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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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Olympic Town Layover - Vancouver

Photo: compliments of YYC rampie Kely Paterson. This is a huge powerful vacuum cleaner which sucks up the spent deice fluid called the GRV (Glycol Recovery Vehicle) a.k.a the "slick licker."
From my vantage point looking at the temperature probe used to determine ice accretion. I'd call it 3/4 inch of mixed icing.
This is what my F/O saw.

I'm sitting in  my hotel room overlooking Vancouver harbour.  Actually I can see enough of the harbour between the high rise buildings to identify a fuel barge with five large mounted Olympic circles. As of now, I don't see much Olympic hype. I guess it's a calm before the storm. I even asked the waitress at the Inlets restaurant on Robson street if she noticed an increase in traffic. Nothing yet. Incidentally, they serve a great veggie Mediterranean omelette which trumps the one I order at the Cafe in St. John's, Nfld. 

Flight 133 began with just a few hiccups. A passenger decided they weren't going to fly with us so that meant going through the cargo hold to off load their bag. This is a security procedure and it can cause major delays. Whenever you hear a passenger being paged lately for last call boarding there is an "or else" included. "If you don't present yourself pronto at the gate, your bags will be offloaded." Many times it's just a matter of searching the nearby bar. 

I make a welcome aboard announcement and to let everyone we will be delayed 10 minutes (airline minutes). I did mention we were showing 10 minutes under schedule on the flight plan and we should make up for the delay. (We did) I also threw in the fact, it should be a smooth flight. That did it - I tempted the weather gods! As an ex-meteorologist I should have known better. 

Our routing took us State side and the bumps started at DLH (Duluth Minnesota) and were on and off for the next two hours. We were flying the A321 and it was huffing and puffing at altitude with a near full load. I mentioned to the F/O I taught weather the day before and talked about the 'coffin corner.' All the time I watched our max allowable speed and minimum allowable speed get closer and closer.

Finally, we were light enough to make flight level 360. What a text book case of going through the tropopause. The temperature at FL 340 was -62 C, but at Fl 360 it rose to -56C. The bumps ended, the cloud tops were below us and the winds simmered down. 

The A321 requires five flight attendants and the chime (loud enough to wake up the dead)to the flight deck rang about 20 times. It's too hot, when are the bumps going to end, and what time are we arriving? How is a pilot able to have a controlled nap in these circumstances? :)

The latest weather reports from Calgary indicated light snow dominated the scenario and moderate icing was reported below 7000 feet.

Sure enough we picked up a whack of ice starting at 6500 feet. Usually, one does not get lots of ice in snow because the snow grows at the expense of the super cooled water droplets needed for ice accretion. One Dash 8 reported an inch and a half. We got about 3/4 of inch.

On approach, I thought about the time when I landed in Calgary years ago in the A320 in freezing fog. I'm certain the elevator nearly stalled at rotation. I slammed it on. At least, that was my excuse. (Remember Jacques from Airbus does not feel deicing the tail is necessary). The runway looked greasy, but the F/O put it on nicely. After a two and a half hour wait and an aircraft switch we flight plan for Vancouver in yet another A321. 

We are pushed back 50 feet from the gate for a deicing. Type 1 to rid the snow and ice and type IV to give us 30 minutes to get airborne with light snow at a temperature below minus 3C. The "slick licker" quickly retraced our tracks as we pushed further back to start the engines. And no, the sucked up deice fluid is not recycled.

The flight across the "rocks" to CYVR (Vancouver) proved to be smooth although I noticed the ATIS reported a light easterly wind, however, they were using 26 left. hmmm

The landing itself was not bad although I could see we were in a good tailwind of 10 knots from the wind readout plus we were zooming along in the approach. The A321 is conducive to tail strikes with pictches greater than 7.5 degrees at flare. I had this to contend with plus ATC puts the onus on us to clear on the intersection of runway 30. Just like Westjet one minute before. 
Do you see where this is leading, A321 pitch, tailwind plus a "Westjet" challenge?

On touchdown, I could see the intersection fast approaching and noticed 'low' on the autobrake was not going to cut it. Good ole 'lead foot' Doug goes manual on the braking but one has to exercise diligence on the application. The braking itself was not harsh, but uneven. I deviated from the centreline a little more than I would have liked. Every pilot does it now and again but we don't like being reminded about it from a flight attendant,  "who did that landing?"

Last night "Doug the greaser" reluctantly went to "Doug the weaver." 



Mark said...

Hi Doug.

Good read. When you mentioned that you switched planes in Calgary and flew a different A321 back to YVR, this triggered a thought for me. Does each plane (in the same family) fly differently? Are some "smoother" flyers than others? Are there certain tail numbers that you dread flying? Do you think that you have flown most of the A321 fleet?

Sorry for all the questions, but I guess they are all interrelated.

Hope all is well


From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Mark.

Each plane in the same family flies the same. But the older A320's ventilation system is very loud. I flew FIN 211 last night and the flow of air is deafening, The newer A320s are whisper quiet.
That's the big difference I've noticed. Short answer, I dislike flying the older A320s because of air flow noise.

The A321 fleet is very very quiet. So much so, you have to look at the engine gauges twice to ensure they are at take off power.


Anonymous said...


Isn't the deice fluid recycled and used in things like windshield antifreeze?

Really enjoy your blog!

YYC Dispatcher

From the Flight Deck said...

Anon. That's what many people think. It's all recycled. I talked to the YYZ CDF (central deice facility) manager and he stated only 10 percent is recycled for either windshield wash or engine coolant. You don't want to know where the rest goes.

I suspect whatever the "slick licker" picks up in YYC is discarded.

Thanks for the post. Are you with Westjet?


Anonymous said...


Negative on working with WestJet.

Just trying to locate your book in YYC, unfortunately there don't seem to be too many copies around!

Finished Sully's book last night (read it through in one night). I thought it was an excellent read.

Anything on the latest revised delivery slots for AC for the B787? I recall that you've expressed some interest in your blog to train on it when it's put into service.

YYC Dispatcher

From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Anon. All the airport book stores, Relay, discontinued my book. I'm not sure why since selling an aviation book geared to passengers makes sense to me. Having said that, my publisher did say bookstores are there to make money, not sell books.

It does sell in most Chapters, but they only carry one to two at a time.You can certainly get it from amazon.ca or amazon.com. But if you sent $25, I'd be glad to send you one signed and made out to you.
Earlier today, I had a similar request.

As far as the B787, I'll do up a new post.

Thanks for the query.

Capt. Doug