An upper air analysis at 250 mb (34,000) feet.
The contours (think contours similar to a surface analysis) depict an "upper low" over Alberta.
This is Environment Canada's 250 millibar chart (34,000 feet). Note the "L" over Alberta. "Upper Lows" mean bumpy rides for a pilot. Stalled weather for the public.
Off to Calgary, Alberta
Yesterday started with crew sked calling home saying Flight 133 will be 20 minutes late. An omen. The in bound flight finally arrived and the previous "front end" crew gave us a heads up on a "bleed air" problem. Maintenance ratified the problem by closing the #2 bleed for the entire flight. (The bleed is part of the aircraft pressurization). This restricted us to 31,500 feet, however, for a westerly flight means even altitudes translating into a maximum cruising of 30,000 feet. There are three useless things in aviation: 1. having runway behind you 2. fuel in the back 3. and altitude above you. Our altitude options whittled away, something I dislike.
With the flight already behind 'sked', with us on minimum crew rest for Calgary, and tight connections to Whitehorse, Yukon we honker down to get the flight out, but not before we get extra fuel for the lower altitude, retrieve a revised flight plan and me giving "this is your captain speaking" P.A of what was going down.
Well into the climb out of Toronto a datalink arrives from crew scheduling asking our intentions. We were now below minimum crew rest (10 hours) as per the contract. What did we want to do? The F/O and I exercised CRM by going into a discussion, and instead of delaying the flight today by 20 minutes, we decide to operate it on sked. We datalink back proud of saving the mission, but not even a "thank you" comes back. How does that saying go...about where nice guys finish?
Weather up ahead
Our flight plan skirts along the 49th parallel (Canadian/American border) and sure enough convective clouds topped out at around 30,000 also decide to hug the border. Riding the tops of clouds equals bumps. Flying near convective clouds equals bumps. And flying through upper lows equals bumps. You can guess what kind of ride we had for 1 to 1.5 hours?
Even a display of St. Elmo's fire on the windscreen confirmed our flirtation with not so friendly clouds. One reader (they know who they are) submitted an enRoute question asking what those protruding sticks are along the trailing edge of the wings, etc. These "static wicks" discharge electrical build up and all 41 (Airbus 320) of them were doing their job yesterday.
The seat belt sign stayed on most of the flight. Then over Alberta the winds were all over the place at flight level signifying the bumps weren't over. On approach, the city lights shone brightly as the weather system gave way to clearing skies. Oh I thought, this would make for a great blog picture. They again turned out all blurry. I gotta find the night setting on that darn camera of mine...either that... tell the F/O to keep things steady.
Today (Another lumpy ride)
There is a saying in the simulator after you laboured through a "scenario." "New day, new airplane." Meaning things are back to normal, lets start from scratch. Maintenance did an exemplary job of clearing all the snags as our 'FIN' rested overnight.
Well, the in-charge said her "panel" froze. No entertainment, no lighting, no read out for water quantity, etc. Okay, I thought, here we go again. After a failed reset by us we called maintenance and they showed me a "trick to the trade" to free up the panel.
We get airborne and ATC mentions turbulence from 28,000 to 34,000 feet. We were going to FL 370 ( we had our #2 bleed back). The winds went from westerly of 20 knots knots, to southerly 15 knots and then to easterly of 50 knots in the order of minutes. We get the Shi$$ kicked out of us as we transit an "upper low." I mumble about an upper low, but most pilots would treat it as "captain gibber."
Finally, after an hour of a bumpy bump bump ride (mother nature was down right moody today) we finally find smooth air over Northern Ontario.
We did get one caution, the #1 FCU (Flight Control Unit) went off line but a C/B reset fixed it or so we thought. It returned an hour later only for maintenance to fix it in Toronto.
While taxiing to the gate the "lead" signals me to use the electronic guidance system for docking. Standard procedures. It started taking me further and further off the yellow line where I finally said to the F/O (more captain gibber) this ain't right. Finally the "lead" took over and I set the park brake.
Phew! The life of an airline pilot. Now I have ten days off.
What does tomorrow bring? My wife and I celebrate our 20th anniversary. She endured 20 years of aviation induced turbulence.
Sounds like you had one of those East bound over the Pacific ocean flights with the seatbelt sign on every minute of the flight, hehe.
Eh, maintenance flights, although I haven't been on one delayed by it, I hear it a lot. The most funny one I have heard, it also sucks a lot happened at 12:30am when it was thunder and lightning at YHZ and lightning hit A E190 departing as 603 the next morning but fried it and it was in the maintenance hanger for a few days.
Just gotta deal with a days problems and move on ;D
Have good one tomorrow :)
Daniel. Yes, it was one of those seatbelt sign "on/off" days.
As far as maintenance, they are a busy bunch keeping our fleet in top notch shape.
They are one of the reasons Air Canada has been deemed one of the safest airlines in the world!
Thanks regarding tomorrow.
Congratulations on 20 years with your wife!
It seems a well deserved 10 days off after those bumpy rides as well!
Thanks for the congrats!
I've been flying lots lately so it's time to get grounded with my ten days off. I think my wife has a list of painting jobs in store for me. :)
Congrats on your anniversary Doug! Just wanted to say that I enjoy your blogs more than ever now with the high rez pictures. They really do provide scenes and point of views that most of us never get to see for ourselves.
Question: How many legs do you usually fly during a work day?
Lavi. Firstly, thank you!
As far as legs/day we can fly up to four per day on the A320.
I now bid every month to limit the legs to three/day.
But, I think I will whittle it down to two/day. I am getting tired of the "go-go-go" flying.
That's why I look forward to the overseas again. One leg over, rest, and one leg back. Sweet.
Thanks for the question.
Hey Captain Doug,
I really like this post!!
I have a Question for you:
I was woundering how you became a Air Canada Piot because ever since i was small Airplanes amused me!
I like the pictures and the stories you share with us!
HAPPY 20th ANNIVERSARY to Charlene and you !!!.
Take care of her during your 10 days off. :)
Thanks for the PDF file link re: A320 - it looks very interesting and I will enjoy reading it ; )
Happy 20th Wedding Anniversary!!!!
Happy Anniversary, Mr and Mrs. "Captain Doug"! :)
20 years? Hmmmm....what is that for gifts? 25 years=silver, 50 years=gold
Oh whatever...I think 20 years is diamonds, silver, AND gold. :) :)
Enjoy your 10 days off!
Adam. My route was through flying clubs and university. I had 8000 hours with five years post secondary when hired at Air Canada.
But every Air Canada pilot's story is as different as there are pilots.
Thanks for the feedback.
I'm certain my wife will have "things" for me to do during my time off. :)
I received your letter and I will be sending your book in the mail today.
As always, and like I signed your book (en francais), "thanks for being a true friend on my blog."
Carlton. When I skimmed over the PDF, I was thinking, "there is some great stuff here."
Thanks for the best wishes.
Congratiulations on 20 years, that's about 5 more then I've lived. =)
So, does 10 days off mean 10 days off from this blog as well? I hope not! I'm sure you have a few exciting old storys to amuse us with until you're back on the line.
So, if you had the chance you would like to go back to long haul? And why did Air Canada get rid of their beautiful A340s? The A346 is one of the most beautiful planes in the sky!
Giulia. Too bad I'm not doing the India flights. There, I could pick up jewelry and things pretty cheap. (A pilot's haven). :)
That way I could handle any anniversary, whether it be gold/silver/diamonds or gifts like rugs.
Yes, rugs. I used to bring one back on every flight. I had a waiting list of people wanting a tight woven
rug from India. I still have mine.
I understand it's the first day of school for you. How exciting for you as a teacher. My son just left for grade seven with his mother in tow. I'm surprised he is allowing that. :)
Are you nearing any anniversaries? Twenty years went by fast. But I have three beautiful children and a great wife to prove it was worth it.
Thanks for your comments and all the best to a new year.
Mr and Mrs. Captain Doug
Edwin. My wife told me I must stay away from blogging on my days off. I said, "yes dear." (Knowing full well I'll be sneaking out a few posts). :)
Go back to long haul? In a flash. Every trip was an adventure, I miss that.
The A340s turned out to be gas guzzlers compared to the two engine B777. Money talks.
I see Lufthansa's A340-600 here in Toronto, and think the same thing, it's beautiful.
Hi Doug !
Congratulations to you and your wife!
I have a question, can St Elmos fire be forecasted ?
When can we expect to see it?
I remember my first encounter with St Elmos fire, flying over Newfoundland on a Dash8 .... I thought we had a short in the Windshield Heat system ... started flipping switches and looking for CBs ... not my proudest moment. Capt had a good laugh though!
Hi Dominic. Don't know if St. Elmos fire can be forecasted, but when you flirt with "thunder bumpers" the probability goes up exponentially.
Great story about your experience. It does throw people off if they haven't seen it before.
Thanks for the congrats.
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