Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spider senses tingling

During the walk around in Ottawa I noticed this artwork.
No, not the tape but the spider... :)
I didn't realize it, but many of our Airbuses (or so I am told when I queried) are incorporating reflective tape so the "rampies" will see these canoe shape fairings at night. (They house the hydraulic screw jacks for the flaps). What a great idea!!!

Here's another shot. Of the three flap fairings, notice the "stick" protruding toward the back in the forefront. That's a static wick and one of my reader's children asked what it was. I think it makes for a great enRoute question. There's 13 of them on one Airbus wing alone. They're wicks which discharge static electricity. You see how easy the questions can be, even a four year old can come up with great aviation questions.

This proves even people at Air Canada have great sense of humours.

Meteorological senses tingling.

We knew thunderstorms would be an issue in Toronto leaving Ottawa as depicted on the flight plan. The preceding crew left a thunderstorm Sigmet on the console recently datalinked by dispatch. Another heads up. I briefed the in-charge thunderstorms are the top of the list for briefing items. (Regulations stipulate we must brief the in-charge). He was cool about it and during the flight I made several calls to him letting him know what was transpiring.

Just as we were to push back, "ground" tells us Toronto posted a "metered delay." We decided to wait at the gate instead of pushing back, starting the engines and burning fuel. We will need it for deviating. Yes, we boarded extra fuel for weather contingencies.

The flight proved mostly uneventful although we had to approach Toronto from the north. We also held for 15 minutes as a local cell had it's way with the airport.

ATC wanted us to proceed to the YSO (Simcoe) VOR and hold at first. I insinuated our weather radar was painting green to yellow there with a few specks of red. Translation, I aint going there. He agreed his so called weather radar is poor and our on board system tended to be far better.

Funny, I wrote an article a few years ago on how Environment Canada had upgraded its weather radars to "doppler." In the article, I mentioned NAV CANADA will soon be superimposing this data on their radar screens to safely vector aircraft around convective cloud. But rumour has it there is an interface problem. Well, a cheap DELL laptop next to the screen with a link to Environment Canada's website could be a start.

(ATC Happenings.....Can you offer anything further???).

Many pilots dump on Toronto ATC. Actually, many pilots dump on ATC in general. But they also dump on their crew meals, crew sked, management, rampies but I guess it's easy to be critical from one vantage point. Yes, I can be part of that group too.

I truly think ATC does an excellent job! And yesterday was no exception. The controller's voices were up an octave and curt. This is what is needed when aircraft are criss-crossing the skies while deviating. My hat is off to you guys!!!

The cell moved southeastward and with a runway change to handle the wind shift the F/O put in on nicely. This one hour flight took nearly two hours to complete so our scheduled departure time for Halifax was not going to happen.

The thunderbumpers moved far enough south so they were easy to circumnavigate enroute to Halifax. Halifax had another runway shut down. Seems like every summer they want to shut down a runway. Of course the winds were Southwest at 20 knots but Captain Doug had to land on runway 14. It all worked out fine.

No, I didn't make my usual joke about how to land into a crosswind, "turn into the wind and use opposite rudder." Even I am getting tired of it. :)

A shot taken last night at FL 380 from Halifax to Toronto.

Our office in the dark around 11:00 p.m local. That's the beautiful city of Montreal glowing in the background. Our wheels touched down in CYYZ at midnight.
Yes, the F/O is there somewhere.


Oshawapilot said...

I was listening to YYZ approach during the peak of the storms yesterday and it was quite obvious that they were juggling a lot of aircraft. Everybody seemed to be getting along, I actually heard a female Speedbird (BA) pilot get a good laugh about things after being juggled around before being cleared to the ILS.

From the Flight Deck said...


Yes, things can get backed up in no time flat. We got our landing clearance about 400 feet AGL. Tower snuck out an aircraft for take off. He wasn't airborne
until we were 80 to 100 feet AGL.

Daniel said...

The pictures of the flight deck are awesome. The tape looks cool on the pylons, wouldnt want anyone running into them :P

From the Flight Deck said...

Thanks Daniel. Glad you enjoyed the pics.

Giulia said...

Captain Doug,

Wow! I really like that last picture. Your office is so beautiful! :)

From the Flight Deck said...
This post has been removed by the author.
From the Flight Deck said...

Giulia. Yes, even though first class is not offered by most North American carriers, we pilots tend to think our seats are "first class."

Anonymous said...

I work High Level Enroute at YYZ. You are correct. The dopplar radar component to the CAATS radar system failed, and was quickly removed from our displays. As a result, the weather radar we use has a range of about 80nm, and is unreliable at best. YOW to YYZ is more than 160nm, so somewhere in the middle (AMERT) there is a big gap in radar coverage. For obvious reasons, a ground-based radar will never be as good as an airborne one. However, we do have a version of the stormscope displayed and it tends to be pretty accurate.

Our best weather radar is on a display at the supervisors desk which monitors traffic volume. I think it's called ETMS. And intellicast.com in the lounge.

Appreciate the kudos. With WX and TS, things can get a little hectic. And there is a TON going on behind the scenes when aircraft are deviating.

From the Flight Deck said...

Anon. First off, excellent feed back! It sure is nice to hear from you guys. Actually, one of your co-workers - let's just he worked out west- had his "wings clipped" in reference to his blog. It's a shame. Just the material YOU wrote is invaluable.

But many pilots assume NAV CANADA sees the cells like we do. You drive home the point, "don't count on it."

It does seem the Americans have a better handle on it. They are always broadcasting blind about moderate to SEVERE (god, I hate that word) precipitation. Having said that, they broadcast all airmets and sigmets in the blind which is quite tedious to listen to especially when the warning includes about ten states. I guess it's like getting a traffic report in Toronto in the morning. They say it so fast. I have to figure what highway I'm on and what direction I'm going, but by then, it's too late. :)

Yes, many pilots are too quick to condemn ATC, but if they only knew what DOES go on behind the scenes.
I guess someone needs to lesson the gap between us. I hope my blog is a start.

Last year you guys got me in around thunderstorms nicely. We were looking at ducking into London (YXU). But at the last minute
you guys pulled through. I said to the controller, "I owe you a beer." Probably not the most appropriate thing to say on the airways, but it saved my bacon.

Hope to hear from you again.

Captain Doug

Garafraxa said...

I work Low Level Enroute in YYZ; we take aircraft from the HIGH and line them up the way Terminal wants them, and hand them off to the Terminal controllers at WASIE.

I am embarrassed every time I transmit "Our weather radar is poor, your onboard weather is giving you a better picture." We do see the big boomers, but not the towering spires and build-ups that give you guys such trouble. For the few days Doppler weather was incorporated into our displays, we felt like we could see individual raindrops! We've been told "they're working on bringing it back".

Without question, moving you guys efficiently around the thunderstorms is the most challenging part of the job. Fortunately, it's a challenge we are all up to, and most of us enjoy! When you've been transmitting for an hour (and it feels like 10 minutes) and you realize you just pumped 20+ aircraft through your sector, it's quite a rush.

I do like your suggestions of transmissions in the blind regarding turbulence and build-ups in the airspace. That's likely something I'll incorporate into my severe-weather operations.

Great blog, keep it up!

From the Flight Deck said...

Garafraxa. So you are the guy who says, "cross Wasie at 7000 feet or be level at Fline at nine thousand feet." :)
I'm certain we talked tons of times.

Yes, that doppler can work wonders. It can pick up masses of flying insects and find hooks in radar returns with ease.
The old system was compared to a vinyl record with Doppler similar to a DVD.

I am amazed how long things are taking. Maybe they need to hire a summer student honed up on computers. Yes, I'm kidding.
I make the same joke about our flight plans. About three to four pages have nothing or a couple of words on it but no one knows how to fix it. They say it's a margin thing. Hmmm?

I am amazed when we ask for vectors in the arrival area, you guys cater to us all or most of the time. What a work out it must be!

Thanks for the kind words and drop by frequently. I'd love to hear what you ATCers have to say.

I'll be launching for MIA tomorrow morning. Are you working?

If not, keep up the great work.

Captain Doug