!!!!! 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 17 of 21 posts from January 2011. Show older posts
Showing newest 17 of 21 posts from January 2011. Show older posts

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Checked out on Ixtapa (Mexico)

Flight 1892 Toronto to Ixtapa's weather chart. One can see our route superimposed indicating we had to traverse two jet streams. Over New Orleans the jet was forecast to be out of the west at 110 knots with some bumps. Note the wind read out in the next pic in the top left hand corner (275 degrees at 115 knots). Pretty damn accurate on the weather man's part.

Getjets (Misstwa) ^J^ This picture is for you! We flew over your home. I looked for you but I couldn't see much at 38,000 feet. I guess you were partying during Mardi Gras!

Captain Doug the tourist.

A shot of Ixtapa's control tower. It was a cute little airport.

The city of Ixtapa. Please note this picture was over the airport at 12,000 feet in the climb while we set course to the frigid north.

Well Captain Doug got to add another airport on the list of many. The day proved very uneventful. The flight there was 5:30 and the return 4:40. Duty time 12:40. Just twenty minutes short of maxing out. Actually we have the option of exceeding it by two hours with everyone's concurrence. Just a deice or stronger headwinds would have pushed us into the duty envelope. Any major hiccups and Captain Doug and the gang would be practicing their Spanish, "Hola, cerveza, por favor" on an Ixtapa layover. :)

Getjets (Misstwa) ^J^
We flew directly over your hometown. I was going to wave and yell out your name but it would not be good for job security. The F/O would have said "go on oxygen" or "I have control!" Plus I should have got the F/O to do it...he was 12 years younger, ripped and better looking. LOL :)

Neither the F/O or myself have been to Ixtapa. I made sure I had approach charts to the airport. I learned my lesson years ago while flying to Munich, Germany. I won't say anymore. :)

Much to my dismay the airport had no precision approaches just VOR approaches typical of the Caribbean and Mexico. Oh great!

Then I checked the official briefing notes to the airport. It tells us about time zones, climate and who generally services the airplane.

But both the F/O chuckled when we read this:

Large Iguanas (two feet long) have been reported on the runway. Iguanas are not well disciplined and reportedly will proceed on the runway without a clearance!

I did ask the F/O whether he saw any Iguanas while on approach. He jokingly said, "No, but I was looking." :)

I was hoping it would tell me there are some big hills and the lowest you can descend is 6000 feet over the airport. Then you will probably end up doing the VOR A approach to 08 circling for 26 with the longest procedure turn you will see in a long time.

W started the long procedure turn, of which I have not done in years. I saw one little cloud in the sky and visibility was unlimited. So I thought enough of this and asked if we could do the left visual onto runway 26.

ATC came back, "cleared as requested." It doesn't hurt to ask. :)

The F/O did a great job!

All the passengers were happy we arrived five minutes early except one. His flight from Kingston, Ontario (about a 3 hour drive to Toronto) was cancelled. He took a cab costing $400! Ouch! (TWN Chris, if you are reading this, you could have made a few bucks yesterday while driving to work.) :)

The F/O and I walked around taking pictures. Then one employee came up to me pointing to the sign, "NO PICTURES ALLOWED!" Captain Doug was close to losing his camera.

Reminds me of the time the cruise pilot did a walk around in New Delhi, India. Security confiscated his camera as he took pictures of his own airplane.

Maybe the threat of losing one's camera should have been mentioned in the briefing notes instead of possibly squishing a two foot Iguana. lol

I'm typing fast. I'm out the door to bring a full load of passengers to see Mickey Mouse.

The life of an airline pilot. :)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Freezing rain and SARS???

"Getjets" sent this appreciative postcard today. Apparently one can send/receive a variety of aviation postcards . Postcard

Freezing rain and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)

Believe it or not, it's been eight years since the hype of SARS put a dent on the aviation industry. Here in Toronto the media really did a number. Because of it many airlines faltered. Truth be told more people died from the common cold than from SARs.
(I know I'm going to get flak from you health care people out there)

I've also seen first hand how Mad Cow disease and the Swine Flu caused passenger loads to plunder. Even on my last Hong Kong flight four years ago, the Hong Kong authority still scanned passenger's temperatures. We pilots had to remove our hats.

So what does freezing rain and SARs have in common?

Well today in the grocery store, I met an attractive tall blue eyed blond I picked up eight years ago. And yes I was married. :)

Now that I have your attention...let me explain. :) :) :)

Eight years ago, in the middle of winter, Toronto experienced freezing rain. The roads were ladened with ice. (Freezing rain plays havoc on an airline as well. Actually, Captain Doug may be doing a talk for the Weather Network on the perils of airframe icing. Oops, I'm digressing).

So Captain Doug (then First officer Doug) slowly and carefully walked to our mailbox and heard a troubled voice...."hello, can you help me?" I looked around only to find the voice coming from a young fallen mother painfully sprawled on her driveway. She broke her hip with her three month old child... trapped in the car seat crying. She laid there helpless knowing her child needed to be breastfed.

Cold temperatures prevailed so F/O Doug wasted no time. I picked the mother up and brought her into her house, got her child and called the ambulance.

The ambulance arrived when SARS was at its peak. Her child could not travel in the ambulance without wearing a SARS mask. The mother was breast feeding but the rule abiding attendants wouldn't budge. Sometimes common sense loses out.

It all worked out and both she and her husband sent an appreciative gift. And truth be told the mother is looking like she's been in an eight year time warp. Me on the other hand..... :)

Here ends one of my good will stories.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Three sides to a story

Captain Doug's view during yet another visit to the deice facility.

About an hour outside of Las Vegas. Lots of sunshine on the northern edge of the Grand Canyon. Sometimes I wonder why I live where I live....frigid Canada. :)

It was one of those mornings....no towel when I exited the shower, cut myself shaving, couldn't find my watch (still haven't found it), heavier than usual traffic and above all...No Tim Horton's coffee. :(

Snow sat on the wings so it was a given we would be going to the Central Deice Facility. Regulations dictate we must inform passengers about deicing. I'm just picking up the P.A when the in-charge walks in about two minutes prior to push back and says, "we have a problem!"

Three sides to a story...

"There is a passenger in the back of the airplane who just swore at a flight attendant, is angry and won't listen." I was going to look at my watch, but no watch, so I looked at one of the expensive chronometers (big name for a clock) and realized....there goes sked.

I asked the in-charge, "do you want him removed?" I also asked my F/O to call operations to get some back up. I made it perfectly clear I was behind her decision to deplane the passenger. After all, it will be the four of them who will have to contend with him.

It's decided. We will deplane the so called trouble maker. (noticed I said "so called")
Luckily he did not have checked baggage or it would translate into a 20 minute delay to find his bags below.

I went back to the front galley to see him off. This fella was about six four and if he and I were in a fight there would be two hits....him hitting me and me hitting the floor. :)

I whispered under my breath to the F/A as he neared the exit, this guy is big I better get my F/O. :)

Then we had a chat in front of a nearly fully loaded A320. He apologized profusely. He was not drinking and the fact he realized this was serious he turned into a puppy dog.

With the concurrence of the in-chrage. Oops I'm suppose to call them FSDs (flight service directors), the flight attendant in question, the two dispatched agents... we all agreed to give him a second chance. The flight was uneventful.

I talked to the passenger in the bridge in Vegas. He said, "Captain, I wish I could have told my story. It did not happen like that. " It also turned out his wife was a flight attendant for another airline and his son was learning to be a pilot at a flight college. Hmmmm....

I'm wise enough to realize two things from experiences like these. One: The situation could have been handled differently by all parties. Two...there are three sides to a story....your side, my side and the truth! :)

Pushback readiness

The rest of the day proved uneventful except when LAS operations wanted to peg a delay code on Captain Doug. There are 99 reasons for being tardy. I got a "64" (push back readiness).
WTF? Actually, I reiterated the phrase the unruly passenger theoretically said, "this is B.S!" :)
We challenged operations when airborne, but I noticed the code didn't change. I'm suppose to file paperwork to contest it, but Captain Doug will wait for the phone to ring to explain myself.

The life of an airline pilot. :)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Chit-chat over the "Rocks"

DC-3 (Buffalo Airways)


Whywhyzed (YYZ) sent this video depicting DC-3s at Oshkosh. Thanks YYZ!


Push back happened a couple minutes ahead of schedule yesterday with a fully loaded A321 (174 passengers) destined for Vancouver. The only snag - two overhead bins in "J" class were duct taped closed due to a broken hinge.

Most of the flight allowed great views of Canada in the winter, but I can't believe the amount of snow especially in the Prairies. But sight seeing only does so much for passing the time so I started asking my F/O questions....i.e to his story. (It's the first time we met) I'm asking more questions because I get lots of queries from upstart pilots.

I remember reading in my "how to freelance write" books... a good writer listens. And you just don't listen to the story, but you listen FOR a story. :)

He graduated from Mount Royal in Calgary, Alberta with a two year aviation diploma. He also had a physics degree from the University of Alberta. He decided to get in his car and drive north to Yellowknife and start knocking on doors. The trek was 25 hours due north with no formal job offer... just determination!

Nothing materialized, but he helped with loading at Buffalo Airways. One day, the boss asked him how long he worked for the company. He said he didn't. So the boss said we better change that. One of his first jobs was a flight attendant. (Think well over six feet and burly). But that indirectly lead him into the right seat of the DC-3. My F/O said two of the DC-3s flew on D-DAY!!!! That puts them to be at least 67 years old! Plus he flew water bombers and the DC-4.

For those in the know, Buffalo Airways, have made a name for themselves in the show "Ice Pilots." It's a hit in Canada, Great Britain and Australia. One follower sent me this link.
Ice Pilots

Having flown over the Rockies three times we conversed with Edmonton centre a lot. Captain Doug pointed out to the F/O there sure were lots of female controllers at the centre. The F/O piped up stating they now have a calendar out to raise money for a hospital. Let's just say there's no pictures with them staring at blips on the radar. Ahem.

Here's their website: Controlling the Skies. Hey, it's for charity.

Actually a few years ago, Air Canada flight attendants did a similar version called Cabin Fever.
It did well, but it could have done a lot better if it had more support. I'll stop there.

Gee, maybe we pilots can do something? "Cleared to take it off." Okay, I'll stop.... :)

Then I made a comment...can you imagine how many pilots in the next few months will be asking...."are you in the calendar?"

Then we looked at each other....silence. "Should we ask?".... Smiles....

But then practical Captain Doug mentioned..."what happens if she wasn't?" "How would that make her feel?"

More silence.....

Then my F/O smiled and said, can you imagine being married to an air traffic controller?
The flight deck filled with one liners.....

The pilot would ask....."do you want to..ahem?"

Their retorts...

"Do you have a clearance?"

"Pull up and go around!"

"Do a 180...NOW!"

"Stand by!"


"I gave you implicit instructions. I want a full read back!"

But maybe....just maybe....

"You are cleared for an approach."

Okay, okay we were trying to get through the long day. LOL

Thanks for listening to my banter. I'm sitting in cool, damp, overcast Vancouver. At least there is no snow.

Friday, January 21, 2011

V1 Lift off! (The Pilot Guy)

When I taught weather a few days ago at the AC training centre, I ran into the F/O who helped in my aviation documentary "pilot." He mentioned he has a new website. He also strongly suggested I get on board in making money from my blog. (Funny that's what my wife said) :)

Actually, he remains anonymous as far as who he works for. Smart move on his part but I guess it's too late for me. :)

"I’m the Pilot Guy, a successful Airline Pilot for a large North American Airline."

Pilot guy's website is there to help out the newbie struggling pilot to land their first job.

His site is worth the visit. Not because he has my video nicely displayed, but he has some cool videos of his flying in Antarctica when he flew for Ken Borek Air. Plus, Pilot Guy, does offer words of wisdom.

So check it out!

Tell him Captain Doug sent ya! :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Inquisitive minds

Just finished teaching 13 young bright pilots enrolled at the Brampton Flight Centre taking a one year aviation diploma. I taught upper air charts, significant weather charts, and weather radar. I also called up todays flight plan for Toronto to Tokyo, flight 001. It's was interesting to note the captain (of whom I do not know and I say this in highest respect) but his last name was Cool. Yup...Captain Cool. :)

Plus I digressed most of the class telling them aviation trivia and aviation stories. Yes, I'm there to teach weather but I'm also there to entice. :)

And speaking of inquisitive minds, here's some questions sent to me via company email from a "Montreal rampie/pilot in training." I said I would post his questions/answers on my blog.

1. When I push any air Canada aircraft and I tell them "cleared to start engines," why do they always start 2 and then #1. I thought it was always 1 and 2?

On the Airbus we start #2 because the park brake hydraulic yellow system is on engine #2. Just a safety back up. The brake accumulator should allow several parking brake applications so if necessary #1 could be started first. If we had to start using external pneumatic, then #1 is usually started first.

Picture is from Kelly in CYYC

2. Dose it happen often when you arrive at the gate and your ramp attendants are not there and cause you to burn unnecssary fuel and dose it aggravate you?

Aggravate me? Can you say ballistic? (Oops, it's SOP a pilot must be of moderate temperament) Ahem. Yes, it bothers us. We pilots are trained to adhere to SOPs and to conduct the flight in this priority: safety, comfort and schedule. So we get a little hot under the collar when a ramp attendant does the “stroll” to the gate. I do realize they are operating under major constraints (labor shortage, weather, delays, etc) BUT….

Having said all this, I’ve noticed an exponential improvement in many bases with Toronto being number one in improvement. About two years ago it was a given we would have to wait, but now it truly is rare. We pilots do know which bases are notorious, but I’m not going there. :)

External power used to start A330. Kelly's picture.

3. I've noticed on one flight, from a passenger prospective during push back, the cabin ventilation stopped periodically prior to engine start is that because so much air is required to bleed to the main engines to start?

In order to start a jet engine, it requires lots of pressurized air. Usually it’s a minimum of 30 P.S.I. (A normal atmosphere is 14.7 P.S.I). Thus most of the air from the APU bleed is directed to start the engine. I try to get the engine start switch back to normal ASAP to get the air flowing in the cabin.

4. When engine start is completed what causes the cabin and electronics to flicker rapidly? Is that because you press the bus switch from APU to GEN 1 and 2?

We get electronic bumps when each engine is started. We also get a significant bump when I disconnect the external power prior to engine start. On the older small buses it’s a downright “clunk” when this happens. And yes, it sometimes knocks out the odd screen.

It also affects the entertainment system in the back. So much so, many FSDs don’t start the safety demos until the second engine is started. It’s a normal thing for the small Airbus. It’s one thing I noticed...and forgot about....when I transitioned from the big bus to the little one.

5. I heard you pilots and flight attendants don't get paid until the cabin door is closed, engine start and the brake is released. If this is true what happens when you do a Rapidair flight when it takes about 1 hour? Do you only get paid for that flight?

The clock starts ticking when the doors are closed and the parking brake is released. It’s true a Rapidair flight YYZ-YOW is about an hour, but remember we usually do a turn. Or we will be going somewhere after the turn or just came in from another destination. If for some lucky reason we only fly one flight of about an hour we get DPG (Daily Pairing Guarantee) It fluctuates...but it’s about 4Hrs 25 mins.

6. And last...have you ever done a YUL to YOW where the airtime is like 20 min and what's the maximum altitude for that flight I found for short flights they still climb to 30000 + feet I know air is less dense and yet flys faster with less power but isn't the same amount of fuel getting there?

I’ve done more YUL to YOW sectors in the simulator. They like this leg because it loads up the pilot. We don’t climb that high on this short sector (30,000 feet) but we certainly do for YUL-YYZ. The flight planning program juggles the numbers and if it’s beneficial for us to go higher…we go higher. It’s true we burn a little more fuel getting there, but on the other side (the descent)...the engines are at idle most of the time.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

P.I.T (Pilot Indoctrination Training) Pilot Profiles

Captain's hat
A F/O's hat does not have the four gold star embroidery.

Five of the new hires were awarded B777 cruise pilot. Five will be cruising on the B767 and the other six....flying right seat in the "jungle jet."

As one B777 guru said to the class during an ad hoc meeting at lunch..."You are starting with the best airplane first."

But then another B777 guru added, "if there is any downturn you will be the first to be bumped off."

Pilot Profiles

Yesterday, I taught weather to Air Canada’s finest new hires.

I rambled on about weather reports (METARS and TAFs), the tropopause, jet streams, turbulence, significant weather charts, icing, volcanic ash and weather websites.

During a few of the breaks I conducted a one on one census.

I wrote their first name only and asked them... their total time, age, whether they had a diploma or degree, jet time, whether bilingual and their last company they flew for.

I was going to compile all their data into a table without names, but I think it’s better just to talk about things as a whole.

Just the facts:

Age: The average age for new hires at Air Canada hovers around 34 to 35. This class was no exception with 33.6 being the average. The youngest was 27 and two of the oldest were 40. I told the forty year olds welcome to the "six month medical club." I don't think they were ready for that. :) Funny.... years ago a candidate was labeled TOO old at 28 for Air Canada.


Everyone of the 16 had post secondary education. Eight had degrees and the other eight…an aviation diploma.

Jet time:

Only 4 out 16 had jet with none of them with heavy time. So 75 percent of the class came from the turboprop world.


Four of the 16 were deemed bilingual (English/French). Sure some of them probably spoke another language, but I didn’t ask.

Total time:

The lowest time pilot snuck under the radar at 3000 hours (Air Canada’s present minimum) whereas one gentleman had a whopping 10,000 hours! The average for the class…just over 4600 hours…translating into a minimum of 5 to 6 years of flying.

Female: The number bouncing around for female pilots has been 4 to 5 percent. Two female pilots sat on the roster yesterday i.e. 12.5 percent. But if I tally up the last three classes…there were 3 out of 36 which is 8 percent! We are on the rise!

Previous flying jobs:

Two to three were from the military, two from Jazz, three from Georgian, two from Central Mountain Air, two from Porter, one from Morning Star (cargo B727) and the rest from smaller companies. A great cross section.

They say it's taking 40 candidates to get a final 10 candidates and by the looks of things we are getting some great people.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

In from Vegas

Here's a link to the Weather Network interview.

Interview Click on picture of hockey game on Lake Erie, then click on
Air Canada pilot explains delay.
For some reason I can't copy the direct link.

Off to teach weather tomorrow morning.

Gushing away at FL 370


Craig(Burlington) sent me this pic depicting the controls of Korean toilet.

Hiya Capt. Doug

Your book arrived last week, and I'm enjoying it immensely :-)

Just for fun, here’s a picture of the Korean toilet control I mentioned in my comment to your last blog post. You have probably seen the same or similar in your travels to the Orient, but it was a first for me and quite a surprise, to say the least.


Toilets a.k.a the “lav”

People snicker when toilets are mentioned, but the giggling stops when they are U/S (unserviceable) Caution: viewer discretion is suggested for this post. :)

The lavatory is an integral part of any airplane. Most work on pressure differential i.e. suction. There are pumps which create this pressure difference while on the ground and yes sometimes they fail. Not a problem, above 16,000 they work on their own. We block off the affected washroom (s) and try to keep the seat belt sign on until 16,000 versus the usual 10,000 feet.

The biggest beef passengers had when the small Airbus showed up over twenty years ago was the loud gushing of the toilets. I must admit they do have a little more gumption than Boeing’s.

In fact, we Airbus pilots know a toilet is flushed by the indicated pressure change of 50 to 100 feet on the pressure controller.

On the “big bus” the toilets would be divided left and right and sometimes one side would give up. My duty as a cruise pilot would entail going to the aft cabin where a large handle had to be pulled to reboot the system.

One conversation I heard listening to United’s company frequency in ORD (Chicago) years ago. “Maintenance we have a Lav U/S. Apparently someone left a big dump in there.” Perhaps the pilot in question could have chosen his words a little differently. J

Actually my first officer few months ago (boy I hope he is not reading this) used the “J” class washroom. Well as luck would have it, it wouldn’t flush. Luckily we were still on the ground so we called maintenance. I can still see the shades of red he turned.

For a pilot going to the washroom is somewhat of a procedure ( I won’t get into the details). I always give the previous person a minute or two before I enter.

Yes, it can be embarrassing. Some flight attendants put coffee grinds in there or keep a bottle of “jet spray” (yes, that’s the name) handy.

Remember if you gotta go it takes about three minutes for the air to refresh.

See my attached enRoute question/answer.

Q: How is the cabin air kept fresh? Are filters used?David Clements, Canberra, Australia

Cabin air is continually bled from the engines. This conditioned air is then mixed with a nearly equal amount of highly filtered cabin air. A HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) system filters the air much like filters in hospital surgical rooms. Compared to buildings, however, airliners have even better filtration, a higher air-change rate and a higher proportion of outside air. Cabin air is exchanged every two and a half to three minutes – i.e. flushed 20 to 25 times every hour.

Blue Ice? You may have heard of ‘blue ice’ falling from the sky. Some aircraft lavatories use a ‘donut’ type seal for servicing. Sometimes the seal leaks a little and freezes up at altitude. On rare occasions the ice lets go and in two documented cases has fallen through people’s roofs!

Different plumbing. As a world traveller one gets to see some neat plumbing. The most intriguing were the toilets in our Osaka, Japan hotel. As soon as you sat down you heard multiple water jets arming ready to launch warm water your way.

Many would find this strange, but many cultures have yet to see a toilet. Years ago on "certain" flights extra help was used to explain how to use the toilets. People were standing on them thinking they were a replica of a hole in the ground.

On one of my long haul flights a flight attendant reported a passenger left a large "gift" in the middle of the galley floor. I have more stories, but I will stop there.

Captain Doug the plumber

And speaking of toilets our fairly well to do home had three single piece low squatting designer toilets made in Equador. But they were…well…crappy. (couldn’t resist) (Actually the inventor of the toilet is Thomas Crapper) :) Over the last two weeks I replaced all three...American Standard made in Mexico bought and installed in Canada. (The instructions must have been Chinese translated from Russian).

The plumber’s smile? (hopefully everyone knows that look) :) :) :)

While purchasing my last toilet a stranger came up to me asking whether the show models worked. Then he lit up with a smile. Captain Doug gave him an equivalent “unruly passenger” look. I then scurried away with my toilet in hand. They were on sale- another pilot’s bonus. Anyone out there want three white used designer toilets?

This is what I wrote on page 142 of my book. (For the benefit of those that still don’t have my book…right getjets?) I still laugh at it. The fella that told me this is now a Westjet captain.

And give up aviation?

I’ll never forget how, during a downturn in aviation, we pilots met at a company meeting to hear how the company would be implementing layoffs. A somber mood dominated the group, but during a break a fellow pilot proceeded to tell me an anecdote that summarized the situation perfectly: A pilot doing his routine walk-around neared the rear of the airplane where a ground worker (or lavologist) was servicing the lavatory. He was a low-time pilot trying to infiltrate the business by getting his foot in the door working the ramp, a common practice. As he released the latch to the aircraft’s lavatory, the contents sprayed all over the ramp and unfortunately covered the wannabe pilot from head to toe. Expletives immediately followed. He cursed while jumping up and down in frustration and disgust. The pilot, witnessing this bathroom blowout, came right out and said, “Why don’t you just quit?” The rampie stopped dead in his tracks with a look of bewilderment and said, “And give up aviation?”

Gone Flying (Vegas)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weather Network interview (with Chris St.Clair)

I received an email from Chris St. Clair (weather guru on Canada's..The Weather Network) this morning at 7:45. He wanted to know if I could talk about aircraft deicing. (Snow was falling in the Toronto area and it added to the ambiance).
At 9:15 Captain Doug showed up bright and chirpy. TWN is only 4 minutes away. :)

Chris, himself a pilot and a frequent reader of my blog, makes his weekend show look so easy. A true professional. He too wrote a book, Canada's Weather. It's hard cover with a unique front photo which moves lightning strikes around depending on the angle. (Yes, I did try to pay profusely, but refused profusely). I can't wait to read it.

The interview was live...actually two were previously taped but due to technical problems...we went "live." It's airing 12 and 42 minutes after the hour.

I asked for them to set up a link for my blog. Stay tuned.

Thanks Chris for the opportunity!

Captain Doug

P.S For those weather geeks out there, after leafing through Chris's book, it makes for a great purchase!

Canada's Weather

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Building an airplane- Southwest style

Follower Alan sent me this video on Southwest Airlines getting a new B737 called Florida One. Even though Southwest's livery tends to be a bit on the drab side this one makes up for the others. Enjoy. Next post will be on toilets...yes..toilets.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Climbed the Mountain

This picture was borrowed. I could not find my picture of Mount Fuji taken on flight 001 Toronto to Tokyo.

I penned these words TEN years ago...before 9/11, before SARs, before a merger, before mad cow disease, before a recession. Be careful...it's optimistic! Funny thing is, I'm still preaching the same tune. At least I'm consistent. :)

I’ve Climbed the Mountain...Now What?

For my entire adult life I have toiled to become an airline pilot. (It was even mentioned in my grade seven yearbook under career aspirations) Now at age 39, I’ve finally made it. Looking back, I could have been a doctor, dentist, lawyer, two times over. So when I ask myself was it worth it and the answer is Hell Yes, it feels good! I think, a person’s greatest fear in life is looking back and saying, “I wish I did things differently. I thank my lucky stars this is not my case. Like most, I encountered my fair share of upsets, denials and wrong way streets. However, I remember back during my university days to what was written on one of the many cheap posters stuck on the wall to hide the cracks. It sounds corny, but here it goes, ‘If you have a dream, don’t let anything dim it, keep hoping, keep trying, the sky is the limit’.

I see so many today lacking goals...like ships without rudders. (Incidentally, if there ever was a time to become a pilot the time is now!) Today’s up and coming have major uphill battles. It seems everyone is fighting for jobs even though many are qualified to the brim. It is not enough. The market demands more and more and so many fall off the Career Mountain. I too had to struggle through two recessions, which by the way are extremely hard on the aviation world. I returned to university during the first recession to put behind my belt even more qualifications. Because of it, I veered off onto another career mountain only to realize half way up that I must climb down and start again. One-step backward, two steps forward.

As I approach the turbulent turnover of age forty, I can feel myself shifting gears a little. (Update...I'm going through the same thing...again!) :) The saying, “Lordy, Lordy look who’s forty” begins to infiltrate my thoughts. To pass on what little wisdom I have, I’ve become a mentor for up and coming ‘wanna be pilots’. I spend much time pointing out various options in their quest in becoming a pilot, but many a time I get this feeling they only want to hear the shortcut route. For most careers it doesn’t exist, just perseverance, hard work and the ability to deal with life’s curve balls. “Stay focussed and it will come,” I tell them. But for many eighteen year olds it doesn’t seem to register.

What do I see now that I am at the summit? Well, I look behind me and see the large hills I’ve climbed. However, as I look ahead I see just as many and with them many valleys. So I’ll take a long deep breath of great appreciation and then chart my course for the mountains ahead.


Perched Precariously

Since then I've written a book and more importantly I received my fourth stripe. They turned me into demi-god status. LOL. Although I'm wise enough to realize the pedestal beneath me can tumble anytime. Heck that's the way I feel about this blog sometimes, ....perched precariously. :)

Below are some shots of flights over mountains....cumulus granite.

Many flights over Greenland

The Rocky Mountains: Calgary to Vancouver

Mount Baker just south of Vancouver

Mount Ararat (Turkey) Think Noah's Ark. London to New Delhi

Greenland: Calgary to London

Volcanic mountain north of Iceland: Toronto direct New Delhi

During my A340 F/O days

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


In reference to my post on January 7th, Career Choices, it got me thinking about "hearsay" and how we make choices based on rumour instead of fact. (Yes, this is going to be a juicy one) :)

Years ago, I was reluctant to apply to a charter/cargo company in Halifax, Nova Scotia (my home town) because other pilots labelled it a "kind of unsafe" operation. (See pic on the side). Well I did heed their words for awhile, but eventfully I went knocking. They hired me as a part time Navajo pilot. Sure some things were a little "dubious" but the company launched mine and so many other pilot careers.

Here are a few urban myths out there.....

Don't visit Israel...it's just too dangerous!

It turned out Israel sat on my list of "best layover destinations." The history, sights, religions, people...made it a place to "pin on the map for must sees." This picture is along the highway enroute to the Dead Sea with my wife who tagged along on a three day layover.

(Someone once asked me...we all know there is a "mile high" club, but is there a "below sea level" equivalent?) lol

I do have pictures of me playing in the dead sea mud, but it wouldn't do much for the mostly male audience out there. :)

Actually on one layover, the captain and the first officer (I was the cruise pilot then) were more interested in getting pictures of a flight attendant who...ahem...filled out her bathing suit to the nth degree. Later that day I had the pleasure of walking the streets of Tel Aviv with her. She stopped traffic. :)

On one layover I did walk past a restaurant in Tel Aviv which had a situation a few weeks after. I'll leave it at that. :(

Don't go to Japan, the food is too expensive!

There are tons of eateries where you can get a nice meal which includes a beverage (notice I didn't say BEER) for about $10 to $12. And that includes taxes and there is absolutely no tipping in Japan (a pilot's haven). It's deemed a slap in the face.
(In the picture, the special of the day is 580 yen...about six Canadian dollars)
Can't read Japanese? No problem, many restaurants have waxed displays of their food. The system was developed years ago when much of the population could not read. And it's exactly, "what you see is what you get." The details are so good they even include the bubbles in the beer. Ooops there's that BEER word again. Heaven forbid I allude to the fact a pilot may have a beverage on a layover. (Yes, I'm directly my shots).

Don't eat the food in India, you will get "Delhi belly."

I absolutely loved the food in India! I've been there at least 30 times and not once did I get the equivalent to Montezuma's revenge. Well I did get some back end turbulence once, but it was due to a crew meal. I know of so many crew that would hide in their hotel room possibly for two days with canned goods and other food and would never venture out. What a pity!

They didn't get to see the Taj Mahal nor the infinite layers of India. Yes, India has many layers (I know of a few people that fall in that category). :) Actually, I must post in the future about the "shoe shine boys." If anyone saw the movie "Slum Dog Millionaire" there sure are some great parallels.

Many times when I returned home it made me realize how bland and boring our North American diet is. Sure some crews succumbed to intense intestinal discomfort and some even had to be hospitalized. Yes, you would be tempting the food gods if you ate from a kiosk located on the street (see above picture) but some of the restaurants were out of this world. In fact our hotel hosted one of the top restaurants in the world. Dignitaries including U.S president Bill Clinton paid it a visit.

The backstreets of Delhi. At the time an A340 F/O

Other myths...

Don't go to Quebec, it's filled with separatists.

Yes, here in Canada we have our political issues. My first experience of "la belle province" saw me in grade 12 at age 17 making a fool of myself at "La Carnival du Quebec" in Quebec city during February. (I'm starting to have flashbacks) :)

One of my best years saw me at McGill university in Montreal where I joined a fraternity. Hmmm.... I'm starting to think where my middle daughter (diesel daughter) got her "party gene."

In fact, I sent "diesel daughter" in the heart of separatist country (Chicoutimi) this past summer. She flew stand by on airline passes via Montreal by herself. She loved it!

Nadia you have a beautiful province!

Don't even think about going to the Middle East....especially if you are a woman.

I won't mention how my kids still talk about their trip to Dubai, UAE.

My eldest daughter had the opportunity to visit a colleague in Kuwait city these Christmas holidays. But wait a sec, didn't they bomb the heck out of that country 2o years ago? My daughter could not believe the time she had. Sure, she had to adhere to local customs. She wants to go back and yes she got there on standby passes and flew via Washington, D.C

What I'm trying to say is...one should determine first hand...what a place, people, food, culture, etc are like. And this includes aviation opportunities!

Like my nephew who runs a sea kayaking company on the east coast says...."go out and play!"

and if you do...fly Air Canada. :) :) :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

How it Flies (website)

click here

I just received an unsolicited email from Keith West who runs a substantial website on various aircraft called How it Flies. He has listed a ton of aircraft and the site is loaded with pictures, a blog and of course my link listed under blogroll.
Keith has certainly spent a lot of time of his site and it's worthy of a closer look.
The only glitch I see....it does not include AIRBUS. :)
But I'm certain it's on his "to do" list.

Captain Doug

Hi Doug,

I wonder if there is any possibility in exchanging links/information
between our sites?

http://www.howitflies.com is a directory of aircraft information
organized by type. Individual users can edit/add information as with

It would help us build up our contributor base as well as provide your
users with more information if, when you mention an aircraft type you
hot linked that reference to our article. Here for example is the article for
the 172: http://www.howitflies.com/Cessna-172-Skyhawk (please feel free to
login and contribute you own information, comments and reviews!)

I would be happy to link to you in return.

Keith West

About Keith:

About Me
For my 16th birthday my parents gave me enough time to solo. After that, they said, I was on my own. So, like many before me, I spent weekends working at the local airport (8A6) in exchange for flight time.

On my 17th birthday I was ready for my private practical, but it didn't happen. After waiting most of that day my examiner, a WWII B-25 pilot, suggested that the weather wasn't going to clear, and we scheduled a successful flight later in the week.

After high school I was lucky enough to enter the Naval Academy and later became a pilot and flew the A-6. I have since logged time in gliders, ultralights, a couple of warbirds and taken a tandem hang glider flight. Each type I find offers it own unique joys.

After I left the navy, business, marriage and kids intervened to lead me away from flying. Eventually I got back into it through the CAP, where I do most of my flying now.

I had been working on How It Flies as a personal project on and off for about a year when I made a personal commitment six weeks before Airventure 2008 to finish the site and travel to Oshkosh to let people know about it. I was pleased with the response but still found the content building a very slow process. It was only since I started using Wikipedia articles as a starting point that the site has started to attract a critical mass of readers and contributors.

I don't know if it's a project that will ever be finished, but I hope you enjoy discovering and contributing as much as I do.

Keith West
Richmond, Virginia

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Let's mini

FRA tail spotter "Erik" captured this unique paint scheme.
(Be sure to click on the photo) :)

I thought I'd add some poetry to this. Here's the first two lines of a poem that questions our soul and speaks to a universal spirit in us all. (Oriah Mountain Dreamer)

Maybe this appeals to pilots pining for the sky? It could also apply to those that found peace with themselves and their situations. :)

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love (passion), for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

So on that note...let's mini! :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Surprise Snow Squalls Stall Saturdays's Schedule

What the windshield wiper revealed after external power brought the airplane alive.

Taxiing to the CDF but waiting our turn.

On days like this...I don't envy these guy's at all.

The Vestergaard Elephant Beta aiming to attack.

What a day. (Note: airplanes do not have "brake lights" on their tails so one must be
veeeerrrrry careful. )

I don't know if it was me spilling some coffee on my pant leg while trying to open my "Timmies" coffee lid driving in a snowstorm or the 20 to 25 pilots/flight attendants lined up in the American Customs that foreshadowed a "bad hair" day.

We pushed back only about 8 minutes late with nearly a full load. But a flight deck door fault prompted us calling maintenance to find a remedy. Done.
Of course, I had to make an announcement telling passengers destined for cruise ships out of Miami we will be needing a spray at the "world's largest deice center."

Taxing was in near white out conditions especially when the guy ahead poured the coals to the engines. We crawled to the deice facility in 45 minutes.


I decided to woo my passengers with facts and trivia about deicing. (I said good bye to everyone in Florida and not one mentioned my "above and beyond" P.A.) I won't do that again especially after I told them I wrote the "aviation" page and enRoute is always looking for questions. Tough crowd. :)

The deice supervisor noticed we had snow in the #2 engine (first officer's side) intake and asked whether we wanted to shut down #2 to spray the intake. We did. It was the first for me. In fact, the checklists didn't handle it well either.

But it caused a power bump knocking the entertainment system off line. Another announcement by Captain Doug explaining what happened. Losing one's entertainment system is close to declaring a "mayday" nowadays. Passengers expect it and it better work!

Because the snow was deemed heavy in the weather report the holdover deice charts did not apply. It required a PCI (Post Contamination Inspection) meaning the F/O had to go back in the cabin and take a look at the wings.
I make yet another announcement explaining what F/O "John" would be doing.

Visibility got down to 1/8 mile in heavy snow so Captain Doug had to do the take off however the RVRs (Runway Visual Range) improved allowing my F/O to continue with the leg. Conditions had us sit on the runway and spool up the engines to 70% N1 for thirty seconds to rid of any ice in the intakes.

We launch 90 minutes late and the rest of the day was playing catch up.

Dumbo the Elephant

Captain Doug had a perfect attendance in 2010 and received a letter the year before that and the year before that for next to perfect attendance.

Well, I was planned to fly tomorrow but an ear infection is clipping my wings for the day. My right ear is not looking like the other so in best interest not to scare my F/O and passengers Captain Doug is staying home. My wife said I looked like "Dumbo the Elephant." She's called me lots of things over the years so I knew to take her seriously when she called me that. :)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Career Decisions

Here's an email I received from a person deciding on one particular airline.
(He agreed to me posting) Incidentally, the website he refers to, PPRuNE , is probably the biggest pilot forum out there. There's lots of informative stuff, segmented by profession (flight attendants, pilots, ATC) and countries. But like most forums there's a lot of bashing.

The choice in becoming a pilot is easy but getting there is tough. Because flying jobs (at least here in North America) is based on seniority one must weigh things out immensely. It's not like a banker's job where you leave one bank to get a promotion at another. Take me for example, if I left AC and went to where my wife works (think competition) I would start at the bottom even with nearly 18,000 hours.
Sounds cruel, but that's the rules we play by.

I do realize these words aren't inspirational, but sometimes reality gets in the way. :)

Hello Captain Doug,

Been a long time follower of your blog, I must say you have given us pilot wannabes all the right reasons to pursue our dreams.

I’ve recently applied to Cathay’s cadet pilot program, and as I am preparing myself for the interviews, I came across a post bellowing detailing some pilot work conditions:


I understand there are a lot of Cathay-bashing comments on PPruNe. Yet is there any validity towards the claim? As a long-haul pilot who has been through the stages of SO and FO, I would be glad if you could shed some insight to this matter!

I would continue to pursue the dream, but would love to hear from a seasoned professional on the realities.

Hi.... That was quite a write up on PPRuNE!

I remember reading this stuff when I had an interview with Emirates six years ago. I was debating whether to go because of all the negativity. But I'm glad the family and I went. They are a very professional company. But as my friend who flies for Emirates said, "the company has many warts." :) A few Air Canada pilots did go. A few have since quit. For me there were too many issues to overlook.

We also have a few ex-Cathay pilots. As you probably know, Cathay fired several a few years ago. Since then most returned.

I know of one pilot, flying for Cathay, based in Vancouver because he couldn't stand the pollution in HKG. I just noticed they all got raises. :)

I did start at Air Canada as a cruise pilot and it's a great way to learn the company's culture. But I had 8000 hours so taking a future flying job was easier. For many...being a cruise pilot can be tough watching others fly- and that included me!

There's never an easy answer. I would at least try to jump through their hoops in the selection process.

Who knows, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Hope this helps.

Captain Doug

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