Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thrown to the wolves.

This forward scatter RVR sensor has been working hard in CYYT (St. John's, Newfoundland) during the last week or so. This $80,000 (plus $20,000 for installation) device measures how far a pilot will see down the runway near the touch down point. You'll never guess where they tested the device. Good guess...CYYT (the foggiest airport in Canada)

This scenario greeted us during landing late last night.

After three weeks of days off and vacation, the time had come to go back flying. The pairing consists of one leg to CYYT, sit around for 27 hours and fly one leg back to Toronto.

I decided to check the destination weather prior to the flight, because after all, I'll be outbound to the foggiest, windiest, rainiest, cloudiest city in Canada. The latest METAR held true to its reputation. One follower took on my challenge to decipher this METAR from an email I sent. She (a non pilot but an enthralled aviation enthusiast) did a great job breaking the 'Da Vinci code.

Are you up for the challenge?

METAR CYYT 201200Z 05020g26KT 5/8SM R11/1400FT/D R16/3500FT/D +RA BR VV002 03/03 A2927 RMK FG8 PRESFR SLP918

I get to flight planning and the F/O had everything done. This is good because we are now parking in a new parking lot, and as luck would have it, Captain Doug, parked in a handicapped spot. This meant getting back on the 'people mover' to the parking lot, finding my car, finding a new parking spot and then high tailing it back to Terminal one and finding my gate. The clock was ticking. It took 30 minutes, but better than getting my BMW towed. I learned if you drive a nice car, you are more susceptible to scrutiny. I'm certain they would take great pleasure in towing my car especially with a personalized license plate, 320 CAPT.

A good way to start back.

After 32 years of driving without ever being pulled over, an unmarked police car in my new neighbourhood got great pleasure in giving me $110 ticket and the loss of three merit points because I did a 'neighbourhood stop' at a three way stop sign. Needless to say, I'll be in court this June to fight it. But I digress.

As you know I always offer the first leg to the F/O, but not last night because when visibility goes below 1/2 mile, it's procedure the captain will fly the approach. And by the looks of things, we would be doing a CAT II landing to minimums with an autoland. Talk about being thrown to the wolves.

During push back and engine start up we get a caution light. One of our flight computers for the elevator went T/U (tango uniform). Called maintenance. A quick circuit breaker reset fixed that one.

The F/O turned out to be a great guy - they mostly do - and we talk the regular banter while enroute. Where are you from, where did you fly prior to Air Canada, married, kids, etc? He did mention he went through ten airline jobs to get to Air Canada including 13 years with the military and Jetsgo 30,000. (Jetsgo required a training bond of $30,000 to fly for them. The F/O recouped $6000 of it before they went bankrupt)

The weather is now 1200 RVR - our minimums for a CAT II on runway 29. But if you read the above METAR (even though it was several hours old) the winds were from the east. Runway 11 has no touchdown lighting so our charts said the lowest RVR for that runway is 1800. It was not an option. Having said that, our competition landed on runway 11 with an RVR of 1200 which left both the F/O and I scratching our heads. Hmmmm?

The maximum tailwind for a CAT II is 10 knots. Luckily the winds were under that value. The passengers were fully aware of the weather because the ticket agent at the departure gate mentioned the flight may not get in. On descent, Captain Doug gets on the P.A to brief the passengers. I even used the "f" word (fog). We are suppose to say 'mist' instead of 'fog' so as to not cause apprehension, but I figure why sugar coat things. If we had to go around, we would be off to our alternate, Halifax.

The RVRs hovered at 1200 and the winds stayed below ten knots on the tail. If either worsened, it would be "GO AROUND, FLAPS!"

The autopilot did a great job on the autoland. My fingers were sore from eight days of masonry work but I had no problem engaging the autopilot during climb out of Toronto and disengaging the autopilot when on the runway. :-) (We must disengage the autopilot after an autoland or else the airplane will try to move back to the centreline. That's how sensitive the localizer is for CAT II and CAT III.)

Needless to say, taxiing proved to be a challenge in the low visibility.

I get to the hotel lobby only to find my water bottle leaked in my flight bag. Oh well.


Tim said...

Sounds like quite an adventure. Lovely weather there in YYT.


Andrew said...

Metar for the 20th of April at 8 EST, winds at 50 degrees 20 knots gusting 26 knots visibility 5/8th of a statute mile Rain at 1400 ft (dont know what the number after the R means or the D after the height. Possibly down?) Temperature 3 degrees (dew point 3 degrees) Altimeter 2927 with fog at 800

Thats my best crack at it.

Mark said...

Hey Doug, sorry to hear about the demerit points. You refer to them as merit points; well maybe so if you are proud of

I will defer the translation of Metar to other readers. I did Meteorology 2 tonight at Spectrum, so I have an unfair advantage.

Passed PSTAR, Radio license and medical now. So I get my student pilot permit. Am ready for Solo at the discretion of the CFI. I think I have about 5 more hours to go till solo (about a month)...

Chat later

Nadia said...

Salut Doug,

Sorry for your ticket , I have always think than a tv star have a free pass for those thing:):)

With your seniority you can't bid on sunny destination?

Bonne journée


Tyler said...

Jeeze, you and Aviatrix both had water bottle+flight bag issues this week, I hope nothing in yours was too damaged.

Chris said...

My sympathies to the FO. Bad enough having to fork out for an endorsement like that - but then losing your job on top of it - must have been rough.

Andrew said...

Ya that bites about your ticket i just got my first ticket last week $110 aswell but i was doing 72 in a 50...the "Post a comment" button seems to have disappeared, so I just have to highlight the bottom area and then it appear, weird.


carlton said...

I got my first ever ticket a few months ago for apparently driving in a bus lane - but in my defence I had to turn left down a side street - and the only way to avoid driving 'on'the bus lane would have been to fly over it?! Frustrating!

I am still stranded on a small island off the coast of africa due to the uk airspace closures - next available flight is Monday at the earliest....

Ian said...


Welcome to the penalty pointed driver licence.

In my case, an unmarked black BMW 335d police car caught me at 41 in a 30 mph area on my way to work too. 3 penalty points and a fine - second ticket. Last one was when I was 18 and I ran into the back of a police Vauxhall Cavalier...stylish I thought ;)

Echo the thoughts for your FO - leBlanc I think ran Jetsgo - complete crook from all accounts. The bond seems very steep.

All the best Airborne Ian (finally)

SimPilot264 said...
This post has been removed by the author.
SimPilot264 said...

Rough day there Cap'n Doug,

Could have been worse though. "Standards" in the jump seat doing a route check, or the guy from Sparks Street coming along to "check the paperwork".

My thoughts also with your FO; I know what I'd like to do to oxygen thieves who exploit hard working people like that but as this is a family blog...

For Finally Airborne Ian: Vauxhall Cavalier - very stylish!

Cheers for now,


James said...

Doug - great blog with a super insight into aviation Canadian style. Really enjoy reading it and popping in from time-to-time.

I'm a colleague of the Flying Scotsman (I'm now on the B744) and we shared a beer last night comparing notes as I was directly ahead of his service.

I'm off first tonight back to LHR so up and about before crew call.

Sorry to hear about the traffic ticket - I have one too. You are in good company! I won't spoil the Metar challenge you set - don't worry.

Safe flying tonight


whywhyzed said...

As an ex-VFR pilot, I am interested to see what low viz IFR landings really look like... there are a number on youtube in case anyone's interested. THIS is the best one I've seen.

I suppose these videos are shot by a 3rd crew member? Or, since you're on auto land anyway, are you allowed to use a camcorder??

What's it like putting all your faith into the autoland?

SimPilot264 said...

METAR Challange

METAR = hourly sched report
CYYT = St John's International Airport
201200Z = 20th day of month - 1200Z (GMT/UTC)
05020g26KT = wind direction 050 degrees 20 knots gusting 26 knots
5/8SM = visibility 5/8 statute miles (1100 yards)
R11/1400FT/D = Runway 11 horizontal vis 1400ft Decreasing
R16/3500FT/D = Runway 16 vis 3500ft Decreasing
+RA BR = Heavy rain, mist
VV002 = vertical vis 200ft
03/03 = temp 3 degrees celcius, dew point 3 degrees celcius
A2927 = Altimeter setting 29.27 ins
RMK = Remarks
FG8 = Fog - in last 8 hours?
PRESFR = Pressure falling rapidly
SLP918 = Sea Level Pressure in hPa 918mm

I knew most of it but put "METAR decode" into Yahoo for some. Still not sure about "FG8" - if 8oo feet the value should be 800?


Andrew said...

Ian the police sure drive stillish vehicles, over here its mostly Crown Victorias, Impala's and the occational SUV.

From the Flight Deck said...

Tim. That's probably why many Air Canada pilots avoid the place. We bid our schedules every month and all it takes is to say "AVOID YYT," put some weight on the request, and if you are senior enough you'll never see it in years. Having said that, it's a very friendly place. Especially, infamous George street where there are more bars per capita than anywhere else in Canada.

Newfoundland sees so much weather because 1. it's an island surrounded by lots of cold water (think advection fog) and 2. it's the focal point for three major tracks of low pressure systems.

Like Nadia said, I should bid places where it's sunny.

On that note, I have a nice LAX layover on Redondo beach next week.


From the Flight Deck said...

Andrew. Not bad. Not bad at all. I'll submit a separate post on the entire translation.

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

Mark. Good eye on the merit/demerit points. I forget, do we gain demerit points or lose them? My brother is a Toronto Metro sergeant. Maybe I'll ask him?
No matter, I just hope the cop doesn't show up in court in June so I'll get off.

I always wanted to teach weather at Spectrum. I nonchalantly approached them a few years ago and all I got was blank stares.

As far as solo, it will happen when you least expect it. Prepare to get a drenching!

Doug the criminal

From the Flight Deck said...

Nadia. I like your thinking. Next time I'll tell the police officer I appeared on TWN. :)
But he was so wrapped up in giving me a ticket, he never asked my take on things.

I think he was so excited to have written a ticket because it may mean going to court where he is paid a minimum of four hours at time and half to fight a $110 ticket. This very topic made our newspapers last month. Apparently 25 percent of police officers are making over $100,000. But a new pilot (think Colgan crash in Buffalo) made a mere $13,00 to 16,000/year.
Oops, I got carried away.

Sunny destinations? I'm going to LAX next week and will be cruising Redondo Beach.

Merci encore


From the Flight Deck said...

Tyler. Glad to hear I wasn't the only one that did not check if the cap was on tight. My captain's atlas, small flight logbook and a copy of my book received a baptism. My F/O must have felt sorry for me when I showed him my soggy book I wrote, because he bought a copy from me today. Sales are up!

Captain Doug

Tim said...

Maybe the weather in YYT is WHY there are so many bars? Just saying...


From the Flight Deck said...

Tim. You pegged it. That's why it's one of the friendliest places to visit. :)

From the Flight Deck said...

James. Thanks for the post! Sorry about my tardy reply. I was off to my alternate destination for the last two weeks - I diverted to landscaping. Flying the heavy equipment for B.A? Excellent. Looks like my blog is attracting some heavy hitters like yourself.

Keep in touch and welcome to my blog!

All the best, James!

From the Flight Deck said...

whywhyzed. We get use to watching the autoland technology every simulator check. But as you can very well guess, seeing it in the real world adds a different dimension. For the CAT II approach into YYT I had the lights at minimums (100 feet AGL based on the radio altimeter). So I did see it flare and lock itself on the centre of the runway. Unfortunately, for the F/O he must keep his head down during the entire approach. It's SOP to do so. He must call "no flare" if not announced on the screen by 30 feet, but I figure by the time he realizes it's not going to flare, blurts it out and for me to recognize it, we would be snugly touching down.

As far as camcorders on low approaches. I bet it will raise a few eyebrows.

Thanks YYZ

From the Flight Deck said...

Simpilot264. Well done. FG8 means the cloud type is fog and is covering 8/8 of the sky. With the new METAR format cloud coverage is now depicted in octas. It used to be in tenths which I thought was much better. Keep in mind this coverage is opacity i.e it does not include thin or wispy clouds. For example a METAR may report 230 OVC (cloud base at 23,000 feet above ground) but in the cloud group it may say Ci3.
Cirrus covering 3/8 of the sky. I.E sunny skies during the day.

Anonymous said...

Captain Doug,

How about this for a fine forecast for the 29th of April in YYC:

CYYC 282221Z 2822/2918 34022G32KT 6SM -RASN SCT006 OVC012
TEMPO 2822/2902 2SM -RASN BR OVC006
FM290200 35025G35KT 2SM -SN OVC012
TEMPO 2902/2904 3/4SM -SN BLSN BR OVC006
FM290400 34025G35KT 1/4SM SN +BLSN VV002
TEMPO 2904/2912 11/2SM -SN VV006
BECMG 2910/2912 34030G45KT
FM291200 34030G45KT 1/4SM SN +BLSN VV002
TEMPO 2912/2918 3/4SM -SN BLSN VV006
PROB40 2912/2915 1/8SM +SN +BLSN VV001

YYC Dispatcher

From the Flight Deck said...

YYc Dispatcher

I'm literally out the door for YEG for another "red eye" adventure. I just checked YEG's METAR. It's not as bad as YYC but the winds are up. Hold on to your hat!