!!!!! 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.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Stay Senior on Junior Equipment

Erik's shot of a B767

It's been the saying to abide by for most pilot's careers...."Stay Senior on Junior Equipment." Don't go for the next bigger airplane, but chose lifestyle instead. Except, some of us are impatient and that includes moi.

Yesterday, an equipment bid closed. We are hiring. In fact, I''ll be teaching a class of 12 mid June. The equipment bid was not huge, but we need 17 B777 captains, 2 A330 captains and 5 B767 captains plus 13 Airbus 320 captains based in Toronto. But it's the heavier equipment I'm looking at...translating to at least 24 slots.

My standing bid has me requesting B767 captain "zero from the bottom." Yes, you can qualify your bid. You can even move bases. But there is another saying, "be careful what you bid for."

Well the last bid saw me 345 numbers away from saying "heavy" again. I started at AC saying "heavy" (over 300,000 pounds i.e A340) as a cruise pilot, I also got to say it as a A340/A330 F/O but the wallet really thickens when I say it as a captain. LOL

Had my medical today which was two days away from me turning into a pumpkin.
I get to keep my job another six months!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Stable or Unstable?

"With it out and hanging"

              Stable or unstable?

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

So what is required to be deemed a stable approach?

Here’s a few:

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

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

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

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

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

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

World's largest model airport

Sitting here in Vancouver with SOME time and Cedarglen (Craig) sent me this link. I thought it was cute.

Some people have train sets but this model trumps them all. Apparently it's a mock up of Hamburg, Germany airport.

Gone flying

Captain D

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Busted Bridge (Jetway)

Looking from the outside in.... and no I was not cleaning the windows. I should  have because there were a lot of bug smears on it. :)

The pairing seemed to be going way too smooth. The landings were great, there were little to no snags and my "partner in crime" fitted with the majority of them- a great person to fly with.

The last leg had us arrive in Toronto 10 minutes early. The park brake was set and the engines spooled down. I gave the lead "brakes set, engines one and two are off" signal and waited for the bridge to move. And waited for the bridge to move....

I knew things were amok when the "rampies" threw their arms up in disgust. I asked number one to call STOC (Station Operations Control) to give them a heads up. More hand-waving emanated form the bridge and we're told the electricians were on their way.

I started the clock to see how long the delay would be. I also made several announcements with my first one pointing out that AC does not own the gates, but the airport authority!
Because I knew the cussing would begin and the in-chrage gave me a smile and a thumbs up for mentioning it.

The electricians confirmed the gate to be kaput. Dead in the water. Tango uniform.

A TBL (tow barless) tractor came to the rescue and picked our nose up and moved us to the next gate. Total time....25 minutes...but we were 10 minutes early.

The above picture was taken by my F/O when we were setting out for the Ottawa turn.
It was not me trying to get out when the bridge went belly up. But maybe it was some foreshadowing???

He was young and for some reason...reminded me of a younger Captain Doug.
Now 33 and still below the new hire age of 34-35, the lucky guy was hired to the left of the bell curve at a ripe age of 28. He resides in Ontario but will be moving to Halifax to commute. Of course, I tried to talk him out of it!!! Funny...the flight to Halifax two days before was full with 20 "cons" waiting to get on. One pilot made it in the jumpseat. But this didn't deter him.

It proves one thing, people can offer advice until they are blue in the face, but until you actually live your decision you will never know.

************* NEW********************

Just received this from the passenger on flight 272 from Winnipeg to Toronto tonight...

Thought I’d write you a note since it’s fresh in my mind. I was aboard flight 272 from YWG-YYZ tonight, just wanted to say thanks for signing the book, it was a pleasure meeting you. I never thought I’d run into you on a flight so soon, I just bought your book last week and am thoroughly enjoying it.  As I mentioned I’m a private pilot myself, your blog is a great read, keep the posts coming! As a frequent AC customer, it’s always a pleasure putting a face to voice! Keep up the great work, you guys aren’t shown enough appreciation for the job you do

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A couple of cool videos

Well I was going to blog about that persistent upper low sitting just south of the Great Lakes wreaking havoc over Eastern Canada and the U.S, but I'm kinda pressed for time...I have a 5:00 a.m wake up. I'm bound for Florida and back and then down to Halifax for another super duper long layover. "Number one" wanted to come, but she stood me up. :(


This same film was sent in from two followers. One astute follower noticed the last aircraft to take off from Logan was none other than Air Canada!
Another astute reader thinks it is runway 22 Right.

Did I tell you there is one tower controller at Logan that says "Air Canada" like our anthem "Oh Canada." 

"Ohhhhh Canada, cleared for take off!"  I think it's cute. :))))

Take a look at what this Delta pilot does on the side. Man he can fly. It's out of my league. 

BMWs and Airplanes.

So what does a BMW and an airplane have in common? Well, whatever you think
the price of a part is....multiply it by four!

"Diesel Daughter" is at it again by receiving a love tap from another car in "my" BMW. It cracked the trim around the fog light. Not so bad, I thought. Looks like the part will cost $30 max, max. The parts department guy said....ohhhhhh (I didn't like that sound)... "I have to order that from Germany with the appropriate black paint."

I went into the emergency "brace position" holding on to the counter and waited for the price. "It's gonna cost...$225......"  I said..."PARDON ME?!?!?!?"

He could tell blood was rushing from my head and quickly prevented me from tears, "wait a minute...I can order one locally, but it won't be painted." Price $16. With a can of spray paint guess what option Captain D went for?


Talking to a retired Air Canada pilot in the gym today. Actually, to say he is retired is a gross understatement. He is working more than when he flew. He is a sim instructor for the brand new MPL (Multi crew pilot license) which Air Asia students were the first in the world to complete. They started in Moncton, New Brunswick, went to Texas and then Toronto for the A320. He told one candidate (who he ran the sim for the Transport Canada check ride) "You are the first one in the world to complete this!"

It's a new way of training airline pilots...and it is here to stay.

Well done guys!

On that note....I'm gone flying.... 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Structures....working with my hands....

Built pergola in first residence in Oakville

Backyard and front yard included a built-in sprinkler system installed by moi.

Built mirror from scratch with wainscotting 

Building from a blank canvas in Halifax

It sat about 10 feet above the ground but it
wasn't commuting for

Re-did the kitchen including the hood, back splash, island, light fixtures, valence and lighting in one Oakville home

Trying to keep "number one" happy  by putting in a pool. Built the deck, retainer wall for pool, all landscaping and fencing (Previous house i.e no more pool)

"Diesel daughter" modelling my installed french doors with transom in present home


Last Spring's project including widening of steps, all masonry work, building hand rails and posts, re-doing garage doors with new hardware, interlocking around driveway, flower box, lots of landscaping and painting

My last project last week. We are in yet another rain delay. Funny, "number one" had me working with electric tools in the rain...Yes, I was wondering if she had an ulterior motive. :)

And I'm pretty good with the joystick...other "drivers" will never know....

That's it...working with my hands. Some may think my pen in my hand may be a bit dubious, but no one can deny I can't put in a hard day's work with my hands....

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Friday the 13th....

"Red on the monitors"

Bad luck or just another day at the office?

It seemed pretty routine, a "Rapidair" to Montreal and back and then scoot down to Halifax, Nova Scotia for an exceptionally long layover.

So off to Montreal we go with the F/O flying. He puts it on nicely on 06 left with a slight tailwind. This “straight in arrival” has Captain D proclaiming to the passengers we will be 5 to 10 minutes early. And it’s looking that way until we get to our gate…there is no gate for us! A B767 has a “dangerous good” issue. They probably can’t find the required paperwork. No biggie, an Embraer is about to push back from the next gate over. But what a minute, their APU is "tango uniform" requiring an engine start at the gate.

Finally after promising to be 5 minutes early we are 25 minutes late.
On the weather charts, scattered thunderstorms were figured to develop in the back door of Toronto. And sure enough….they reared their ugly heads plaguing Toronto’s airspace.
We push back from the gate with a “wheels up” time 30 minutes later as there are “ground delays” or “metering” in an out of Toronto. We are told to wait in the deice center.

We decide to shut down and sit there with the APU running the ship. After an hour I look over to my F/O and said, can you imagine if our APU quit? Gotcha!!! The APU worked fine the entire time. LOL

Well that “ground delay” turned into a “ground stop.” Toronto is not allowing aircraft in or out. The busiest airport in Canada and the 18th busiest in aircraft movements in the world is at a standstill. (In 2010, CYYZ is now beating out KLGA, KSFO, KBOS, KJFK). Yes, we are in the BIG leagues.!!!

Can you say, “off the rails?”

Captain D has the honour of informing the passengers of the good news.
“Ladies and Gentleman, this is your captain speaking, welcome to the deice centre, it’s plus 25 C and “no” we are not getting deiced but….
Luckily many are frequent flyers so they understand…usually. The booze and all the snacks went quick. Nearing two hours, I look over to my F/O and ask, how long can we hold them hostage? I remembered a recent ruling in the States. I start scanning through our books and memos. There are memos for the memos. Nothing.

Hurry up and wait...

Finally the thunderstorms had their way and moved on. We are given a “wheels up time” and it’s time to rock. Our tight connection time for Halifax turned into a 45 minute wait with passengers on board. I walk on board... it’s hot with everyone staring at me. I try to break the ice with a smile. But I sense all they wanted was for us to "flash this puppy up" and get going. I make an announcement telling them it will be at least 20 minutes. We do our utmost to ready the aircraft. We are ready, but wait....no ground crew!

After a further 20 minute delay we push back and off to Halifax we go shooting an ILS on 14 down to 200 foot ceilings at 1:00 a.m.

The life of an airline pilot…..

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Aviate, Navigate, Communicate and Radiate?

The cardinal rule for any pilot is to aviate, navigate, communicate.... but radiate????

Recently, a blog follower (Mike) asked about pilots and radiation. In my book, I alluded to “space weather” when flying over the North pole. Cosmic radiation is predicated on four factors and it’s part of doing business. But before you think you will be glowing in the dark it turns out we are at less risk than thought! Sigh of relieve….

So the four factors are: latitude, altitude, flight duration and solar activity. And before I go any further, it’s true I am a meteorologist, but this topic is out of my field of expertise and much of it is derived from a recent pilot union survey. And I learned a lot!

The term 'cosmic rays' refers to elementary particles (such as electrons and protons), nuclei (such as helium nuclei, or alpha particles), and electromagnetic radiation (x-rays and gamma rays), of extra-terrestrial origin. These cosmic ray particles are produced by high-energy events very distant from the Solar System, such as supernova explosions. They come from all directions in space.

1. Aircraft at higher altitudes receive greater amounts of cosmic rays than at lower altitudes. But guess what….jet engines like higher altitudes? In fact, the rule is generally the higher the better. When I'm at FL 350 and I look up and see bizjets scooting along at FL 470..I think...hmmmmmmm....

2. Geomagnetic latitude. The North  and South polar regions are less shielded by the Earth's magnetic field than regions near the equator. The earth's magnetic field shields us from cosmic radiation.

Remember we are talking magnetic North pole and not the “true” North pole. Presently it’s parked over Northern Canada at 85 degrees north and is slowly moving to Siberia. It's why runway numbers change now again. So we in Canada have to contend with the "hole" more than Ivan in Siberia..for now.

3. Solar activity level. The Sun's activity varies over an 11-year cycle. When the Sun is active, it shields the inner Solar System. When the Sun is inactive, the Earth receives more cosmic radiation! The Sun's activity level is described by the 'heliocentric potential'.
Like most....I thought the entire opposite. Bizarre...I know. It’s because of the “Forbush Decrease.”

Why? When sunspots explode, they hurl massive clouds of hot gas away from the sun. These clouds contain not only gas but also magnetic force fields, knots of magnetism ripped away from the sun by the explosion. Magnetic fields deflect charged particles, so when these clouds sweep past Earth, it also sweeps away many of the electrically-charged cosmic rays that would otherwise strike our planet.

The 2009 study I alluded to transpired during the highest level of the 11 year cycle so in years to come the exposure rate should be less. 

The dose from radiation that a person receives is measured in units of sieverts (Sv). The average Canadian receives about 2.6 millisieverts (or 0.0026 Sv) per year from normal natural, industrial, and medical sources. A typical medical x-ray, for example, generates a dose of about 0.01 to 0.1 millisieverts. To see more medical dosages, see the FAQ section to PCaire's website.

A typical trans-Canadian flight (e.g. YUL to YVR) will generate a dose of about 35 microsieverts, or 0.000035 Sv. (A microsievert is one thousand times smaller than a milliservert). Thus, it would take over 75 such flights per year to generate a received dose that is roughly equivalent to the normal annual background dose.

Recently a company (PCaire) conducted a radiation exposure analysis on myself and my colleagues in 2009. After compiling all the facts….

GOOD NEWS!!!!….We remained below the recommended intervention level of 6mvs which is one third the limit of 20msv used for occupational workers.

Many would assume the B777 doing transpolar flights would see the higher doses. Not so, because they usually fly at lower altitudes where the exposure is less. When they get light enough to fly higher there are heading south over Siberia so the exposure gets less and less.

This is what Health Canada said on their website. Health Canada
It would take about 100 one-way flights between Toronto and Vancouver to obtain the same exposure as we get in one year from other sources of natural background radiation.

Twenty msv (milliserverts) is the benchmark for regulated occupationally exposed workers. I am less than one third the suggested intervention level. The highest during the survey was 6 milliserverts and remember this survey was when cosmic radiation was at it's highest 11 year cycle. When I retire, it will peak again. 

Frequent flyers and you curious sorts can enter the website.   PCaire
It can tell you how much radiation you can expect on any given flight. For fun, I went on and found out on Christmas day in 2009 I radiated with less dosage than my transcon Vancouver flight a few weeks prior. So heading south is better, but then again UV rays will get ya while you capitalize on Vitamin D. Either that, the "all you can eat" all inclusives may give you a cardiac surprise from the 15 pounds you gained. :)))

Here are some dose rates per hour for each aircraft:

B777 Highest YYZ-YVR  7.5 microSV/hour
B777 Lowest  SYD-YVR  3.9

B767 Highest  YYZ-YVR 7.0
B767 Lowest   YYZ-LIM  3.4

A330 Highest YYZ-YVR 8.2
A330 Lowest  YVR-NRT 5.7

A320 Highest YWG-YVR 6.0
A320 Lowest YHZ-YUL  4.3

E-175 Highest SEA-YYZ 7.1
E-175 Lowest PHL-YYZ  2.4

Monday, May 9, 2011

Operating under MEL....

One of the many books found on board, the MEL (Minimum Equipment List) An Ipad could reduce the flight deck's weight by 100 to 150 pounds...oops I'm digressing. 

The flight plan to Halifax yesterday said the APU was inop (inoperative). Oh great, meaning an airstart will be required at the gate followed by a cross bleed engine start after push back. The workload goes up with more checklists. But how do we know we can dispatch with a sick airplane? Well, we consult this heavy thick orange book which is stowed on the captain's side. The book must weigh 25 pounds requiring us to hyperextend citing any chiropractor to take a conniption fit. As well, the airplane's potable water was shut off so we had to recruit bottled water and supply wet naps in the washrooms. Yes, the toilets worked.

With an inop APU it means one engine has to be left running when we get to the gate until we receive ground power. Most new gates do not allow ground power to connect until the jetway is in place which can take minutes. Luckily we only had this sick bird for one leg.

After push back and start up this morning in rainy Halifax, the autothrust system "no workie." Out comes the thick orange book hiding in the corner and luckily Captain D lifts weights. The "good book" said we can go without autothrust. It's my leg and I've never flown the plane with degraded automation. The standard calls while barrelling down the runway were different. It throws you off. We Airbus pilots don't don't touch the thrust levers after take off until short final. It took some getting use to. I had to adjust the thrust setting during the entire flight. A few times I thought I was flying props because the engines were slightly out of sync and the "wah, wah, wah"  reminded me of the good ole days.

Some pilots disengage the autothrust while on approach and it raises an eyebrow with me. Why degrade the automation? Just like many of my F/Os want to prove they can fly by manually flying up to 10,000 feet. I say...get the autopilot on and enjoy the view.

One Airbus instructor said, "if you disengage the autopilot, you raise and eyebrow. If you disengage the autopilot and autothrust...it's back to ground school."

Well after three and half years, I flew my first approach without autothrust and with the landing I got out of it...I just might do it again. :)

Friday, May 6, 2011

May's enRoute

May's is up...feel free to visit the site to comment: enRoute

Q: Are you in contact with other aircraft while up in the air? 
Dylan Renz
Most airliners listen out on a designated emergency frequency. When we fly over remote areas, such as the High Arctic or the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, we also listen out on a worldwide air-to-air common frequency. This is where chit-chat between aircraft is a little more prevalent. Here at Air Canada, we have the capability to send messages to company aircraft via data link.
Q: How do you ensure an aircraft is properly balanced? 
Brian Spreadbury
Pincher Creek, Alberta
Air Canada operates its own weight and balance department, dubbed “load.” Everything, including fuel, is weighed prior to takeoff. If the weight of the fuel deviates from what was projected by a certain amount – 300 kilograms in the case of my aircraft type, an Airbus A320 – we send load a message so they can readjust the final weight and centre of gravity. In addition, our passenger counts must jibe with load planning. Load tallies the total weight of cargo and baggage and sends the ground handlers a breakdown; then everything is positioned in the aircraft as recommended. Part of the information allows us to fine-tune our flight control settings as well.  
Q: What is that barking sound in an Airbus during taxi?  
Erin Palmeter
A device called a PTU (Power Transfer Unit) transfers pressure between two of the three independent hydraulic systems. Sometimes when the captain decides to taxi the aircraft on one engine, it makes the PTU work a little harder. The barking sound (and I admit it can be loud) is when the PTU gets a little overzealous. But, occasionally, a real bark may be heard from one of our four-legged passengers travelling in the cargo hold!  

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! 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Lots of talent out there

Here's a small sample from Christer, a talented violinist, a blog follower, frequent flyer and big time aviation enthusiast. He travels the world spreading his love of music...sometimes with his dad (piano).The "boss" (she just told me she doesn't like getting called that) and I were asked to attend a concert of Christer's and of course my schedule has me flying that day.

So how does a violin and flying tie together? Well listen to this one.... :)))))

Years and years ago (we are talking eons) flight deck visitations were more than just a dream, but a given if you asked nicely and showed a keen interest. Sure many of the parents at wits end would take their kids to the flight deck as a last resort to calm their little rascals. Usually it would stop them dead in their tracks.

One day a rather mature "to the point" young lad got the "tour." The pilots should him the buttons, handles, bright lights and the great view. The pilots were very relaxed and it kind of threw the young lad off kilter. Finally the "not so well behaved" boy said, "gee, anyone can fly an airplane!" But the wise ole senior captain (who never missed a beat) turns around and looks down on the boy with his bifocals and asks...."Son, can you play the violin?"

"No sir, I can not," says the boy knowing full well he met his match.

"Why not?" asks the captain. "It only has four strings!"

End of story!


Here's a link to Christer's website
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