Thursday, June 17, 2010

Internet and piloting

Here's another question from my enRoute blog. That is an Airbus 320. but it's not me. Okay I am balding but I'm not that grey ....yet.

Q: What impact has the Internet had on your life as a pilot? Dave Chu, Montréal

The World Wide Web has enhanced my job exponentially. I can now retrieve a flight plan in my hotel room, submit my monthly flight schedule and vacation preferences from home and stay up to speed on training, company memos and bulletins. I can also keep a watchful eye on weather, query runway conditions and check for delays at airports. And, in my spare time, I even get to blog on my experiences as a pilot at

Well I'm back to work (after nearly three weeks off) and I've been thrown in the thick of things. The first day of a three day pairing consisted of one flight to YYT (St.John's). I've gotta start avoiding the place. Inevitably one will encounter some sort of weather event there. It was the second day when it was "kick butt weather." Our flight departed 06:30 a.m. Translation: 4:30 a.m local wake up which is 3:00 a.m Toronto time. The only glitch, the hotel room clock radio was set an hour ahead so Captain Doug gets a wake up at 2:00 a.m Toronto time. Nothing a Tim Hortons coffee can't ratify. Actually, I tried to readjust the clock radio, but it turned out more complicated than an Airbus. I relied on my cell phone and the hotel wake up. I dread getting a call from my first officer or crew sked asking, "Doug, are you coming to work today." Believe me it happens a lot. In fact, the next day we were scurrying for a flight attendant because she misread her schedule. First time for her in 24 years.

So we push back in torrential rain. There is standing water at least a half inch deep with winds howling from the south at 35 knots with visibility down to half a mile. A departing Embraer reported a wind shear of 30 knots. Oh great.

Captain Doug gets the lightly loaded A320 airborne and the shear was a positive trend- a good thing. But you have to watch you don't overspeed the flaps. We flew into a 85 knot headwind sitting a few thousand feet above the ground.

I had to do a visual approach onto runway 32 in Halifax because they took away the approach on that runway. Hmmm. Actually there is a new RNAV approach, but it requires a GPS. Well guess what? Many of the A320 fleet lacks a GPS and rumour has it, it would cost thousands to modify each plane. Funny I could buy a GPS at Walmart for $200.

Weather wise the third day saw more heavy rain. This time we are taxiing out in YYZ (Toronto) bound for MIA (Miami). Well the heavens decided to open up. We taxi to the active runway and turn on the weather radar. We delay the weather radar because we don't want to "nuke" others.
Low and behold a convective cloud is painting on the departure end. Everyone is blasting off into it but Captain Doug asks ATC for a heading deviation from the regular SID (Standard Instrument Departure). It worked out well.

Unfortunately, the weather moved on to Ottawa and for one aircraft it did not work out so well on landing. He overran the runway a little.

Tomorrow I'm off to MBJ (Montego Bay) and back. Then it's off to the Nation's capital and I see I will be blessed with Transport Canada sitting in the jumpseat. Yeah baby! After a 12:40 hour duty day, it's not what you want to see.


Andy said...

"Many of the A320 fleet lacks a GPS"

No kidding?

I thought sure most flights operating today were /Q. I guess you file /E on the non-GPS enabled aircraft?

For $1,000 you could buy a Garmin 495. I suppose it would be against some procedure to set that on your glareshield.

Christopher said...

Do the flaps retract automatically if you overspeed the limit for the setting?

Mark said...

Hey Doug, good luck with Transport Canada!

Yes you could get an over-the-counter GPS for $1K but I'm sure to have one outfitted in the 320 would cost $100K!!!!!

From the Flight Deck said...

Andy and Mark. I'm hearing the mod would cost a ridiculous price of nearly $100,000 per airplane. Although that's just a rumour. There is one rule of thumb out there for aviation parts. No matter what you think the price is, multiply it by four.

From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Chris. There is a flap relief system for the A321 and the 'big bus' but not for the A319 and A320.

That's what makes for interesting scenarios in the simulator. They make you go around and give you an engine fire. An engine fire does not necessarily mean loss of power, but the Airbus procedure states you must level off at an acceleration altitude. That's where a flap overspeed scenario can happen. They threw this at me during my "command sims." Gotta love them.

From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Mark. Yes, after eight hours of flying back and forth to Jamaica and dodging thunderstorms each way we thought we evaded Transport Canada. After all, it didn't show on the flight plan and the check in agent said no one presented themselves. Low and behold 15 minutes prior to push back, I turn around and hear,
"Hi, my name is....I with Transport Canada."

Actually, he turned out to be a great guy. Most of them are. The F/O and I do everything by the book. Actually, I always TRY to stick to the script.

The winds in YOW were light from the Southwest favouring the dreaded back-course on 25. The F/O elects to request the ILS 32 with a crosswind. Good call on his part. The F/O greases it on. What a great way to end the day! Transport had nothing to say about the flight. Just the way we like it.

I would have gone out for a debriefing beverage after yesterday's long day but the F/O has a brand new baby at home. So it was direct vectors to the hotel.

Daniel said...

I wonder if a GPS from Walmart contains the RNAV waypoints :P. Can't you just put the waypoints in by default like VOKIL and all that? Like as long you see the runway by minimums? Have a good one with Transport Canada :D

From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Daniel. Yes,we could enter waypoints such as VOKIL, but your right, it all has to be connected to the FMS (flight management system). I'm hearing a lot of the cost is implementing the antenna.

Just finished a five hour flight from Ottawa to Vancouver. Now it's off to Edmonton and back to Vancouver. Another long day.

Daniel said...

lol, I have to get my dad to get me hired by AC and I will do it for free! (well as long as I am still living in there house :P )

Mark said...

I guess that's the way you want it when transport is with you. No eyebrow lifting...

What's the difference between when they fly with you and you have a check ride with an AC check-pilot? Is transport monitoring you personally on the flight, or AC procedures?

Chat later

From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Mark. Both a check-pilot and Transport Canada can rip up your license. Hence the uneasiness.
Transport looks at both Air Canada's operation and the pilot's. They scrutinize the entire package.

Again, he turned out to be a good guy. He was returning late from the simulator (another check ride) and was happy he was on overtime.

Now home from three solid days of flying. We have a new program which made our pairings more productive. It may mean less sitting around and an extra day off but we will paying for it.