!!!!! GONE FLYING !!!!!

If you need to contact me... email: [email protected]


"Pic of the day" sent in by Craig M from Ottawa. He watched flight tracker for days until he got the shot of all shots. It's beautiful.
Showing newest 17 of 18 posts from February 2010. Show older posts
Showing newest 17 of 18 posts from February 2010. Show older posts

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Odds and ends....

From "Erik" (Odds and a 747 end)

1. Reader Dan A. had this to ask. "The Breakthrough"

I'm curious about a moment that every
airline captain has experienced,but I've
never heard one discuss: When they
learned that the airline had hired them.

It must truly be one of life's transition
moments. Because one minute you
weren't sure if it would ever happen,
and then the next moment you find
out that it just has.

Yes, the day the airline (for me Air Canada) calls, it's a day of jubilation.
To work so hard in getting the qualifications, only to wait for the nod can take years.

Then there's the many hoops to jump through in order to get the acceptance letter.
It truly is a feeling of intrepidation when Air Canada puts you through the paces.

But like you say, it's a crossroad in a pilot's career.

***New*** When Air Canada called there was a hint of hesitation. Why? Well the connectors joined up and made everyone believe the connector and mainline pilot seniority list was going to merge. It was a matter of time. So this made me hesitate for a nanosecond. Others took longer, and it cost them dearly. It just goes to confirm my thinking on opportunity, "go for what's being offered."

2. One reader claimed he read my book from head to toe in one sitting. Kisun wrote: "I think I broke my record in reading a whole book within 12 hours!

Hello, Doug!

I have found your blog through Joe d'Eon (flywithme) and eventually also found your book from the flight deck as well. I quickly rang up my local book store and ordered a copy. I received it 10 a.m Australia Sydney time and now I am 3/4 through your book and now I am wishng the book was at least a 1000pages thick!! By the way it has been 8 hours since I have received your book! LOL and I do not read books that v often! I have an ambition of becoming an airline pilot for QANTAS or V AUSTRALIA wish me luck! Thanks for replanting that 'inspiration' for me which will keep me committed!! Great book and I hope your trips are always safe! Once again, great book!

3. This week I found out my enRoute editor, who I've been dealing with for 10 years, will no longer be editing my column. That's four editors in over 13 years. I told her I am still amazed enRoute has kept me on. Because after all, change is always around the corner.

4. I noticed Captain Ian is pumping out lots of videos on his blog. I decided to put together some 'stills' in a movie fashion but I wanted to add music to it. (Ken Tobis, Dream II) I have the You Tube video of the song attached to the 787 pic. Instead of spending 99 cents and downloading the song from iTunes, I opted out the cheap way (typical pilot) and tried through my kids Limewire. This morning my main PC will not allow the mouse to click on any icons and the cursor turns into an hour glass over the start menu. Continuing with the cheap pilot approach, I've been trying all day to ratify with free software. No joy! I think I might turn this PC into a Mac. It's a Boeing versus Airbus thing, but I'm already a convert. This post is from my Mac Powerbook. "Look Mom no viruses." :)

5. Tomorrow is an early rise with a 5:15 a.m check in. I won't say the flight numbers, (sorry Nadia) but the show goes like this. YYZ-MCO-YYZ-YHZ. Monday: YHZ-MBJ (Montego Bay) -YHZ. Tuesday one leg home to YYZ.

Thanks for listening.

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.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Halifax and more Halifax (CYHZ)

Our layover hotel in Halifax at 5:00 a.m during the snowstorm
last week. This same hotel was the venue for our high school prom some 31 years ago.
Today, it was finally announced we will be having a reunion. "Disco Doug" will be in attendance this July.

This is what the roads looked like in front of the hotel. We had a cab driver originally from Montreal drive us to the airport. He did an excellent job. I had him again this morning and let's just say he wastes no time getting to the airport in any condition.

Just finished a three day pairing with two nights in Halifax. Pilots bid their schedules through a computer based system. I qualified Halifax layovers a little too much and because of it I've been overdosing on Halifax.
This pairing consisted of 7 legs (flights) with five of these flights requiring deicing. I am getting very familiar with the deice checklist. Someone mentioned if the flight deices then we lost most of our profit for the flight.
I missed the storm which passed through Toronto although I arrived there the next morning with slippery taxi-ways to greet me. We were told to hold short of runway 15R and I applied the brakes 30 feet prior to the hold short line. The only glitch, we slid 30 feet past the hold short line. Luckily the runway was not an active runway.

Overnight more snow will be blanketing metro. I'll be checking in during the wee hours at 6:10 a.m. And you can probably guess where I'm off to. (Nadia it's flight 602 with flight 121 on the return).

As mentioned in a previous post I can not exceed 82 hours for this month or I will be forced to drop my last pairing. Right now I'm up to 80 hrs 54 mins. It will be close because I guarantee I'll be following the deice checklist at the CDF readying for yet another flight to Halifax.
Captain Doug

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Planes, planes everywhere there's planes.

Every now and again, 'tail spotter' Erik from FRA (Frankfurt, Germany) sends me his photos. I think they are great shots worthy of sharing. (Of course you all know to click on the photo to enlarge them). Danke schön Erik!

When I travel the world I'm always amazed how many airlines/airplanes there are out there. Some words of wisdom for the upstart pilots: Even though your dream is to fly for the National carrier or fly the jet fighter in the air force, you may be piloting planes (for numerous reasons) either than your first choice. I could write a book on the "curve balls" pilots encountered while chasing their dreams.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Cool stuff about the Deice centre

***NEW*** Picture of Capatin Doug inside the cab of the "Snowman"

**NEW** This picture of the Vestergaard Elepha nt Beta was sent today by student 'Chris'

Yesterday, I took the Brampton Flight Centre aviation diploma students to the Central Deice Facility at Toronto's Pearson.

It was plus one, so the facility was at idle. So far this year the CDF deiced 9500 aircraft. It's been slow for the CDF but I see Toronto maybe be getting snow on Monday. The day I go back to work. Winter is not over yet.

Here one of the students gets checked out on the deice truck simulator. It's tougher than it looks. Every year each deicer must be re certified just like pilots.

Inside the cab of the Vestergaard Elephant Beta. It has more joysticks than my Airbus.

The orange rod is the "tusk" of the Elephant Beta. As soon as it makes contact with an airplane the truck stops and shuts down. A great safety feature.

Type I fluid (orange) inside the truck's holding tank (6000 litres)

Type IV. It's colour changed to this lime florescent green about two years ago. This anti-icing is similiar to a liquid plastic with a shear speed of 180 knots. Cost, almost $4 Cdn per litre.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pilot Joe Goes Video

Click on pix to go to Joe's video show -Feb 21 at 1:00 p.m PST

For most, aviation is an intriguing subject. There's books, magazines and now blogs, but some have taken it to podcasts. Joe d"Eon, a 737 pilot with a major U.S carrier, portrays the many aspects of aviation through podcasts -Fly With Me

"I'm Joe d'Eon . . . I'm a pilot for a major airline, and I take my recorder with me on trips to collect interviews and stories from flight attendants and pilots along the way. I've been producing Fly With Me since April 2005..."

You should listen to his podcasts. He has a great radio voice and doesn't fumble. It sounds very professional.

But he didn't stop there in spreading the word on aviation. "And now I've started up a live streaming video show called "Fly With Me Live" (The first one will be on Feb 21 at 1:00 PM PST. ) I think the podcast and the live show would appeal to your readers. "

So if you are on the net Feb.21 at 1:00 p.m (2100 Zulu) check out Joe's show. Tell him Captain Doug sent you.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Flying Scotsman goes into blogging holding pattern

Ian - The Flying Scotsman

Looks like Captain Ian ran into some moderate turbulence while cruising on his blog. Apparently a certain union took a disliking to some of his posts.

"Following the advice of management, and I use the word loosely, my blog because of its political content has had to be removed. For now, you are having to take the baton in blogging. I will email you and let you know the scoop.I believe they cant muzzle me completely - but you'll see the blog is almost gone!

I know Ian is regrouping and printing a new flight plan as I post. In fact, I took a quick peak and things are resurrecting quite nicely from the ashes. Ian loves aviation and it's clearly depicted by his well writeen posts.

Here's Ian's new address: http://www.ian-theflyingscotsman.blogspot.com

and watch his new blog get airborne.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Stuck in a Snowstorm

"The weatherman is always wrong." I chuckled when I heard that from the cab driver yesterday talking about the pending snowstorm. It was a beautiful day in Halifax, sunny and fairly warm, how could they be forecasting 15-20 cm of snow? That was the logic.

When I was learning the ropes as a meteorologist one instructor told me how to handle this accusation, "the weatherman is always wrong." He said to say, "thank you" because if we were always wrong then all you do is expect the opposite. Sun from the weatherman would mean cloud because we are always wrong.

The cab driver reacted just like people would react to a question on global warming when it's minus 40 C and blowing a gale.

The thing is, the weatherman is more precise than most would admit, including pilots.

We can fly to Hong Kong direct from Toronto and predict a fuel burn to within 100 kg because of the accurate forecast of winds aloft. Pilots don't know what to say when they see how close the flight plan winds are compared to the wind readout in the flight deck.

Here ends my rant.

I'm now stuck in Halifax waiting for the airport to open. Everyone is looking for answers from the agents and they just regurgitate what "operations" are telling them. We were sked out at 6:45 a.m and it's now 9:30. Realistically it will be 10:45 a.m.

They plowed runway 05-23 but the glitch is the winds are from the north at 15 to 25 knots with a CRFI (Canadian Runway Friction Index) of .22 (poor braking). We won't get airborne until they open runway 14-32.

The first officer just received the revised flight plan. Time to go to work.

Captain Doug
****Update: We got airborne around 1:00 p.m. About six hours late. ********

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My take on Airmanship

Photos compliments of Erik the 'tail spotter'

Received this email: Hi Doug, firstly thanks for the great work you're doing with your blog, its a great insight into the workings of a pilot. I am half way through my IR at the moment, and in a couple of my debriefs, "airmanship" has come up as an issue. If possible could you enlighten me how you managed to increase your airmanship, and what it means to you.

Airmanship? The definition is not carved in stone and because of automation/modernization the definition tends to be always adjusted.

Here's one definition borrowed from the Internet and I tend to agree with it:

Good airmanship is that indefinable something, perhaps just a state of mind, that separates the superior airman/airwoman from the average. It is not particularly a measure of skill or technique, nor is it just common sense. Rather, it is a measure of a person's awareness of the aircraft and its flight environment, and of her/his own capabilities and behavioral characteristics, combined with good judgement, wise decision-making, attention to detail and a high sense of self-discipline.

As a pilot, we have SOPs (standard operating procedures), company policies, MEL (Minimum Equipment List), training, CRM and company culture which act as the backbone. Somewhere in all of this there is airmanship. Airmanship acts as the glue. It's when a pilot crosses a runway and says, "clear left or clear right." It's not written in the SOPs, but it's a good thing to do. It's when you are cleared to FL 240 from FL 370 at your discretion. Good airmanship is when you call leaving FL370 for FL240. (Unless instructed by ATC you don't have to do this, but it's a smart thing to do because it confirms your assigned altitude). It's when you are climbing through a layer of cloud causing turbulence. No where does it say to increase your rate of ascent but you do it because it makes sense. It's when you decide to slow down prior to entering the hold at Bovingdon VOR while on approach into London, Heathrow.
Airmanship tends to come with experience with common sense the main ingredient. Airmanship also means to me, having the big picture.

Captain Doug

Saturday, February 13, 2010

AC goes single pilot operation

First officer seat removed - down to single pilot operation. Not really, but at least I got your attention.

Maintenance removing the old seat. The delay took two hours waiting for replacement/installation.

Back to two pilot operation. Our last leg from Ottawa to Toronto.
We are both still smiling.

Just finished a three day mission. Day1 YYZ-YUL-YHZ Day 2 YHZ-YUL-MCO Day 3 MCO-YOW-YYZ

I get more take and landings in a three day pairing than some of the wide body drivers do in three months. Yes, I miss the long haul.

Day one proves to be uneventful. We get to the short layover hotel in Halifax with time to spare for a debriefing cocktail. Translation the "beer math" added up. At A C it's 12 hours from "bottle to throttle." Many layover cities have short layover hotels and downtown layover hotels for longer layovers. In Canada, there's Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver with two sets of hotels. The flight attendants are pretty much the same with some diferences.

Day two starts with a 4:00 a.m wake up. It's my leg and I notice a YAW DAMPER #1 fault during the ramp checks. The rudder has two dampeners and we thought because of the brisk wind outside it had something to do with it. We beckon maintenance. There is no circuit breaker reset for this.

It's 6:00 a.m and these guys have been up all night. One of them says, "oh sh$t" when he sees the snag. Not a good thing when maintenance says this. Off to work they go pulling circuit breakers and activating hydraulic pumps. They wanted it fixed because they knew in order to dispatch this aircraft under an MEL, it would entail climbing up into the tail and pulling a cannon plug to the yaw damper. Not a fun thing to be doing at the end of a midnight shift with the winds blowing.

They fix it! It's off to deicing for a quick spray with frost on the wings. We had a curfew restriction for landing in YUL. We could not touch down prior to 7:00 a.m and the flight plan was showing 10 minutes under sked. Our maintenance situation and deicing fixed that.

In YUL we had an aircraft switch and a trek through American customs. It took over 20 minutes to get through security/customs and that was the fast track. The flight is full. We arrive at gate 75 but the boarding screen said Los Vegas. We were confused and rest assured the passengers were too. No airplane. There's rumbling there might be a maintenance issue.

After switching gates and boarding the airplane it's learned the First officer's seat sinks to the floor during landing and take off. Not a good thing. It's a 320 so the seats are mechanical and not electric.

The seat must be replaced. There is one getting refurbished in the shop and if that didn't work they would rob one from another airplane. Finally, after 2 hours we are on our merry way to frigid Florida, but not before we transit a jet stream depicted to be blowing a whopping 210 knots from the west. My 'in-charge' said two days before he encountered some of the worst turbulence in his career from it. Our wind read out clocked the winds at 270 degrees at 185 knots and we only got a few bumps. We elected to stay low and it worked out nicely.

Luckily the weather gods were friendlier that day. We arrive in Orlando with a maximum temperature of 9 degrees C, two hours late and had to wait 15 minutes for the gate to open up.
Needless to say it was off to a local pub for debriefing beverages. Another early wake up but day three proved uneventful.

The life of an airline pilot.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

enRoute February Question #2

Q: Where can I sign up my husband for a fear-of-flying course?   
Patricia Cardoso, Barrie, Ontario

I know of one fear-of-flying course (deplour.com) led by an experienced Air Canada pilot and a psychologist. It’s a two-day seminar that combines behaviour modification techniques with aviation education. Besides managing your anxiety, knowing what causes aircraft noises or understanding turbulence goes a long way toward treating aviophobia (fear of flying). To increase your knowledge – and reduce your fear – there are countless websites, CDs and books, including mine: From the Flight Deck: Plane Talk and Sky Science (ECW Press).

I'm presently in Halifax and thought I'd post question two from my enRoute blog. Tomorrow starts with a 4:00 a.m wake up call and it's off to Montreal and then Orlando. If all goes according to plan, the F/O and I will be solving the world's problems by the pool early in the afternoon. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Confining Contracts

Downtown Victoria, British Columbia in front of the Empress Hotel where one can still attend afternoon tea. Meteorologically speaking, Victoria is the best place to live in Canada. Heck, look how green the grass is and it's February!

Victoria harbour where one can watch float planes come and go. Our layover hotel is a 3-5 minute walk to here.

Yours truly in front of the seaplane terminal. This picture was taken by a friendly passerby. Security was heightened at the terminal because of the Olympics in Vancouver. I was thinking of using my jumpseat reciprocal agreement (free passes) to take a flight to YVR and back. My f/o said he did it during a YVR layover. The price is right, but I gave it a miss. Next time.

I flew to Victoria on Sunday and laid over for 30 hours. I flew the now infamous flight 190 back to Toronto this morning. You may remember about a year ago this flight encountered severe wake turbulence from a passing B747.

I didn't officially start my month's flying until the 10th, because I bid for some days off to possibly rendezvous with the "Flying Scotsman." And as you know, Captain Ian took sick with appendicitis. Those Boeing guys. lol

So why was I touring Victoria? This month, February, I was projecting a measly 69 hours of flying. Our DMM (Designated Monthly Maximum) is a low 75 hours. We either get paid what we fly or the DMM and that's if we have time in the bank. (The time bank can accumulate up to 20 hours or we deduct from it to a maximum of -13.5 hours) By taking this Victoria layover I now topped up my projected flying up to 79:55. However, there is a glitch. Frequently, I joke we pilots must be part time lawyers because we are always asking ourselves, "is this legal or am I legal to fly?"
This holds true for our confining contract. Don't get me wrong, we all need to adhere to the contract, but sometimes it just doesn't make sense.

Our maximum flying we are allowed for this month (it changes every month) is 82 hours. I have 2 hours and 5 minutes to play with. Winter months is conducive to block growth because of deicing, stronger headwinds, slower operations, etc. Plus we get paid what the flight was blocked at or what we actually flew whichever is greater. A case in point, our flight this morning was worth 4:25 but because of weaker tailwinds the flight was 4:35. Already I made 10 minutes in block growth. What happens if I am going to bust the 82 hour max? Crew scheduling will drop my last pairing and I'm back where I started, at lower than desirable hours. It's called the "one minute outbound" rule. If I'm projecting one minute over the projected monthly max, I'm toast. This is where I throw my hands up.

A few years ago when I flew internationally, I could have flown to Tokyo and back which would have topped me up nicely for the month, but I was denied the pairing. Why? Because I was projecting 3 minutes over. I could flown to the other side of the world and back but denied because of a confining contract.

I'm off to YUL (Montreal) early tomorrow morning. They are forecasting snow overnight so Captain Doug will most likely be visiting the deice center and you can rest assure I'll be watching my projected maximum for the month.

It's all fun and games, and yes it's still worth it!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Checklist after Checklist

FIN 264 (A 319) at rotation painted in Air Canada's old livery. Photo taken by "tail spotter" Erik.

A short time before, the CVR (cockpit voice recorder) would have recorded, "the before take off checklist is complete!"

Here's an email I received from a follower regarding checklists in the aviation world.

Hi Doug. I saw an interview with an author who wrote the book "The Checklist Manifesto". It's a checklist system for the health industry - for doctors/surgeons/nurses to follow. The author talked about how they came up with the idea of checklists from the aviation industry, since,as you know, no action is taken in an airplane before a checklist is read. It was just really interesting to me how well the checklist system has worked for the aviation industry, and how the health industry has caught on so slowly. I thought I'd share the clip of the interview with you. 


Welcome to the most regulated and regimented industry I know. If you watch this short clip it claimed Boeing takes distinction for implementing checklists in the aviation world after a B17 Bomber crashed with their top notch pilots on board.

During a pilot's initial training, we learn how to implement checklists. It's second nature. (That's why some pilots don't adapt well with non-aviators and spouses/family because life has no checklist.
They also have to realize CRM isn't just for the flight deck, but I digress).

At Air Canada we have mechanical checklists, there's electronic ones with our new birds, plasticized checklists, memory items, QRH (Quick reference handbook) checklist, ECAM (Airbus talk) checklist, and so on.

It's so en grained with me, I came up with a clever way of depicting my table of contents in my book using our checklists:


1. Before-Start Checklist — The Life of a Pilot

Getting into the Business




Keeping up to Speed

Virtual Weather

2. After-Start Checklist — Getting to Know the Aircraft

Building an Airplane

Paint by Numbers

Taking Wing

Window on the World

Forward Force

Fill ’er Up

Airbus A340 versus Honda Civic

Airplane Tails

A Day in the Life

Just Checking

Ask the Pilot

3. Before-Takeoff Checklist — From the Gate into the Air

Captains on the Ground

Over-the-Top Weather

Plotting a Path

Cracking the Code

The Shipping News

Why All the Rules?

On the Job

View from the Ground

Deiceman Cometh

Moving the Heavy Metal

Sounds Good

56 Seconds Barreling Down the Runway

A Typical Flight

4. After-Takeoff and Cruise Checklists — Flight, Weather, and Turbulence

Why the Bumps?

Sky Snakes

Weather Watch

Wind Beneath the Wings

Under Pressure

A Breath of Air

Rules of the Road

Highways in the Sky

The Sound of Speed

Airplane Heaven

Stormy Weather

Going for a Ride… In a Thunderstorm?

’Tis the Season for Hurricanes

Mixed Measurements

Night Flight

Santa the Aviator

A Bird’s-Eye View 

5. Predescent and In-Range Checklists — Landing at Airports Around the World

Destination Unknown

Foggy Landings

Smooth Landings

Crew Control 

6. After-Landing and Parking Checklists — Layovers, Traveling the World, and Beyond

The Pro’s Guide to Jet Lag

Put Yourself in the Cockpit

Extreme Flying

Have No Fear

Trek to the Taj

Grueling Grouse Grind

The Beginning of Time

A Day of Infamy

Prepare for Blast Off

As this clip infers the medical field  approached the aviation world and realized how well we have been doing things for all these years. Crusty ole doctors will have to learn they are not the only ones in the surgery room and they will have to abide by checklists. Just like pilot war veterans had to change their thinking in the flight deck. It's going to take some getting used to, but it's a smart thing to do. I wonder if they will take it one step further and incorporate devices equivalent to FDRs (Flight Data Recorders) and CVR (cockpit voice recorders) in hospitals. Heck, they record things in a court room. What about check rides for doctors and nurses? Lots to think about.

I know of a couple of Air Canada pilots that have taken this concept on the road and are doing quite well as a company convincing hospitals to convert to checklists. Hospitals around North America are coming on side. But it doesn't have to stop at the medical field. Maybe you readers can see how this concept could apply to your profession?

At Air Canada, and most airlines, all checklists end by stating," 'such and such' checklist complete!"

"The procedures for posting this post checklist is complete."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Stick to the Script

IF I wrote a weather book for Canadian pilots, perhaps calling it Canadian Aviation Weather, I would include anecdotes along the way called "weather words of wisdom." Here's a rather long one.

To build those ever so crucial hours, I got my lucky break by getting hired on by a small cargo/charter company flying twin engine Navajos in the Maritimes. Every morning we would depart on either three routes. One route, with call sign, "Speed Air 401" departed from Halifax at around 6:00 a.m heading north to Moncton, New Brunswick. We would quickly unload bank bags with the engines running and then leap back into the air further north to Chatham. Chatham was a big piece of real estate left over from the military. It had a NDB and a DME. Sometimes it offered a PAR (Precision Radar Approach) but later closed up service when the military officially moved out. If the weather was low, the company procedure was to request special VFR (i.e. license to scud run) and fly north to pick up the railway tracks. After getting sight of the tracks we were to turn right to head northeast into the town/airport of Bathurst - our next stop. Bathurst only had a NDB approach which meant you would never get in with ceilings 300 feet overcast.

When the weather was good, I noticed a new two lane highway being built from Chatham to Bathurst. I decided when I went captain and with the weather low, I would follow the new highway into Bathurst instead of the scud running company procedure of following railroads. I realize many have heard this joke before but I'll tell it anyway. IFR did not stand for Instrument Flight Rules, but "I Follow Railways" or "I Follow Roads." Anyway, you probably know where this is going.

The aviation world bustled so I was promoted to captain relatively fast. As luck would have it, my first week as captain doing the "Speedair 401" run the weather was low.

We get to Chatham and we request special VFR as per our company script. We depart north and I see the new highway. I briefed the F/O we will follow it into Bathurst. The F/O agreed but never mentioned anything more. (He had an inkling in the back of his mind this might not be a good idea)
So there we were (most pilots have a "so there we were" story) scud running at 200 feet AGL at a 160 mph and the F/O yells, "TOWER!" We merely miss a communications tower off to the side of the highway lurking into the cloud base. The tower was strobed meaning it stood tall with guy wires off to all sides. We were close enough to see the wires ready to bring down a Navajo.

Needless to say my heart went from an exciting "roof top flying" patter to it almost going through the chest throb. I never saw that tower when I looked down upon the new highway during VFR conditions. Nor did I see the second one, but the F/O had a gumption there were two. He was right. We land in Bathurst and continue our flights to Bonaventure, Quebec and then to Charlo, New Brunswick to rest for the day. We backtracked the same route that night. Needless to say I could not sleep that day. It was a close one. That happened over 24 years ago. I taught weather for many years and I always ended my last class with this story. Set limits for yourself and stick to the script.

There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Under Pressure

Prior to my present format (question/answer) in enRoute magazine, I would write facts and trivia on a particular aviation topic. I would rattle off about 25 to 30 facts and the editor would make their choice. Here's lots on aircraft pressurization:

Pressure Points:

Percentage of air pressure at 35,000 feet compared to sea level pressure:

Height of ‘cabin altitude’ when at cruising altitude:
6000 to 8000 feet

Equivalent altitude ambiance:
dining in the “Alps”

Height where half of earth’s atmosphere exists:
18, 000 feet

Number of altimeters in flight deck:
three: Captain’s, first officer’s, and stand-by

Rate cabin depressurizes when aircraft descends at 1500 feet/minute:
about 300 feet/minute

When pressurized flight began:
mid 1930’s

First pressurized aircraft:
Boeing Stratoliner

Where air comes from to pressurize aircraft:
air “bled” from engines

Equipment used to condition hot engine air to room temperature:

Number of packs per aircraft:

How air is extracted to outside:
through outflow valves

Typical relative humidity of cabin air:
about 10 percent

Relative humidity at Palm Springs, California:
about 10 percent

Innovation Air Canada’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliner will have:
add moisture to cabin air

Exchange rate of Boeing 767 cabin air:
once very six minutes

Number of passengers who experience some discomfort:
about 1 out of 3

Why some experience slight pain in descent:
ear valves have harder time to depressurize

Some contributing factors:
sinus problems or head colds

Why babies are more susceptible:
Eustachian tubes in inner ear are very narrow

What some passengers do by closing mouth, pinching nose and breath through nostrils:
Valsalva manoeuvre

Another remedy:
chew gum or candy

How pressure is regulated through flight:
automatic pressure controllers

How sensitive are these?
Pilots can see small rate change on gauge when toilet flushed on Airbus

Three pressure units pilots use:
inches of mercury, millibars (hectopascals), p.s.i (pounds per square inch)

What one square inch column of air would weigh at sea level:
14.7 pounds

Standard atmospheric pressure:
29.92 inches of mercury or 1013 millibars

Pressure setting pilots set on altimeter when at cruising height: 29.92

When this is set in North America:
above 18,000 feet

Equivalent unit for millibar:

Why pilot weather charts differ: weather depicted at different pressure levels

I received a recent email about cabin doors during pressurized flight. Can they be opened? The answer, NO! Why? Because of the gargantuan forces. It would be similar to the force required to jump up at the precise moment when a runaway eleveator hits the bottom of the elevator shaft or the force required to jump away from a nosediving airplane with a parachute. Lets do a back-of-an-envelope calculation:

But to answer this question, you would have to have Herculean strength. We all know airliners are pressurized. Many people assume they are pressurized to sea level. Not the case. You are basically sitting in cabin pressure equivalent to pressure found on a mountain 6,000 to 8000 feet high. Here's some math: The pressure differential (outside to inside) is about 7 P.S.I (pounds per square inch). Lets assume the door is about three feet wide by 6.5 feet tall. Around 20 square feet. Each square foot is 144 square inches. So a door would have an area of 144 x 20 = 2880 square inches. 2880 square inches x 7 pounds/square inch equals an amazing 20,160 pounds of force. Most cabin doors are a "plug" type so they push against the fuselage during closure and pressurization.

When I visit the galley and see the flight attendant sitting in their jumpseat next to the door, it makes me ponder a little, but when you think physics it sets the mind at ease.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fun Facts (enRoute 2003)

A340 landing gear. The A340 has the centre bogie, but the A330 does not. During departure out of FRA (Frankfurt) a few years ago the center bogie left the airplane and ended up in a farmer's field. Apparently, the oleo was a little over pressurized. True story.

I toured the Science museum in London, England on a layover about seven years ago, the A340 landing gear (right main) sat conspicuously in the lobby. It made for a great picture and an enRoute article.

Here's some fun facts from October 2003 edition:

Angle that an airplane flies when approaching for landing 3 degrees

Distance of Wright brothers’first flight 120 feet

Length of the wing of an Airbus A340 198 feet

Highest cruising altitude of a Boeing 767-300 43,000 feet

Highest point a thunderstorm can reach 70,000 feet

Number of bathtubs a typical thunderstorm could fill 3,500

Average cabin temperature 23 ˚C

Outside temperature at cruising altitude -57 ˚C

Maximum strength of winds at cruising altitude 450 km/h

Angle that an airplane flies when approaching for landing 3 degrees

Angle for takeoff 12 to 15 degrees

Number of times a small car could circle the world on the fuel required for a Toronto to Tokyo flight 55

Number of days NASA suggests you take to recover from jet lag for each time zone crossed one

Temperature in the combustion chamber of a typical jet engine
700 ˚C

Amount Concorde stretches while in flight
25 cm

First digit of a flight number denoting a European flight 8

Substance, other than air, found in an aircraft tire nitrogen

Altitude at which seat belt signs are generally turned on for landing 10,000 feet

Weight of the Airbus A340 landing gear 17 tonnes

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

What am I thinking?

Here's one question from enRoute's February issue. The question was sent in from "follower" Lukas Kusiak in Montreal. Thanks Lukas.

Please note, that is not me in the photo. Although I am getting greyer, balding, and will probably be wearing glasses when I have my next medical. I talked about seniority on my last post, and it's one of the repercussions of moving up in the pecking order- age.

What Are You Thinking?
Captain Doug Morris answers your questions about aviation.
Monday, February 1st 2010

Q: What does a pilot concentrate on during takeoff? Lukas Kusiak, Montréal

After takeoff clearance, the pilot flying (PF) sets takeoff power and uses rudder pedals to steer the airplane down the centreline. The pilot not flying (PNF) monitors the engine instruments and calls “80” at 80 knots (or “100” on Airbus) to which the PF responds, “Roger.” A pre­determined speed, “V1,” is then announced, denoting decision time. “Everything okay” means, “We are going flying!” The PNF then calls, “Rotate!” to begin flight. On your next takeoff, try to envision the calls “80 (or 100), V1, rotate!”
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