Flight plan

My flight plan....

This blog is to inspire and motivate those pining for the skies. I will also virtually open the flight deck door and allow a peek behind the scenes.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A four-leg warm up

Even though I was still on days off today (I’ve been off since Christmas day) I decided to go flying for three reasons. One: I found out I’d be getting a route check (annual check done by a supervisor pilot) tomorrow after three weeks of not flying. Two: My block projection for the month is a measly 67.5 hours so today it pumped me up to a measly 73 hours. Yes, pilots are paid a base salary but it’s about 20 hours less than the good ole days when flying was way up. What does 20 hours equate to? Well at $180 per hour, you can do the math. Thirdly, about two weeks into my days off/vacation the wife kept asking, “when are you going back to work, when are you going back to work…?” I don’t know what will happen when I retire. There will be no place to go. :)

The choice of extra flying (make up) is down so I had to settle on: CYYZ-CYUL-CYYZ-CYUL-CYYZ (four Rapidairs)

How was it after three weeks? Well it started this morning by me thinking I had plenty of time. Right away the saying, “he who thinks he has time on his hands is late” comes to mind. Yours truly was 20 minutes late because there was a three car accident causing a bottleneck for 30 minutes. Luckily, I did not have to go through American customs and the F/O had everything done.

We get to the airplane and it starts with a blue electric hydraulic pump fault. Called maintenance…fixed. About ten minutes prior to push back the in-charge F/A says the CIDS (Cabin Intercommunication Data System) panel is jammed (frozen). We do a circuit breaker reset. No joy. Called maintenance and he states our checklist is out of date. Do it this way. It worked. Surprisingly we push 3 minutes early.

We get to CYUL (Montreal) with the F/O flying. I’m slowly spooling up. It’s my turn back to Toronto. During the push and engine start we get LAV and CARGO SMOKE DETECT FAULT. We reset the SDCU (Smoke Detection Control Unit). The reset procedure worked. The after start checklist requires a check to see if the cabin doors are armed. One is not armed. The in-charge F/A apologizes. Turns out he received a phone call on his cell and he was distracted. Funny, I thought all cell phones were supposed to be off?

The rest of the day went well. We had to get deiced only once which was our last leg back to Toronto causing a 10 minute delay but as I aver, “better to be late in this world than early in the next.”

Tomorrow is the start of a three-day check ride. Oh yeah!


Flying Kites Mom said...

Good morning- During our 5 days (!) of freezing weather here in France I thought of you working in such weather conditions all the time- I realize that you all are prepared for this, but, seriously, what tremendous credit to all of your aviation facilities to keep flying! Do let us know how your check rides went- were you well spooled up by then??? LS-P

From the Flight Deck said...

Flying Kites Mom. Because Air Canada experiences so much winter/icing conditions Airbus actually consults us for deice issues. That's why companies like Southwest stay out of cold climates, deicing does
not cut into their budget. Some of our deicing is for show, to appease the passengers. Yesterday, we pushed back with very light snow falling in Montreal with a temperature of -11C. The flight attendant called asking if
we will be deicing. I explained it's very light snow and because it's so cold it will blow off. It's a tough decision NOT to deice in those conditions because everyone is watching, but it's perfectly legal.

Capt. Doug

whywhyzed said...

I'm really curious about the way you guys experience faults which often turn out to be nothing or false alarms. It seems the first thing that is done is always a 'reset' and often this cures the condition. Ctrl+Alt+Del comes to mind ;-)

Is this 'normal' for sophisticated aircraft? Are the aircraft systems so sensitive that false alarms/indications are usually the first assumption?

From the Flight Deck said...

Whywhyzed. Very good point. Bascially an Airbus is computers with wings. It was designed by engineers for engineers. The glitch is we pilots have to figure it out.

But if you think the Airbus is a "reset" airplane you should hear stories from the Embraer pilots. Sometimes it takes three resets and most of them are full powerdowns on the ground where it goes dark.

Capt. Doug

Fly West said...

I'll take a stab at why resetting a circuit breaker works from a math geek perspective. The avionics software on any modern aircraft is very complex and is constantly solving very complex mathematical equations. A lot of these equations are solved with some uncertainty. Think of why you do not only rely on inertial navigation for guidance. It produces error and the further you travel the larger that error becomes. The on-board computers are also very sensitive to error because sometimes small errors can produce large problems. So if some erroneous data is fed into the system it could produce a fault in an unexpected place for little or no reason. Simply resetting the system removes this erroneous data and helps solve the problem.

Mark said...

Why don't we just have a Mac be the operating system on airplanes. Then no "resets" and "power-downs" would be required!!!!!! All these glitches sound like my PC at work.

I'm not surprised that Embraers needing full power downs here and there. After all, they are Brazilian and they need their Siestas. I speak from experience being married to a Brazilian...lol.

Seriously though, how often do these glitches happen after take-off where "resets" aren't as easy and "power-downs" really aren't an option?

Good luck Doug with the check flights...... fingers crossed for good weather.


whywhyzed said...

Here's the the difference... ladies and gentlemen. (Enjoy!)

From the Flight Deck said...

Whywhyzed. Thanks for the pix. I'll post it as a separate post. This same drawing was posted on the training centre 14 years ago. It speaks volumes.

Doug in Newfoundland

From the Flight Deck said...

Mark. I'm told the Embraer has a Windows based operating system. Maybe that's the problem?
I'm posting on my MAC from Newfoundland. This laptop is six years old with no viruses although it's getting tired.

I few months ago I was in SFO (San Francisco) where we had three Embraers broken. The Embraer guys fly into high density airports all the time so the computer glitches make for a long day. So when I'm going through my troubleshoot procedures, I just have to remind myself, it could be worst. I could be on the Embraer.


From the Flight Deck said...

Whywhyzed. Tense yes, fun no. Just finished my route check and what a work out. Stay tuned for my next post. You asked some very good questions.

1. The checker is deemed either a temporary supervisor or permanent supervisor. Every pilot is in the union which tends to be a bone of contention with some pilots. The pilot group thinks if pilots go management they should be removed from the seniority list. This applies to other unions at Air Canada but not the pilot group.

2. Funny both the checker and i had the seniority list out this morning while enroute from Halifax to Toronto. This checker is five numbers from the bottom. He can't hold right seat on
B777, A330 nor the B767. Any ripple and he's off the A320. You pegged it by saying it's a religion. Seniority is everything.

3. We have a company website where we can go online to see who we are flying with. Needless to say if a pilot sees he is flying with an "undesirable" it is likely that pilot will come down with the "sniffles."

4. Crew sked called me to give me a heads up I will be getting a route check. Right away I see where he sits on the seniority list to see how long he has been doing it and start asking other pilots for a "heads up."

5. A line check is used interchangeably with a route check, but now with AQP it's an OE (Operational Evaluation).

6. I asked the checker today how many legs is required. He said four but it can be as little as two or even one. I had my checker for five legs. Yeah.
I asked what about the overseas flights where it's one leg over and one leg back. That's different he said. hmmmm?

7. Captains only fly in the left seat, but if you are a line indoctrination captain you must get "right seat qualified." All checkers are right seat qualified as well.

8. Yes, if you see two four stripers it's likely there is a route check going on. But sometimes two checkers get together to check each other out or they have been in the office too long and they are out flying to stay qualified. When I see two checkers flying together I make a joke they should put out a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen). Someone once pointed out, if you go through many past incidents and accidents you'll find there was a supervisor or pilot manager on board.

9. I asked my checker today how many checks he does in a month. About 2 to 5. Yes, it's a full time job. Either they are giving 'sim' checks or line checks.

10. Yes, the F/Os get checked as well. When I was F/O I can't remember it being this difficult. Maybe it's an A320 thing?

Great questions.

Capt. Doug