Monday, January 25, 2010

Bouncing to Florida (Orlando) and back

This photo is compliments of 'tail spotter' Erik from FRA (Frankfurt). He recently flew from FRA to YYZ to get great shots of aircraft. (He's an Air Canada employee) Most vantage points are  from  Terminal 2's parking lot. Incidentally,  Terminal 2 does not exist at the GTAA (Greater Toronto Airport Authority) - just the parking lot. Presently, the parking lot is used for employee parking, but will be vacated in March. Eventually, it will give way to further expansion, but that too has been put in a holding pattern. This photo depicts a snow free Toronto in January. Yesterday, we departed in moderate rainfall and returned in low ceilings in rain and fog.

The constant P.As telling passengers to allow others with tight connections to pass first through security indicated how slow things were going. I could not believe the line up for flights destined to the States. People stood with zombie blank stares probably wondering the same thing I was. How could a 23 year old twisted deranged man bring airports to their knees affecting the travel of millions? We live in a paranoid fear mongered society, that's why.

Scheduled departure time came and went as we watched our Orlando bound passengers trickle on the airplane after painfully preserving the 1.5 to 2  hour torture security search. I make an announcement. Lately, many are recognizing my name and/or picture in enRoute magazine and the flight attendant wanted me to make another announcement telling them about enRoute. Something in the back of mind said I'll probably regret this. I make it, mentioning enRoute is always recruiting questions and to send them in.

Because of the delay we offered a drink service, but with drinks, come the use of washrooms. Finally, when the last passenger boarded the in-charge informs me the washrooms aren't working. I told her they would work above 16,000 feet. The Airbus toilets work on a pressure differential so 16,000 feet is the threshold. Below that a vacuum generator makes the toilets flush. I thought it was just one, but it turned out all the washrooms were T/U (tango uniform). I look over to the F/O and said, "call maintenance." It's great being captain, you get to delegate.

Maintenance onboard confirms the vacuum generator is U/S, the circuit breaker is pulled and to operate under MEL (Minimum Equipment List) relief. Great, more paper work and we need an authorization number from maintenance.

The bumps started through 25,000 feet in the climb. Cleveland centre said expect much the same. We get to cruising altitude at 30,000 feet which is low due to the strong Southwest flow aloft. A huge upper trough dominated the eastern United States translating into 110 knot unhappy headwinds and the spawning of convective showers in the southern States. 

We pass from Cleveland to Washington to Atlanta centre with all of them saying it's a rough ride at all altitudes. And it was. For an hour and a half we had the speed set at manoeuvring speed for turbulence, Mach .76, changing altitudes to find smooth air. No joy.

Finally, over Georgia Mother Nature started to behave. North of Georgia,  she was down right moody and cantankerous spewing out continuous light to moderate chop/turbulence.

We were offered the VOR approach to 18 left, but after the flight we just went through, we kept it simple by requesting the ILS 17 left. The glitch is we would be taxiing for 10 minutes. The Orlando airport is sprawled over a big piece of real estate. The F/O greases it on. A good way to end one of my bumpiest flights. 

We nearly get to the gate only to be told to hold for 5 minutes because our competition, Westjet, was blocking our gate. Some days you can't win for trying.

I'm amazed how fast our American ground support can turn around an airplane. The weather was warm although a steady wind of 15 to 20 knots blew from the south in Florida. Knowing what we would be flying back into, it sure made one think about "Miller time" on an unscheduled Orlando layover.

My leg. We get airborne only 30 minutes late and the smoothness was kind of eerie knowing full well Mother Nature's moodiness lurked further north. Sixty miles south of Charlette, North Carolina she struck and did not let go until passing through 16,000 feet (when the toilets stop working) on descent into Toronto. 

By CAE (Columbia) I datalink dispatch stating we were encountering continuous moderate turbulence at Fl 350. We had to get out of it. Finally at a more fuel guzzling altitude of 27,000 feet things abated to intermittent light chop. Heck, at one point I turned off the seat belt sign knowing full well passengers needed to use the washroom. That lasted for 45 seconds. The seat belt stayed on for the remainder of the flight with me making an announcement that all other flights are reporting the same thing. Many passengers think it's the airline's fault. I've heard countless stories saying I would never fly so and so again because of the bumpy flight they encountered. True story.

On approach, the strong southwesterly winds aloft persisted while we landed on runway 05.
Luckily I configured a little early. The winds did shift to a crosswind out of the south during flare with us getting the "lights" two hundred feet above "minimums" The ATIS claimed LLWS (low level wind shear) of up to 30 knots. Plus an aircraft reported severe turbulence at 22,000 feet.

It's near midnight when I set the parking brake. I say good bye to the passengers to answer any queries about the flight. None. But the in-charge said we will need the groomers to bring the mops and extra seat cushion covers because of the vomit.

The life of an airline pilot.


Ian said...


Thanks very much for the kind words of encouragement following my appendix being wrestled from me.

It's 20.20 here, and my visitors have gone. Celia, my night-nurse ;) who tells me I will be out of here tomrrow, has allowed me a quick run on the internet, providing I mention her on the blog!

I will have to fly vicariously through your posts until the medics give me a thumbs up - probably 3 weeks.

I look very handsome in my light green hospital gown, flip flops and stubble!

Home tomorrow - good for me, not for June!

Cheers, Ian

carlton said...

My other-half is flying JFK to Charlotte NC tommorow, and she is a nervous flier - should I warn her to expect a bumpy ride?

From the Flight Deck said...


Three weeks for appendicitis? Wow, you'll be a blogged out blogger. The wife will go ballistic.

I assume your visit to Canada will be put on hold?

Because you're looking so dapper in your hospital garb, you better keep an eye on Celia the nurse. :)

Seriously, here's to a speedy recovery.


From the Flight Deck said...

Carlton, looks like things are abating. The upper trough is slowly moving eastward with winds becoming more zonal (west to east).

Here's one weather website which forecasts turbulence at different levels and times.

Capt. Doug

Andrew said...

Vomit on the Seat cushion? yeash! I'm never flying Air Canada they have to much vomit on their seats :P just kidding

I was once on a flight were some old guy filled like 3 air sickness bags, then he started ramming them down the rear lav, until it was clogged, that was a very smelly flight.

From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Andrew. It happens more than you think. I don't know how flight attendants do it. Many passengers give the flight attendants their full air sickness bag while deplaning and the flight attendant looks at them with a "what do you want me do with that" look.

When you put a a large number of people together in a long cylindrical tube, issues arise. I won't talk about people talking loud, snoring, fights, passing wind, people getting sick and yes, dying.

Thanks for your post.

Capt. Doug

carlton said...

Thanks for the weather info Capt Doug,

Hopefully she will have a comfortable ride - the first leg of her lengthy journey is from LHR to JFK, on a BA 777 (shame Ian isn't the skipper!.

As for flight attendants and vomit bags, a few years ago I worked as a flight attendant for KLM Cityhopper, and on several occasions I was handed a full vomit bag, even when doing meal service - disgusting!

All I wanted was to be up front.

From the Flight Deck said...

Carlton. Sounds like a long day for her. I'm certain the BA pilots will deliver a smooth flight. :)

Working as a flight attendant is a tough job as far as tending to people. My hats off to them.


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