!!!!! 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 10 of 14 posts from February 2011. Show older posts
Showing newest 10 of 14 posts from February 2011. Show older posts

Monday, February 28, 2011

Walking the Gangplank

Just got out of the "sim." Instead of regurgitating the last two days, I decided to hit "control - alt-delete." Although I better watch what I erase, I am the first A320 line captain to be checked out on the new GPS approach. It's true many companies have been doing these approaches for years, but not my fleet. Apparently 40% of the "small buses" are modified. Rumour has it the 'mod' comes with a price tag of over a $ million per airplane. Funny one can buy a GPS for $150. That does it, next time round I'm coming back as a airplane parts salesman or a pharmaceutical rep for the baby boomers. LOL

Here's a few words for the occasion (and yes one does get philosophical in times like these). :)

It says, "Welcome to the A320 #3". Yeah right!
It's equivalent to..."a wolf in sheep's clothing." :)

Walking the Gangplank

As I walk the gangplank...I slip from reality to the virtual world.
There I am tested, challenged, observed and checked.

It’s a world few people see, but a necessity for what I do.
It is here...where I train in the virtual world to ready me for the real one.

This world can whisk me to New York with a engine fire on a go-around
to certifying me to land in zero visibility in Vancouver…just with the touch of a screen.

Other nearby 'sims' put other pilots through their paces.
So many virtual worlds...so many scenarios.
One is in Halifax mired in fog, the other in Hong Kong and yet another simulates a take off in a blinding Montreal snowstorm. 

After four hours of squirming, screwing up and nailing procedures
The pivotable box of magic rests on its powerful hydraulic jacks.

The gangplank descends to allow two others their turn.
Smiles are exchanged, but they bear resemblance of ones found at funerals.

As one captain who flew his last “sim” said, “it never gets any easier.”

 But for me...I get to keep my job a little longer!!! 

*<:- class="Apple-style-span" style="font-weight: normal;">(celebration smiley)

The Gangplank- from real to virtual

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Pillar to My Dream

Thanks Ray!

F/O Doug "cutting in" some 30 years later in our Halifax residence. The  "blue" was going. 
 A Pillar to My Dream

While on this four day paring I received an email stating a boss from the past passed away…

At age 15 Ray Hartlin hired me as a painter. My first job had me paint a large pool for an apartment building. “Here’s the paint, roller, tray and brush. I’ll come back in a few hours to see how you are doing.” Well that young skinny freckled face grade 10 kid who had a crazy notion of being an airline pilot, finished the job and it launched his painting career. He learned to 'cut in,' 'roll,' spray, vinyl, wall paper and it’s still engrained in him. In fact, his wife still becomes very elated when she sees him with a paintbrush in his hands…some 35 years later!

I love to paint. I find it therapeutic and it’s a job few men like doing. It also subsidized my income as a younger pilot. It frequently turned many husbands in the neighborhood green with envy.

Having said that, my F/O pulled out a cooking magazine on this pairing. I saw him turn two F/As into butter. Their knees buckled in the flight deck. A male that can cook! That does it, I’m either taking cooking lessons or at least have a cook book in my flight bag. I never knew the awe this could evoke. lol

Mr. Hartlin always had work for me. Throughout high school and university he would find something for me to do. He even hired me to work in his hardware store. There I learned to mix paints, fix broken windows, order wood and deliver drywall.

He even rehired me when I left for Sable Island, tree planted or ventured for further studies. If I had a flight lesson he would allow me to leave early to chase my dream.

One could list a handful of people who inspired and encouraged a career. He was one of them. This is what I wrote as condolences to the family:

To chase a dream, one needs financial and moral support. Ray hired me at age 15 and throughout high school, university and years afterward... he helped me chase my goal. Few people stand out along the trek of life, but Ray was a pillar to my dream. You were always appreciated! - Captain Doug Morris (Air Canada)

As I write this I am sitting as captain in an airliner whisking across North America with 150 knot tailwinds on the behind. We are running two hours late and will touch down in Toronto at midnight thirty. I look out into the pitch black darkness and thank my lucky stars the planets lined up for me during my trek and had pillars like Ray Hartlin along the way.

Steady as she goes - I like the T-shirt "almost staff."
Picture altered to hide my bald spot. I didn't do a good job painting that spot. lol

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A full day...

Gate 43 where Captain Doug parked the A321 with Cyprus Bowl ski hill in the background.

Lots of snow sits on the nearby hills. Apparently six ski hills are within two hours of Vancouver. 
Vancouver was recently awarded the world's most liveable city...yet again.! Believe it or not Toronto ranked fourth in the world and Calgary placed fifth. I flew to all three yesterday. Maybe it's the airline putting us on the top of the list? Kidding everyone!!!!

Weather Network

Yesterday had me meeting Kelly Noseworthy and cameraman Dwayne from the Weather Network at our simulator building. I think the interview outside the simulator went well but inside it was like a "bad ride" getting very sour. I recruited a "sim tech" to run the show. But Murphy's law came along for the ride so it was glitch after glitch. No wonder I don't take it up for practice sessions. It's too frustrating.

Kelly interviewed me almost four years ago on jet streams. I sat in the right seat and she was my cutest captain. Now I sit in the left seat with her stealing "cutest F/O" award. 
The clip should be out in a few days. 

Off to work...

Then it's off to work..a 5:10 flight to Vancouver in a near full A321. The flight was smooth and the seat belt stayed off except on the descent into YVR. I nonchalantly mentioned to the F/O I love flying into this airport and wouldn't mind being based here. I looked over at him and I wasn't getting the same feeling. LOL

After a two hour pit stop...

Gee, YVR is nice. Lots of eateries, free wifi, lots of windows, art and the washrooms are well above airport standards. I think many resort to comparing this beautiful airport to Toronto's. One flight F/A yesterday described YYZ as a "cavernous vault." Funny for the most ethnic city in the world it has to be the most sterile.

Off to frigid YYC (It can't be that frigid - it ranked fifth) :)

Light snow, northerly winds and frigid temperatures greeted us. We flew a full A321 onto ILS 34. My meteorological senses were tingling. I asked for runway conditions. The guy in the jumpseat, a union safety officer, called it up for us... "90 percent bare and dry on a 160 foot centreline." Tower asked us to clear off on taxiway Charlie 2 - a relatively quick turn off. But when captain Doug
was on final that "bare and dry" runway had windrows covering most of the runway turning it white.
I thought to myself..."that turn off ain't going to happen." Sure enough with max reverse and solid braking we see sail by. As we clear the F/O made a great point..."those guys are here to serve us, it's not the other way around." I cuss under my breath..."it's time to update the runway report." 

We set the park brake on sked and make our way to the hotel. There I met "YYC Dispatcher" who posts very constructive comments on my blog. What a great guy! (Yes, I know you will be reading this but it's true). He held his own talking shop with my F/O and I. Great way to end a full day...good conversation with debriefing beverages. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Captions and More Captions....

Over the last three years or so, I have been writing captions for the beginning of the "Altitude" section in enRoute magazine. (The red tab section...my column is nestled in there). I'm writing May's as I speak marking 13 complete years or 156 articles plus three years of captions!!!!    Actually I'm procrastinating ny blogging. :)

They send me a great picture from Air Canada's photographer. (His pics are smeared all over my blog...thanks Brian!) I then rattle off a whole bunch of facts and trivia and then they make their selection. Actually, sometimes I find this more time consuming than my column. :) So below is the picture, my "two cents" worth and then the final product.

Heck, I included one picture. Maybe you can help me for June's captions?

(I am using the new editor program from this blog site. Finally I can drag/move pictures)

A319 engine spinning away...

My facts and trivia...

The Airbus 319’s engine produces 23,500 pounds of thrust
The entire “small bus” fleet flies with the CFM56 -built by Snecma of France and G.E Aviation in the U.S
The A319, A320 and A321 use the same engine but is adjusted for different power settings.
This Airbus 319 CFM56 engine is a high bypass ration turbofan.
This Airbus 319 high bypass fan spins with 36 blades.
The engine parameter that monitors the rotation speed of this A319 fan is “N1” and is depicted in a percentage.
This A319 turbofan high bypass fan engine utilizes 20 fuel nozzles and 2 igniters.
The CFM56 along with every jet engine in Air Canada’s fleet is leased.
Inside this high bi-pass fan temperatures are hovering around 650 C
Fuel consumption for this A319 engine is about 1250 kg/h at cruise altitude.
A jet engine’s large fan blade will windmill when a brisk wind blows through it.
Every five seconds an aircraft powered by the CFM engine takes off.
The cone of this A319 engine utilizes a white painted spiral to depict rotation.

The final product. If you can't read the line it says....

Airbus A319 Thirty-six blades spin on the turbofan engine of an A319, producing some 23, 500 pounds of thrust.

Okay you give it a go!

It's a B767 (Actually, I just noticed the photographer's shadow...oops)

Okay, I'll start. This B767-300 series carries 211 passengers, 24 in business class and 187 in economy. Source www.aircanada.com

Okay. Here's another one. When Captain Doug finally is awarded this airplane, he will use the call sign, "Air Canada heavy" and his wallet will be thicker. :-)) (really happy smiley) 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Captain Doug on Tour (CDF visit)

Yesterday I arranged a tour for the Brampton Flight Centre one year diploma students. (In one year they will come out with a multi-engine IFR, about 250 hours coupled with an aviation diploma). We used the Vestergaard Elephant Beta 15 as the backdrop. This guy was built to handle the mammoth A380. Captain Doug is wearing the conspicuous blue jacket...I know...I know...you are saying...no kidding.

A view from inside the "Ice House" (Yes, its called the Ice house) As you can tell we did not pick a good day weather wise to tour this world renowned 65 acre facility. The trucks are out there waiting for the weather to turn. Temperatures were up to plus 10 C. Should have waited a day. Today much of Northern Toronto is engulfed in heavy snow showers.

This cartoon was posted on an office door in the CDF (Central Deice Facility)
I thought it was cute. When leaving the facility one of the operators (they were all grouped into a room much like fireman waiting for a call) and asked me, "hey do you guys still call this place, the Central Delay Facility?" I answered back with a big smile, "we are paid by the minute so we love this place... cha-ching, cha-ching..."

This truck was specifically modified with a nozzle to spray under the wing and to deice engine intakes.

A couple of students got to take this deicer for a spin. Not really, but they did get pretty high with one of the employees. All 31 trucks at the CDF are steered by the operator in the "cab," thus only requiring one person. This can be very alarming to some pilots who sit in smaller aircraft such as the RJs. Particularly from the carriers south of the border who infrequently visit this place . One manager told us how a few pilots got very excited on the radio when they saw the deicer approaching them with no driver! Apparently, the passengers get a little apprehensive as well.
Maybe I'll make an announcement to that effect next time. Hey, it's only February and I'm certain I'll be there a few more times.

The class of 2011 with the 1.5 million dollar Beta 15 posing in the background.

We watched two great videos. One was done by the Discovery Channel on deicing the goliath A380 and the other on the complexity and intricacy of this facility.

This truck is capable of mixing the hot water and gycol concoction for type one. Plus it carries hundreds of liters of type IV.

Another story...

One day a pilot asked for both type I and Type IV. The CDF was at a loss as to why he needed type IV when no precipitation fell. The captain came back and said the ATIS mentioned moderate mixed icing was reported at 10,000 feet. Oops. Back to ground school for this guy. Type IV is designed to sheer off on take roll so by the time the pilot got to 10,000 feet no Type IV would be on the airplane. Doooh...

It was also mentioned on one particular day, they were launching off 33 Right which was a very short taxi from the CDF, but everyone required the bright green florescent TYPE IV fluid due to extensive snow showers. There was so much fluid sheering on the take roll that the "landers" reported braking to be poor. Because of it, the CDF sent out the GRVs (Glycol Recovery Vehicles) a.k.a "slick lickers" (think huge vacuum trucks) to suck it all up. Captain Doug was in that line up! It was the first time I noticed the extent of type IV anti-icing fluid on the runway.

Even though we didn't see any actual deicing yesterday I think the class got a very good tour.

Friday, February 18, 2011

From You.....

"Dad, can I borrow the keys to the Airbus?" (Actually, Diesel Daughter left my car empty this morning and I had to rush to get gas prior to a deice tour I arranged. The tour went very well and I'll post tomorrow about it). This video apparently came out awhile ago but someone on Facebook posted it today. I think it's cute.

As I mentioned before, I receive lots of email from behind the scenes. Here's a few I thought I would post. (Some emails you'll never see...ahem) Yes, I asked first. :)

Some food for thought: For years, Ive been working on a modest-length essay about the value of an individuals services. Many years ago, when I was a relatively new, inexperienced registered nurse and pursuing some advanced training in heart surgery, I was more than a bit impressed with the technical skills of the cardiac surgeon that I was working with. During a long discussion with my late father, I expounded on the surgeon’s ability to diagnose and repair problems and his literal ability to give life to our patients. My father listened patiently and carefully considered every word, while drawing on his trademark pipe. In fairness, I suppose that I should mention that he was then recently retired from the large computer company that provided most of the computer horse power behind the FAAs ATC system and had been the director of that program for his company (Sperry-Univac, later Unisys) for some years. He was not a pilot.

After carefully listening to me and tamping his pipe a few times, he asked me to compare my then favorite surgeon to a very ordinary airline captain. Dad acknowledged my increasing skills and agreed that my surgeon was a very talented fellow. He then politely reminded me that in cardiac surgery, we use a team of five, up to ten or more people and devote between two and 10 hours of effort for the benefit of a single individual. How, he asked, does that compare to the two or three pilots in the front office of an airplane, carrying as many as 450 living, breathing humans? Not one, son, but literally hundreds. (This conversation occurred long before the A380 was conceived, but well within the life of the B747.) Which talented professional, he continued, holds a greater responsibility for life (or other) in his hands, as a nearly routine, daily occurrence? He carefully pointed out that my favorite surgeon might operate 300 times in a very busy year. Our surgical teams success rate was in the mid-80% range and of course, we operated on some extremely ill patients. The big airplane pilot sees and cares for a years worth of surgical patients almost daily and virtually never loses one. Granted that they are generally healthy to begin with, but the differences in numbers and degree of personal responsibility are staggering. He wondered why so much of the developed world dismissed pilots as little more than enhanced bus drivers, yet allowed them to quite literally control hundreds of lives, every time they practice their profession. My fathers comments were, to say the least, profoundly humbling. Ive never forgotten his remarks; they were a new beginning in my respect for the men and women who drive our commercial airplanes.

In the years since that conversation, I have certainly retained my respect for the surgeons that I have worked with. They are talented folks and it is my profession too! And my respect for airplane drivers has grown beyond measure. The still commonly held perception that pilots are irresponsible military retirees or wash-outs is so far from the truth as to be disgusting. In the intervening years, Ive come to know a few pilots, active and retired. Without exception, they are men and women of the highest integrity and truly remarkable professional skills. Much the same as the most serious surgeons, they are professionally well educated and address each and every flight as if it was a heart operation. The process of moving an airplane filled with living souls from A to B really IS as complicated as Heart Surgery, and the differences are two: Pilots care for tens or hundreds of clients at every outing; surgeons, but one. Surgeons get the glory and often the big bucks; pilots suffer with substandard wages, at least until they have devoted 20+ years to their profession. (In fairness, junior surgeons, the residents and juniorattending are also very poorly compensated.) And the flamboyant guy with the knife gets the accolades. As my late father so carefully reminded me, the man or woman with 400+ plus lives in his or her hands is worthy of both our profound respect and significant compensation. To take it one step farther, the surgeon who screws up, truly makes an avoidable error, is quickly forgiven, often in exchange for a handsome insurance settlement. We remark, ...well, the patient was nearly dead before he agreed to try…” On the other hand, a pilot who is lucky enough to survive his Pilot Error mistake, most likely never again fly professionally.

There is a huge disconnect here! Hello? Since that long ago talk with my father, Ive joined the ranks of pilot supporters and with vigor. I did a bit of flying many years ago (topped out at ~602 hours?) and would not presume an even partial title today. A lifetime of experience and a quiet, father-son talk has parked me firmly in the camp of those who respect the professional pilots skill. And when the regulators want to increase the skill levels and required hours for the high-end tickets, I usually agree. Drivers in the sky must be committed professionals and every time an aircraft is granted TO clearance. With now up to 770, even 800 souls on board, is has to be every time. Thanks , but no, I do not want to write a book. If I ever flesh-out and finish the opinion paper, Ill let you publish it in pieces on your blog. It wont hurt your already glowing reputation and will enhance your profession.

A NEW BLOG from the Netherlands!!!

Dear Captain Doug,
Thank you for everything you do on your blog! You are an amazing source of inspiration for someone like me. I wanted to let you know that I made a small article on my blog about you, "MY BLOG" because I've bought your book. I hope you don't mind. (Not that I've got a lot of visitors) If you do, please let me know and I will remove it. It's purely for informational purpose, and to give a hint to others about you.
You are an amazing person Captain Doug, please keep on doing what you are doing. Everytime I see a new post from you on your blog I start smiling. Because I know it'll be good!
I hope your book just as awesome as your blog...
Please let me know, I know you are busy (And you are on a 4 day trip) but if you could, e-mail me back, or even better: Let me know on my blog,
It would be a great honor if you left a comment on my blog.

A Blog from DownUnder.

Hi Doug,
Long time reader, first time caller. I run my blog called "Mikes Flying," if you have seen it! Anyhoo, I'm going for my first airline interview next week and was hoping for any hints or tips that you could offer? I haven't had to deal with this before and it seems that even with a lot of study, im still unsure of how to approach it. I wasnt sure if you have been in recruitment or spoken to buddies that are.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On the Go in S...F...O

Just finished a long layover in San Francisco. The F/O emailed prior to the trip and asked if I was up for a bike ride. "Why not!" I told him.

Our approach to runway 28 Right was in "400 and 2" weather. (Ceiling overcast 400 feet above ground with visibility 2 miles in mist). I prefer the weather to be IFR going into SFO instead of VFR conditions like you see here in this pic. Why? Because ATC will try to ram more aircraft on the approach and it ups the workload big time. SFO is one airport where some unique approaches have been observed. Last time flying in here I had the TCAS squawking away as a aircraft flew under us to pick up the parallel runway.

Captain Doug posing in front of Alcatraz. Yes, that is a blimp going by. One can take tours at $500 per person. It has FARMERS INSURANCE GROUP on the fuselage. Is it a fuselage for a dirigible? We rented the bikes near our hotel and YES we got an airline discount. My F/O arranged things. usually it costs $36, but we frugal pilots got them for $26 for the day.

Another neat shot of Alcatraz during our 11 mile trek to the town of Sausalito. Klint Eastwood in Escape From Alcatraz did a great job as convict Frank Morris. No relation...that I know of. My F/O did the tour on a previous layover and he said its definitely worth it. Apparently you should book well ahead.

The trek took 11 miles according to an APP my F/O had on his iPhone. Years ago a captain and I walked to Sausalito. My F/O could not believe it. But I told him the captain had the "gift of the gab" and he entertained me the entire way.

Advection fog teasing the Golden Gate bridge. Many think this type of fog is only inherent to the East coast particularly in Eastern Canada where the cold Labrador current butts head with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream. On the West coast the cold coastal waters is due to up-welling so most airports along the West coast will see this type of fog now and again.
This is a shot of the rugged coast on the south side of the bridge looking west.
It was cold in that fog and wind. No wonder Mark Twain said, " the coldest winter I spent was a summer in San Francisco." :)

This shot is on the north side. My F/O pointed on the micro climate i.e. the vegetation on this side was much more barren. Many think the Golden Gate bridge is gold in colour. Nope. It's named Golden Gate because of the channel below. The bridge is reddish. Just like many assume the black box on an aircraft is black, but in actuality it is bright orange.

On the North side looking back. Sausalito is a quick downhill ride from here. Captain Doug got a little too carried away with the speed going into town. I must have been showing off to my F/O 15 years younger. :) Men! Pilots!

We decided to take the ferry back to San Fran but not before Captain Doug bought my partner in crime a beverage. (Noticed I didn't say BEER!) The sun was warm, local talent strummed a guitar and the local scenery kept our heads turning. (A pilot must always keep up their scan) :)
In fact, two "natives" starting chatting us up. It usually takes less than five minutes to find out we are pilots. :)

Then one asked, "is there any book out there that talks about the many aspects of aviation? " Captain Doug could not believe the question. I quickly reached for my business card. They must have thought we were con artists. (Maybe escapees from Alcatraz?) After two beverages it was time to ready for the ferry but one of the "natives" bought extra refreshments. I think she took a liking to my good looking, young, in shape F/O. :)))))

The island of Alcatraz with the Golden Gate bridge in the background as the day came to an end. For dinner I took the F/O to a neat eatery. We even had two flight attendants tag along. Twas a rare day. I introduced them to the "Stinking Rose" restaurant where everything is ladened, and I mean ladened, with garlic cloves. I wrote about this restaurant in my enRoute column and they did not let us down. I'm certain the flight deck radiated with garlic the next day. :)

The life of an airline pilot.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Them's the brakes...

The autobrake selection is below the landing gear lights highlighted in an oval.

I flicked the annunciator test switch to show you all the pretty lights associated with the autobrake system.

Them’s the Brakes…

Cedarglan (Craig)

This post is for you! I commented in my previous post I received your letter and your book was sent Friday. Enjoy the read!

Yes, aircraft implement anti-skid and the idea spilled over to cars which you well know as ABS (anti-lock brake system). This topic got me into the books. Well I had to do something on the six hour flight to San Francisco. J

One thing I didn’t realize it did not activate below 20 knots so if I brake and skid a little on some ice, I may leave some rubber behind.

The anti-skid system compares the speed of each main gear wheel (tachometer) with the speed of the aircraft (reference speed). When the speed drops below .87 times the reference speed, the system orders brake release. The Airbus is like an onion, it has many layers of complexity. Maybe I should call it the Airbus Onion. (I also know a few people who have multiple layers)

The Airbus autobrake system has four simple settings: off, low, medium and maximum. It does not arm below 72 knots so in a reject we must be cognizant of this limitation and apply manual braking. We take off with the system in “max.” So with max reverse and max braking... “weez a stopping in a hurry.” Lol

“Lo” setting activates in 4 seconds after the main’s touch and the ground spoilers deploy. This “lag” is a little too slow if we are landing at airports with a “get on, get off” operation. Myself, I land using “low” and with idle reverse, but if need be, I will apply manual braking. I also use the system in crosswind landings. Again, it takes patience to wait for the autobrake to kick in and to determine if you will make the the appropriate turn off.

We tend to maximze brake use over reverse because our brakes are leased and it saves wear and tear on the engines. The glitch is... the brakes warm up in a hurry and carbon brakes work better with one or two smooth applications instead of multiple inputs.

"Medium" kicks in 2 seconds with a deceleration rate of 9.8 ft/sec squared versus 5.6 for low. We tend to use medium in places like USS La Guardia (USS because water stares at us on three of the four runways). J Also if the runways are contaminated (i.e slippery) or landing in low visibility we employ medium.

"Maximum" is NOT recommended for landing because anything not strapped down would end up in the front of the airplane. And that’s where we are!

The Decel (deceleration) lights activate when at 80 % of the selected rate.


The nose wheel steering disengages above 70 knots. The nosewheel rudder pedals disengage above 130 knots…after that you are steering with only rudder.

So what happens when we reject around 70 knots due to an engine failure? The autobrake is not armed, max reverse is less effective at low speeds and the nosewheel rudder pedals only allows a deflection of +/- 6 degrees. Translation, if you don’t get onto the nosewheel steering (hand wheel) and brakes…it’s off into the tulips you go. Yes, sometimes a low speed reject is much slippery than a high speed.


And how many rejects have I had after accumulating thousands of take offs?

Zero! Okay... I had a couple of very low speed rejects due to NON mechanical issues but that’s it!

The end of February will see Captains Doug in the simulator and rest assured I will be yelling “reject” as part of the ride.

It's Valentines Day and I hope all of your significant others don't say to you..."Them's the Breaks" in the romance department. :)

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…

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Day two of four

A big bird at Toronto's deice facility. It was enroute to Vancouver and then Sydney, Australia. We had to wait until it got out of the way. Even at idle thrust the fluid was whisking back along the ground from the jet blast. Actually, one truck got a little close to the aft right engine and you could see it wobbling in the wind.

Captain Doug...still waiting for "BIG BIRD" to move so I got creative with this shot.
I notice my camera is now causing a streak in the pics. These shots were taken on day one, after doing a West Palm beach turn and with us running late due to the inbound flight. Our long duty day went past by an hour.

Last night just passing over Montreal enroute to St. John's Newfoundland.
Note the wind read out (top left corner) of 201 knots. It got as high as 210 knots. The strongest I've seen it over land. I even mentioned it during our pre descent announcement.
While others partied on Crescent street in Montreal, Captain Doug flew overhead at FL 330 in stronger than hurricane "strength five" winds. But it was smooooooth!

Nadia, we flew by you last night at 615 knots actually top speed got up to 630 knots.
We were FLYING! :)

Day Two:

Our inbound flight from Toronto was running 30 minutes. A good way to start the day. NOT!
Light snow fell on yet another cold Canadian city so it meant we would be getting even more proficient with the deice checklist. Actually, I am getting really tired of it.

But what a minute, while getting a clearance ATC mentions there is flow control into Toronto. Expect a 45 minute delay. We decide to go for the deice and get type four anti-icing fluid to give us breathing room in case they stick to their guns with the "wheels up" time.

When at the deice center, "Iceman" informs us there is only one truck. We check our deice flow chart. It said, "if thou gets deiced with type IV with only one truck... then thou must do it with engines off." We shut down. :( During the spray I query Iceman, why only one truck thinking the other one is broken. Reason..."the others are having lunch, so we are only operating one truck." WTF? What happens if Captain Doug decides to pull off and have lunch? Our dispatchers don't leave their desk during their shift and I'm told the guys at Toronto's CDF stay in the trucks as well. Hmmmmm? Funny, this was the same excuse I heard two years ago during the same operation. I'll stop there.

Because we deiced with one truck, the flowchart also states, "thou shall do a PDI (Post Deice Inspection). The F/O gets up and I wait until he gets into "J" class to make a P.A something to the effect... "the good looking first officer will be inspecting the wings as per our procedure." He said he heard one snicker from a female passenger in "J." He came back and said, "you got me good," with a big smile.

As we taxi out ground queries our runway choice. "You might want to use runway 32 after I tell what 25 is like." We departed off 32.

Now we are running big time late. The flight we were to take from Toronto is a continuation from Fort McMurray, Alberta. These passengers were scheduled to sit for an hour. Noticed I said, scheduled? They had to wait for us.

We get our flight plan from the gate. Glitch number one...the printer is DOT matrix so our regular weather charts are missing. Luckily ex-Metman Morris had a good look at things on the previous flight...ahem. The datalink rattles off a PIREP (pilot report) from a Halifax flight stating they encountered moderate plus...almost severe turbulence at FL250 to FL 280. I check out our flight plan altitude, tropopause height, shear forecast and aver we will be above it. But you should have seen the shear of wind speed as we climbed through the screaming jet stream.

I did the walk around while the F/O readied the flight. This was after I greeted most of the passengers with a loud welcome aboard as I entered a loaded airplane and with everyone staring at us. One business class passengers demanded when the bar will open because of the delay. Tough crowd.

I declared the aircraft free of ice. But the deice co-ordinator had different views. I ask him back for a second opinion. "There is some residual fluid freezing and the light snow is sticking to it." Guess where we had to go? Did I tell you I'm getting tired of the deice checklist?

Here I sit in St. John's, Newfoundland and my meteorological senses are tingling. This place is going to get hit by a big one. And guess who will be departing in the thick of things?
Did I tell you I'm getting tired of that deice checklist?

I'm looking forward to visiting Mickey Mouse late tonight. I sure hope I don't have to pull out that checklist. :)

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