Flight plan

......My flight plan....

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Where's the Vitamin D?

                                   Picture borrowed off the internet. Looks like tonight. 

RDF (Rain Drizzle Fog) day

Yesterday we departed Toronto in rain. We landed in Montreal in rain. We took off from Montreal in rain. We landed in Toronto in Rain. We took off in rain and we landed in Halifax in drizzle and fog.  Heck, we didn’t even see the sun at flight level. I know one thing….Spring in the east has been cancelled. LOL 

People ask what is it I like about my job? One word that immediately comes to mind...“dynamic!”

Here’s why…

The Rapidair flights were somewhat routine although we got away late in Montreal because they didn’t have enough wheelchairs to unload the previous flight. Some one better look around and realize we baby boomers are aging so it's time to pump up the volume in the wheel chair department.

At about five hundred feet, Toronto tower mentions an Airbus 330 in tow will be crossing the end of our runway. “Fair enough”we say to ourselves. But wait a minute, isn’t the localizer (the electronic beam that guides us laterally) located there? Isn’t it why we suppose to hold short further back in CAT II and CAT III approaches? Won’t it affect “our” guidance? Well Captain D’s approach did some “dipsy-doodles” and I told my F/O, 'it’s not me!" I realized what happened after I disconnected and greased it on. The large A330 blocked the localizer signal. Did I tell you I like wet runways? Yes, we told tower (actually I’m flying with a safety representative with the union) so of course tower was going to hear about it. They said the supervisor had been contacted.

During push back and start up for our last leg to Halifax we get a “start valve” problem when starting number engine two. A “chat” with maintenance ensues.. Fixed! I joke… “that exercise is complete.” Something you hear in simulator training.

It’s off to fog prone Halifax. The weather is iffy. I tell the F/O I may have to take the landing from him (it was his leg) because we might have to pull out the heavy hitter…CATEGORY II Autoland. Sure enough a southerly wind lived up to it’s name and spewed fog along Nova Scotia’s coast. What was I thinking when I bid Halifax layovers in “fog season?” Vertical visibility was a whopping 100 feet with ½ mile horizontal visibility with the RVRs showing 3000 feet with a downward trend. Translation, the fog is getting thick.Yes, my meteorological senses were tingling. We set up for Captain D’s CAT II approach.

Medical emergency and then two....

Ten minutes prior to descent with the long winded briefing out of the way a call from the back says a passenger has fainted…we have a medical emergency. Hmmm?

Our alternate is Moncton, New Brunswick which has unlimited visibility. It’s decision time. We’re heading to Halifax! Procedure is to contact an American medical company through dispatch, but this takes a pilot out of the loop. I say in “diplomatic terms of course” notify ATC and dispatch…we got a plane to fly. (I’m thinking another hypoglycaemic passenger and 9/10 times it’s the case). 

At about 15,000 feet in descent another call from the back, another passenger fainted. I look at my F/O while fighting a tailwind and trying to stay on profile with a “WTF” look. (Sorry for the cuss Getjets) J
We land with lots of flashing emergency vehicles greeting us at the gate. Note to self….I must remember to disengage the autopilot a little sooner when trying to leave the runway. The airplane wanted to return to centreline.

Hope you appreciate why my job is “dynamic.” lol

Just readying for our flight to the “Rock.” Halifax is down in a ¼ mile in fog and drizzle. And guess what the foggiest city in Canada is doing" Unlimited visibility?  Go figure! 


Daniel said...

It seems this week and last week have been filed with fog, and fog only. We haven't had a sunny day for a while and it sucks. O well, that's Atlantic Canada for yea. Did you see any of the Q400's buzzing around YUL while you were there?

Danny Asuncion said...


When I woke up today, I realized that I had just had an aviation dream. I was a pilot, but I had not flown in years. I still felt competent, but my license had expired years earlier...

jack said...

Low blood pressure mixed with high in cabin pressure as well as a different environment of oxygen. It's amazing more people don't faint while flying, given the fact that so many people are scared to fly.

From the Flight Deck said...

Jack. That's what the first passenger had...low blood pressure. Plus we were at FL390 so the cabin altitude sat at 8000 feet. You throw in lack of sleep, jet lag, little food, tension, stress of travel, and other issues and you have a recipe for... "is there a doctor on board?"

From the Flight Deck said...


I bet that's the same feeling many retired pilots have...they are waking up in the morning, but there is no place to go.

No uniform to don, no packing of overnight bags, no escape, no respect, no camaraderie, etc.
Time to go back to sleep. :)

Adam aka "The Winnipeger" said...

I have to say i would take snow over fog any day! lol
Here in Winterpeg, I thought the snow was gone for good but mother nature greeted us with a huge dumping of snow last week and it looked like I was going to hit the slopes, sadley no. :( It all finaly melted for good and soccer season has started and Provincal training has started up again.

Have a good one,
The Winnipeger,

Anonymous said...

Captain Doug,

Should have bid some western turns this week, spring has finally sprung! Lots of CAVOK (opps, SKC) in CYYC!

YYC Dispatcher

From the Flight Deck said...


I heard about your snowstorm. Goes to show to keep the winter tires on a little longer.

Enjoy the soccer!

Now In St. John's, Newfoundland.

From the Flight Deck said...

YYC Dispatcher. Just checked your weather, looks like things are turning around for you guys after a dismal winter, fall, and summer.

You guys deserve some nice spring weather. Now can you send some our way?

Enjoy that CAVOK! :)

Anonymous said...

Not sure you want us sending any your way, we sent YWG and YBR some +SN last week that they didn't seem to like too much!

We sure didn't see any SH in April, just SN!

YYC Dispatcher

Zee said...

You know Capt, thats one reason I want to move away from IT and become a pilot - dynamic. One thing I know even though I am not a pilot is no two work days are the same.

Seems like you have had an eventful week Capt. Bet you are having fun though.

Stussi 613 said...
This post has been removed by the author.
Stuart Seemungal said...

Captain, if you see a Q400 in AC Express livery in YOW on your turn let me know...they are only running them YUL-YTZ at the moment and day trippers like me can't wait until the YOW service to the island starts!

From the Flight Deck said...


That's what I mentioned yesterday, I haven't seen the new Sky Regional in service. I've seen them parked on the ramp for months prior to the launch but I'm listening out for their "call sign."

Took off from YHZ tonight with 1400 feet RVR.

If it dropped any lower Captain D would have done the take off.

Beautiful here on the "Rock." Not really...it's plus 4 with a stiff westerly wind, but at least the visibility is unlimited. :)

Christer said...

Man, sounds like quite the day! Too bad you didn't get any south eastern US routes this week- seems as though the nasty weather has finally moved away from here, for now....at least it isn't cold or foggy!

Speaking of which, if you had to pick, would you prefer to deal with spring/summer thunderstorms aloft, or foggy and low visibility like the last few days? While boarding a US flight for the west coast the other week and waiting in line on the jetway, the skipper and an FA were behind me and I overheard him say how he was already dreading picking his way through the swath of storms to the west and wished for some reprieve. Before pushing back, he informed the rest of us in the cabin that it was going to get rough and he asked the FAs to stay seated and not start any service for at least an hour. The rough ride report did deliver, although I didn't notice anyone near me fainting! With a fully-loaded A321 I imagine the chances are pretty high....

On an unrelated note- I have a question you may be able to use for enRoute sometime. What is the correlation between the direction of a flight and the altitude (even or odd numbers)? Also, it seems as though flights headed west are almost always odd-numbered, and east, even-numbered. However, at least on some airlines in the US, I've noticed the north/south directions to be interchangeable. For example, a couple days ago I switched to an earlier flight from ORD-CLT; my original flight was
#988, and the one I got on two hours earlier was 927. Same routing and direction, but even/odd number. Is there a general rule determining the direction of a flight and its number, or does this vary by airline?

Sorry to digress:) Have a safe trip and hopefully the weather will treat you better!


getjets said...


CAPTAIN DOUG!!!!........since you were in service to your company(AC).... you've just been granted a "getjets" pardon...LOL

besides I thought it meant....


misstwa(on step #8 of the "12 Step" program to a cleaner vocab...)

ps...found out "ahem" isn't a cuss word after all...hope your smiling...

carlton said...

Sorry to "rub it in" but here in the UK the weather is amazing, and it has been amazing for over a month, the only sad thing is having to spend all day, everyday, inside at work in a department with no windows!
Really wish I chased my dreams to be a pilot : (

Foggy said...

Carlton - don't be sorry! We have to rub it in at every opportunity. Us lot over here in the UK just don't get enough of the vitamin-D! The last three weeks - CAVOK all the way;)

However - there's always one of those - it's all breaking down on Saturday when a wedge of "Spanish Plume", warm air from the SW, collides with cooler air from the west somewhere near Yeovil on the A303 bringing floods, pestilence, and untold misery to thousands of caravan-towing objects trying to get back to Penge after a long May-day holiday! Bloomin' Spaniards!!

Doug, sounds like an eventful turn. A few years ago you would have had that third hand on the flight deck to cover those sort of things. There's an letter in this weeks Flight on that very subject, but aimed more at the monitoring and supervision issues following a well-reported landing accident in India a little wile ago. I'll try and find an on-line link. Regarding the WTF - that will be the Wikileaks Task Force set up by the CIA.......


Bas said...

Whaow, talking about dynamic! Are medical issues a frequent problem?

And yeah, I always forget to disconnect the autopilot too when in my Flight Simulator after an autoland xD. It steers back onto the centerline indeed!


cstclair@pelmorex.com said...

Doug - Not sure if you've seen Sir Richard latest rebrand in OZ .. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIz-Z0zBPuI

Cheers Chris

Cedarglen said...

Nice post, Doug, as always. Hmm... While you understand the weather better than most of your colleagues, that does not make it any easier to drive through it. That plus making rwasonable decisions about your two fainters - and still flying the airplane - is **why they call you Captain.** I've heard about the autoland trying to stay on the centerline from a couple of places. One would think that the loading switch in the landing gear that enables other features would disable the autopilot steering. There must be a reason that it does not. The last note note, last response, prior post is on the mark; This guy has a serious bent for the "Classical" and I've been exploring Christer's website. Wow!! Thanks, Christer and you'll be hearing from me.

Cedarglen said...

Doug, sorry about the awful checking and editing. That must be my worst public post ever. I was in a hurry and I know that is lame and higher standards apply. You will figure it out and I will pay more attention. (Sadly, it was not beverage-related. I wish.)

From the Flight Deck said...

Zee, but if you make a ton of money with the IT work you can buy some expensive toys like an airplane.

Lots of doctors and dentists do that.

But I'll stick with my "dynamic" job.

Good luck with the decision making.

From the Flight Deck said...


Didn't see them on the YOW turn although I heard ATC looking for them on frequency.
I tried reaching "Sky Regional" on the emergency frequency but "no joy."

They must have been busy with their new airplane. :))

From the Flight Deck said...


As far as thunderstorms versus fog, I'll take the fog. I'm a Maritimer so I'm used to rain, drizzle and fog. (Although you wouldn't know it, the way
I complain about it) :) Besides thunderstorms can hurt.

As far as altitude and flight levels...with a track from zero to 179 degrees flight levels are odd numbers. Any flight from 180 to 359 is even.
So if I was heading to Vancouver from Toronto typical flight levels would be FL 320, 340, 360 and 380. I'll keep your question on flight levels in the memory bank. And keep the questions coming!!!!

Looks like you haven't been reading my enRoute questions.....:)))) Here's the question answered in January's edition:

Q: How are flight numbers derived?

Nearly 700 daily flight numbers get airborne! The first digit generally dictates the destination: 0 is for flights to Asia and South America, 1 represents a Canadian transcontinental flight, 2 is for Western Canada flights, 3 generally designates flights to the U.S. East Coast, 4 is Rapidair® service, 5 is for flights to the U.S. Midwest and West Coast, 6 is for flights to Canada’s East Coast, 7 is for LaGuardia and the U.S. West Coast, 8 is for European flights, while 9 is mainly for Florida and Caribbean flights. Flights south and east end in an even number, and west and north flights have an odd number.

Christer said...

Thanks Doug! Sorry to make you dig that old answer out- now that I read it, I remember you had answered it:)! Now January was an AC-free month for me, so I didn't read it on board, but now I do recall seeing it here...

Interesting info on altitude and flight levels- thanks!

Craig (Cedarglen)- thanks for the comments, glad you like it:) look forward to hearing from you.


From the Flight Deck said...


Thanks for the pardon. :)

^D^ back from St. John's, NFLD

From the Flight Deck said...

Carlton. ...But you have a rich "bride to be." Sponge off her and get your pilot license. :)))

You won't regret it!

From the Flight Deck said...

Foggy and Carlton..you guys enjoy that warm weather.

It's official...spring is cancelled in Ontario.

Looks like I may have to buy some Vitamin D. :)

From the Flight Deck said...


As far as medical issues, I get one once every few months. But most are false alarms with
hypoglycaemia being the main culprit. Passengers are up sometimes very early or don't sleep because they are thinking about the pending flight, or some are partying all night and by the time they get to the plane...well....

But I am always amazed there is always a doctor on board or a nurse. Goes to show why there is a doctor shortage, they are all travelling. :))))

Captain D

From the Flight Deck said...


Thanks for the link. Cool commercial. Virgin America did not fair too well in the Toronto market.

I must tell you about the question someone asked a Virgin flight attendant. The answer had something to do about "red thongs."

Every time I saw a Virgin flight take off in Heathrow I always thought about the "thong" thing.

Oops I'm off course.

Let's talk about the weather. LOL

From the Flight Deck said...

Cedarglen. (Craig)

In reference to the autopilot not connected to the landing gear "squat switch" ....it would have to remain on to track the centreline while decelerating on the runway.

The fact is mentioned in our briefing notes for an autoland. I just didn't disengage fast enough.


Not to worry about typos and things. I'm certain if I went back and read some of my stuff, I would be shocked people would still read my blog.

From the Flight Deck said...


Speaking of enRoute, it's time to post May's rendition.

Doug :)

carlton said...

Foggy, I am not sorry at all, especially as it is pouring it down with rain this morning - although nature certainly needs it! We have probably had our UK summer for this year....

Capt Doug, re sponge off future bride, we tried that remember, but to no avail. Am thinking of taking a portion of my monthly wages and set up a savings account called 'Carlton's flying fund'. No more beer for me...