!!!!! 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 12 of 15 posts from March 2010. Show older posts
Showing newest 12 of 15 posts from March 2010. Show older posts

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Calgary Flying

This greasy spoon, Diner Deluxe, made it in enRoute's places to eat.
With a 20 minute walk from the hotel, and up a steady hill on Edmonton trail, it was worth the trek. The place was lined up, but being solo allowed me immediate seating.

Day one consisted of one leg to CYYC (Calgary). As per my procedure, I asked the F/O which leg he wanted. It didn't matter to him so a coin toss confirmed Captain Doug is the PF (Pilot Flying). It had to be one of my smoothest landings on runway 16. We arrive at noon. The F/O is a Calgary local so I cab it downtown. While checking in, the front desk staff is quite inquisitive and knows his aviation lingo. Turns out I flew with his dad on the A340. An hour later I get a note under my door offering complimentary breakfast for the next two days. A case in point, be nice to everybody. Seems like a simple formula, but I've witnessed how some pilots handle fuelers, rampies, agents, flight attendants, hotel staff, etc. and it's not always diplomatic.

Day two, consists of a 12 hour duty day from Calgary to Las Vegas, Vancouver and back to Calgary. Vancouver had lots of heavy showers in the area. Westjet had a high speed reject on runway 08 Right and blew two tires. Luckily things were back to normal when we arrived.

With a three hour pit stop the F/O and I capitalize on a great Airport Asian restaurant and yes they offer airline discounts.

Lots of convective cloud plus Chinook type conditions greeted us on arrival into Calgary with many reporting moderate bumps. We were armed and ready but it turned out to be a non event except on final. ATC vectored us a little too close to the final approach fix so our localizer did not arm in time meaning the glideslope did not capture. Translation, we were high! The F/O did a great job getting, "dirty and down." Our company adopted a new "stable" approach call.
Basically, the aircraft must be configured for landing (gear down with flaps), on profile (at least within one dot of the glideslope, on the localizer, target airspeed and vertical speed and all this must be met at 500 feet or GO AROUND! I called "stable" at 500.

It's off to the hotel solo again. The F/O suggested I try the "Deluxe Diner" for breakfast the next day. I had to waiver my second free breakfast in order to pursue this reconnaissance - not easy for a typical thrifty pilot. It was a place to be seen in Calgary and the omelette was not worth the trek up the hill, but the friendly attractive waitress proved it to be a successful mission. Again proving my point - be nice to everyone.

I'm back home and it's off to 'Micky Mouse land' this afternoon.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

That seven letter "F" word

A340 bunk. I spent many shifts in there. These bunks were directly behind the flight deck which experienced noise from the flight deck: door closing, SELCAL checks, flight deck chimes even the flight attendant's jumpseat would hit the wall as it retracted. I'm told the bunks to the B777 located above the flight deck are almost too quiet.

click on icon

CBC aired a series this week called Dead Tired (pilot fatigue) and it did a great job of scaring the hell out of the flying public. But maybe this is what it will take? Having said that, the show implies all sectors of aviation have dead tired pilots at the helm. I think with the majors it's far less of a problem than the "Air Rinky Dinks" out there. For one thing, not only do we have to contend with CARs (Canadian Aviation Regulations) but we must contend with pilot contracts which are a little more confining.

True pilots at small companies are reluctant to deny flying because of fatigue, but where I work all we have to do is call crew scheduling and use the "f" (fatigue) word. We are then removed from our pairing - no questions asked.

Dead Tired has not only opened a can of worms regarding fatigue but also poverty wages for many pilots and commuting. The Colgan crash certainly brought to the forefront these very issues.

Here's a few of my experiences.

Years ago I worked for one of those "Air Rinky Dink" airlines trying to build time. In fact, I was still forecasting weather, but flying on the side for a cargo company. I finished a night shift at the weather centre and no sooner did I get home, but the phone rang. "Air Rinky Dink" needed a Navajo first officer to fly to St. John's, Newfoundland via Stephenville and Deer Lake. I tried explaining to them I had just finished an 8 hour graveyard shift. The captain said they were desperately short and suggested I could sleep on the bank bags. And that's what I did. Once at cruising altitude I crawled back onto the tarp and slept. That is, until the captain had to go back and pee in a bottle.

With that same company, we would fly all morning and rest in the back room of a FSS (flight service station) in sleeping bags all day and fly the same route back at night. But like it said in the show, if I or others were reluctant to do this and work for poverty wages, there's 20 others that would.

Many assume aircrew can easily get 8 hours of prone rest while on the road. Well I've been to hotels where there are kid hockey teams running down the hallway, drunks knocking at my door (no they were not aircrew), jack hammers riveting through the building, people snoring incredibly loud in the room next door and several cases of couples copulating throughout the night. I've had jet lag insomnia causing me to be wide awake throughout the night but what does one do?

(One such insomnia case is in my book. September 10th, 2001 I could not sleep. I turned on the T.V in my Frankfurt hotel and watched a documentary on CNN. It talked about Bin Laden and his team were up to something. Well we all know what happened the following day.)

Here is an extreme case what one pilot did. The flight was delayed and it is customary for the hotel staff to slide a memo under the aircrew's door to notify of the new departure time. The Captain heard the note being slid under the door and delayed the flight a further eight hours to get his prone rest.

Another captain's attempt for rest: One crusty eccentric A340 captain I flew with demanded the flight attendants place blankets on the galley floor in order to cushion the sound of footsteps.
Plus he wanted J class (business) serviced delayed until he finished his rest. Also he wanted the flight attendants to wear soft sole shoes or remove them entirely. You can imagine how popular this captain was.

I realize my union is fighting for change in certain aspects of crew rest and that change is needed. Flying to YYT (St. John's, Newfoundland) through the night and back to Toronto may meet our 13 hour restriction, but no where does it factor in landing and taking off in the most weather plagued airport in the system.

Like the show stated, what other profession would spend $50, 000 to $65,000 on getting their qualifications only to get a job making minimum wage i.e. less than a Taco Bell employee?

This industry is unique in so many ways but don't think other industries are exempt from fatigue.

Captain Doug

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Checked out on Grand Cayman

"Welcome to the Cayman Islands"
Glad to see some airports still have observation decks. Most have put a kibosh in airplane watching.
(Sorry for the poor quality - it's a reflection off my window)

The month of March is another low block month (I was projecting 74 flight hours) so Captain Doug went on 'make up' to top up his hours. Crew sked called an offered me a juicy Grand Caman turn worth 8 hours which would project me to 82 hours. Sweet.

Two questions I asked. When do I show for work and who am I flying with? I didn't recognize the F/O's name for being on my "no fly" list. After 2 1/2 years of flying left seat, you realize 99 percent of the pilots are great to be with. The others are "rather nots." (An aviation fact of life) Besides, it was shaping up to be a great day, why not enjoy it?

The F/O is senior and does many one day pairings, meaning he's been there before. I, a Grand Cayman virgin, elected him to fly us down. Everything looks good for a sked departure, but the in-charge mentions there was a flight attendant change so our "General Declaration" documents had to be altered. Can she change the name herself? In the back of mind, I'm thinking we are heading to an ex-British Colony so we better check with STOC (Systems Operations Control). Sure enough, we can NOT do this, we need new docs. I go into my rant with my F/O about British meaning bureaucracy (sorry Ian) and recount stories of my visits to India where it takes 10 people to do one person's job. We push ten late.

We arrive only ten minutes late. Not bad because the flight plan had us over sked by 10 minutes. There's billions of dollars in the banks of Grand Camen but the airport is text book Caribbean. No ILS or radar identification, but so what, it's VFR 98 percent of the time.

During the taxi out, we get a datalink for me. I was suppose to fly to Orlando and back (today) but they subbed the flight to a B767. Translation...I'm told I have the day off with pay. Sweet.

Not only did I get checked out on a new airport we also switched employee parking lots. We now take the "people mover" from the garage to terminal one. Translation 15 to 25 minutes extra on my commute. But hey, it's a new parking lot and now we get to socialize a little more. But I can hear rumbling in the distance because they are only operating with one train. Plus they haven't fixed the "continuous light chop" experienced on its ride. Luckily, it's not a Disney attraction ride because it might intimidate a few.

So here I sit on a paid day off. Don't think this fairy tale story always happens in the airlines. I must savour it and go the gym.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Aviation Geek Podcast is out!

Click on photo for link to podcast
Episode 90 – From the Flight Deck with Doug

Airplane Geeks - Episode 90 - From the Flight Deck with Doug {82:27m}

Doug Morris, an A320 captain for Air Canada, joins as this week’s guest to talk aviation. Doug is also a certified meteorologist and he writes aviation and weather articles for enRoute magazine other publications. He also blogs at From the Flight Deck and is author of the book From the Flight Deck: Plane Talk and Sky Science.

Transport Canada shakes up aviation safety

Glass cockpits: fewer accidents, more fatal

Airline-Fee Disclosure May Be Added to Senate Bill

Virgin America passenger recounts hours spent on tarmac

Passengers Tweet, Facebook Nightmare 16-Hour Trip From LA To NYC

Virgin America’s Long Ground Delay Was Handled Well, Despite What You May Read

Sun Country Announces New Summer Service To London

Russian Company Set to Send in Bid for Air Force Tanker Program

EADS considers re-entering KC-X bidding as prime contractor

David Vanderhoof has his This Week in Aviation segment, and we have the Airplane Geeks Australia Desk report, still without Steve Visscher who remains under the weather. But Grant McHerron comes through, with a little help from a suprise contributor to the Report.
Follow the @AirplaneGeeks on Twitter, send us email at [email protected], or leave a message on our listener line: (361) GEEKS01

THANKS MAX FLIGHT for the opportunity!


Captain Doug

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Max Flight Podcast Sunday (8:00 p.m Eastern)

A319 (Eriks's photo)
Calling all Aviation geeks! I've been asked to appear on a podcast Sunday March 21st at 8:00 (20:00) Eastern or (2400 Zulu)

Don't know what time it is in Zulu? (Greenwich) (UTC)
Click on this photo when I visited "where time begins."

Host Max Flight has an aviation directory http://www.ThirtyThousandFeet.com/ where he graciously included my blog site among the many aviation blogs. Actually, there are so many aviation blogs, Max Flight had room for me in a more personal section:


The address to the podcast is http://www.airplanegeeks.com/

There will be me, Max Flight and possibly two others talking none other than aviation.
So if you have time Sunday night (tomorrow), join the gang on Skype. We will be talking about my book, weather and hopefully aviation north of the 49th parallel. F.Y.I there is only audio, no visual. It should be fun!

****CORRECTION**** You will not be able to log in and listen. The show is taped and will be available sometime on Tuesday.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mountain Meteorology- Metman Morris

Captain Doug near the top of Blackcomb (Whistler, B.C)

Mountain Meteorology

There's synoptic meteorology and then there's localized meteorology. Weathermen and pilots are always analysing weather - well at least I do. I'm back home from three days of skiing, but here's some meteorological facts to ponder.

From another post, I already alluded to lapse rates - the rate at which temperature changes with height. There's the dry 3C/1000 feet, wet (moist) 1.5C/1000 feet and the normal lapse rate 1.98 C/1000 feet. Of course we pilots round it off to 2C/1000 feet. Anyone know what the term is when temperature increases with height? (Answer: inversion). Anyone know how many types of inversions there are: (Three: nocturnal, frontal and subsidence).

By knowing the temperature and dew point one could figure out the cloud base assuming a dry lapse rate and then switch to 'wet' at the clous base to figure out the freezing level. They ask this stuff of the commercial pilot exams. The second day of skiing saw moderate rain at the base of the hill turning quickly to snow by the second chairlift. By the third chairlift one was into blizzard like conditions. Another meteorological trend - winds increase with height.

As well, visibility can go from unlimited (15 statute miles is considered unlimited due to the curvature of the earth but you'll see places like Calgary, Alberta report 40 sm because they can the Rockies) to near zero visibility in fog (cloud forming along the hill). The big term for this is "orogrpahic lift." Prior to the revolution in weather reporting i.e. pre-METAR, zero visibility was reported as WO X OF. (indefinite ceiling at zero feet, obscured with zero visibility). Now I think it translates into O Sm VV OO (Zero statute miles and vertical visibility zero hundred feet). You may hear the term WO X OF from the senior pilots.

On a side note, I skied during the Paralympics and one event was downhill racing for the blind or partially blind. So when I skied into poor visibility I thought about these skiers. They follow a "lead" skier and communicate through headsets. Can you imagine going full tilt down a hill skiing IFR?

So I mentioned about temperature, rain/snow boundary, freezing levels, visibility and now pressure.

The highest point on these twin mountains is 7349 feet A.S.L. The typical cabin pressure of an airliner is 6000 to 8000 feet above sea level. One could feel the effect of pressure. A little weaker, light headed and sometimes headaches. Can you imagine what happens when you add a bit of alcohol? This happens daily on flights. I liken passenger flying to "wining and dining in the Swiss Alps."

The peak's height is below the 700 mb chart which represents conditions at 10,000 feet but is higher than the 850 mb chart at 5000 feet. The CN Tower is 1815 feet. Whistler/Blackcomb has 5133 feet of vertical (from the top to the base). Three CN Towers!

Why am I comparing the two? Well to give some appreciation of pressure differential, a well developed low pressure system is abut 980 millibars. A solid high pressure system would have a reading of say, 1040 mbs (millibars). The difference between the two is 60 mbs, enough to cause gale force winds and lots of weather. One millibar roughly translates into 30 feet in altitude. So the height of the CN tower translates into 60 mb. Thus the difference from the base of the tower to its top is enough to drive most storms. Food for thought.

Hear ends my meteorological lesson.

On a humorous note. Here's one comic from Farside regarding mountain flying. Let's hope everyone has a GPWS (Ground Proximity Warning System) on board.

Say what's a mountain goat doing up here?

Say...what's a mountain goat doing way up here in a cloud bank?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stranger in a Strange Airport

Kansai (Osaka) Airport

Strange Airports

There are the busiest airports rated either by passengers carried or number of movements (take off and landings). Then there's the largest airports according to acreage, smallest and the most challenging. Here's a great site sent in by Jack M, the "Strangest Airports."


I've been to a few of them and I was surprised to KIX (Kansai, Osaka, Japan) turned up first. I flew there at least 20 times. It's an engineering marvel. The terminal, propped up on hydraulic jacks, is adjusted now and again due to subsidence.

One other unique airport I've flown to as a passenger was Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia. Known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" it is home to numerous shipwrecks, aircraft and an oil rig. The island, about 22 miles long with it's widest point 3/4 mile, is a shifting sand bar. A Twin Islander lands on one of it's beaches. Home to wild horses from past shipwrecks it comes with many unique stories. I worked on the island for a month one university summer. It observes weather and is a launch site for upper air balloons under the identifier WSA and the airport (the island) is YSA.

Again Jack, thanks for sending along the site.

Captain Doug in Whistler, B.C.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Lots of ups and downs

Whistler Village

Lots of Ups and Downs

No, this is not about my career, or any pilot's for that matter. Nor is it about multiple legs (flights) or touch and goes. It's about gondolas, quad chair lifts and some T-bar lifts. Just finished my first day of skiing at Whistler after years of absence on the hills.

Ten to fifteen cm of new snow glistened the hill on top of a 3 meter base. It was worth the arduous task of getting on a flight from Toronto to Vancouver. The family and I didn't make it on the first full B777. We managed to sneak on the second B777, the first time for me on this bird. (Ian, those mighty engines during start-up certainly rattle the cabin). I was impressed with the overhead baggage bins. They look like they can store large trunks. Perfect for contingency passengers who prefer not to check bags.

During the ascent on the multiple chair lifts it made me think about adiabatic lapse rates, it rained in the village but quickly turned to snow as temperatures typically drop 2c/1000 feet.
I also experienced the LCL (Lifting condensation level) where the base of a cloud forms. But the LWC (Liquid Water Content) was not enough to produce rime ice in the cloud. I guess thinking like a weatherman/pilot never stops.

I survived the first day. The hill is very quiet even though the Paralympics are in full tilt. To ski directly into a chair lift is unheard of, but I'll take the near pristine conditions and no line ups.

Tomorrow's forecast is moving in 10 to 15 mm of rain at the base, but will add to the near record snowfall on the hill.

Captain Doug in Whistler

Thursday, March 11, 2010

More parked airplanes

While sitting on the button of runway 28 in Calgary, Alberta yesterday waiting for take off clearance, I looked over and saw the cluster of parked Bae 146s and Fokker 28s. They have been sitting there for years. Thought I'd mention these since my last post talked about airplanes with their wings clipped. I remember one captain saying a few years ago when we visited an aviation museum in London, England, "you know you are getting old when you see the airplane you flew in a museum." I flew the Bae 146 and that's probably where these ones will end up. Either in a museum or under the demise of a welding torch.

Airplane Heaven - Aircraft Graveyards

The saying "Flown West" for a pilot means they passed on. Looks like this B747-400 knew it's fate as well.

Since I've been with Air Canada (15 years) I've seen the B747-200 (Classic) and B747-400 (the Queen) retire. Other ones which flew their last flight are: The DC-9, B737 (Canadian's contribution), B767-100 series, the Airbus 340-300 and the Airbus 340-500. The RJ Challenger went to the connectors.
Calgary ramp attendant Kelly Paterson sent some great shots of the 747 before it went south as a "snow bird."

Here's an excerpt from my book:

So what does one do with outdated planes? Unlike cars, where they are thrown on a scrap heap, retired planes are treated with a more humane approach. Just a couple of years ago, the family and I flew to Arizona. In Arizona we wanted to visit one of the largest graveyards for airplanes. I guess they thought a family of five weren’t serious buyers of a old B747 so we were denied entry.

Airplane Heaven

Glinting under the hot sun in the Arizona desert is FIN 714, an Air Canada DC-9 known simply by its Flight Identification Number. After 33 years of service, it now sits parked in a compound just off Interstate 10, northwest of Tucson, among hundreds of other retired DC-9s, jumbo jets and other types of aircraft.

The Evergreen Air Center is the largest commercial aircraft storage base in the world, capable of holding up to 300 aircraft. Air Canada has several of its DC-9s and Boeing B747s at this peaceful facility, where they rest alongside aircraft like L-1011s and DC-8s. Unlike Canada, with its harsh climate, Arizona and other locations in the south western United States are ideal for storing aircraft outdoors, thanks to the consistently warm, sunny weather and dry, light winds.

The airplanes put into long-term storage here aren’t just left to bake in the sun among the rattlesnakes and tumbleweed. First, they are embalmed. Qualified aircraft maintenance personnel empty fuel from the tanks, remove oil from the engines and drain hydraulic fluid that once operated the landing gear and control surfaces. Instrument probes are also plugged and expensive instruments are covered or removed. All the while, the records for each aircraft are carefully filed and stored.

Airplanes are “put out to pasture” for various reasons. Sometimes, an economic downturn means less air traffic, so airlines will put some airplanes into temporary storage until the economy picks up. Old aircraft still in perfectly good shape may also be retired to make way for newer airplanes that are larger, faster and more fuel-efficient. The Airbus A340, for example, is not only less noisy and more comfortable for passengers than the Boeing B747 it replaced, but it is also 60 percent less expensive to operate.

Many airplanes that end up at the Evergreen Air Center will never leave. Some will be stripped of their precious parts, which will help keep other airplanes flying. Others will be dormant for years and then eventually fall victim to the welder’s torch. But the lucky ones will be sold to other airlines. In fact, many of Air Canada’s well-maintained aircraft return to service, operating for other carriers all over the globe. Airplanes expected to reside at the storage facility for only a short stint undergo regular engine starts and various electrical and system checks. That way, prospective buyers can have an airplane up and running in days. Some other lucky planes are preserved forever by playing key roles in film and on television shows. For ABC’s hit drama Lost, a retired airplane was pulled apart and set down on a Hawaiian beach to stand in as the ill-fated Oceanic Flight 815 aircraft.

Today Air Canada’s FIN 714 sits in limbo, awaiting its fate. During its tour of duty, it performed 67,657 landings and amassed an incredible 75,826 flight hours. A pilot who is also retiring with more than 30 years of service might accumulate a mere 20,000 flight hours. Still, there is always a possibility that FIN 714 will fly again one day and that its new owner will be just as proud as its original owner was more than three decades ago, when the shiny, new DC-9 first took to the air.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Big Brother is Watching

Big Brother is watching and listening....

It takes about 65 departments to get an airliner airborne, but there's a ton of other organizations working and lurking behind the scenes. To borrow a phrase and concept from George Orwell's book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, "big brother is watching," there proves to be many 'behind the scene' organizations ensuring a safe airport environment. One such inconspicuous group located at Toronto's Lester Pearson is "Airport Watch." This group goes beyond the "tail spotting" groups. You'll see them wearing, "issued photo ID cards which is to be carried with them while at YYZ." The members have also received 'Airport Watch'caps and jackets which helps identify them to authorities. Many will also be sporting a camera and probably a scanner.

Follower Ryan C explains:

YYZ Airport Watch is an organization that works in cooperation with the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, Peel Regional Police and the RCMP. We have all had detailed criminal background checks and are registered with photo ID cards as proof of membership. Basically, we are a group (about 130 active members) of aviation enthusiasts who have taken on some extra responsibility around the airport, and in return we get some additional access, organized tours and events, and less trouble when spotting and photographing. Members are expected to record and report anything dangerous, suspicious or problematic as we travel the perimeter. This includes things like reporting FOD or wildlife in dangerous areas, questionable behaviour by people in the vicinity of the airport, etc... We have built an excellent relationship with the GTAA, and in fact we had a member recognized with an award from the GTAA after he reported people feeding geese directly in line with the approach for a runway. Anyway, rather than trying to explain it in an email, feel free to have a look at our website. There is much more detail there (www.airportwatchcanada.com). There are also several other chapters in Canada, and a few in other countries as well.

Below are a few pictures of departments and events Ryan and his group have visited and photographed. Maybe this group is for you or maybe you'd like to set up a similar group at your airport.

I'm glad to hear Ryan and his group, Airport Watch, are part of a network keeping an eye and listening watch on things at CYYZ.

Captain Doug

Monday, March 8, 2010

Why I like TCAS

Follower Doug R. sent me this modified picture from my last post. This picture was pre-TCAS days. The Navajo probably doesn't have it today although I assume (hope) they have MODE C. MODE C (or MODE S) allows my TCAS to interrogate the 'other' transponder to get an accurate altitude.

I've flown into the top ten busiest airports (movements) in the world with 9 out 10 airports located in the U.S. See the table. Note the three New York airports (EWR, LGA, JFK) don't make the cut, but the airspace is littered with airplanes criss-crossing the skies.

I don't know how we safely flew without the system. A true marvel and one of the top aviation innovations as far as I'm concerned.


Rank Airport Location Code
1. United States Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Atlanta, Georgia, United States ATL/KATL 978,824 1.6%
2. United States O'Hare International Airport Chicago, Illinois, United States ORD/KORD 881,566 4.9%
3. United States Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, United States DFW/KDFW 656,310 4.3%
4. United States Los Angeles International Airport Los Angeles, California, United States LAX/KLAX 622,506 8.6%
5. United States Denver International Airport Denver, Colorado, United States DEN/KDEN 619,503 0.9%
6. United States McCarran International Airport Las Vegas, Nevada, United States LAS/KLAS 578,949 5.0%
7. United States George Bush Intercontinental Airport Houston, Texas, United States IAH/KIAH 576,062 4.6%
8. France Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport Seine-et-Marne/Seine-Saint-Denis/Val-d'Oise, Île-de-France,France CDG/LFPG 559,816 1.3%
9. United States Charlotte/Douglas International Airport Charlotte, North Carolina, United States CLT/KCLT 536,253 1 2.6%
10. United States Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Phoenix, Arizona, United States PHX/KPHX 502,499 1 6.8%

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