!!!!! 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.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stable or Unstable?

"With it out and hanging"

              Stable or unstable?

Since the incident on Toronto’s 24 Left where an A340 (not ours) overran the runway and from anonymously analyzing flight profiles from our FDA (Flight Data Analysis) department, a new procedure came about three years ago. Hundreds upon hundreds of flights were scrutinized.  Certain problem areas and particular airports stood out. (I’ll be off to one airport high on the list as a “problem child”….San Francisco). For example, some airports are known to keep a pilot high and fast, so configuring the aircraft proved to be a challenge in some situations. (Anyone who flies jets knows you can't "get down and slow down.") Thus ATC could be approached to resolve things or briefing notes can give a pilot a "heads up."

So what is required to be deemed a stable approach?

Here’s a few:

1.     Aircraft is configured to land i.e. “it’s out and hanging”
(Ahem, this means the flaps and slats are out and the gear is down)  :)))
2.     Indicated airspeed is plus/minus 10 knots
3.     Engine thrust is above idle
4.     Rate of descent is NOT above 1000 feet/minute
5.     We are on or within a half dot of the glideslope and within ½ dot deflection of the localizer.

So at 500 AGL in VFR conditions or 1000 feet IFR the PNF (Pilot Not Flying) gets to rate his co-worker by saying “stable” or “unstable.” Kidding! Actually, the call is either “Stable” or “Unstabilized.” So far...all my F/Os have been calling me “Stable.”  An “Unstabilzed” call is an automatic go around.

I guess they figured “unstable” would be too similar sounding in the heat of the moment. It’s all about phraseology. Just like “yes” is affirmative and “no” is negative in aviation.

Speaking of which, a recent F/O of mine told me this joke….

A husband suspected his wife was having an affair with the pilot in the neighbourhood. He confronted her and asked, “are you having an affair with THAT PILOT down the street?”

His wife quickly retorted…."Negative!” :)))))


Foggy said...

Anyone who flies jets knows you can't "get down and slow down"... unless you're a Danish F16B pilot who found himself slightly high and fast on the approach to a secret northern UK airbase a few years ago. He rolled inverted and pulled to 45 deg nose down whilst popping the airbrakes, then completed the roll and pulled to the flare putting the aircraft "on the numbers". Except I guess that would be frowned upon in a 320 with 150 SLF and 4 Safety Management Consultants in the back! Thinking back, the F16 driver was also frowned upon to the extent that he was on the next support "Herc" back to Dansk-land.

As to being referred to as a "Horse-house", I would take exception to that, or have I got the wrong end of the halter?

Have a safe trip to KSFO...

Captain Doug said...

Foggy. After your F16 recount, I should have said, "anyone who flies airliners." :))))
And yes, it would NOT be good for job security if I did that in my A320. LOL

Like the reference to F/As being safety management consultants.

It's early here in Canada and I'm without a coffee so I'm still a little perplexed with your "horse-house" comment. Sure I can decipher the double meaning but that's as far as I get. :)))))

Gone for a large coffee.

Steve Pomroy said...

QT: "Just like 'yes' is affirmative and 'no' is negative in aviation."

Affirmative and negative are considered to sound too much alike as well. The ICAO standard for 'yes' is actually 'affirm', ditching the last two syllables and avoiding confusion if the beginning of the word is unreadable.


Foggy said...

My apologies on the "word-play" - the use of "unstabilized" rather than "unstable". Interestingly "unstabilized/...ised" (unstablized?) is not in my edition of the OED - unstable is, i.e., not stable, changeable, a tendency to sudden mental or emotional change! Stable is: firmly fixed or established - could be confusing on an ILS approach? - or, a builing set apart for keeping horses.

Now I'm as confused as you are - may I join you in having coffee?

Captain Doug said...


You mean to say I've been saying "affirmative" and it should have been "affirm?"

I did hear "affirm" used and thought the person saying it was wrong, but they were really correct.
Who knew?

I'll give it a try enroute to San Francisco today.

Hey, I checked out your website. Looks like you have a lot of stuff to offer.

I'll add your link. :)

Captain Doug

Captain Doug said...

Foggy. I understand now!

You most certainly can join me in a coffee providing you let me buy!

Thanks for the clarification.

And your right, "unstabilzed" is not in my spell check either.

Cedarglen said...

Doug: Yet another great post! If it is not set up right at the vital point, Go around and make it better. Heck yes, a stable approach is a very good thing: On path and slope, ready to plop and with power available if needed. In getting there, you use power, flaps, slats, the hanging stuff and even speed brakes at times. I always wonder about flying a Side Slip to loose more elevation, when still well AGL. Do you do it? It is also a good effort for cross-wind situations, but questionable with big jets as you don't want to drag an engine or wing tip on the ground. At safe distances AGL, is the side-slip still used to dump elevation, but without increasing speed? Yes, I can imagine that those high and fast, dive and plop approaches are not your best friend. Just like the too short runway - perhaps legal, but not very smart - how often do you face a high/fast (Dive and Plop in my vocabulary) approach and landing? Of course, the rules and formal procedures are there, but is this of concern to the boys and girls doing the driving? What gives? I know that you alays tell the truth - or sidestep with consumate grace. What's the story? Again, I Like to new, bold look. Any new visitor will be captured and great stuff. -Craig.
** My pass phrase begins with 'dork' this time. I wonder... .

Craig said...

I don't have anything to say about the actual blog post, but I noticed ACA822 YYT-LHR in the A319 started up again tonight. You ever fly that route?

Craig M

Bas said...

Nice post! I've seen landings and takeoffs on the same runway at Frankfurt with like 30 seconds of 'clear runway' in between takeoff and landings.

@Foggy, lol!

getjets said...


Captain Doug, on a somewhat related note, here is a site titled "INDIA TO PILOTS....DON'T AIM FOR COMFORTABLE LANDINGS....."

I hope you can pull up this article from here

or perhaps...."Stable or Unstable?" landings

Interesting in that question of long smooth landing verses on the spot landing....

getjets said...

and in addition....you know when someone gives you information that you can use, and ya thank em....by saying

with 1000's of SAFE landing's everysingle day... kinda gives a new meaning to... and speaking for myself....a member of the flying public......


PUN INTENDED!!!!!!!!!!!

getjets said...


Captain Doug and others.....understanding of course, time is precious.....and when you may the time....

here is a story, from NYAviation website....which only reinforces my admiration for ya'll

enough said, except thanx

no apology for multiple comments...but,
now i will call it a day

Captain Doug said...

Getjets and others. Don't think I'm ignoring your comments.

I'll take a look at things when I get back to the "mother ship."

Captain D had a great approach/landing with this "problem child airport" last night.

We did the FMS Bridge Visual RWY 28R approach. Worked like a charm!

Now it's time to head in the reverse direction.

Here we go!

getjets said...


Captain Doug said...


Side stepping is not in the vocabulary for an airline jockey. Although the option is there in extreme cases. The B767 Gimli Glider used it to make the runway.

We do "S" turns instead. Even that is rare.

With this new "call" I don's see the high/fast approaches anymore. Why? The guys are setting up sooner which is fine by me.
My eyebrows start raising when the gear is not down by the final approach fix. It's not necessary to delay the gear this long.

Thanks for the kind words on the "new look."

Cedarglen said...

Thanks, Doug. I think I meant slipping, not stepping, but same thing. I just remember it as a counter-intuitive move for small plane flying *many* years ago. I recall reading the "Grimli" story, both sad and impressive flying, some years ago. I can alo appreciate that a side-slip does not fit today's approach patters: Get it right or GA, sound better. I used to see some "S" turns @ KPDX when I was an occ. watcher, but -as you say, rare. Glad that you made it to Home Base; wondering if you had chosen to stay in SF You H.B weather will improve and then you willbe busy 3x. Still waiting for for dry at Cedarglen, but expecting it sooner than last year. It goes with the territory. (My micro climate grows a LOT of doug fir feet, so we don't complain much. The better idea is to connect with a Southbound AC flight toward the equator during those months. Aside: great kudos to Canada and AC in particular for including A++ "Professional Level" medical kits. Per reports, far better than most and always better than US/FAA mandated. That's another story. Regards, -Craig.

Cedarglen said...

And I still cannot type, or the KB needs cleaning. Sorry. -C.

shege2000 said...

Captain Doug,

All these while, I have tried to meet up with you, but all my flying with AC are always on heavy birds because of the long distance flights i normally flies. just came back from YYZ-FRA-IST-PKG-YYZ

The opportunity I have was not utilize when I saw you on your way to Cancun with the family.

As a devoted fan of your blog, I would love to have two copies of your book, all signed by you. please tell me the cost to mail to Brampton and I will send you the money by Email or paypal if you have paypal account.

Captain Doug said...


Read your link. The rule of thumb is ...."land on the first third of the runway, on the centreline, and on the main wheels first."
After that, the rest is gravy.
Sure there are certain airports. La Guardia, New York comes to mind, where it's "get on, get off." No finessing allowed.

But you tell any pilot he shouldn't stroke his ego now and again and you will see a "pouting pilot."

Landings are ego makers and ego busters. And yes, I've experienced both! :)))))

Captain Doug said...

Getjets. Just read, "Ghosts of Octobers Past." What a well written article.

He writes, "As we sit here, I get a sense of uneasiness. What is that? We cannot see anything, but a ghost in the darkness is upon us."

I've been there. He labelled it as a sixth sense. Maybe it is? I say it's my "meteorological senses tingling."

When I flew the A340, the four engines would sense something (ghosts in the darkness) too about ten seconds prior to it happening. And then "bam!"

I believe they sensed a gravity wave from the turbulence. It's a disheartening feeling when you see the engines throttle back to near idle for no apparent reason but seconds later...you know why.

Again, that was a great article. Actually, his writing reminded me of mine. No, I'm not saying I am a great writer, but he gets to the point in an interesting way. No wishy-washy stuff.


Captain Doug said...

HI Craig.

YYT-LHR is flown by the Winnipeg based pilots. One must be ETOPS (Extended twin Engine Operations) and since CYWG is such a small pilot base, it made sense having that base fly the route. Pity though, I miss my London layovers. :((((


read the getjets link.....
WOW....have you ever flown through something like that Captain....if AC or any passenger airline was to get a report with shear like that would it be attempted or would it be immediate diversion??

Great post as always!

CAT III Approach

getjets said...

So Captain Doug, are you a "pouting pilot" today or not??...lol

In cajun country a pout is also called a "Bahbin"...pernounced BA BIN...vowels short...

yes, the "Ghosts of October"....
a very gripping story....even after many rereads, glad you and CAT III liked it!;)))))))

writing is similar to yours that you mention.....it's all in the company you keep...and I love the company I keep:))

and that is a compliment....but don't let it go to your head....

member what Moma said about those britches getting too big....lol

gotta go, before I get in trouble....


Cedarglen said...

Doug and Company, a fun post. As noted here and elsewhere, I guess that some of those marginal airports - short runways, bad over-runs - or none - and/or at very high altitude, are often simply bid around by experienced crews, thinkng, 'Why challenge the physics of flight." To paraphrase one bright fellow, "...just becasue the FAA (US) says it can be done does not mean that it should be done..." I think the fellow added a comment like, "...and I won't do it." The safety part works for me. Another added something about a light-weight take off from Burbank, only to stop at Ontario (59-60 miles?) for fuel, before heading to the real destination. That cannot bea profitable flight for any line or airplane. Doug, your current routes seem to be close to ideal: Based at home, fly plenty of legs to stay skilled/current and to/from pairs that can deal with the weather. One lucky fellow. Best wishes! -Craig

Craig said...

Ah, gotcha. Feel like I've asked someone about that route before now that I think about it. It amazes that you can go from YYT-LHR in roughly the same amount of time or even less than it takes to go YOW/YUL/YYZ-YVR. Then again, looking at a map it makes sense.

Craig M


and I as a passenger also can 95% of the time sense when turbulence is going to hit....the airplane goes from smooth to a feeling of being in a boat "floating" up and down ever so gently for about 10 seconds, then bang...bumps....
anyone else feel this?

is the TO/GA detent set for max power or just power to weight/wind...etc for a given take off? Is there a detent above this for nailing the throttles if you need it if the preset TA thrust isn't enough at the time?

Happy and Safe flying Captain,

CAT III Approach

jack said...

Hey Captain Doug,

Quick question; from what you have heard or seen throughout the industry, and if you had to go through flight training all over again, which college do you think you would go to?

Just interested to know. I have heard a lot of good things about several of them such as Moncton, MRU, Confederation, Sault, Seneka, etc.


Captain Doug said...

Shege2000. It costs me about $7 to ship anywhere in Canada and that includes a bubbled envelope.
So, I'll need $25 for each book. I do realize Amazon offers it cheaper.

I appreciate your intentions If you are still up for it, and if you can email money, my bank is BMO.

Standing by! :))))

Here's my email: [email protected]

Captain Doug said...


Yes the ones you mentioned are good. Seneca is a four year degree. The rest are two years, I think?

I would be leaning on the one or two year diploma. That way you have your qualifications and then you are ready to build time.

Get in, get it quick and move on.

Degrees and diplomas carry equal weight here in Canada....for now.

However, in the Sates a degree rules!

There is no college/university that stands out.

Good luck with it all!

And we'll see on line!

Captain Doug

Captain Doug said...

Getjets. I don't worry about my britches getting too big because I'm certain you will keep me in check!

Didn't pout much today. "Number one" pointed her finger to the backyard and I followed her orders.

Then again, maybe I did pout? lol

Bahbin Captain ^D^

Captain Doug said...

Cedarglen (Craig)

Funny you should mention tight airports based on altitude. Looks like I have the honour of flying to Mexico City FIVE times in June!

That same "bright fellow" with lots of truly valuable words of wisdom ...flew there once in thunderstorms and he cooked a couple of engines while avoiding terrain.

I hope that is not in my script. "Straight and level" is the way I like it.

In the mean time, I'm "based at home" taking orders from you know who! :)

Captain Doug said...

CAT III Approach. TOGA (Take off/go around) thrust is equivalent to "balls to the wall" get out of Dodge power. There is no extra detent. If we are in a low level wind shear scenario the call is "FIREWALL" power to get the other guy thinking about procedures.

I too experience that..."floating in the boat" feeling prior to the "whomp."

Bas said...

Ghosts of Octobers Past, that was awesome to read! Any more on the interwebs?

Oh and uhh Captain, you are a great writer! :)

Captain Doug said...

Bas. It really was a great read! Getjets knows how to pick them and YOU are a charmer. :) I see Miss TWA is visiting your blog. She will pump it up a notch!

Chris Gardner said...

Back in town since Saturday had a real good visit to Calgary although the weather was likme home rain, drizzle, and fog. RDF to some. I took your suggestion and thank the flight crew for a job well done. I did even managed to talk to the pilots to pass on the good word. On the flight home I did see the contour shadows from the plane and that blue line in the sky from the coming darkness.

Bryan said...

great news doug! i just got my CAT I medical, and i'm cleared to fly! starting training in september, can't wait! (however, have to contact stupid TC and have them send me a new one that says 'Bryan' instead of 'Bryon'. damn government... :P

Captain Doug said...

CAT III approach. Looks like I missed a question of yours. Would a report of wind shear scare us away?
If that was the case, St. John's, Newfoundland would be seeing a lot less aircraft. LOL
Even the author to Ghosts of October queried the ferocity of the turbulence , "maybe the report was wrong?"

This is what it says on CYYT's approach plates:

"Caution: Moderate to Severe turbulence with windshear and severe downdrafts my be encountered."

Been there!

Captain Doug

Captain Doug said...


Elated must be an understatement as to how you feel! Looks like you solved the visual acuity thing. Goes to show, if you don't like the answer ask someone else.

I had my medical today. I get to keep my license for another six months I too am happy, but not as happy as you are! :)

Captain Doug said...

Chris. Welcome home and it sounds like you had some great flights. AC of course? :))))

Christopher said...

Are you sure that the title wasn't referring to the crew? LOL


Thanks Captain!

Does it ever bother/worry you? Not the little stuff, but conditions like the event described by the ghosts link? I suppose if it did, you wouldn't be at the helm. :)

Foggy, that sounds like a "Top Gun" move! I'd promote the pilot!! Skill beyond skill there.....wow. Thanks for sharing.

Have you ever tried a roll in the sims Captain? I would!!!

CAT III Approach

Captain Doug said...

Chris. I'm certain you asked me what angle airplanes descend at.

I'm so certain, that I used your name for this very question in August's enRoute.

Hope you don't mind! :)