Thursday, February 25, 2010

Halifax encore

What is that bright ball in the sky?

The pictures in my last post were somewhat gloomy according to one reader, "The Halifax hotel pics looked SO bleak! You must be longing for spring!! On average how long will you have to go on deicing? " So, I decided to use this photo compliments of 'tail spotter Erik'. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Captain Ian will be heading to BGI (Barbados) for some vitamin D during a layover. I will finish up the month with a Montego Bay, Jamaica turn this Monday out of Halifax. But for me the downtime is 50 minutes.

As I mentioned in a few posts, my maximum projected flying hours was limited t0 82 hours. (Contract restricted) If I had exceeded this limit 'crew sked' would have dropped my next three day pairing with me losing 15 flight hours - translating into 67 hours pay instead of 82. Well, I'm happy to announce everything is intact although today it came close.


This morning we took an A320 which arrived from an Edmonton 'red eye' to Halifax. The forecast snow did not start in Toronto (though it was starting) so the wings were clean, or so we thought. We call the deice coordinator only to find a bit of rime icing adhering to the leading edge picked up on the approach.

I make the mandatory announcement we would be heading to the "world's largest deice center" and I estimated it would be an extra 15 minutes. (I'm getting tired of making these 'deice' announcements so I thought I'd spruce it up) We close up with a full load, push back and taxi out to a huge line up. Oh oh, my projected flight time will overshoot 82 hours. The process took 45 minutes. Not because of the deice center, but ground control had to get aircraft across the active runway because the winds were howling from the northwest as the 33s were active. I made 40 minutes of block growth on this flight. Just one leg back to Toronto. After a 'hot air' maintenance issue we push back ten minutes late. Luckily the winds were out of the south so it blew warm air in. Translation -no deicing required. Things were looking good because the flight plan had us 10 minutes under schedule. But hold on, the snow and high winds are affecting operations in Toronto. "Air Canada 121, you are cleared to the Simcoe (YSO) VOR to hold. Oh oh. I'm going to blow the maximum time for the month. You're probably thinking, this guy is more concerned about pay than the holding pattern.

"Air Canada 121 your hold is cancelled." Music to my ears. Dougie boy greases it on after a near go-around because of a late clearing Dash 8. I set the parking brake and I'm 81:30 minutes for the month. It sounds greedy, petty, selfish and self-consuming but you ask any airline pilot and they will confess they watch their block time to within the minute.


Fly West said...

Captain Doug,

This month seems like an exceptionally close call. What is your strategy to optimize your total hours? Going from 82 to 67 must be a drag. It seems like it would be unavoidable at some point if your aiming for as close to 82 as possible. How often do you or other pilots have to drop the last pairing?

From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Flywest. One could bid 'maximum flying' but I choose particular days off with a few other parameters and let the cards fall. When my February block came out I was projecting 69 hours.
The way most pilots top up is to go on "make up" i.e. extra flying. I flew to Victoria and back which topped me up to 79 hours. But with all the deicing this month I also built time called block growth.
We are paid either the planned block time or actual time whichever is greater. Dropping the last pairing is because of the "one minute outbound rule." A pilot must have one minute under the designated monthly maximum or the pairing is dropped. There's more to being an airline pilot than flying the airplane. I always kid you have to be a part time lawyer to keep everything straight. Thanks for the question.


whywhyzed said...

"If I had exceeded this limit 'crew sked' would have dropped my next three day pairing with me losing 15 flight hours - translating into 67 hours pay instead of 82."

I don't get this.... by "my next three day pairing", do you mean for March?

If you had clocked (say) 83 hours for Feb, they would only pay you for 67??

Andrew said...

that doesn't make any sense how can they get away with paying you for 67 when you flew other words you would have flown 15+ hours for free?

From the Flight Deck said...

Whywhyzed. Presently, I have about 70 hours (I confused you by saying I had 67 - my mistake) of hard time for February. I have another three day pairing starting Sunday, February 28th. The pairing in total is worth 15 hours but four hours of it overlaps into March. Plus February only has 28 days so in order to equalize all the months, March 1st is part of February's block month. Now you can see where you need a law degree.

From the Flight Deck said...

Andrew. I just answered whywhyzed's query which is similar to yours. My math/numbers were off a bit. I actually have 70 hours of hard time for February. The next pairing is worth 15 hours but only
11 hours of it would qualify for February. Four hours is an overlap into March. So...if I had 71 hours and one minute they would drop the pairing because 71:01 plus 11 equals 82:01.One minute over the maximum of 82.

The way it looks now I will be paid for 81:00 hours instead of the 70 hours if they dropped the pairing. Sorry to confuse you. It goes to show you I too don't know all the intricacies.

Lavi said...

Dropped pairing = dropped flight? As in, you don't get to fly that pairing? I think the confusion here is Andrew thinks that if you pass 82 hours, you'll be flying 12+ hours without getting paid for them. But I think what you're saying is that they just won't let you fly that pairing thereby limiting you to approx. 70 hours for the month... right?

Also, that latest picture is beautiful. It's going to be my desktop background for a while.

Thanks as always Doug!

From the Flight Deck said...

Lavi. You nailed it! I guess I should have spent more time explaining things. Geez, I didn't realize how many people are reading my blog verbatim. But it's also a tad difficult to explain when I don't understand it fully myself. Many pilots know their contract inside out. I'm a believer it all works out.

That was a great shot. I started to go back and take a look at Erik's pictures. He sent quite a repertoire.

Did I see somewhere you sold you business?


SimPilot264 said...

Hi Doug,

"I always kid you have to be a part time lawyer to keep everything straight"

I would have thought being a Professor of Applied Ethereal Math would be just as useful in determining “hours remaining”. Seriously, I don’t think it’s greedy, petty, selfish or self-consuming to have to “manage” your hours in this way. I worked on a “rate per hour” contract in ’08 but was paid by the minute(!); because the rate was not easily divisible by 60 I had to manage my logged hours in blocks of 3 minutes to avoid losing money.

Thanks very much for the wind speed/direction info – most useful.

Have a good trip down to MKJS on Monday – is it a 50 min turnround then back to Halifax? If so, it’s a long day for you and your crew. I’ll look out for you on that well known flight tracking website.

Thanks again…

From the Flight Deck said...

Simpilot264. Thanks for the encouraging words. Yes, sometimes you have to be a 'rocket scientist'. And then when you think you have it all figured, 'crew sked' has their interpretation.

I have an incredibly early check-in Sunday morning. I do a MCO (Orlando) turn and then down to YHZ for the night. Monday it's YHZ-MBJ-YHZ. The third day is an easy YHZ-YYZ.

Captain Doug

whywhyzed said...

OK let's use a simple example.
Your max for the month is 80hrs.
You've done 70 so far, and the last pairing for the month is a Calgary turn, which on the books is 9.5hrs, bringing you to a nice little total of 79.5hrs for the month. Half hour to spare.
All is going swimmingly but on the way home thunderstorms hit YYZ and ATC puts you into a hold for an hour; you eventually get in but now your total 80.5hrs.
What happens?
(BTW I can see a commercial use for parachutes here.... maybe I could go on Dragon's Den)

From the Flight Deck said...

whywhyzed. As long as I was not projecting 80 hours (your example of the monthly maximum) prior to starting the pairing, all is well. Just like my pairing for tomorrow. Right now I am under the projected maximum so I can wrack up extra block growth without it being an issue. In fact, I'll be taxiing a little slower than usual. I have to be careful with slippery taxi-ways. :)

Good example on your part.

Next to Coronation street (my wife got me hooked on the show) my favourite show is Dragon's Den.
Speaking of Dragon's Den, maybe I should go on the show with my producer to get the proposed documentaries, From the Flight Deck, off the ground. My producer is having a hard time finding funding.

I met the director of the show, Dragon's Den, and she was thinking of coming on board for our documentaries but opted out. Too busy.

Having said that, I wouldn't want to go up against Kevin O'Leary. He rips people apart. I saw him arriving from an Air Canada flight in Toronto a few days ago. I'm surprised he doesn't have a private jet.

Lavi said...

Hi Doug,
Nah, business is still in tact. I'm not sure anyone would want to buy it at this point. I'm still trying to figure out how to come up with funding for my flight lessons... maybe I should produce a documentary about that process? ;)

Oh man, I would love to watch a series about aviation by you. I hope it gets off the ground. You've got one person who would purchase the DVDs here.

From the Flight Deck said...

Lavi. Thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm perturbed as well as to why the concept of aviation documentaries is stuck in the mud.

My producer says this is standard. Nothing happens and then all of a sudden they want everything yesterday.


Mark said...

Hey Doug, why don’t you try and connect with the producers of Disocvery’s “Mayday”, André Barro at Cineflix (514 278 3140). Cineflix has obviously put together a successful series and they might be receptive to you. They are Montreal based.

Dragon's Den is one of my favourite shows too. The funniest segment ever was some lady trying to sell a blanket for the bath.... made no sense!!!

I wasn't able to fly today..... ceiling is too low with scattered flurries..... oh well, fingers crossed for tomorrow.

If ever you need any research or some writers for any show or publication, let me know. I love to write also (it’s in my blood…. Dad is a published author)

Chat later and enjoy Jamaica… Ya Mon


Mark said...

Kelly Peckham also produced a Discovery Show called “Flight Path” several years ago... she might be a good lead. Just Google her and you can get her Linedin.

Can you email "from the flight deck"? Hey that sounds familiar!!!!

From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Mark. Thanks for all the info! I'm certain my producer thought of Discovery. The thing is, they would want to produce it themselves therefore ousting my producer. I think.

When you learn to fly you have to patient with the weather. I know, it can be frustrating.

Before I go to Jamaica I have to go to Orlando. I'm on duty at 05:15 a.m, tomorrow! It's YYZ-MCO-YYZ and then to YHZ. I bid for later check-ins next month and luckily my earliest is 08:30 a.m.

What did your father write? Thanks for offering to write, but the producer already has a guy on standby.


Mark said...

Hey Doug, if you already have a good producer, then you are on your way. Your ideas will take off, it is just a matter of timing and a little luck I guess.

My Dad is a maritime historian and loves anything to do with ships. As we love aviation and planes, he prefers anything maritime. He is retiring after a long career as a professor at McGill, in the spring. One of his more popular books is “Centaur: The Myth of Immunity”, but it has a larger following in Australia since the book is about an Australian ship that sunk in WWII. Check it out if you want….

Yes, the weather can be frustrating, but patience must prevail.


From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Mark. Just checked out your Dad's book. Neat stuff.

McGill. I went there for a year. Got a diploma in meteorology. Great school. I belonged to a fraternity there, Delta Upsilon. Good times.

Gotta get packing. Good luck with the weather.


Andrew said...

Just read an article about how Halifax's airport is ranked one of the best.

From the Flight Deck said...

Andrew. Just back from YHZ (Halifax). I'm amazed they keep winning the award. If you ever visit there they have all the awards hanging from the ceiling like a hockey or sports area. They do offer free internet, rocking chairs, and an observation deck to look at planes. They've done numerous renovations including a new parking garage but to keep winning year after year, I think they are bribing people with lobsters. :)

Andrew said...

Lobster would to the trick...wish most airports had good observation lounges, best part at yyz i've found is standing along the fence on Dixie on rwy 15L

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, SLF like are happy to get to know about the delays and what's going on. This is from two weeks ago.
ag-drop at DUS, the lady says that timing is loking good, just some fog at LHR which is already lifting up.
Boarding in time.
Boarding completed. Sitting around for 5 mins, captain announces bad news, they discovered a problem with a fan-blade during walk-around. Good news is, an engineer has been looking at it and is finishing paperworks and getting clearance from HQ within 20 minutes. And the local queues for takeoffs are building up.
...(15 mins.)
Captain announces good news, no more queueing for takeoffs. But the engineer would need to manually on work the fan-blade to meet our requirements for a safe flight, this would take about one hour. Flight connections would be investigated.
10 mins later pax with connecting flights were advised to stay on board as we would still arrive earlier at LHR than any of the following flights.
Cpatain announced that the engineer would need just 30 more minutes until completion, but now we would have to wait for an ATC-slot from LHR, and we would need to join the local queue for de-icing to match that slot.
...(20 mins)
Engineer was done, we were pushed to a remote stand. Just 5 mins later we started to taxi to the de-icing-pad in front of the runway to receive our load of anti-ice-fluid and then proceed to takeoff.

OK, I had no connection-flight. I had my own supply of food and drinks with me, and interesting people to talk to. And the wasted time was payd by my employer, so I didn't mind the delay.

What I really enjoyed was the captain who kept us up to date about the actual problem, how they would try to deal with it and the impact for us passengers. NO blablablayaddayaddayadda, but facts.
I was happy to get to know that they found a stint on a fan-blade during the walkaround. No unspecified 'technical issue' instead.

From the Flight Deck said...

Andrew. I agree with you 100 percent about observation decks. I'm amazed Pearson does not have anything. Having said that, the GTAA built the airport on the premise of a hospital. I always wondered why Aviation World does not put an observation deck on top of their building. I think it would be a hit. When I think about it, there's few airports which cater to the aviation enthusiasts. Wherever I fly, I see cars parked along the outskirts of the airport airplane watching.

Maybe I should run an airport construction consulting firm? :)

From the Flight Deck said...

Anon. Numerous surveys state the same thing. Passengers want to hear the truth. They don't want the facts sugar coated and they want to hear it from the captain.

Sometimes I'm reluctant to bombard the passengers with an announcement because I feel there is too much talking on the P.A as it is. Plus we have to do it in our two official languages.

My beef: To tell someone how to fasten their seat belt should be removed. Here in Canada it's been mandatory to wear one while driving a car so people must know how to attach a seat belt. If they don't, then there's other issues.