!!!!! 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.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lights, Camera, Action! ..................... Captain Doug's "pilot"

Click here to view the "pilot"

Television reality shows exist about making cakes, building motorcycles, crazy stunts, police chases, etc. so why wouldn't a series of aviation documentaries take off? (pun intended)

Over a year ago, Caissie Images approached me about making a series of aviation documentaries. For this "pilot" we spent several hours in the simulator and also in an Air Canada hangar getting shots on changing a tire. Besides the producer Dan Caissie, there were two cameramen, a writer, an assistant and of course me and an Air Canada first officer, Randon Mark who not only played my F/O but ran the simulator. Heck we even had a director from CBC's Dragon's Den sign up initially. Now there's an idea, pitch my idea in front of the Dragons.

The producer and I met with Air Canada management and enRoute magazine reps this winter in Montreal. I'm certain the travelling public would appreciate watching a series of aviation documentaries while being whisked to their destination. Air Canada thought so as well. One glitch, who is going to pay for production? And that unfortunately is where we are at, stuck in a rut with no funds.

Dan Caissie graciously allowed me to post this pilot. The documentaries do not have to be confined to inflight entertainment. They could easily stand alone as a television documentary. Maybe someone out there can offer suggestions or point us in the right direction? And I'll beat people to it...acting lessons and some more hair....could help. :)

I did not partake in the video editing. There are places needing polishing. (Especially my "tickety boo comments) :)

Below is just a short list of aviation documentary ideas I concocted.

When you think about it, the list can be much longer as far as topics.

Documentary Ideas

Visit to the CDF (Central Deice Facility) YYZ: It’s the worlds largest utilizing 30 deice trucks each costing one million dollars. What exactly do they spray airplanes with and why?

Visit to Air Canada’s flight planning area: The lights are on 24-7 pumping out 650 to 700 flight plans daily. Air Canada’s entire operation is dependant on this YYZ off airport premises. There are 16 desks manned by certified flight dispatchers. They not only plan the routing, check the weather and notices to airman, but also follow the flight. It’s the law!

Airplane tires: Why are they filled with nitrogen? Who makes them and what do they cost? How long does it take to change an airplane tire? What else is found on the landing gear? (brakes, anti-skid). How does the pilot steer the airplane. How much pressure is required to lift the weight of a jumbo jet’s landing gear?

Thunderstorms: Pilots avoid them like the plaque. What sort of nastiness is associated with them? There are thousands of them each day booming around the world. How high to they get, why do they form and what does a “red alert” at the airport mean?

Exploring the inside an airplane: What does an avionics bay look like? How about the cargo hold? What’s it like inside the tail of a jumbo jet? How high do I have to go to change a light bulb on the tail of a Boeing 777, Air Canada’s largest airplane?

Fuel: How much does a jumbo need for a flight to HKG? Where is it stored? How many times can I send my Honda Civic around the equator with the fuel needed for a long haul flight?

The walk around: Where are the outflow valves for pressurization? What do those antennas do? How often are they done and what is the pilot looking for? Where are the toilets serviced? What about potable water?

How do pilots find the airport in fog? How does the ILS (Instrument Landing System) work? How low can a pilot go? Where do we practice these low visibility approaches? Can all pilots land in zero visibility?

Sinning in the Simulator: Just what exactly goes on in there? What can they replicate and what can’t they do? How much do they cost? Let’s go for a ride.

How do I become a pilot? The ins and outs of each approach (flight schools, colleges, and military). How much do I make and how long will it take to be commander of a jumbo jet? What’s the outlook? How much will it cost? When do I start?

How many departments does it take to get an airliner airborne? (About 65). Lightly touch on some of the behind the scene teams.

Moving the heavy metal: Toronto Pearson’s control tower is the busiest in Canada. See how these controllers move airplanes equating to billions of dollars an hour.

What time is it? Pilots, weathermen, air traffic controllers converse in UTC time. Once known as Greenwich Mean Time, why is it called “zulu” time and why does UTC stand for Universal Coordinated Time?

Runways: How long and wide are they? What are they made of? What do the blue, white, green and red lights mean? What’s with all the markings?

Paint by numbers: How does one paint an airplane? How much does paint weigh? How often are they painted?

Space Weather. Flying over the top (North Pole) is an everyday occurrence. What are some of the space weather parameters a pilot looks at (cosmic radiation, radio reception, and geomagnetic activity). Does it get too cold to fly over the top? What happens if an airplane has to land in Siberia?

Why the Bumps: Explanation of the six different types of turbulence. What pilots look for on weather charts?

Under pressure. How is an aircraft pressurized? Is the cargo hold pressurized and just how dry is the air?

An overview of some of the aircraft systems. Electrical, hydraulic, pressurization, water, lavatory, navigation

Highways in the sky: What air traffic controllers see on their screens? How tough is it? Who trains them? Is it really that stressful?

What’s found at an airport? Fire department, snowplough operator, navigation department, weather office, customs, medical, chapel, restaurants, heating plant, washrooms, customer service, security, info screens, baggage claim, taxis

Saturday, June 26, 2010

School's out! ...and mentoring

Photos by Erik in FRA
These photos are found on a charter airline: Thomas Cook

Well I know teachers are rejoicing as school comes to an end for yet another year. One grade six teacher from west of Toronto sent me several questions compiled during their "theory of flight" classes. Two of these questions will be published in enRoute's September edition! My hats off to the teacher for going out of her way to send them to enRoute.

Another grade six teacher from YOW (Ottawa) asked whether I could visit her class on an Ottawa layover this winter. It turned out my hotel and where she taught was too far away. She is an avid aviation fan and instigated a discussion this winter on my blog about who's theory of flight is right... Bernoulli, Newton or the Kutta-Joukowski theorem?
Because of her persistence, contributions to my blog, (she even bought my book) maybe Captain Doug will be showing up in uniform next year. :)

Funny, my son who is twelve and also in grade six learned the theory of flight this year but midway through school he had a teacher return from maternity leave. Because of this transition Captain Doug did not have the opportunity to give a talk. I still feel bad about not pushing the issue.

I feel it is imperative kids should get to hear about the wonderful world of aviation. 9/11 has done more than just close the flight deck door forever. It stopped visitation. It's stopped dreams from happening. It stopped encouragement. I can't take my 12 year old son in the flight deck and show him what his dad does. Heck, I can't even take my wife in the jumpseat who I've known for 30 years, but a brand new flight attendant has full privileges. I better stop while I'm ahead.

I just finished a three day pairing and my F/O mentioned how he got wooed into this business. His mother, an Air Canada flight attendant, would take him on several layovers. One such memorable layover included a ride in the flight deck in an L1011 from Montreal to Los Angeles. He sat there from start to finish...both ways! This confirmed what this twelve year old wanted to do for a living.

I too was wooed by the flight deck. During an Air Canada strike many years ago when I was a weatherman, I had to make other arrangements to get from Toronto to Halifax. I received the last seat on Canadian's B737. While settling in my seat the flight attendant informed me they "duplicated " my seat i.e. I had to deplane. Quick thinking Metman Morris asked if he could have the jumpseat as he had his commercial pilot license. The flight attendant returned after showing the captain my license....I was invited to the flight deck. I'll never forget landing in Halifax with visibility down in snow showers while watching the captain fly a flawless backcourse approach. Weeks later Metman Morris pulled the plug as a weatherman and chased his dream to become Captain Morris. A true story.

Flight Questions:

Here are some of the questions the students from class 6C came up with:

How are planes powered to fly?

Planes use turbine jet engines to power the airplane. As you learned, there are four forces of flight: lift, weight, thrust and drag. The jet engines provide the thrust. At Air Canada, we have the world’s most powerful commercial jet engine found on our largest airplane, the Boeing 777. One can fit an official sized basketball hoop inside the engine intake or even a hummer! Jet engines also provide the electricity, hydraulic power to move the flight controls and landing gear, pressurization and air conditioning. Did you know Air Canada has only two engine jets in its entire fleet?

-How long does it take to build a plane?

Congratulations on this one. This question will be printed in enRoute’s September edition.

I’m not supposed to show anyone, but here’s the answer. J

Boeing’s production rate for the Boeing 777, the largest aircraft in Air Canada’s fleet, is about five to seven aircraft per month. REMAINDER REMOVED JUST IN CASE....

-Is it hard to control a plane? Is it harder than driving a car?

Flying big jets is quite easy. You turn left and the airplanes banks to the left. When you pull back on the control column the airplane climbs. I’m certain you would agree basic flight is easy.

So it’s easy as driving a car. We airline pilots joke, the most dangerous thing about flying is the drive to the airport. J But we pilots must deal with all kinds of weather and runway conditions and that is where experience helps.

-How does wingspan affect flight?

Congratulations again! And again, I’m not suppose to show the answer but…J

Lift is directly proportional to wing area, double the area, double the lift.


-What are the hardest things about being a pilot? The best thing?

For me the hardest thing about being a pilot is the constant training. We are in the simulator every six to eight months which consists of one day of practicing emergencies and malfunctions followed by a day of testing. The best thing about being a pilot is going to work. When you love your job, you will never work a day in your life.

-What is the hardest thing to do during a flight?

People ask me that a lot by asking which is more dangerous, the take off or the landing.

For the take off, mechanical issues are a bigger concern but for landing weather is more of an issue. After that, it’s easy.

-Which plane structures are best?

The basic plane structure has not changed much over the years. Some airplanes have the wing over the top of the fuselage but most airliners have the wing attached through the belly of the airplane. Did you know all the fuel is stored in the wing?

-What part of a plane uses the most energy?

The jet engines provide the most energy, but also uses the most. As far as flight controls, the elevator, rudder, landing gear require lots of energy. So much so, they must be powered by powerful hydraulic pumps. A pilot could barely move them by themselves. Did you know the landing gear of one airplane I flew, the jumbo Airbus 340, weighed 17,000 kg?

Here's a bonus that a lot of them had, but were too afraid to put on the official list-how do the toilets on a plane work?

Airplane toilets work on differences in air pressure, i.e they work on suction. Sometimes the toilet pumps on the airplane do not work on the ground but when we get higher in altitude the difference in pressure is great enough to cause suction. For the airplane I fly, this happens at 16,000 feet. Waste from the toilets are stored in big tanks and are emptied after the flight.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Guilty as charged

Today was the day of reckoning for my FIRST ever traffic violation. I decided to challenge it in court because I'm told there is fifty-fifty chance the police officer will not show and the case will be dismissed. Well he showed up and I knew Captain Doug was going down...but not before a fight.

I check in only to be approached by the prosecutor to negotiate a lessor fine. She would lesson the demerit points from three to two and the fine from $110 to $85. I've haggled around the world, and I thought my negotiating skills could do better. So no dice, I want to contest things.

Then I'm taken in the waiting room by the police officer and he explains why I'm here. How do I want to plea? I said not guilty. He just shook his head in disgust.

I return to hear every one's plea. (There's about 10 others looking do get off). They all try to get a lessor fine because of student loans, no job, poor paying job, etc. I'm thinking I hope the judge doesn't ask what I do. If he does, I'm going down.I waited for others to state their case. Everyone went with "guilty."

But before I get to make my say the judge takes a recess. Captain Doug is the only one in the court room. I'm thinking conspiracy.

The judge returns and asks my plea, "guilty or not guilty?" I say, "not guilty under the conditions at the time." He immediately said it has to be "guilty" or "not guilty," nothing in between. Funny, I don't remember life being like that, "on or off," binary..."zero or one," "yes or no." But this was not the time to get philosophical.

I am told there will be a court hearing starting now. Try to envision there is a well groomed judge, a court steno, a prosecutor, the police officer making time and a half, plus another bullet proof vest ladened police officer also making time and a half protecting the court, and Captain Doug in shorts.

I thought I was in a play in high school. I'm on the stand swearing under oath. Please keep in mind this is not for first degree murder, but doing a "neighbourhood stop." Another interesting side note, one has the option of not swearing under oath using the bible. I chose to avoid the bible. I figure there's no place for religion in the flight deck so why should it be there for a "rolling stop" conviction.

The police officer makes his case on the stand. I make mine with pictures. Gee, this is just like the movies, as the pictures are recorded as exhibit 1 and exhibit 1A.

The prosecutor cross examines the police officer and then me. I get to ask the police officer questions. He said I made the turn gong 20-25 km/hr. I asked him, wouldn't I be on two wheels going that fast at a ninety degree turn? That didn't go down too well.

Then the judge regurgitates the entire proceedings. He referenced a case in Quebec whereby a driver failed to come to a complete stop while sliding in icy conditions. The driver was guilty. I had a flash back of me taxing in Toronto this winter and slid onto a runway because of ice. Luckily the runway was not active. But does the same ruling apply? My defense...elevated manhole covers existed everywhere and I was driving appropriately according to the conditions.

The police officer mentioned I was driving a black BMW. As soon as he said that, I knew Captain Doug will be thrown in the slammer. Please remember the entire case took 25 minutes with five well paid people present.

Final verdict: Three demerit points (the judge said he couldn't change that) but the fine was reduced from $110 to $50 because of my 33 year impeccable driving record.

Years ago, I would have paid the fine without contesting things. Maybe it's a captain thing or maybe I truly believe I was in the right?

Last week I received my first parking ticket. Yes, believe it or not. While doing work on my driveway I was committed to park on the road overnight. Well my town has a three hour limit unknown to me. A $35 ticket was found on my car in the morning. I march down to city hall a few days later and protest it. Again they are not capable of cancelling it, but I did get it reduced to $16.

Anyone want to buy a black BMW? It ain't worth it. :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

ATC Happenings (Blog)

This drawing is from ATC Happenings' blog. Although the site is lacking pictures, (I'm sure that will change) this one certainly makes up for the void. :)
Click here for direct link to blog

I'm presently on a YVR (Vancouver) layover and thought I'd post something for father's day. I hope none of the father's out there will take offence to the pic I chose. :) :) :)

I had a recent request from a new start up blogger to give some exposure to his brand new blog.
He is an air traffic controller at a major Canadian centre and wished to remain anonymous as far as name and the exact centre. But one can quickly put two and two together from his writing. Especially when he talks about a major centre dealing with float planes. Did I tell you I was on a Vancouver layover? :)

Capt Doug Morris,

I'm an Air Traffic Controller in Canada and I really enjoy reading your blog. I started off as a flight instructor and after a few years of that I got into ATC, about 15 years ago. It's a career I really enjoy and dealing with professional pilots is great.

I've recently started a blog myself mostly about work as an ATC and if you have time I'd appreciate if you get a chance to take a look. Any suggestions or comments would be appreciated. If you like what you read and you add my blog as one of your links that would be VERY much appreciated.

Thanks for all the great stories. I look forward to more.

His posts are great and very informative. I noticed he has only two followers, so make his day and sign up. It's always good to have ATC on a pilot's side.

So without further ado, please visit his site.

I also moved the ATC link to the right of this posting where you can listen to the "shop talk."

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 fromtheflightdeckbook.com

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.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Captain Doug's Journey

Click on photo to watch Captain Doug's journey
...and make sure you turn up the volume, I think it's a great song

Here's my first attempt at Windows Movie Maker. First I had to download the program and then figure things out. The Airbus is still more complicated although it took several hours to compile.

Here's the youtube link as well: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCRx1s73O6Q

Sunday, June 6, 2010

More enRoute Q and As

Photos Brian Losito (Air Canada)
Q: When a new aircraft is acquired, does it come with a warranty period similar to that of a new car? Jack Minacs, Markham, Ontario

An airplane’s “nose-to-tail” warranty is similar to a bumper-to-bumper car warranty in that most components are covered for a specified period, depending on the terms of the negotiated contract. Components such as engines, tires and brakes, which are all leased at Air Canada, come with their own warranties. But warranty or not, strict maintenance schedules based on hours flown and / or number of takeoffs and landings keep our aircraft in tip-top shape.

Q: Why do our ears get plugged upon descent, even though the cabin is pressurized? Christian-Marc Panneton, Québec

An aircraft’s cabin is pressurized to an equivalent of 6,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level at cruising altitude. As we descend, the cabin must depressurize – typically at 150 to 400 feet per minute compared to the aircraft’s descent rate of 1,500 to 2,000 feet per minute. For some passengers, the discomfort arises when the Eustachian tube, which equalizes the air pressure, is blocked. And if these tubes are tiny, as with babies, you’ll hear about it!

Q: What are all those dings heard when flying? Andrew Axson, Guelph, Ontario

The most frequent ding you’ll hear is the seat belt sign coming on or off. On Airbus aircraft, you’ll also hear a ding when the landing gear tucks into the belly. Other dings are heard when flight attendants at different stations use the interphone to communicate with each other, when the flight deck calls a flight attendant and when passengers press the assist button. And you may even hear cooking timers dinging in the galley.

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