!!!!! 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 15 of 20 posts from August 2010. Show older posts
Showing newest 15 of 20 posts from August 2010. Show older posts

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Things Not Taught in Flight School

Back from three days of flying. The first leg consisted of a five hour flight to San Diego, California so I decided to do something productive (besides command an airplane hurdling at 470 knots with a near full load of passengers) so I began to create a list. Of course I wrote my ideas on paper because a laptop is forbidden in the flight deck. Did I tell you a laptop is forbidden in my office?

Things they don’t teach you in flight school...

Always greet your co-worker with a good handshake and look them in the eye. During my initial Environment Canada meteorology course an instructor told me I would pass based on my hand shake. He said shaking hands with some were similar to shaking hands with a wet fish. Remember first impression is huge. Eye contact is imperative. After all, you are bestowing huge trust in your co-worker so it's one way to convey it.

Always treat your co-worker the way you would want to be treated. You wouldn’t believe how this simple rule is abused. Task share during flight planning. Don’t tell them to get this or that. A captain during my A340 days threw out my weather information because I wrote on it. Good way to start the pairing. Another didn’t like how I stapled the papers. He said it would snag his sweater because the staple was facing up instead of down. Another (pre-Air Canada) dropped the amended flight plan on the ground and laughed knowing I had to pick it up. This one time scenario almost caused “laid back calm cool collective Doug” to almost drop the captain. Sometimes CRM...Crew Resource Management...breaks down or is not effective. Another place where CRM experiences a test is when a group of type A to A+ pilot personalities play hockey. Not a pretty sight sometimes.

Walk beside your co-worker. I’ve seen some captains bolt and the first time you see them is on the flight deck. The same happens after the pairing...the pilot vanishes. The word “rude” does not come near explaining this scenario. (I guess this even applies to marriage). Although many pilots would never admit it, you become a quasi couple. Yes, a bond develops over the pairing. Think about it, it’s inevitable two people will bond when sitting in a room the size of a closet during hours on end. Here lies the problem, if the chemistry is off, it makes for one heck of a long pairing. Yes, I’ve been there!

Allow the skipper to enter the aircraft first. Some tradition still exists. After all, it is his/her “ship.”

Offer the first officer the first leg. It drove me nuts when the captain started the “ramp checks” indicating he was flying first. How not to bestow confidence.

On the overseas fleet the walk around is done by maintenance so this next rule does not apply (at least at Air Canada). But on the narrow body fleet, or any aircraft for that matter, always offer to do the walk around. Yes, even if it is raining. Well okay, maybe not in heavy rain. :)

Treat others (non-pilots) with respect. This includes fuelers, rampies, maintenance and flight attendants. Over the years I can't believe how many pilots talked down to their so called inferiors. I’ve heard a story where one captain requested a coffee through the first officer. He would not talk to the flight attendant directly behind him.

“Never bite the hand that feeds you!” I’ve seen it where the pilot royally pisssed off the flight attendant. I dare not think what extra ingredients they might find in their food or coffee.

Compliment the other pilot's landing even if it tended to be a bit “snug.” Back in my Air Atlantic days one particular captain did this and I always remembered it. I’m amazed how many pilots can’t give compliments.

After the parking check list is completed on the last leg of the pairing, always reach over to shake your co-worker's hand and say, “pleasure flying with you.” Yes, there were a handful of pilots where I could not do this. I adopted this tradition again back in my Air Atlantic days. Even though this particular captain proved to be “left of centre” I thought this to be very professional gesture.

Always offer to buy the first beer (beverage) when on a “suitable” layover.

Greet them in the morning by saying their name during crew pick up. Again, many would not even acknowledge you. As Dale Carniegie said in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, “everyone likes to hear their name.”

Never board the crew bus or cab without saying hello. I’ve waited for the other pilot only to find him on the bus or in the cab doing their own thing. How rude!

For a multi-crew, offer the cruise pilot to do the ramp checks and to input the flight plan into the FMS. I always did when F/O on the A340.

Try to see things in their shoes.

Offer the choice of meals.

Never take the crossword or Sudoko without asking first if they mind.

When you introduce yourself to the in-charge for the captain briefing (or any other flight attendant for that matter) make sure you introduce the F/O. I always appreciated it when I was an F/O.

Never barge in on their radio work. I’ve had pilots intervene and it makes you look incompetent.

Get the F/O to partake in the P.As. I disliked it when the captain hogged the P.A.

Always mention the other pilot's name over the P.A if you mention yours.

For all those who fly for a living, maybe you can offer some more tips? I know the list can easily be doubled.

While reading this, you probably asked yourself...isn’t this common sense? True, but you will be amazed how uncommon "common sense" does not prevail….even in the professionally conceived flight deck.

After further pondering, I think this topic would make for a great book!This stuff is not written anywhere. Time to start typing.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Morning Medical Situation

A view of the Grand Canyon north of Phoenix this morning at Fl 370

A British Airways B747 crossing our bow enroute to Halifax this evening. Thoughts of flight 190 out of Victoria almost two years ago came to mind. What happened? Think wake turbulence. Today, not even a ripple.

It all started with me looking in the mirror prior to leaving the hotel room (pilots like looking in the mirror) and discovering a stain on my collar. No, it wasn't lipstick! Oh great, what a way to start Monday morning.

Then it's the line up at security. Words of wisdom...never get behind me in a line up because it will be the slowest. And that's what I told a passenger behind me this morning because security in that particular line was excruciating slow. My F/O and flight attendants were long gone.

We're cruising at flight level 370. Things are too smooth. Pilots get a little nervous when things are going too well. Sure enough the in-charge calls saying she has a 46 old female complaining of bad abdominal cramps. The word constipation came up. The in-charge had a doctor attending to her. I am absolutely amazed a doctor is usually on board.

The procedure is to get all the vitals, passenger name, seat and medical history and we contact a third party medical clinic in Philadelphia. But this must be done through dispatch and on VHF radio. What a work out! It totally takes a pilot out of the loop. Of course I delegated the task while I watch the Grand Canyon go by. (Kidding) We could not use AGRIS (Air Ground radio Interconnect System) so we had to call ARINC (Aeronautical Radio Inc) and get patched through to dispatch who then patches us to STAT MD. A few years ago we had a phone system on board, but that fell to the wayside with TV screens. It was great because the incharge could handle everything on their own.

I talked about archaic approaches a couple of days ago, well communication can be pumped up a little as well. The internet is coming and with it, Skype. Maybe it could make things run a lot smoother. Oops, I'm digressing.

We are nearing LAS (Lost Wages) and if Captain Doug ducked into there we would have to do an overweight landing which meant maintenance would have to inspect the airplane. Heck, it"s Monday morning, I don't need this.

Then the turbulence starts due to a strong south westerly jet stream. Then there a few thunderstorms to dodge all while we are relaying information from the back of the aircraft where the sick passenger is, to dispatch and then to STAT MD.

Everything turns out okay. The EMS meets us in Toronto which means everyone on board must remain seated until the passenger in question is cared for. She walked off the airplane. I thought I was having a "Monday Morning day" but the poor woman in question was travelling with two kids.

We get to customs. Both the F/O and I are sent to "secondary." Apparently, one of our co-workers made a comment to a customs officer an hour prior, so all of us were getting raked over the coals.

Now sitting in Halifax. The new pairing optimizer has reduced our layover times significantly. Meaning after a long day and near record heat it sure would have been nice to go out for a debriefing beverage, but the "beer math" does not add up. So here I sit blogging. Monday night blues.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Checked out on Cozumel (Mexico)

Captain Doug on the Cozumel ramp. I took many pictures on the approach, but I must have had the camera on the wrong setting. I realized all the photos were blurry so I asked the F/O for one on the ramp. He took several pics and this is the only half decent one. Funny, we both flew four hours, dodging thunderstorms over Florida and the Gulf of Mexico and landed safely in an airport where neither of us have been to and yet we couldn't figure out my digital camera. Men!

Both legs went well to Cozumel and back. (Cozumel is an island about 40 miles south of Cancun). We did a non precision VOR approach on runway 11. Non-precision approaches are the norm in this neck of the woods. I guess I'm spoiled with CYYZ having ILS approaches on all ten runways. The F/O flew the leg (he never been there either, but I find it's better to monitor things instead of flying the leg). Someone years ago suggested this and it works great. But you'll get some staunch captains thinking this is where experience should take over and always do the leg. Strange, there is a higher proportion of accidents when the captain flies.

While on short final, I could not believe the recently laid black asphalt that greeted us with newly painted lines. What a pleasant surprise! The procedure is to roll to the end and turn around. Luckily we tucked into the turn around point at the end because another airplane landed behind us. I'm not sure if this procedure would stand the test in Canada or the U.S.

Even the taxiways were recently paved. Nice.

I get to add another notch on the airport list.

After getting to bed at 3:00 a.m, I'm off to San Diego this afternoon. But I'm a seasoned veteran flying into SAN, I've been there once before! :)

Gone flying!

WestJet's RNP (Required Navigation Performance)

"Keeping an eye on the competition"

A reader sent me this link to a short Westjet video on their new RNP (Required Navigation Performance) system. You are probably asking yourself, why is an Air Canada pilot promoting Westjet? I know about 40 Westjet pilots and we all have a job to do. Gee, I must be drinking some of that Westjet kool-aid. :)

I sure wish I had this system up and running when I flew into Cozumel, Mexico last night. We did an archaic 10 DME ARC VOR offset approach. This technology dates back to the fifties and sixties.

We at Air Canada are getting on board with the GPS approaches. Safety is number one, so GPS and RNP all help elevate the safety bar. Plus it translates into fuel savings.
There....how's that for some Air Canada kool-aid? :)

Thanks "Anon" for sending the link!

Friday, August 27, 2010

One, two, three...Screef!

Typical tree planting site (trucks and tents)

Captain Doug posing in front of his canvass domain.

Sporting a "100,000 tree club" T-shirt. Yet another T-shirt to add to the collection.

A seedling with the Rockie Mountains as the backdrop.

Sporting the equipment of a tree planter. The make shift latrine is in the background.

Here's an article I wrote on tree planting. I wanted to include a lot of this in my book but the publisher thought otherwise.

One, two, three, screef!

While descending over the Rocky Mountains into Vancouver, a quick glance from the flight deck catches sights of rectangular tree plantations checkering the terrain below. Because of arduous hard work of tree planters, they are now rebounding from the scars left by loggers. It’s hard to imagine over twenty eight years ago I was one of the many planters busting my back throwing thousands of trees in the ground making money so we could chase our dreams. Many people looking back, and reminiscing of their summer jobs, considered some to be unique, or laborious, or paid lots of money, or adventuresome, monotonous, dangerous, dirty or back breaking. These all depict the job of a tree planter.

The call came precisely the time my new foreman said he would call. This was enough to convince my mother to allow her nineteen year old son to leave the east coast and show up for work the next day in Mackenzie, B.C traversing the country on a student stand-by ticket. While waiting at the bus stop at the end of this trek, wondering what I have done, sat native Indians seen for the first time by this Haligonian. They too queried my presence. A dilapidated, beat off, dent infested pickup (a typical tree planter’s truck) arrived with beaming smiles from the Maritimers I worked with as a house painter in the past summers.

The equipment

Into the woods we go to meet the others of our group of Mountain Reforestation. I set up my 'one man pup tent' and arrange my newly purchased tree planting gear naively bought for the job at hand. A good pair of boots sat at the top of the priority list because a planter’s feet were one of the tools used to get the trees into the ground. (After returning home from a tree planting season, while getting a pilot medical, the doctor thought I had a rare foot disease, reluctant to believe it was a result of two months kicking the ground).

Gloves were also a necessity, but only one. The glove was for the shovel hand to cushion the impact of the shovel penetrating the earth. A bare hand was found to work better for grabbing the trees. A calloused shovel hand was another trophy of tree planting with many suffering from the ‘claw’. Through repetitive pounding of the shovel the hand was reluctant to rebound from the shape of the handle. While waking up, some tree planters had to roll over onto their hand to open it up to alleviate the painful ‘claw’.

The next day we drive to the plantation only minutes down the temporary road created by loggers. An experienced planter can quickly judge the site to determine whether money will be made. Roadsides and clearings were considered ‘cream’. Some sites made one feel like a mountain goat. Sites were remote with some requiring a helicopter operation or special all terrain vehicles to gain access. It’s here my foreman, Spud, teaches me the art of tree planting. “You pace off three steps, stop, screef the surface with your boot, throw a shovel into the ground while simultaneously selecting a seedling from the heavily laden bags on your hips, open a hole, throw the tree in and stomp it snug.” Do this two thousand times today and you will earn two hundred dollars tax free at ten cents a tree.

It wasn’t all that simple because there was a long list of rules to abide by. The tree couldn’t be too deep, or too shallow, must not have roots showing, the soil has to be right…no rotting wood or too wet. Eight to nine trees must be found in a three meter radius. A quality test was performed by a checker (even tree planting had "checkers," I can’t escape them) either employed by the company responsible for the reforestation or appointed by the provincial government. The trees were planted based on a gamut of specifications, if not, the pay would be divvied on a percentage or worst yet entailing a replant.

(Since payment was based on the amount of trees planted, the obvious question arises, “do planters bury trees?” Burying trees is like masturbation, everyone does it but no one admits to it).

The conditions

Many envision the job as a tree planter casually walking around in forests wearing Bermuda shorts, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature, taking the time to plant the odd tree. Those that have, didn’t last. The truth is, one has their head down for hours on end, bundled up ensuring no skin is exposed to combat fly bites, only to stop to reload with more trees, consume some food or the gallon of water needed to overcome heat stroke. For the weight gaining baby boomers this is the perfect job to shed those pounds to regain your school day look. The appetite of a tree planter was ferocious. For me, tired of the alfalfa sprout mentality of the cook for lunches, I was up to five peanut butter and jam sandwiches. You also learned to eat fast. The guys joked they were going to set up a race between myself and the foreman’s black Labrador dog to see who quaff down dinner the fastest.

The tree planter lives in a tent sometimes weeks on end, battling the thick relentless swarms of flies spring brings, the heat of the day, hours of solitude, lacking a shower until the next visit to town. Bug dope was a must and it sat on the skin in layers. Sure there were rivers and the odd lake to wash in but running into frigid spring runoff with snow still on the banks made one check to see all parts were intact after leaving the icy water.

Because of air lifting due to the rising terrain, showers were frequent. It was a challenge to get the rain jackets on only to have the bug dope wash off, making it mandatory to get the dope back on when the sun came out. Having wet feet made the job miserable. Planting with wet feet then returning to a mud infested camp and slide into a damp tent with drenched clothes and soggy skin had to be similar to warriors battling in the rainy season of foreign countries.

There was also the threat of bears. At one campsite three bears had to be terminated. One evening while driving back to the camp, we saw the cook frantically running down the road to greet us with a bear in tow.

Tree planters are a certain breed. The parties at the end of each gig, the heavy celebration after the season comes to a close, gave a reputation of promiscuous endeavours. I’ll never forget the time driving back from Prince George, B.C to Banff, Alberta racing down the winding highway with the other vehicles. A Swiss born heli –skier by winter now living in Banff, drunken and drug laced, decided to crawl out onto the engine hood and moon the world travelling at sixty miles an hour. One nudge with the steering wheel would have meant an instant catastrophe.

Building character

Yet on the other side of the scale, tree planting built a person’s character. (If it didn’t, it would crack you). Many claimed if you survived this job, you would go on to successfully achieve life’s goals. Two others and I became airline pilots from our group. Other groups saw many become doctors, lawyers, businessmen. Recently, I met one ex-tree planter smartly dressed at the Vancouver airport enroute to a meeting. He became the lawyer he dreamed of.

As this state of the art airplane nears the airport I make a few comments on the plantations below only to get an insincere “oh really” from my partner. I have been all over mainland British Columbia and northern Alberta as a tree planter. There are places I have forgotten about during the five years of planting. In fact, I had to reread letters I wrote to my girlfriend at the time (now wife) while cleaning the basement for a garage sale just to remind me of the blurred past. It’s a shame the beauty and ruggedness of the land was never really appreciated. All I was concerned about was learning to fly and getting a degree under my belt. It’s hard to believe nearly 350,000 trees below are growing because of me. There are no regrets, but I thank my lucky stars I will never wake up to see another canvass roof over my head waiting for a wake up call to start another twelve hours of tree planting.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Captain out of Uniform

Needle in hand, a button is sewn.

I knew I was home too long because the wife started asking, "when are you going to work?" After seven days off, I too looked forward to getting back in the saddle. Now I know what retired pilots must feel...

Prior to commencing a three day mission, crew sked called saying my first two legs, Montreal and back, were being displaced by pilots with management status to trial run the pending GPS approaches coming to the "small Airbus" fleet.
Because of the displacement it meant no early check in and staying home with pay. Sweet.

Sewing 101 at flight level 350

The first day now consisted of one leg to CYYT (St.John's, Nfld). Of course I offered the F/O the first leg and of course he accepted.

While moving the handle up to retract the landing gear my shoulder harness popped off a button on my shirt shoulder strap which held my right epaulette.

It's amazing how tuned pilots are to sound during take off. Both the F/O and I heard the button fall. I didn't bring my tunic (we have the option of wearing it in the summer) so I couldn't hide the popped strap while walking through the airport. Out came my sewing kit and I went to work. I joked to the F/O of declaring a distress call..."pan, pan, pan."

Of course this meant taking off my shirt. The F/O smiled saying he was glad to see I donned an undershirt. He said it would be pretty embarrassing to see a flight attendant enter the flight deck only to see the captain bare chested.

Years ago, I heard of a pilot blowing out the seat of his pants. This required sending the pants back to a willing flight attendant to sew up the "blow out." I wonder what the passengers would think knowing the pilot up front had no pants on? :)

Mistaken Identity

While flying to the "rock" a flight attendant called up saying a tall blond in the back says she met me two years ago at a wedding and she wants to say hello. Of course this tweaked my interest and I queried whether this person in question was good looking. "Yes" she reluctantly said. During the good ole days we had the option of inviting people up to the flight deck and of course this option was exercised to the max with certain pilots. :) It turns out I was a mistaken identity. :(

Both days on the road meant super duper early wake up calls. I arrived home two hours ago and I feel like I did a Hong Kong flight. While getting a coffee at 5:00 a.m in Ottawa this morning a security guard stopped and asked me about being a pilot. It turns out he was accepted by one of the renowned schools here in Canada, Seneca College. I mentioned I taught some high level meteorology there. However, for some reason I did not teach this year.

While deplaning in Toronto another young man mentioned he bought my book. He had his private pilot license and was moving to Calgary to get a ramp job and pursue aviation.

Today while flying to Tampa, Florida a "super elite" passenger requested an autograph on my column in enRoute magazine.

I'm starting to feel wanted. :) Having said that, I noticed visits to my blog are up, but your comments are dwindling. Don't be shy, step up to the bat and start commenting/suggesting/querying. (The blog host mentioned a "spam" feature has been added to my site. Maybe that's where your feedback is going? Anyone know where I find this "spam" file?)

Home for a couple of days and then it's off to Cozumel, Mexico. Looks like I'll be adding another new airport to my repertoire.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chase Your Dreams

Help Your Career Take Off!

This A340 entices the new pilot on their website. Too bad these 340s have been gone for the last three years. I spent seven years on that bird and I miss it.

Some of their write up:

Professional Training That Makes a Difference

Professional Pilot Diploma Program

Have you always wanted to be an airline pilot? Your timing is good! Yes, we are facing an economic downturn. However, why not plan on being ready when the economy turns around? Looking ahead over the next 3-5 years, it is expected that the airline industry will once again face a shortage of qualified pilots, fuelled by retirements of "boomer" age pilots and growing passenger travel. Act now and you may be flying as a copilot for a charter or commuter air carrier in as little as three years.

Early this morning I sat down to sign sixteen of my books for the new students about to take on a one year aviation diploma at the Brampton Flight Centre. I wrote in every book, "Chase Your Dreams." As I signed, I thought about their road in front of them with almost all aspiring to be that elusive airline pilot. Heck look at the accompanying photo enticing them, an Airbus 340 tucking its gear in the belly on take off. A picture like that gets the juices flowing. Forget about Playboy, we are talking airplanes here!

I get lots of emails from those pining for the skies and most ask the same thing, how do I get into an airplane like that. As we all know there are three general roads to pursue. Flight schools, flight colleges (some universities) and the military. Sure there are "cadet" programs offered abroad, but not here in North America.

These students will pay about $60,000 CDN with most having zero time. They will come out next year holding an aviation diploma with a multi engine IFR (Instrument Flight Rating).

Now what? Don't think they will be learning Airbus right away. They, like the umpteen thousand pilots ahead of them will fly for poverty wages, in dismal and sometimes unsafe conditions all for that illustrious job. Many would think this long road of strive is not worth it, but there are thousands of low time pilots that would run down the street naked to score their first airline job. I know I would have. Having said that, I'll stick to wearing my uniform. :)

For me, I will be giving a few weather presentations and taking them to the deice centre and Air Canada dispatch during the course. Plus I will mentor them as best I can.

As we talked over a coffee this morning I found out the facilitator's son had an engineering degree, but was not happy. Aviation was in his blood. He is now flying B737s for Westjet. A case in point, life is full of little detours.

We also discussed the curves, roadblocks, recessions and the presently poor job aspects out there. But you don't get into the stock market when stocks are high and that goes for flying. Start flying and chase your dreams!

*********** NEW ************ NEW ******************* NEW **************

Just received this email and the sender was kind enough to allow me to post it.

Hello Captain Doug Morris, From your recent blog update I figure that you will be attending the orientation at the Brampton Flight Centre on Wednesday evening. I look forward to meeting you there, as I am one of those students who have enrolled into the aviation diploma program.I just graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree this summer and figured its time to "chase my dreams". By the way just like your blog, your book was a great read. When Istarted reading it I couldn't put it down till I finished. It is very well written and inspires an aspiring pilot that much more. I really hope you write more books! Happy Landings

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Building an airplane...A340-600

The A340-600. Virgin Airlines owner, Richard Branson, has placarded on his aircraft to taunt British Airways, "mine is longer than yours."
Click here to see how a A340-600 is built.

Never call a pilot's airplane "ugly." Them's fighting words!
This Airbus Beluga (named after a whale) transports large portions of airplanes.

Airbus 340-600 (246 feet long)

For the longest time I thought Air Canada would strictly be an Airbus company. A few years ago when Air Canada sat on the fence as to which large aircraft to buy I bumped into a Boeing sales rep. I had to deadhead to Montreal from Toronto and who should sit beside me, but a Boeing sales rep on a mission to woo Robert Milton. Being an Airbus guy, I had to exercise diplomacy. Actually he turned out to be a great guy. Besides he gave me trinkets like a paper weight, luggage tag and a key chain.
About three months later Air Canada announced a new kid will soon be on the block, the Boeing 777.

Lufthansa brings its A340-600 into Toronto and like Branson said, it sure is a long one. Enjoy the video.

P.S I forgot to mention this video was sent from Calgary "rampie" Kelly Paterson.

Just received an email from a new blogger... "Ian." Maybe you can pay his site a visit? As one of his first posts, he included a video on the making of a Boeing 777. Boeing did a great job. The rivalry starts...not between Ian and I....but between the two largest makers of airplanes in the world!

The view from seat 37K

Saturday, August 21, 2010

First in Flight (North Carolina)

Note the working gas lights

Wrought Iron...famous for this area

Typical street in old historic Charleston, South Carolina. Many streets are cobblestone

Of course, Captain Doug has to be in the pics

South Carolina

The six hour drive from Charleston, S.C to Hilton Head, S.C (to drop off my eldest) and then to Charlotte, N.C proved uneventful although talking on the cell phone and texting is still standard operating procedures for the locals A few people passed while texting... and I was going 75 mph!

North Carolina

Kitty Hawk North Carolina is where it all happened for aviation in 1903 and North Carolina is darn proud of it with the fact emblazoned on their license plates.

The day of reckoning came this morning at the car rental regarding my issue with a rock and the windshield. Nothing was said or noticed. Doug and his family quietly snuck on the car rental shuttle, but something tells me, it aint over. (I did file a report two days before).

The flight had only about 22 passengers out of 50. Lucky we weren't the Delta flight beside us. The inbound flight thought they were hit by lightning which meant a mechanic had to go over the aircraft with a fine tooth comb. The other glitch... the mechanic had to be flown in from Atlanta. This translated into at least a three hour delay for those passengers.

The family and I got checked out in the new body scan for security. You can't leave until someone examines the photo and says so through a headset. The games we play. We spend huge money and time on security protecting the front door but there is also the back door, the side door, the garage door, the basement, attic and windows. :)

Glad to see they named Charlotte's airport, Douglas.

Heck they even named a SID (Standard Instrument Departure) out of Toronto called the DOUGLAS THREE DEPARTURE. Things are looking up!

The Old Man and the Sea (?)

The CRJ (Regional Jet) has no TV screens. What is a person to do? Captain Doug actually bought a book, The Old Man and the Sea. Ernest Hemingway won the Pulitzer prize for this 127 page marvel. I would have finished it in flight had not the in-charge been chatty. I got her talking about her job.... I finished the book tonight. It proves I can stay away from the computer. Having said that, look who's blogging? :)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How y'all doing? (Update from South Carolina)

At thirty bucks for an umbrella and two chairs you can rest assured a pilot (well most of us)will be heading to Walmart or Target to buy their own. Besides lifeguarding, my daughter has the task of renting out these packages. Her boss has exclusive rights to the entire Hilton Head beach. Cha-ching Cha-ching

The flight (JAZZ) to CLT (Charlotte, North Carolina) with three others on stand-by went without a hitch. It turns out the first officer was an ex-Brampton flight center graduate. I taught him some weather. Hired directly on the RJ Challenger, he is still smiling!

In hindsight, I should have looked into buying tickets with "other airlines" to avoid the near five hour drive to Hilton Head. For the price of a case of 12 beer per person (done in beer dollars) in Ontario we could have flown stand-by on a U.S Air connector from CLT to HHH per person. Actually, my wife thought it would be a scenic drive so we didn't buy tickets. Turned out it was a land locked drive on a zombie inducing freeway. Another lesson learned, always check the itinerary - some people may not be as versed on geography than a "know it all" pilot. :)
Heck, it made for interesting conversation, but that's what road trips are about -marriage challengers. :) :)

Hilton Head is much bigger, populated and posh than I thought. From golf course to golf course, to gated communities (called plantations) to gated communities, it's a place of going concern. My wife loves it so much, she even volunteered me to commute from here. We poked into a retirement (I can't believe that word is creeping into my vocabulary) community to check things out. Good news. I didn't qualify. Minimum age is 50. Next year....

My eldest daughter wanted to escape the island of Hilton Head so we packed up the rental and headed to Charleston, South Carolina. What a beautiful city although the temperatures hovering near 98F (37 C) with the humidex off the clock is a bit much.

While enroute Captain Doug encountered a small rock going 60 mph. A chip the size of a nickel is now a glaring reminder how I dislike driving. Of course, I wavered all the insurance so I'm hoping the rental agency won't require my first born son as collateral. I guess it could have been much worse. The reminder of bird strikes in an airplane comes to mind.

Charleston is a city rich in history with beautiful colonial buildings. The historic district (where we are roughing it in a four star plus hotel) even has old fashioned gas street lights.
Now it's off for a horse drawn tour, more eating and of course - sampling the local beer.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Billowy in the Bahamas

This billowy convective activity was between us and Nassau. It proved not to be an issue. Actually it was mostly over Freeport bubbling up from the land with temperatures of 34 C with a dewpoint of 26C. Can you say muggy?
(Lavi, I pumped up the resolution a bit on my camera. :) )

The day started with me scouting for a spot in our new parking lot. It took until the top floor while starting five stories below to find space on a Monday morning. I get to the train only to find they are shutting one down for scheduled mainteanace.
I remember reading a sign years ago on the side of the road, "always do something while you wait." So I queried the maintenance guy about his job, the rough ride of the train and I find out the company that built the train has since gone bankrupt. People love talking about their jobs.

We delayed boarding a little as one flight attendant went through American pre-clearnace customs by mistake.

We had a light load. Actually I'm shocked 92 passengers wanted to head south while southern Ontario basked in beautiful sunshine. About 20 percent of the load were "cons" (contingencies) i.e employees.

Fuel is expensive in the Caribbean so we tankered four tonnes. Pilots love extra gas. Dispatch runs a program to see if it is cost efficient to carry fuel instead of buying it because remember, it takes about 20 to 30 precent of the fuel just to carry an extra tonne.

We inherited a A319 with a cabin temperature controller problem. We decided to take it as is, but we would reset some circuit breakers to reboot the system. We push back from the gate and we get a caution saying the "forward cabin trim valve" is faulty. Translation, "call maintenance." This now requires patching through dispatch because we left the gate, getting a maintenance release number, me talking to the in-charge, me making an announcement to the passengers, etc...

Finally I get to say, "ladies and gentleman, this is you captain speaking, we have ratified our maintenance issue, lets go to Nassau, Bahamas!

Actually, they all got an extra P.A prior to descent. Captain Doug thought it was time to promote his enRoute aviation column and to recruit questions. They were more receptive than my Miami passengers the day before.

While heading back to Toronto I looked over to South Carolina and saw the beach coastline. Tomorrow the family and I will be heading there to see my eldest daughter. She is a lifeguard there, so I want to see why the "bank of dad" paid a thousand dollars for her just to have a summer job.

I've seen a few pictures of my nineteen year old daughter on Facebook in bars. The only glitch is....drinking age is 21. Hmmmmm???

Time to investigate. :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Wings Clipped

Having a bad day.

Speaking of butterflies, during the time of my posts on bird encounters I noticed a huge butterfly by my window as we were cleared for take off on 24R out of Toronto. This guy had a wingspan of about five inches. I didn't have time to grab the camera because we had our take off clearance with take off thrust being applied. I hope I didn't ingest it.

Blogs (Wings clipped)

Captain Ian's blog fell to the wayside a few months ago and many assume it fell because of, "she who must be obeyed." But something tells me it's much deeper than that, but we are all hoping his blog will resurrect this fall. Captain Ian, if you are reading this, there a heck of a lot of people asking about you.

A few months ago I promoted a great ATC blog from a controller out west. Unfortunately, ATC Happenings, had his wings clipped from the higher ups. Another shame.

Other people's wings clipped or so we thought.

I have flown with many First officers who were given a PFO (if you don't know what a PFO stands for..basically it's nasty). But six months later Air Canada sent them a letter asking whether they could show for up ground school in two weeks. Of course everyone did.

A good friend of mine (my tree planting foreman) found out colour blindness may clip his wings before he got started in the aviation world. "Spud" persevered and did the "lantern tests." He is now skipper for United Emirates in Dubai.

Now my story.

Yesterday, marked 25 years my best friend passed away. In 1982, another recession ruled the land. (Pilots if you hear a recession is coming, run for the hills. Aviation tends to be the first to feel the impact and one of the last to recover).

Aviation came to a standstill. I decided to give the military a try. I jumped through their hoops and went to Aircrew selection in Downsview, Ontario.
Months later I received a PFO...my wings clipped. Either I was too dumb (or maybe too smart) or maybe bad timing. My best friend took me aside and suggested I should pursue something else. Even though it was NOT what I wanted to hear, I knew deep down she was right.

I chose meteorology at McGIll after having a physics degree from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I then went on to become a certified meteorologist in 1985. My best friend took sick so my first posting ended up in Halifax.

During her illness she envisioned me in a dream wearing a dark blue uniform. She never did see me pursue my second career, but she knew all along!

Things work out for a reason. I still have bragging rights that I am the only certified meteorologist/airline pilot in Canada. (Maybe someone out there can prove me wrong). Because of it, I got to write for enRoute. From there, my book. Now my blog.

Funny one high school chum went the military route. He is now over 1100 numbers junior than me at Air Canada and is my first officer.

What I am trying to say to you "want to be pilots," don't give up even when you think your wings have been clipped!

My best friend! She had her wings clipped at age 54.

Friday, August 13, 2010

More enRoute coming at you.

I recognize a few "follower's" names in the line up. Thanks for sending the questions in!

Captain Doug

Q: What are your favourite geographic features to fly over?
David Godsall, San Francisco

The Rockies, glistening with snow, is in my Top 10. In fact, seeing the mountains inspired me to take my family skiing in Whistler, B.C., during the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. When I flew to New Delhi, the well-lit India-Pakistan border, shining hundreds of kilometres below, was neat to see. And watching the navigation computers switch from north to south while transiting the equator is something never to forget.

Q: Why do heavier airplanes fly faster?
Chris Willson, Burlington, Ontario

The force of lift counteracts the force of weight. To produce more lift, a heavier airplane must fly faster to obtain more airflow over the wings. Hence, its takeoff, cruising and approach to landing speeds are all faster due to weight. An aircraft’s weight changes from one flight to another because of passenger load, baggage, cargo and fuel. My airplane, the Airbus, calculates its own approach speed based on weight and can fly to within a few knots of that.

Q: Why are aircraft required to follow a speed limit of 250 knots below 10,000 feet?
Mark Westbrook, Ottawa

With the onset of jet airliners in the early 1960s, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) mandated the speed of 250 knots below 10,000 feet for better control of aircraft and safety, and today it’s the norm around the world. Everyone slows to 250 knots prior to descending below 10,000 feet, but sometimes air traffic control gives us the green light to speed up a little on departure and continue on our merry way.

Q: Do you have a favourite airplane to fly, or are all the models pretty much identical?
Lavi Zemer, Toronto

Pilots are qualified to operate one type of plane. I fly the small Airbus, which comes in three models: 319, 320 and 321. Each model flies the same, but I prefer the smaller Airbus 319, overall, for its electric seats, tray tables and climb performance. I also really enjoy the smoothness and quietness of the larger Airbus 321 during taxi and takeoff – and yes, it has tray tables and electric seats, too.

Q: Why do planes fly at around 35,000 feet?
Carole Kafato, Burlington, Ontario

Generally, the rule is “the higher the better” for jet engine performance, because the thinner air imposes less drag on the aircraft. There is a trade-off between fuel efficiency and power, and this optimum range occurs at 30,000 to 40,000 feet. For the best possible altitude, we must also consider aircraft type and weight, flight direction and duration, tailwinds, headwinds and turbulence avoidance. Plus, the higher we go, the better our chances are of flying above bad weather.

Q: Do you have a favourite airplane to fly, or are all the models pretty much identical?
Lavi Zemer, Toronto

Pilots are qualified to operate one type of plane. I fly the small Airbus, which comes in three models: 319, 320 and 321. Each model flies the same, but I prefer the smaller Airbus 319, overall, for its electric seats, tray tables and climb performance. I also really enjoy the smoothness and quietness of the larger Airbus 321 during taxi and takeoff – and yes, it has tray tables and electric seats, too.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pilot training, a la British Airways

Click here

Someone paid me a compliment on my Captain Doug's Journey video so I paid a visit to their site. Luckily I did because I found this British Airways's film on their cadet program. However, in North America this does not exist. But for you overseas readers it's worth the look. Actually , for aspiring pilots on this side of the Atlantic, it's worth the peek.

Captain Ian, if you are out there in cyberland, this video will do you proud!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spider senses tingling

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

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

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

Meteorological senses tingling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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