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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Back from Cancun

As mentioned in my book, "one of the best things about being an airline pilot is that you can live where ever you want. One of the worst things about being an airline pilot is that you could live where ever you want."
That's because of airline passes. I can take a flight to Paris in the evening and be sipping wine on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées by noon the next day all because of passes. Sounds great? The only glitch is they are stand-by only.
So travelling on passes to Cancun, Mexico with a family of five during March break made it a work out. In fact, the first flight (B767-300) only had two seats left. Senior employees took those. We managed to get on the next flight five hours later. Returning home we went through Montreal because of available seats. It's a work out, but when you are basking in the sun with a cocktail in hand, one tends to forget the hassle factor.
That's why commuting was NOT my cup of tea. Most flights are flying full so for contingent passengers it ups the stress factor.
Now I'm back ready to answer questions about aviation.
Tanned Doug

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sinning in the Sim

My two days of stress is over for another eight months. The first day starts off with 1.5 hour briefing followed by four solid hours of go, go, training. After that you are cooked, but you must listen to a 30 minute de-briefing of all the sins you committed. To put salt in the wound we Air Canada pilots do this for free since CCAA.
The captain goes first. My training was a take off on a contaminated runway in 1/4 inch of slush. Meaning the packs are off, flaps three and leaving the gear extended on take off to shed ice.
Translation - a bigger workload.
This is followed by a TCAS (Traffic Collision and Avoidance System) maneuver to prevent a head on collision. Our destination airport is closed so we return to Vancouver for a fully managed NDB approach to 08 right. We get down to 20 feet over the runway at idle thrust and we must do a low energy go-around. (The wheels touch). Of course on the missed approach we get an engine failure so we labour back to the airport to shoot a one engine ILS approach to 08L. We land.
Then it's a high speed reject in RVR 600 (That's three runway lights). We are put back to the button for a V1 engine cut at take off with RVR 1200 feet. We then get radar vectors for a single engine CAT 3 autoland. Another take off the F/O goes incapacitated. Next a PRM ILS 28L approach in San Fransisco. We get a traffic alert on final casuing a break out maneuver. We get vectors into mountainous terrain to GPWS CFIT recovery. Another GPWS CFIT exercise and then I go incapacitated. That ends my training. Now it's the F/O's turn.
Today we did a LOFT (Line Orientated Flight Training) and it went well.
The good news is, I get to keep my job for a little longer!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Emergency Exits

Hi Doug When I am flying I often wonder about the Emergency exit doors. Do they get locked automatically once the plane takes off or can someone release the door at anytime? Jerry

Hi Jerry. Sometimes when we push back, you'll hear "flight attendants, arm and cross check." This announcement is made by the in-charge flight attendant to tell the others to arm the doors. Arming the doors mean slides will deploy if the doors are opened.

No, all aircraft doors must be closed and secured manually.

The doors can not be released automatically in any phase of flight.

Airbus technical question

Hi Doug I have a question....I am currently enrolled in the Seneca part time aviation program and we are learning about flex thrust.....I know in the Airbus whenever you set your power for takeoff I notice the pilot not flying always says "flex,55(temp eg) SRS rwy, autothrust blue...I've alwayswondered why they say that...is it to comfirm that the speed reference system had initiated? Karl
Sounds like you are into Airbus in a big way! Actually, it's the PF (Pilot Flying) who states these parameters.In fact, yesterday while I was barrelling down the runway, I read out loud those very words."Man Flex, SRS, RWY (Runway) and autothrust."It's to confirm:
1. We indeed have flex thrust selected on the thrust levers instead of TOGA (Take off and Go Around) thrust.We do this to save wear and tear on the engines.
2. SRS (Speed Reference System) is active.
3. RWY (Runway) The system is picking up an ILS signal for that runway. Sometimes RWY is not there.
4. Autothrust means the autothrust system is armed. It does not become fully engaged until we set climb thrust about 1500 AGL.
All the best, and again, thanks for taking the time to submit your question.

Question on Turbulence

Hello Doug,I fly with Air Canada quite often and by now I understand that weatherpatterns have a lot to do with turbulence. My questions is, can turbulence bring the plane down??? Or brake it apart in the air. Silly question but Ialways wanted to know. Thanks. Iwona

Iwona. Thanks for the email.

There are six different types of turbulence and one man made (wing tip vortices from other aircraft).
My first enRoute article some 12 years ago addressed turbulence called, "Why the Bumps?" (see below)

An aircraft is built such that it can handle whatever mother nature throws at it. So, I have yet to hear about an airliner
breaking up in flight due to turbulence.

As far as bringing an airplane down, turbulence near the ground could effectively cause an accident. One type, LLWS (Low Level Wind Shear)
can be dangerous to low flying aircraft. Having said that, most airliners are equipped to tell the pilot windshear is present.
We pilots know what conditions are conducive to turbulence and we consult weather charts, weather reports and receive pilot reports from other aircraft on
a continual basis. We try to give the smoothest flight possible because after all, if it's bumpy, we don't get served either.

All the best, and again, thanks for taking the time to submit your question.

Why the Bumps?
The different types of turbulence
(May 1998)

Those bumps sometimes experienced when flying are not caused by air pockets, as is commonly believed. Actually, air pockets do not exist. Sudden movements are caused by disturbed conditions of the atmosphere due to irregular wind currents, or turbulence. There are six different types of turbulence and they can occur during each phase of flight. Fortunately, your flight crew is prepared to avoid all six, thus ensuring your comfort.

Mechanical turbulence occurs when aircraft encounters strong winds blowing over irregular terrain such as hills, trees or buildings. This type occurs near to the ground at less than 1300 metres (4,000 feet). To avoid mechanical turbulence after take off, the pilot will steepen the angle of the aircraft’s climb. When landing, he or she will decrease the aircraft’s speed.

The second kind is known as convective turbulence. During the day, the sun heats up the earth, which then heats the overlying air. The hotter the air, the bumpier the turbulence. Convection, the way that heated air travels upwards in the atmosphere, is at its maximum during the heat of a summer afternoon. Cloud formations are good indicators of the degree of convection at work, and of a pilot sees white, puffy, convective or cumulus clouds,, it is often a sign of turbulence. He or she can then easily avoid it.

When these billowy clouds become taller than they are wide, they are called towering cumulus, and signal the buildup of thunderstorms. Once these clouds are moderately or fully developed, they will show up on the aircraft’s radar-not the clouds themselves, but the rain showers inside. The larger and more intense the rain shower, the more obvious they appear on the radar. Pilots can then avoid them by navigating around the showers.

A third type of turbulence is low level wind shear (LLWS). This occurs as a result of updrafts under a thunderstorm or when winds funnel down a valley. Pilots are familiar with this hazard and avoid flying under a thunderstorm, particularly during take off or landing. Many aircraft now have wind-shear detecting equipment on board, and a number of airports are equipped to detect LLWS. Orographic turbulence occurs when a strong wind blows perpendicular to a mountain range, causing a phenomenon known as a “mountain wave” (orography is the field of knowledge concerned with mountains). By watching for the three types of clouds that may indicate its presence, a pilot can then avoid the bumpier air of a mountain range’s downwind side or climb above it.

A fifth type, called frontal turbulence, is brought on by a sudden change in wind direction due to a weather front. A quick look at the latest weather chart will tell a pilot where these fronts are, as well as the speed at which they are moving.

The last, and perhaps least understood kind of turbulence, is clear air turbulence (CAT). This forms when little to no weather systems are present, and is caused by jet streams- long, thin bands of fast-moving air sandwiched between the first two layers of the atmosphere, usually located at ten thousand metres (33,000 feet). Jet streams corkscrew around the globe like coiling, meandering snakes and occur when two air masses collide. The resulting winds can cause significant turbulence, but can be avoided without difficulty.

The members of your flight crew are always up-to-date on the latest weather reports and forecasts, and are expertly trained to avoid or minimize any discomfort. So sit back and relax; the next bump you experience will be your landing!

Flight Deck Visits

Are passengers still able to visit the flight deck on occasion or is it still restricted to staff and crew?

Hello and thank you for submitting your question.

Since 9/11 flight deck visitation is forbidden. It's unfortunate because I really enjoyed meeting the passengers. We are not even allowed to have our spouses or children up for a visit.

Having said that, we sometimes get a passenger saying hello when the flight deck door is opened during our pre-flight checks. But we pilots are very busy at this time so a quick "hello" is as far as we usually go.

Sometimes during the de-planning stage, a quick picture may be taken while you exit the airplane.

That's as far as it goes regarding flight deck visits. That is why I wrote the book,
From the Flight Deck:Plane Talk and Sky Science. Figuratively speaking, it opens the flight deck door again.

All the best, and again, thanks for taking the time to submit your question.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

enRoute March's questions

Q: Do airplanes have ABS like cars? Airplanes are equipped with an anti-lock braking system, but we just call it anti-skid. In fact, this system, which prevents wheels from locking up during braking, was first invented for airplanes. Even motorcycles now have ABS to keep tires from skidding on both dry and slippery surfaces. With aircraft, the anti-skid system is incorporated into the brake assembly on the main landing gear. The nose wheel has no brakes but manoeuvres the airplane on the ground.
Q: Do aircrew suffer from jetlag? People are often surprised to hear that aircrew are affected by jetlag, although we do get accustomed to it. It helps to stay hydrated with plenty of non-diuretic drinks, such as water and juice, and studies show that physical activity is an effective remedy. I always try to work out in the gym on layovers, but walking also does the trick. And I usually adjust my watch to local time when asked, “What time are we landing?”
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