Flight Plan

My flight plan....to encourage, mentor, guide those pining for the sky. I'm also here to virtually open the flight deck door for those who want to take a peek at the many aspects of aviation.....enjoy!

...and welcome aboard!...

From the smallest to the biggest and a whole lot of years in between!

SFO (San Francisco) I'll be heading there Thursday. Thanks Getjets!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Can you say snowstorm?

St.John's harbour in near calm waters as the ridge of high pressure succumbs to a Winter storm. Cirrus and Cirrostratus is off to the east which foreshadow a storm. The infamous Signal Hill (think Marconi receiving a radio signal from Europe). The hill makes for a great climb.

Looking south from my window. This thickening middle cloud, altostratus, means continuous precipitation is hours away. Note the tower on the hill.

The relatively new terminal of St. John's, Newfoundland. They only have three gates. It's a beautiful building, but guess what, it's too small! Expansion is on the way!

Sitting in the deice bay watching Mother Nature stir it up.

The snow started only about 90 minutes before.

Can you say snowstorm? (Day 3 of 4)

A winter storm warning was talk of the town. The onset was just prior to our launch for Toronto. I could see it’s classic formation as it crawled northeastward. Cirrostratus dominated the Eastern sky. South from my hotel window classic middle cloud, altostratus, said snow was imminent. Calm waters prevailed in St. John’s harbour as the ridge of high pressure succumbed to one hell of a low pressure system. For those with barometers in St. John's, their barometer would be falling. Not off the wall, but indicating a significant pressure drop.

As we drove to the airport light snow began to fall confirming the weatherman’s accuracy and mother nature readiness to pounce.

As passengers boarded, visibility reduced from unlimited to ¾ mile in light snow and blowing snow. We would need a take off alternate if visibility went below ½ mile (standard take of visibility in Canada). CYQX (Gander) just miles north of Torbay would suffice.

Question: What's the difference between blowing snow and drifting snow?

Out comes the dreaded and now detested deicing checklist. It’s off to the deice facility we go. Type 1 and type 4 is the requisite. As we get sprayed I mentioned to the F/O, one either encounters nasty weather for take off or for landing in this meteorological armpit. (Sorry Chris but your province is the focal point of three tracks of low pressure systems with St. John’s probably hosting the nastiest weather in North America) It’s not for the faint of heart pilot. Funny, I’ve flown in and out of here with four different companies. You would think I would learn. :)

But it’s the people that make it difficult for me to bid around this place. I won’t mention about the “cougar” effect. No, I’m not talking about Cougar helicopters, which fly out of here taking personnel to off shore oil rigs. I’m talking about what is noticed in the local establishments while their hubbies work in places like Fort McMurray, Alberta. I’ll stop there. J

As we backtrack on runway 16 Mother Nature is lashing it’s fury with low visibility in snow and gusty winds. It’s serious because we delay the take off flap setting to reduce possible ice contamination. It will also include standing on the brakes and revving the engines up to 70 percent. As I diligently taxi to the button, the in charge calls asking whether were deiced. Huh? He mentions ice and snow were adhering to the windows. I said the wings and tail were done.

I remember a pep talk I received the day I went captain for a previous company. "Doug" he said, "you will encounter situations where it may be uncomfortable, but it's not unsafe." Let's just say no coffee was required as adrenaline kept us both perky. :)

The flaps are lowered, the APU is started as we need every bit of power from the engines. The APU will supply the air conditioning packs instead of bleeding air from the engines.

I turn the aircraft around into the wind staring down runway 16. The markings are barely noticeable in the snow. The sweepers did a run down the runway, but the wind already had it’s way.

It's time to set 70 percent power. The engines are like two chained ferocious pit bulls taunted by Captain Doug. They wanted to leap. In fact, the aircraft did lunge a little with the brakes set. I told my F/O….”okay, we are out of here!” We lunge forward. I counteract the gusty winds by quickly correcting on the pedals not allowing any deviation as we thrust down the white covered runway. I use peripheral vision to ensure we are centred between the runway lights. There's no centerline lights on this runway and the markings are buried in snow.

The F/O calls V1 and then “rotate.” I keep extra speed and rotate a little slower ensuring those deiced wings bite into the air. Plus airspeed is a pilot’s friend. Up she goes, and yes Julie, it climbed like a home sick angel. :)

Below us...the deep relentless frigid waters of the North Atlantic is obscured in cloud. Then light to moderate turbulence hits associated with a low level jet stream. St Almos fire flashes across our windscreen. A call comes from the back saying residual deice fluid has infiltrated the cabin. I turn the air flow to high to help dissipate the rather acrid smell.

We top the cloud at 30,000 feet indicating that was one hell of a weather system.

Now it’s day four. Just got a datalink. Crew sked wants to send us to EWR (Newark) and back instead of Montreal. Means we will be home earlier with draft pay. Better call home to give a heads up. LOL

The life of an airline pilot…


Daniel said...

Nice pictures, I have never been to YYT. My dad was talking about it, but most times hes just talk! ( Don't tell him that ). Although by the sounds of the weather , I should wait for summer ! :P .

The storm wasn't all that bad here. I was expecting a snowday Tuesday but no, we toughed it out with +SN reading on the metar most of school day because of the two week break starting tomorrow afternoon. Mix some blowing snow in with a few flurry's and bam, snow day Wednesday. (My dad likes to say that with all the snowdays I will become a Air Canada call center employee rather then a pilot.)

Although, on the 18th i'll be sitting on the beach in St.Maarten with a AF 340 passing over me. That beats the freezing and not needed cold here. I was hopping you would be our pilot, unfortunately not :( . Have a good flight to EWR! and back.

Cedarglen said...

Nice post, I guess. The weather sucks. One has to wonder... would you take your own family flying in that crap? Did you ever consider saying "No, thank you?" I know, the customers need to move, but sometimes the driver ought to say no. Glad that you made it, but...

From the Flight Deck said...

Daniel. Because of your Dad's passes you will get to watch those neat landings in St. Maarten. So he can't be all that bad!

I did EWR last night. The storm was Tuesday. :)

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

Cedarglen (Craig)

Yes, I would take my family in that meteorological "crap." But if things worsened I would be setting the park brake.

I did take the entire family on a summer layover two years ago. The weather was cool and windy but they
still enjoyed it. Getting back home on passes was a different story. :)

I didn't consider "no thanks" on this one but things were deteriorating quickly. Again, there are runway conditions, wind directions, weight, etc which weigh heavily in the decision making.

Funny, when they deplaned in Toronto not one said that was quite a storm, thanks for getting us here safely.

Luckily I don't fly for positive feedback.

Captain Doug

Daniel said...

Haha, you have a point. Although, we did have to buy the YYZ-FLL and FLL-YYZ because there would be a small chance that we all (6) would get on the same flight. YHZ-YYZ apparently is ok in morning, which my dad want's to do. I can just bring my scanner and that will keep my occupied for the day :P

From the Flight Deck said...

Daniel. My niece took all day to get out of Halifax. Her mother worked for Air Canada.
I just picked her up at Toronto's Pearson. (And no I don't like driving to the airport on my days off) :)
Halifax is deemed one of the toughest places to come and go with passes. Hence the reason
why Captain Doug no longer commutes.

And yes, those Florida flights are filling up as well!

Enjoy the trip.

Captain Doug

Christer said...

Great Post Doug- very interesting hearing a pilot's perspective of a storm like that.

Speaking of storms, it is non-stop snow and a bitter, damp cold here in Nagoya! And I thought I was leaving the cold zone....Supposedly they haven't had this kind of cold in over ten years.

On another note, I flew on an ANA A320 the other day that had only two overwing exits (one on each side) as opposed to the, what I always thought was standard, four. At first glance outside- we boarded from a staircase in NRT- I thought it may have been an A319, but the safety card and obvious cabin length said otherwise. I sat in a row that was marked as an exit (which would have been the second emergency exit on AC), but there was no door- only on the row in front.

The J cabin was outfitted exceptionally long, with five rows and much legroom, so I assume that means less overall seats resulting in no need for an extra exit. Kind of bizarre- first time I ever saw this on a 320.

Enjoy your time off,


Christer said...

Here's a link to a photo of the actual aircraft: http://www.airliners.net/photo/All-Nippon-Airways/Airbus-A320-214/1809867/

Sorry to highjack the post (and yes, sorry also for using that term!!), but when reading about storms and thinking of emergency procedures, this just jumped to mind....

getjets said...

I know that place.. Signal Hill!!!!!!!I have been there, when I was 7, and I have the home movies, of that trip!!!!when I zoomed in on the harbor picture, sure enough...these pictures are gifts to me, so Thank You Captain Doug!!!!!! There's a live web cam at St John's intr'l airport..refreshes about every 15 or so seconds, and right now, its crazy snow, "BRIDGE 4" vantage point, the jet sitting there at the gate, windshield covered with wind blown snow, perhaps "she" is getting tucked in for the night???? although maybe not, there's some activity around her!

Another Gold star for Captain Doug, "the writer" !!!! Your take-off was Magnificent!!! how do I know that....well I felt as if I was there with you, when you took off along with full brunt of that ferocious winter weather...and yes...just like our home-sick angel:)

You bring your people home "Safe and Sound"..and yes, not much Thanks in it....well I Thank You Dammit!!!

Ok, one more check at the web cam, and she(jet) is still there with her lovely winter coat on... the clock says 12:51 AM, about a 20 minute "security" delay, but I do believe she is tucked in for the night!!!!
misstwa ^j^

getjets said...

St John's Int'l airport,"live web cam" (Maybe Not) Bridge 4....Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011 at 1:14:28 AM, isn't that ah...yesterday,,, this morning...good god, i can't read time. it seems!!!!..no matter, still a thrill for me...The harbor picture makes for a lovely desktop background...

marty said...
This post has been removed by the author.
marty said...

That sounds like one heck of a storm! Thank god for instruments! :)


From the Flight Deck said...

Marty. Thank god for a lot of things when one is departing in weather like that. :)

From the Flight Deck said...

Chris. I was wondering how much snow you received. 30 cm...very respectable! :)

As far as overtime, remember we pilots are paid by the minute. Ahem

Sure we curse about getting deiced but there's also a small grin as well. :)

Refresh my memory....about the dinosaur pic. Did you send it and I inadvertently lost it?

Captain Doug

Chris Gardner said...

I don,t know what happened but my comment was removed from the post along with it my profile shot anyways here goes nothing.

From the Flight Deck said...

Chris I did not see it nor removed it. That is weird.

Edwin said...


I think ANA has a few "premium" A320s that only holds 110 PAX and thereby only needs one over-wing exit on each side.

EasyJet have a similar configuration on their A319s. Because of toilet and galley configuration allowing for more seats than a standard Airbus A319, EasyJet's Airbus A319 aircraft have two pairs of overwing exits, instead of the standard one pair configuration found on most Airbus A319 aircraft, to satisfy safety requirements.

Christer said...

Thanks Edwin- very interesting, I didn't know this. The premium cabin was very long and spacious, and there seemed to be an extra long galley/coat closet section at the front end as well. In the photo, you can see it has less windows than a standard 320, and the premium cabin extends all the way to the emergency exit!

Anonymous said...

Hi Doug,

Great post and pictures! With weather like that I'm glad I'm sitting in the back! :)

Look forward to the next posting!


From the Flight Deck said...

Christer. Interesting stuff about the A320. I looked at your picture. Even the exit over the wing is much smaller than ours.

I see Edwin did a great job explaining things.

Hopefully the weather will change for you in Nagoya. I've been to Tokyo in the middle of winter and it can be brisk. :)

ANA is the launch customer for the B787.

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Heather. I guess you guys in YYC have been your fair share of wether as well.


getjets said...

Beautiful Homeland!

Chris Gardner said...

Capt Doug do you do any regular flying in a small single engine plane. Also I wonder when you did glider and power training while in Air Cadets did you ran into my older brother Mike. He did his training in Greenwood in 1977 and Shearwater in 1978. One more quick question did you get your pilot licence before you got your driver licence? Just like my brother Mike.

getjets said...

no body will touch this with a 200foot pole, BUT...that shhhhowww, is the cutest lil monkey shine...that could have ever, been on yo Beeeee hind!!!!

From the Flight Deck said...

Getjets. What should I say to that??? :)

Captain Doug

Cedarglen said...

Capt. Doug... Maybe it got lost the first time, stuff happens. If you can find the time and words, I have a burning question abour braking. I understand that that on landing setup, you can set Off, AUTO, and probably 1-4 for Auto Braking function. Simple folks like me easily understand the ABS function on our cars, essentially max brake until wheel slip and then on-off as fast as possible. Big airplanes, but with much less contactact surface, need this sensory function in a serious way. As not ed, your 320 series has Autobrake settings, but what do they really mean? What is AUTObraking, or settings #1 #3 etc, and how is it different from the ABS that we have come to love in/on our cars. I know, you have much higer mass, far less (relative) contact surface and 200+ souls aboard. When you have time to get there, a nice post on brake function would be fun. We alreaddy know abour break functions. Thanks.

getjets said...

Comment simply meant in Jest...
and as always there's...NRN!
comment rating 'PG-10'
which is not to confused with the age I may have been acting...


Cedarglen said...

Doug, The more I look at that lead shot of the St. John's harbor, the more I enjoy it. What a beautiful place. I've been there a couple of times and the harbor is 'Eye Candy' for me. Ha! My acres of forest are better, especially for a guy that used to plant trees in a similar climate. Still, a delightful, welcoming place. I'll be back.
P.S. I know, you've been flying a lot. Thoughts about those brakes are welcome, when you have the time.-Craig

getjets said...

KSFO-CYYZ:"ACA756, Runway 1R, cleared for departure"....
"ACA756 Contact departure" reply.."Have a good one"

If it was you...

From the Flight Deck said...

Getjets. I'm still in SFO. I had a relatively long and rare layover here.
Now I know why, it's Valentine's Day and I forgot to bid it off, but the senior guys did.
After a six hour flight my F/O and I biked to Sausalito...about a 11 mile ride which took us over the Golden Gate bridge.

Busy day today. Off to YYZ and then down to LGA and back.

Captain ^D^

getjets said...

I watched the "live webcast" yesterday(13th) of the unveiling of Boeing's new 747-8. Quite the ceremony!!!! Changed the livery from Boeing "Blue" to a darker red and orange...which as the Boeing people said, those colors are associated(through studies) with prosperity and success. "He"(the 747-8)is a "Stunner"!!!!!!!!!misstwa ^j^

whywhyzed said...

Yep... some pretty good pix and a slide show on the monster 747-8 HERE

getjets said...

Thanks so much "whywhyzed"!!!!...that'll hold me over for awhile...ha;)
Again...appreciated! misstwa

getjets said...

Oh.... and all of ya'll, don't forget to wish your wives,husbands, significant others, whatevers(never know)....HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!! I am sure you all look better with your heads still attached!

Daniel said...

Dang, I missed you in YYZ. I am currently sitting at gate 155 and watching 3 of 5 family members leave early on ACA908 while me and my dad take ACA2034 later tonight. We flew on ACA623 ( B763 ) last night so we wouldnt deal with problems this morning in YHZ and I knew you were coming from SFO but I totally forgot to go to the gate and say hi, unfortunatly you weren't flying the SFO - YYZ plane that would turn into my ACA2034 :(

Another time ! :D

I wonder what the captain will think when one of his young passengers visits the flight deck with the dispatch and some decent amount of knowlage about the the A320? Hehe.

From the Flight Deck said...

Daniel. I am home now. I was suppose to fly to La Guardia and back but because of ground delays the flight was cancelled. They were going to send me to Philadelphia but that too was cancelled.

Pretty windy out there. Captain Doug had to land on 33 Left with the winds gusty to 45 knots. Can you say say, "greaser?" :)

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

Getjets. Thanks for the Valentine reminder. I hope you practice what you preach and gave your hubby a hug. :)

I'm home early because of a cancelled flight.

Happy Valentine's Day!


Daniel said...

Yea, I almost lost my hat getting off the bus. Although, the big 777 doesn't seem to mind it, I seen one pull a greaser on 33R about an hour back.

Last night had a hard landing on 24R. I checked the metar before and it was around 30 kts but I heard a comment from behind me about the landing about the captain being a girl... It wasn't wvery nice, i'll put it that way.

From the Flight Deck said...

Daniel. Good call on being diplomatic! Captain Doug

Daniel said...

( sorry for the spelling mistakes, it isn't easy with a tiny notepad when your used to typing with a full keyboard ;) It was about the lady captain and the hard landing )

From the Flight Deck said...

Cedarglen (Craig) St,John's and the surrounding area can grow on ya.

You should make your way back. :)

Captain Doug


Hello Captain Doug,

I'm sure the concentration on the Flight Deck was pretty intense for that take off. We always train for the "what if's" and are thinking ten steps ahead so we react instinctively to an upset.....Your's and the F/O's brain must have gotten quite the work out until you nicely broke 30,000!

Must be quite the rush holding back two monsters at 70%! Is it you who decides when and when not to do a "brake stand" or is it flight planning derived?

Great post....this is what keeps us coming back for more.

Glad you enjoyed the pic....I enjoyed the J-class comfort

CAT III Approach

From the Flight Deck said...

CAT III Approach

It's a bit of a work out holding back those engines at 70 percent especially on snow covered ground.

It's procedure to do so if there is prolonged taxiing in icing conditions or we suspect some engine contamination.

We suppose to do it for 30 seconds.

Thanks for the comments!

Captain Doug


I have two questions for you when you have a moment....

Why does the A319 "buzz" when take off thrust is set? Is this the fuel pumps making this sound?

What are the four lights on the ceiling at the front/center of the J class cabin for?? I think they're "blue, red, yellow, and orange?"

Thanks Captain,

CAT III Approach

From the Flight Deck said...

CAT III approach. The A319 buzzing? All I hear are those CFM 56s purring at 23,000 pounds of thrust. :)

As far as the lights, you got me. Are they the call annunciators when someone hits the "call" button?


From the Flight Deck said...

Whywhyzed. Thanks for the link. I see Getjets liked the link as well. :)