is his first recurrent on the Airbus, but I needed quicker input. Some of the biggest advice for all rides is, DO NOT RUSH. SLOW DOWN. I tried to tell myself that, but it was pushing me the wrong way.

We are cleared the approach and everything looks fine, but about 2 miles prior to the FAF (Final Approach Fix) my localizer and Glide slope indication is flashing. I haven't seen this for a long time so I'm thinking out loud. Seconds later, I execute a go-around by yelling, "go around, flaps!" The PNF (pilot not flying) is suppose to select one less on the flaps and in this case he goes from flap full to flap three and when in a positive climb calls "positive rate" whereby I call "gear up." But like many go-arounds the gear can be overlooked. As well, I knew in order to string the flight plan on an Airbus to "go around" one must select TOGA (balls to the wall) thrust and then select climb thrust. I'm busy so I didn't noticed the gear still hanging. In the real airplane one would hear slipstream noise. I did notice the spoilers were not disarmed and suggested he disarm them. Then the F/O's words ricocheted in my head, "the gear is not up!." SHIT!

Another thing taught on any ride, if you screw up on something let it go. Get over it. Yeah, right.
We are vectored for the localizer only for runway 32. I try to settle down and brief the approach. We are vectored for final and everything looks good. I have flap two out with the gear down by the initial fix and the airplane says it will level off nicely before the FAF (final approach fix) but I get an ALT *. This is Airbus talk saying "I locked onto the altitude, but it may take awhile" and sure enough it did. I'm more than puzzled. The F/O is offering suggestions but I'm not hearing them. Things are imploding. The best thing now is to execute a go-around, which I did, but now I'm low on fuel and I'm holding KBTV (Burlington, Vermont) as an alternate. Do I bite into the reserve fuel or go to my alternate? We decide on another approach. We get set up, but again I'm a tad high. We descend to minimums with the airport in sight. Thank god! I did notice and I should have briefed this, there is no PAPI, VASI (visual guidance) on runway 32. I follow the donut (more Airbus talk saying you are pretty well on profile) and land.

We take a break. I needed cooling off but the F/O offered some words of wisdom. "Just treat this like the CFL Grey CUP game." The Montreal Alouettes should have lost the game, but in the last few minutes came back and won! Sure enough the second half went well.

They say the Airbus can rear up and bite a pilot in the ass. I have 14 years on this "made in France" product and it bit me hard that day. I remember having a pilot in my Dash 8 jump seat about 20 years ago. He was returning home from one of his last career rides. I asked him for any words of wisdom. He just said, "they don't get any easier."

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

"In the box" Day 1 in the sim

A320 simulator #2. Note the "old" Air Canada colours.
It replicates FIN 201, our oldest A320 (over 20 years).
Now that I'm on the A320 fleet it is all AQP (Advanced Qualification Program). Because we flew the A340 and A330 Transport did not allow AQP. Everyone thinks AQP is far better and I have to agree although some claim "it's still a wolf in sheep's clothing."
Day. MTV-D I have to get used to these new acronyms. MTV stands for
MANOEUVRES VALIDATION TRAINING. You see, even the acronym does not jive.
Captain (Moi)
It's a summer scenario so we don't have to worry about contaminated runways, temperature corrections, deicing. All the flying is out of CYVR (Vancouver). First leg CYVR- CYYC (Calgary). The airport is deemed mountainous so in the real world we must use the EGPWS (Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System) but we can't in the sim because there is none. It's a wet runway. What is my crosswind limitation, oh yeah, 20 knots?
Weather is low so I may need a take off alternate. Take off alternate is predicated on the approach in use. For an ILS it would be needed if it goes below 2600 feet (1/2 mile) but it's an NDB on 26 left. Good catch on my part, but instructor asks distance required for take off alternate. That one is easy, think A340 i.e 340 nautical miles. And of course all departures out of CYVR are VNAP Alphas (Vertical NAV Procedure) so we must modify our acceleration altitude by an extra 1500 feet. Are you still with me? During departure we get a FUEL L TK PUMP low pressure fault. We call dispatch to link us with maintenance. MOC another acronym standing for Maintenance Operations Control request we land back in YVR.
We are cleared to the VR beacon to hold. Holds on an Airbus is a two button operation. I love Airbus for that. Must back the hold with raw data i.e tune in the VOR and appropriate radial as mandated by Transport Canada. Not necessary on a glass airplane, but we plane the game. Once we show how to program a hold and enter it it's time for a NDB 26Left approach. I get the F/O to "set me up" i.e program the airplane. We must add 50 feet to every non-precession approach from the Jepps charts which is also mandated by Transport. We are told we can't use all the Airbus magic i.e a "managed approach" we will be "selected, selected" meaning we tweak the tracking and tell the airplane to descend. Doesn't sound like much but Airbus makes it be a near "pan, pan, pan." We use FPV (flight path vectors) with the "bird." Of course we won't be landing. We get an engine fire (no engine failure) on the go around. It's busy! Must remember to level off to clean up the airplane i.e get the flaps up and call ECAM ( Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitoring) actions. Basically it tells the other pilot to read what the airplane wants done. The instructor watched our "ECAM" etiquette. They want the verbiage verbatim. (I remember one captain telling me many years ago, it's like a play, everyone is to remember their lines but if someone forgets their line, stutters, says the wrong thing then things take on a different scenario - oops I'm digressing). The F/O does a good job cleaning it up, but I must go into my ABCOT procedure.
A (ATC) talk to ATC, declare an emergency including souls on board, fuel and whether we have hazardous material).
B (Back-end) (Flight Attendant) I can't call using the chime button but via the P.A."Will the in-charge flight attendant report to the flight deck" in my authoritative voice. Yes, the P.A works in the sim. I brief the F/A using yet another acronym
TTTBAD (Type of landing, Touch down (water or hard surface), Time for landing, Brace for landing commands, I forget what "A" is but D is whether to Displace passengers.
C (Company) tell dispatch, and if we are diverting, send datalink code for diversion.
O (Overweight landing?) Many pilots are overweight, but that's a Jenny Craig issue. :)
T (TCAS) With an engine out, the RA (Resolution Advisory) does not work too well. i.e. the aircraft won't be able to climb all that well on on engine to get out of the way.
I must give a long winded Air Canada briefing, but I must first remember to give him control stating our heading, speed and altitude.
We get radar vectors for the ILS 26 left. Oops, almost forgot the one engine approach QRH checklist. In a nut shell, it says if you have to level off while on approach then maybe you should think about a flap 3 landing instead of a flap full landing. If you forget this, you'll get your wrist slapped.
We land and stop on the runway for inspection by "red command". I must remember to make a P.A "Remain seated, Remain seated" again in my authoritative captain voice.
Now visibility is reduced setting the stage for rejects and V1 cuts (engine failures on rotation). Another transport Canada mandate. I often wonder what will happen if the engine quits a few hundred feet above, or it doesn't quit entirely. How well will pilots will handle the drill? Oops, I'm digressing.
Low visibility take off. I must need a take off alternate, does the runway meet the criteria?
Below 1200 RVR I must do the take off. Also, I must consult a bulletin where some genius from Transport concocted "level of service" at the airport meaning...am I legal for take off? You may think I'm being condescending but I'm certain if I ask ATC, pilots, and Transport I would get a different answer every time. Plus, we must identify the runway so as to avoid another incident which happened to Singapore Airlines departing on a closed parallel runway in the pouring rain.
I get an engine failure entailing a high speed reject. I bring it to a stop, set the park brake and call ECAM actions. Plus make a P.A, "remain seated, remain seated" in my authoritative captain voice. I have to remember to consult brake cooling tables to be legal for take off.
The RVR is now down to 600 feet (three runway lights). I need a take off alternate plus runway centerline lighting, high intensity runway lighting and centerline markings. The planets must be lined up for this take off.
I get an engine failure at V1 and it rotates slowly. I trim the rudder, get the autopilot on, select heading above four hundred feet, established in a definite climb and call ECAM actions!
Now it's time to get re-certified for CAT II and CAT III landings. Low and behold we get the engine back and must do a CAT III approach onto 26 left. This is flown by the captain and requires a specific briefing. Part of the briefing is consulting the low visibility taxi charts. On the approach we get an autothrust fault. "GO AROUND, FLAPS!" bellows in the flight deck. Can I do a CAT II landing with no autothrust? A CAT III I can't, but yes, a CAT II no problem.
We land. Set the park break and take a break. Now it's the F/O's kick at the cat.
I forgot to mention, since CCAA (bankruptcy protection) all of our training is done for free - seven days of it a year. (four simulators, day of annual recurrent training, and two medicals). Well I lied, we signed a 22 month concession a few months ago and were given a thousand dollars or so for a years training. Sure it bites, but there are many airlines around the world in worst shape. I know one thing, I'm getting tired from typing. I'm a two finger speed demon typist.
P.S I'm trying to insert spaces between paragraphs using "enter" but it doesn't work. Sorry for that. Anyone out there able to help an Airbus pilot ratify this?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Positve feedback/flying Kites website


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

New stimulating simulating center

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).

Just part of the huge computer room driving the seven simulators.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December's enRoute (The well is starting to fill)

Here's one question from December's issue. As well, my editor at enRoute says she is starting to have questions roll in so I thank you bloggers, readers and followers. The well is starting to fill.

Q: What does “Air Canada Jetz” (painted on the side of some aircraft) mean?
Shirine Eltaher, Toronto

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.

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