Monday, July 31, 2006

More nostalgia from back in the day on AvCanada. These posts all took place during my medevac career with Thunder Airlines on the mighty MU-2. The airplane itself is an amazing machine, and I respect it like no other.

From April 23rd, 2003 - Initial PPC ride on the MU-2 for Thunder Airlines
I got a job flying medevacs in a squirrely but fun turboprop. Just in time for a good dose o'the SARS

Today's random topic is the PPC ride I did last week. I know lots of you have done PPC rides; those of you who have can skip this post Those of you who are still students might find it remotely interesting, so here goes nothing:

It was an initial ride on the airplane, so that meant a more thorough ride than a recurrent ride. With inital rides, you have to do stalls; they aren't required for recurrent rides. There were 2 of us on this groundschool, so I got to commiserate with my fellow victim, and that made things a lot easier. This was a real groundschool too, not like the ones I had previously been to, which typically took less than an hour. I can honestly say I learned a lot, but I can also say that my brain still hurts 2 weeks after the course, and I probably lost 10 pounds during the training because of the stress. Some people drink too much, I simply stop eating. Anyway, after 7 days of books and tests, we were allowed to sit in the airplane. That was fun; then came a few days of training flights, culminating in the PPC ride. I won't go into detail about thr training flights, except to say that there's nothing like aviation to humble a person

Anyway, on to the PPC ride itself...
We started with the ground briefing, mostly typical IFR stuff (the cold temperature altitude correction chart in the CAP GEN section, some lost comm stuff, basic approach plate reading) then went into airplane-specific stuff.
"Could you plug a toaster into the AC electrical system of this aircraft"
"Suppose your INVERTER OUT light starts flashing on and off, what do you do"
"What do you lose when you hit the EMERG. MASTER switch"
Mostly stuff to see if I had cracked open the manual since groundschool started. And I had, lucky me. You see, there's around 8 hours a days that I was apparently wasting by sleeping through it; If I simply used those 8 hours a day to study, I could keep up to the groundschool. We wrote something like 13 exams in 7 days; more exams than I had previously written in my entire commercial career. There's something to be said about a company that does things by the book, and doesn't take shortcuts. Although it was hell to go through, it made me feel good about the company culture. That's another post entirely though

Back to the ground briefing...
I convinced the inspector that I could not get a toaster working on the electrical system (400hz outta the inverters vs 60hz in your house, dontcha know ) and eventually he felt confident enough in my ability to set foot in the airplane with me.

We took off, then went out to the practice area for the upper airwork. First things first, we did a couple of 360 degree turns, to see if I had basic aircraft control figured out. I fooled him enough on that one, and we then went onto the stalls. We did approach to stalls, which isn't quite the same thing as stalls in the trusty C-172. In larger airplanes, you really aren't supposed to stall them fully, so you are to recover at the first sign of the stall, whether that's an audible warning, a stick-shaker, watching the other pilot for beads of sweat on their forehead, or just looking at the airspeed indicator and figuring it's a leetle slow. I went with the last option, and once the speed got below 120 knots, I added full power and recovered. We did another stall in the 'dirty' configuration (which isn't nearly as much fun as you might think --'dirty' means flaps and landing gear are extended) and once the airplane got down to 105 knots, I added power and we flew outta there.
Time for the engine failures on the overshoot, and we set up at 6000', pretending the runway was at 5000', getting the airplane all set up to land.

Once again, I know most of you already know this, I am posting for the newbies, so please keep your yawns and cruel comments to yourselves; I have such a thin skin

Anyway, we got set up on the fake ILS, and at 5200' the inspector called a moose on the simulated runway, and we overshot while the inspector failed an engine. No big deal, this little rocketship can climb just fine on a single fan, and that's just what we did.

After that was done, it was time for the IFR stuff. The inspector gave me a hold on the localizer backcourse, the tricky devil. Holds are kinda funny; it seems every pilot has his own method for screwing them up. I remember studying holds for hours in flight school, sure they were a combination of voodoo and bad luck until I stumbled on the method I use today. I just turn toward the station, so that my beacon or whatever is at the top of the HSI. I then take my outbound track, and superimpose it on the HSI. If it falls on the top left side, that's a parallel entry, if it falls on the top right side, it's offset, and if it falls anywhere else, it's a direct entry. It's so simple even I can use it The winds weren't too bad, so my timings worked out after the first entry. Thinking back on it, maybe I coulda sold my soul to Satan for a higher price than perfect hold entries, but I guess I'll eventually have all eternity to reflect on that

After the hold came the ILS approach, which went aight; we went down to minimums then overshot and did an NDB approach. On the NDB approach the inspector gave me a fake engine fire; no big deal but putting the fire out involves shutting the engine down, so I was pretty busy for a few moments. The Pilot-Not-Flying rebriefed me on the single-engine approach, and we managed to find the runway eventually. We were downwind in the circling approach when ATC called and asked me to keep the approach in tight to accomodate inbound jet traffic. Now normally I do everything I can to be nice to ATC; after all, they do control my life pretty much, but this time I begged them "I'm on my ride, go easy on me" and they let us extend downwind for a few miles and tuck in behind the jet. I wasn't about to fail my ride cause I screw up the circling approach at the last minute. After I made the radio call, I wondered if I had just failed by talking on the radio while being the Pilot Flying. That would have been embarassing, but as you can probably tell, I like the sound of my own voice.
Anyway, we found the runway eventually, taxied in, and shut down, the ramp attendants sticking their fingers in their ears in the oh-so-familiar Garrett salute.
We went back in for the debriefing, he told me to work on my landings, and gave me a shiny new PPC card and type rating on the back o'my licence.

Went back into the office, got a little gold airplane pin from our training Captain, drove to The Keg, ate a baseball sirloin and drank many beers. Mmmmm, baseball sirloin...yeah, I'll be on the Kraft Dinner for a couple of weeks as a result, but I hadn't been able to eat for a day before my ride due to nerves anyway.

Aight, sorry to bore you, but that's the start of my triumphant return. More to post as it happens...

From May 29th, 2003 - email forward - You know you are a medevac/cargo pilot when...
Thanks for this to my friend and competitor, she knows who she is

Your airplane was getting old when you were born.
You have not done a daylight landing in the past six months.
ATC advices you of smoother air at a different altitude, and you don't care.
When you taxi up to an FBO they roll out the red carpet, but quickly take it back when they recognize you.
You call the hotel van to pick you up and they don't understand where you are on the airport.
Your airplane has more than 75,000 cycles.
The lady at the ESSO locks up the popcorn machine because you plan on "making a meal of it".
Your airplane has more than eight faded logos on it.
You wear the same shirt for a week, and no one complains.
Center mispronounces your call sign more than three times in one flight.
Your Dispatch mysteriously changes your max takeoff weight during the holiday season.
Every FBO makes you park out of sight of their building.
You have ever walked barefoot through the FBO because you just woke up.
You mark every ramp with engine oil.
Everything you own is in you flight bag and suitcase.
Your company office is a mobile trailer at the side of the ramp.
You eat dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner.
ATC always asking for pireps because you're the first one through in 3 hrs.
You lost your sunglasses a year ago and haven't bothered to look for them.
You wake up when the rest of the world goes to bed and go to work when the rest goes to sleep.
You smirk at all the Air Canada pilots asking for a ride report.
The cabin is never too cold or warm, always just right.
You never have to explain to anyone why there is a delay.
You're the one with the extremely wrinkled shirt because it doubles as your pyjamas.
Your dog barks at you when you come home.
You've never met your chief pilot.
Your frequent flyer miles exceed your salary each year.
When you walk into the hotel bar wearing just a towel & flip flops you feel over dressed !!!.
You are cleared direct everywhere.
You start to wonder what's wrong with ATC if you haven't got your landing clearance by 50 miles from the FAF.
The first runway condition report of the day is given by... you.
You have never disembarked your aircraft on to a jetway.
When you forget to check in, and ATC doesn't seem to care.
When you wear sunglasses when it's a full moon.
When you get frightened when the sun starts to rise.
When you get annoyed if you're Nr. 2 in traffic.
When you don't leave home without duct tape.
Your Boss say's 'Weather, why check the weather. Your going anyway so why frighten yourself'.
Your Checklist includes tape for the labeling machine incase the 'inop' stickers fall off in flight
When you are sitting at the hotel bar at 5:00 Lt, wearing your high visibility jacket, and having your BBB (the very famous Before Breakfast Beer).
Your'e watching 'Top Gun', and when Maverick and Goose are being chewed out and threatened with "flying cargo planes full of rubber dog **** out of Hong Kong", you think "Hey, great job!
You get picked up as a vagrant on the ramp.
You wish you'd kept the piece of cold pizza.
Your children ask their mum who this strange man who sometimes visits is.
You find yourself watching people going to work through the bar window.
You wonder what a hostie would be like......then remember you married one in a previous life.
You can't work out what they are watching on TV when jump seating in an EFIS flight deck.
You have to wake up the customs & immigration people at the departure/destination airport.
You never get jump seaters from other operators, they are too afraid.
JP4 (jet fuel) is a form of cologne.
You often watch your aircraft take to see if any panels fall off.
Even spotters avoid you like the plague.
Dirty aircraft? That's not dirt, that holds panels on.
You often work with no shirt on to catch some rays.
People ask who you work for? You reply with your airline. They will then say, "never heard of them".
A fax machine is considered Hi-Tech equipment.
You keep a bottle of Crown Royal in the nose for the day the engine blows a jug and your'e stranded in some reserve for a few days.
You're asked where is your torque wrench? You reply, "It's right here in my elbow and my wrist watch is my calibration sticker".
They can't have drug tests because everyone would get fired.
You wipe the cowlings clean only to find that it's the same color underneath.
Your maintenance vehicle has many roles including, house, ladder, office, HAZ MAT storage, parts depot and maintenance control.
You set an alarm clock in the cockpit, in case the whole crew falls asleep.

From October 15th, 2003 - Ode to my pager

I hate my pager. I hate the way it looks, I HATE the sound it makes when it goes off, I hate the way I have to replace the batteries every month; I even hate the way it smells. Yeah, I've smelled my pager. I have chewed on it from time to time also. Don't look at me that way, most of you have been there The stupid little buttons on it have no internal logic at all. It seems like the buttons exchange functions each time I pick it up.
I hate the way it just sits there most of the time, like a hand grenade with a weak pin. It taunts me, daring me to forget it somewhere, waiting until 15 minutes after I have gone to sleep for the night, then beep-beep-beeping me from my peaceful sleep to the cold sweat of a midnight rush to a medevac in a blizzard.
If I ever win the lottery, I'm going to buy a Viking hat, a pair of Depends and a large bottle of scotch, then show up at the office wearing only those 2 articles, whilst drinking the third. As my last official act as a salaryman, I will hand the dispatcher a small bag of plastic pieces and wire, the remnants of my Motorola DA 1260. The bag may be moist, because there will probably be urine involved.
I wear my electronic leash for 10 days in a row, then I have 5 days off, then it's back on for 10. I will most likely repeat this cycle until a job with WestJet, retirement, or death.
When I hear similar noises on TV, it always makes my heart skip a beat. Even when I'm testing the damn thing, and I know it's going to chime, it still makes me feel all panicky and sick just for a few seconds after it goes off. Even when I know it's not actually summoning me for my 15-hour duty day. Pavlov would be proud.
After I shower in the morning, I run over to the pager and make sure it hasn't gone off whilst I was washing the bugs off.
I haven't missed a call on it yet, which is a good thing; I think it will probably break my mind the first time I look at it and realize that it went off an hour earlier and the medevac patient died and the boss is pissed.
There's no real point to this story; I'm just on days off right now and I notice that I feel much happier and less stressed cause I know the damn thing is sitting under a pile of laundry with the battery ripped out, and will remain there until Sunday. Then the battle of Sulako vs. Motorola will begin all over again. One of us isn't going to walk away from this struggle; the sad thing is it's probably me

From November 17th, 2003 - MU-2 Medevac Stories
Most of them are a blur; your average older person with cancer or liver failure etc. Sometimes we get ones that are a little more unusual. Here's a few that I have had since the spring.
[b]Some stuff has been changed 'cause I don't wanna lose my job by revealing 'customer' details. These aren't exactly feel-good stories. You have been warned.[/b]

The forest fire fighter who was chopping down a tree and got squished by it, breaking both his shoulder blades and both his arms. Nothing special there, but he was a larger gent; in fact wider than the doorway of the airplane, so the medics had to push his arms together to get him through. Even with the morphine he still managed a few lusty shrieks.

The dimwit who got drunk with his buddy, then decided to play tag on jetskis in the harbour after dark. His buddy won, smoking him with the jetski and breaking his back (not paralyzed, though). A memorable quote from the whiny, hungover jock - "I have been on lots of stretchers before, and this is the most uncomfortable one I have ever been on."

This one still haunts me for some reason. An average fellow, no strange medical history. Gets a nosebleed. It won't stop. We were paged out in the middle of the night to fly him to a major hospital 'cause otherwise he was gonna bleed out. He had a catheter in his nose leading to a bag, and he had filled the bag completely during the 25 minute flight. I asked one of our medics about it and he said people die all the time from nosebleeds. //me will think twice before battling the nose goblins ever again.

The shirtless fellow in handcuffs, accompanied by 2 police officers. He was built like a tank, covered in tattoos. I asked why we were taking him to the hospital, and the cops told me "Cause he's homicidal". Our medic gave him a quick shot of something before we started the engines and he spent the trip softly singing to himself.

The sweet 19-year old girl with liver cancer. The whites of her eyes were bright yellow. We were taking her home to die. When we landed, almost 150 people were there to meet her. Some sang, most just wanted to touch her as she was being loaded into the van.

The elderly lady with a broken hip. For whatever reason, the doctors hadn't given her any pain meds before transferring her to a new hospital, so she was already weeping in the ambulance. The loud ones bug me. Now before I go any further, I wanna say that I had never dropped a patient before. Actually, let's cut this one short, I think you can see where it's headed.

The teenaged boy who tried to hang himself, and ended up breaking his neck, turning himself into a quadrapalegic. Whatever problems he had before must seem pretty inconsequential now in comparison.

Why am I writing this? I dunno really. Most of them don't bug me at all, but I need to get a few of them outta my head soon. I'm hoping that writing this might help. Feel free to add to this if you have similar ghosts.

From February 8th, 2004 - Flying the MU-2 for Thunder Airlines

We have several bases at the company that I work for, and a couple of weeks ago I got a call from the CP. It went something like this "You are taking a company vehicle to another base tomorrow, and it's gonna have all your stuff in it." I am paraphrasing, and the dance was a little more delicate, but the end result is the same.

This is not the first time this has happened, and it won't be the last either. I don't really mind at all; I hadn't particularly bonded with my current location outside of work, so this will give me a chance to reinvent myself as well as being about 8 hours closer to the lovely Lisa.

It was funny as well as sobering to realize exactly what a move means to me. I pack a few clothes, the all-important white shirts with epaulets, some music CDs and my computer. Throw some old mini-soaps and tiny shampoo bottles into the hockey bag also (gee, wonder where I got those from?), some granola bars and a couple of bananas and I'm good to go.

I am 32 years old. The truck had eight boxes in the back of it. Eight. Is this the sum total of my life? Yeah I love and I am loved, but as far as earthly possessions go, I am pretty lacking. Ahh, don't forget my Xbox. Do other professions ask that you not accumulate furniture in case you have to move on a moment's notice? How long will I be forced to memorize new phone numbers and postal codes? Is this still paying my dues? Will I be expected to pay my dues until I retire? When I was 5 years old and dreamed of flying, I imagined watching the landscape stretch below me endlessly and luxuriously, while the stars burned bright above me, guiding my way home. I never even thought about being lonely or how many suitcases I would wear our. Talk about naiive.

When I was a twentysomething, still going to university and indulging in that lifestyle, at night my pals and I would sit in our back yard, laying flat out on the park benches we had liberated, staring up at the stars, and discussing philosophy. We agreed that change was good and stagnation was evil. Were we really so foolish?

Will I know when it's okay to put down roots? To think about owning rather than renting? To think about putting the extra effort into making real friends rather than buddies or acquaintances? To consider a family? Have I given that up?

With this new move I get to meet new people and fashion their impression of me a little bit closer to the way I want to see myself. But if I am born again, why do I feel so tired?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

That's actually me in the MU-2, a couple of years ago. A fellow pilot took the pics on approach to somewhere or other.

These are some old posts of mine from AvCanada. I was reminiscing about flying medevac in the MU-2 in Northern Ontario a little while ago, and dug 'em up. My medevac career ended when I was told to pay a $10,000 training bond to go Captain on the MU-2 and was unable to do so. That being said, I was reaching the end of my rope with the pager and it was a mercy that I was dismissed. All in all, I had some interesting experiences and met a lot of great people, but the pager took years off my life and I'd rather take a bullet than go back on it again.

From April 1st, 2004

I am waiting for the medics to return so we can head off into the eye of the storm for another medevac run, I just wanted to pass along a couple of things that happened to me in the past day or so.

Last night, we did a medevac, taking a patient to a large airport in bad weather. 1/4 mile in fog and 200' bad to be precise, but that's not the point of the story. The reason we took him is thus: (NOTE don't read any further if you are squeamish or have empathy for other human beings, trust me)... his prostate was very, very badly infected and swollen so much that the medics were honestly worried it might rupture, opening up many blood vessels and causing him to bleed to death. Think about that for a second. Infected prostate. Rupture. Bleed to death. I know that 99% of the men reading this are now shifting uncomfortably in their seats as well as a good portion of the women. I was writhing in my seat the whole flight; the approach and ILS itself was just fine and more of an afterthought. I just felt so badly for the poor bugger. We landed, offloaded him and waited on the runway for half an hour, engines running in the rain and fog until ATC took pity on us and called our minimum visibility so we could take off and head home. So that's story one.

Story two is today. In my present job I am on call 24/7 whilst on days on, and if we haven't been paged out to go flying by 2pm I usually settle down for a nap. I was literally pulling the covers over my head when the pager went off at 2:15 this afternoon. I call dispatch. "you are going ALS (that's Advanced Life Support for those of you not in the industry) from wherever to wherever. Bring your muscles with you 'cause the patient weighs just under 400 pounds" Turns out the dedicated medevac company had been paged to do the trip before us, but they declined it on account of the patient's great mass. I don't blame them.
Anyway, the patient shows up in the ambulance. He was perfectly round and deathly pale, except for bright red cheeks. Apparently being more than 200 pounds overweight is hard on your heart, so you might wanna skip that last helping of prime rib before dessert. The medics were stressed, they said the patient was very unstable and they told us it was somewhat likely that midway through the trip we would no longer need to rush, if you get my drift. But first we had to get him through the door of the airplane. Even with the 4 of us in the aircraft, 2 paramedics outside, and 2 helpful mechanics, I am now permanently 2 inches shorter as a result of that patient lift.
I do feel for the guy, and this is probably going to sound heartless, but I think that after a certain point a person sort of waives their right to complete medical care. Like the person we flew last year who got drunk and decided to play tag with his buddy on jetskis in the middle of the night. His buddy tagged him, and he missed getting a Darwin award by a couple of inches. We flew him at great taxpayer expense to get pins put in his back so that he might again one day walk and run and one day do something equally dumbass. For what it's worth, our obese patient survived the entire trip and into the main hospital, but I don't think I'll be seeing him again ever. It's a strange sensation, looking into a person's eyes and knowing that you are going to see tomorrow and they most likely won't. I don't like it much; it makes me feel guilty or something.
I tend to get desensitized to our patient's plight; many of them are 'standard' cases, cardiac or going for MRI's or whatever. It's only a very few that stand out, like the ones recently or the beautiful young psych patient I wrote about a couple of months ago. I actually did a follow-up on her; turns out she was having Jesus Christ's baby and didn't take it very well when she was told by the doctors that she wasn't pregnant, which is why we had to take her to the psych center.

That's all for now, the medics are back and it's time to light the fires and head off into the blackness, winging our way to the next poor soul who needs our services.

From July 6th, 2004

eah, I work for a living. My job is flying sick people around at the moment. I do it because if I show up, every other Friday I get money put into my bank account. I do it because I am saving for a shiny little rock to give to the lovely Lisa. I do it because it's what I know. I do it to pass the time. And I do it because I see random things that I'd never see otherwise.

We took a young boy home the other day; he'd had a kidney transplant and it was time to return to normal life after months of living at the hospital. He was 13, thin and friendly, with kinda a furry face; partly due to the steroids he was taking, and partly because he hadn't needed to shave yet in his life. I told him about the relatively short flight we were about to take, then asked him if he wanted to pee. He turned to his mother and asked permission. She said "Sure" and he went off to the washrooms. His mom noticed my look, and told me "He is still getting used to the idea of peeing; he hadn't gone in 5 years before the operation" And now he can. Man, do I ever take some things for granted.

In the last month we have taken 2 different newborn infants to have anuses installed. Apparently one in 10,000 babies don't have one at birth and I guess we hit the poop jackpot. At first glance not having an anus might seem like a nifty trick, but trust me, poop finds a way and you don't wanna know where it was appearing in the 2 infants. Follow up calls reported both girls were fine after the installation surgery.

Took another nosebleed guy last week. Mostly normal guy, some heart problems in his history. He takes some meds for it, it's generally under control. Until last week when he got a nosebleed and it didn't stop. People die from this all the time by the way. They tried cauterization (burning the blood vessels closed), chemical cauterization (putting silver paste on the cut), even packing his nose with cocaine (shrinks the blood vessels, dontcha know) , but nothing worked. I guess we were taking him to get a faucet installed or something, cause the medical people said they were out of ideas.

I heard a frustrated controller last week telling a student to stop taxiing, shut down the airplane, get to a phone and call him before the student flies again so the controller can go on a coffee break. The student had forgotten to call before taxiing, resulting in a hilarious head-to-head with a turboprop on the taxiway.

Did you know that some people who live in the far north are medevac'd south a couple of times a week for routine dialysis at the cost of a few thousand bucks a pop? Now you do. I guess the initial costs of a kidney machine are too high to justify putting them in northern communities, and it makes sense to pay smaller amounts on a regular basis, even though the costs end up being far higher over time.

Hmm... when I started this post I had like 10 little vignettes, but the growling of my stomach is preventing me from thinking clearly. Time for lunch, then maybe a few more lies and exaggerations.
From July 24th, 2004
I realize that more and more of my posts have less and less to do with actually flying the plane. I'll work on that in the future. In the meantime, try these on for size:

The first patient of the day was a lady who had been drinking non-stop for 4 days then woke up with a broken jaw. She looked like a chipmunk, and still reeked of booze 48 hours after she had been admitted to hospital. She wanted water, but couldn't figure out how to get it into her mouth without moving it. Eventually she went for the straight scoop 'n slurp, which was both messy and hilarious.

The second patient of the day was a lady who took a bunch of pills, went to bed and woke up with a broken leg. She was friendly (she rubbed my shaved head for good luck before we took off) but as far as I could see, she had never brushed her teeth in her life, which smells like a hot closet full of dead baby goats in case you were curious.

The next one was an obese psych patient who yelled and screeched that we were robbing her as we loaded her into the plane. Yeah I don't get paid much, but I like to think I wouldn't rifle through the pockets of people who pass through our tender hands.

The next one was a guy who raised Husky/German Shepherd crosses in his spare time. When 2 of the males started fighting, he decided to walk in between them to break it up. We took him to a major hospital to get his cheeks and lips sewn back on. He was conscious and alert, which to me was pretty horrifying.

Then the fellow who went out drinking/fishing one evening with his buddy, who managed to get a fishhook embedded in his eyeball. The paramedics had to remove parts of bait from the hook also. He better dress like a pirate and/or hope that eye patches come in pretty styles...

We had a pregnant lady who was in the process of delivery during the 10 minute flight. She agreed to think about naming the baby "Sulako" if it was a boy, but she said something about already having a name picked, so I think she might have been just humoring me for some reason.

Last night we took a Hepatitis C victim (a young girl) to a major center 'cause she was circling the drain and thus bumped up to the top of the list for liver transplants. I hope she makes it out okay, she was really sweet. To me the saddest patients are the ones who are sick through no fault of their own. I don't mind taking the 11pm pageout for them; it's the drinking accidents that I have little sympathy for.

And last but definitely not least we had a fellow who had something called a mucus fistula, which apparently required him to use something like a colostomy bag. No big deal, we see colostomy bags all the time. This one was special though, cause it had a small leak. With the smell and the wetness and the gooey gooey squeezins. Sorry about that, I just wanted to gross you out at much as I was when we flew him Wink

That's it for now; demon pager has been active for almost an hour now so I figure I'm going flying soon. See you up there eh

From August 19th, 2004

My plane makes children cry.

We were leaving a large airport the other day and just as we were firing up, in taxied a Cirrus who then went about 50 yards from us and shut down. Out came the dad, mom and 2 kiddies, about 3 or 4 years old.

They started unloading a pile of camping gear from the plane, and we went to get our ifr while we taxied out toward the main taxiways, which would take us right beside the family and the Cirrus.

There was a minor snag with the IFR, so ATC told us to hold short of the main taxiway whilst they sorted it. That meant that we were sitting about 15 yards from the family, who were unable to move around us on the way to the FBO, so they just had to sit there and listen to our howling blast. We sat there for about 3 minutes.

Our plane was so loud it made the little girl cry, and I think it also made the little boy cry. But I'm sure about the girl. I know it was wrong of me to grin, and I also know it was wrong of me to point and wave, but I hear it's a dry heat in Hell anyway, so it shouldn't be sooo bad ;)

From Sept 18th, 2004

As you may well know, during long flights you have lots of time to talk, play Nintendo Gameboy, read the newspaper, fly the plane - whatever. During those moments of peace and relaxation, my mind wanders free, touching on subjects like "How come everything flattens out when I close one eye" or "How many ramp workers could I run through the props at a busy airport before a sniper takes me out", you know, the usual. One thing I had never really thought about before was the fine people who operate the Crash Fire Rescue trucks at your friendly neighborhood airport. I guess they are usually out of sight, and I kinda file it away in my mind like that. Not any more.

Last night we went into a small local strip to drop off a nurse. It was my takeoff on the return leg home, and I wasn't exactly looking forward to it. The strip in question is small, and the asphalt is cracking and heaving. So much so that we routinely bitch about it when we land there during the day. This was even more fun last night as it was pitch black all around the strip, and the runway lights were lit with 10 watt bulbs or something. Did I mention the strip is less than 4000 feet long? Anyway, we launch off down the runway. As we get closer to rotation the vibrations and bumps from the runway get worse; in fact the right seat pilot (my captain) was unable to read the airspeed gauge due to vibration near the end of the takeoff run. We bounced and lurched down the runway, hitting potholes and seams and generally having a miserable time of it. I did have the airplane under control, but it wasn't pretty and to be honest it could have gone either way for a few seconds. Anyway, somewhere around 105 knots I pulled back, and as the airplane rotated we all heard a "CHARF!" sound from the back. The medic yelled "What the hell was that!". (This is the same medic who kept quiet when she thought we had a cabin fire because she didnt want to alarm us. It was just condensed air vapor from the air conditioner but that's another story).

It sounded exactly like a tire blowing out.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that we were just above minimum fuel for the flight.

Anyway, we climbed out and headed for home, wondering how interesting the landing was gonna be. We all agreed we had heard a sound none of us had ever heard before, and we agreed it came from the vicinity of the landing gear. Then we agreed that calling out the trucks for our arrival might be prudent, which brings me to the point of my story. ATC was very helpful, they made sure it was all set up for our arrival back at home. It was kinda eerie telling them the number of souls on board, our fuel load and if we had any dangerous goods on board. I have heard the same stuff in many a CVR recording. So a few minutes passed in cruise whilst the medic secured every little thing in the plane, and while we removed any sharp objects from our pockets etc and refamiliarized ourselves with the operation of the emergency exits, the handheld extinguishers, etc.

The captain wanted to do the landing in case things went to hell, so with some acrobatics we swapped seats. Normally in our operation we swap seats on the ground, but this wasn't exactly normal. We came up on our home airport and entered the downwind leg for the circuit.

I bitch and complain about my pager a lot. But the people who work at the airport fire department have it even worse. They get a call and they are expected to be on the scene within seconds. And they were. I tell you , it was a comforting sight to see them lined up at the threshold of our runway for our arrival back at home.

The captain and I briefed further on what we were gonna do. We debated touching down at Vref - 20 knots (the plane will do it) , but that would limit our go-around options, so we settled on our final plan of attack. We'd attempt a nice light touchdown at our normal speed, and if things started to go sideways we'd put the coals to 'er and go around. Unless things went really sideways, in which case I would pull the emergency fuel cutoffs for the engines while the captain tried to control the skid across the ground.

The cockpit was pretty quiet during base and final, and as we had done all our prelanding checks a while back all that was left was to call out airspeeds, sink rate etc. We got to 500', did our final checks, then lined up and awaited the results of the flare.

The touchdown was one of the smoothest I have seen.

The tires held up, we threw our beast into reverse and came to a stop a couple of thousand feet down the runway. "Well, that's a relief" I told tower. "I bet it is" he said, as he exhaled. I realized I had been holding my breath also and started to pant a little. Tower asked us if we wanted the trucks to follow us back to our main hangar, and we declined as the plane seemed to be behaving. We thanked the trucks for being there for us, and they said "No problem". I can't tell you how comforting it was to have them ready and watching us, even if we ended up not needing them. Once again, I really appreciate the job they do. I wonder if they prefer vodka or scotch? I think I'll have to make that my business to find out.

Anyway, we taxi back to the hangar, shine some lights on our gear and see that the right main tire has a two-inch wide gouge along the sidewall, all the way around the tire. Also, when the mechanics install the tire on the rim, they mark the rim and tire with a little strip of paint so you can see if the tire has moved on the rim. The paint mark on the tire sidewall was 6 inches up from the paint mark on the rim. The tire had held, but only cause we are kind and nice people and the gods were watching over us. Some wiring bundles inside the gear wells had broken their clips and come loose also, testifying to the rough ride on takeoff. The tire is being inspected and replaced this morning.

What's the moral of the story? Well, first of all I'm not going back to that airport again Smile And last but NOT least, to the Crash Fire Rescue people, I can't tell you how much better we felt knowing they were there for us when we needed them. Thanks guys and gals of the fire department, the next round is on me.

From January 11th, 2005

We were doing some patient transfers from somewhere to somewhere, and this day had us doing quite a few legs. Thankfully it was a booked trip, so we were able to bring our lunches, etc.
It was my flying leg, and I was in the left seat. We were picking up an elderly guy and his equally elderly wife and taking the guy for a heart valve replacement. The husband was on a stretcher, and his wife was seated in the club seat on the right hand side of the airplane. The plane I flew had club seating config up at the front, so behind the captain's and the f/o's seat were rear-facing ones, used by patients or medics or whatever. I threw my lunchbag on the rearward facing seat behind mine, and proceeded to light the fires.

//change to present tense

We take off, level out and cruise to our destination, which is two and a half hours away.
About an hour into the flight, I get kinda hungry, so I reach around behind my seat to grab my lunchbag.
Instead, I place my hand firmly on something large and squishy. It feels like an elderly ladies breast, which it turns out to be.
We both yelp, I turn around to see what happened, and I see her with her arms up, freaked right out, with the medic watching all this from the very back and laughing so hard she might have been crying.
The lady had moved seats 'cause the one she started out on didn't recline and the one behind me did, sort of.
I stammer something or other, and turn around, no longer hungry.
I think the medic explained what happened, 'cause I didn't get sued or anything. I also think it musta stressed out the poor guy, 'cause he took a serious turn for the worse right near the end of the flight and a routine Code 1 transfer was a Code 4 by the time we touched down. For those of you who don't have a medevac background, Code 1 is least serious, going to Code 4 which is life and death, culminating in Code 5 which you'll only get to experience once. He was alive when the ambulance took him away though, so I assume he turned out juuuust fiiiine.

From November 1st, 2004

We take off today for a large city, bringing a really cute 18 month old boy and his mom to chemotherapy. His eyes were the size of dinner plates and his cheeks were very pinchable, but we resisted as best we could, stealing only the occasional glance toward the back of the plane. I guess I'm starting to notice children a little more, that must come with being over 30 Wink Anyway, we climbed through the undercast layer around 5000 feet, breaking through to see the sun shining warm and bright. The ice crystals in the atmosphere were sparkling like diamonds in the air, and it gave the sun a huge halo around it, just kinda gently reminding us that we are very small and insignificant in the great scheme of things.

The air is smooth but fairly warm, I check our groundspeed on the GPS and it tells me we are in a great hurry. God I love this airplane. It may be completely squirrely, some may say homicidal, but I find it endlessly fascinating, like a nice fluffy kitty with a pretty vest made of C-4. It's my captain's flying leg, so I finish my paperwork and crack out my Gameboy. Mario proves hard to motivate, so I turn it off after a minute or so and just sit back and enjoy the scenery from nineteen thousand feet. We come up on our destination, and start down. Half the province is covered in a low stratus layer, which means we get to shoot half an ILS before we break out and land.

We sit on the ground and howl for our 3 minute cooldown, then cut the gas, spool down and wait for the ambulance. The bus shows up after a few minutes and takes our tiny passenger and his mum off to the kind and tender gods who administer to infants with cancer. We wave goodbye and turn our attention to our next mission. If you go inside to the FBO here and beg, they give you a token for the hot chocolate machine, which is a source of great enjoyment (and indeed nutrition) for us flight crew. So I go inside the FBO and beg, and the nice lady gives me a token for me, the captain and the flight medic. I don't tell the medic about my newfound treasure, hoarding his token against a sudden attack of thirst Smile I also forget to give a token to the captain, which results in a tiny wound on my person when she finds out, too late.

Now it's time to head for a small town and pick up someone else. We fire up, head out to the main runway and blast off on the SID. We are cleared direct destination, which is about an hour away. This is my flying leg, and I'm trimming and retrimming and trimming yet again as we raise the flaps and gear and get our beast under control for the climb.
The trip over is uneventful, I sing songs I heard while watching Team America: World Police (offensive flick, but I laughed my ass off) to pass the time in cruise while the captain ensures that Ms. Pacman makes her way around the maze safely. Seriously folks, it's one of the best investments I have ever made. Nintendo Gameboy Advance SP, at your local WalMart for $99. Rechargeable battery, all that. Anyway, back to the story. We let down for our destination and note that it's snowing everywhere. We shoot a GPS overlay approach and find the airport in a small clear spot in the middle of a snow squall. Using my exceptional cunning and skill, we manage to make it in and land safely; I even flare this time.

The bus is waiting for us when we arrive, so after we shut down we load up our next patient, a nice older guy who hasn't been able to pee for 3 days and who is in terrible discomfort. Turns out that when he showed up at the hospital not being able to pee, they decided to put a litre of water into his bladder via catheter to try to dislodge whatever was blocking his urethra, but it didn't work, and the water wouldn't come out afterwards. I understand that I am a complete wussy as I sit uncomfortably in my seat during the entire next leg.
This leg is shorter, only about 20 minutes. I just have time to do my paperwork before we land and swap seats for the leg home. It's only 70 miles or so, which means we will essentially fly a parabolic trajectory, climbing up to 8 thousand or so, then almost immediately descending. I like flights like that, it keeps me busy. We are once again cruising above the low stratus layer, and I watch our shadow against the clouds, a sleek black shape with a rainbow around it. I pretend to be strafing some invisible enemy as we cruise a few feet over the layer, then the captain turns the heats on, I push forward and we punch through it for the descent. Our plane has essentially no wing, so each tiny square centimeter is responsible for producing a lot of lift and we notice icing in a fairly immediate and nasty way. Not today though, and that's cool. I shoot a nice VOR approach, pointing in the general direction of the airport and keeping us above stall speed at all times, and we find the runway and land. We taxi to our hangar, cool down and spool down. The captain calls dispatch to check for more trips, but there is nothing pending so it looks like we are done for the day. I wait for the fuel guy and chat with him while he gives us some of his fine jet fuel. I tell him the plane is a little thirstier than normal and he says "You guys musta been given' her today eh? Work up a thirst?" "Today and every day man, we are the definition of work ethic". He laughs and gives me my fuel slip.

I walk into the hanger and am passed the phone. It's my Chief Pilot. He tells me that they are parking our aircraft and that I am laid off, effective immediately. He tells me to leave my pager and keys at the hangar. He tells my captain that she is being transferred to a slower, lower airplane. I drive home, numb. I try to log into our comany website to leave a goodbye message to the people I have worked with for the past 18 months, but my account on the website, like my company email account, has already been cancelled, probably since before I got the news. No hard feelings, right? I drink 5 beers in a row for the first time in years, and fall asleep. Now I'm awake, writing this post. I'm looking through my bedroom window at the forest beyond the back yard. It looks black, icy and foggy. Brrr. Man, I'd hate to be out in the cold on a night like this.
Click on the pics to make them bigger

I saw one other pretty cool thing in Goose Bay yesterday - A V-22 Osprey. I didn't know they were even allowed to fly these beasts any more, considering they have killed a whole lot of US Marines during testing. This is the machine with the huge props that tilt upward for takeoff, then rotate to tilt forward for cruise.

Unfortunately the pics are taken from far away - I wasn't airside when I noticed it taking off. It taxiied out, tilted the props forward (which kicked up a LOT of spray) then did a ground run of maybe 100 feet and took off into the clouds.

After it took off, our pax finally arrived in the chopper, so we loaded up and headed home. The weather departing Goose was crap - big Tstorms all around and a nice low overcast so we were in imc immediately after takeoff and got the enjoy the scary bumps for the 20 minutes it took to get to 36,000'. The big radar site at Cornerbrook was out, so we really had to put a lot of faith into our onboard radar and satellite strike finder. I do trust them a lot, and they didn't let me down this time either.

I had to drop one guy off in Parry Sound, which was fun 'cause it's a 4,000' runway - generally pretty short for a jet. However my trusty 550 is a great short-field machine and I hade it stopped in less than 2,000' without even trying particularly hard. After we dropped off buddy, we headed back home to Toronto, dodging even more convective weather on the way in. To end the day on a nice note, we got a good taste of wake turbulence from the A340 on approach ahead of us, and ended up doing a 360 so increase the spacing between us and it. Air Canada can kiss my Citation butt, they are bad neighbors :) After all that, and a particularly fine landing on my part, our pax had the audacity to be grumpy at the end of the long day, mostly due to the helicopter delay I'm sure. They also left a huge mess in the airplane, including 2 full large trays of fruit and veggies they left dumped on the floor. "They fell during the flight". Oh, and by the way, one of our pax was the premier of one of our provinces. I'm not looking forward to the phone call to the guy who cleans our airplanes today to tell him to spend the day removing ranch dressing from our floor carpet. Anyhoo, here are the pics of the Osprey, hopefully you can see a pixel or two of actual airplane.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

We sat in Goose Bay for a few hours, waiting for the helicopter to brave the low-laying clouds and return our passengers from the fishing camp so we could go home. I got bored and went exploring the various vacant hangars - the airport here is very big, but it's a ghost town - I expect next year we'll see caribou and bears living in the hangars. Anyway, I found a few pretty cool things, like:

This is a Fairey Gannet, a spectacularly ugly airplane. I found it in the hangar in Goose Bay, just sitting there. It's in perfect condition, the paint is shiny and there is no dust on it at all; I'm sure it would be flyable if there were any Brits remaining in Goose Bay - They made it as a sub-hunter in the 50's. If you squint you can see there are 3 canopies; the front one for the pilot, the one behind it for the navigator, and the rear one for the electronics officer. It uses 2 engines tied together through a gearbox to drive 2 sets of counter-rotating props. Apparently during long range flights, one engine could be shut down and a single engine would drive both sets of props. It also carried a few thousand pounds of bombs, presumably in case they actually spotted a sub. Note how big the plane is, it grosses out at 21,000lbs or so.

Note the tailhook in the back for carrier landings - that's also why the wings fold up in a bunch of pieces.

That's an Avro Vulcan on display at the airport in Goose Bay. It's a HUGE (200,000 lb gross takeoff weight, about the same weight as a Boeing 727) 4-engine bomber that was designed to drop nukes. The Brits used it in the Falkand Islands conflict. This one ended up here after a serious in-flight malfunction. It would have cost too much to repair her so instead of scrapping her, it was decided to turn the airframe into a gate guard for the RAF Support Unit based at Goose Bay. Soon after it was gifted to the local community of Happy Valley as a mark of the bond between the RAF and the local inhabitants.

To give you some idea of the size of this beast, here's a picture of an old one getting scrapped. Notice how it completely dwarfs the backhoe.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I haven't flown much floats at all - 50 hours in a 180/185 before I went on to twin-world. It was great flying and I envy float pilots from time to time. In my current job I get to travel further distances, but the actual flying is a little more, ahem, structured than it was when I flew up north. I guess what I'm saying is the flying I do now is more boring, but I make more money and get to see far-flung destinations. I'm not sure if that's a good trade-off or not, and I think I'll have to wait until the retirement before I know if I made the right choice.


We visited the local water base, where they have 4 operators right next to each other, running caravans, twin otters, turbo otters and beavers. They do a lot of fishing-lodge flying, as well as taking uranium prospectors up to various sites in search of glow-in-the-dark fortune. Everyone we spoke to was exceptionally friendly, going out of their way to give us a tour of their operations and shooting the breeze. Overall I find the people here are very hospitable, which is a nice change from the normal Toronto "don't make eye contact" attitude.

We saw this 208 on amphibs load up full of American fishermen and gear, then drag itself into the air and head for a fishing lodge. At least the tail wasn't in the water, which was the only thing that would make my former boss stop loading up the airplane in my old 180/185 job.

I didn't notice these pics from yesterday when the f/o and I went on a tour of the Goose Bay shoreline. Here they are now. Labrador has a real rugged beauty to it

My hotel room is on the left ;) This is about 10 minutes north of Goose Bay.

Where's a delicious moose when I need one? Speaking of meat...

We went to a local meat shop and got some caribou burgers, caribou steaks, caribou hors d'ouevres, tasty caribou ice cream, and a caribou-based wine. I'm only partly kidding about the last two - caribou are still really important to the locals and if you want, it appears you can have caribou-infused anything around here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I'm in Goose Bay, Labrador at the moment. We took a group of guys here so they could go fishing. We landed and a helicopter picked them up to whisk them a further 100 miles into the bush to a fishing lodge for a few days, and myself and my F/o are left cooling our heels here in northern Labrador. Overall it's a lot like Northern Saskatchewan, except with funny accents. Most of the roads are gravel, and ther eis a reserve about 15km from here. I wanted to go there to ask around for Labrador carvings (you know, inuit carvings made from whale bones etc) but the rental car guy said I couldn't take the rental car on the reserve. I'll have to figure something out as I want a souvenir of this place and I don't feel like paying the $2,500 they want at the local art galleries around here.

Anyway, here's me wandering along the beach of some local lake - they say it's only ice-free for 2 1/2 months a year. The second pic is of me in front of a Hudson's Bay store that has been around since 1670. I bought a Red Bull, presumably of a more recent vintage.

Goose Bay used to be a huge military base, training thousands of European air force pilots, but it all shut down over the past 2 years and the town has taken a huge hit. The base that used to house 8,000 air force trainees now houses 40 caretaking staff. I met a nice crew of pilots who fly a privately owned 737-500 out of Victoria BC - they are stranded here for a few days waiting on some aircraft parts; it went mechanical over the north Atlantic on their way to Amsterdam, and they limped here to fix it up. We are gonna head to a local steakhouse for supper and presumably talk about airplanes. The cool part about the steakhouse is that you grill your own food - a fun thing for us to do, and a great way to save money on kitchen staff for them :)

More on Goose Bay over the next few days as I'm here until Saturday. At least this place has highspeed.

Monday, July 24, 2006

This is a pic from a survival exercise I did during second year at Selkirk College when I attended the Aviation Technology program. Click on it to make it bigger.

On January 5th 1989, we went up into the bush for 5 days with the contents of a survival kit and attempted to survive. The first night, it was -29. I'm just behind Paul Dixon, the guy in the red long underwear. Apparently I'm about to chew on his left shoulder, I dunno. Notice the long hair I had at the time - a guy in second year actually passed out a petition to attempt to force me to cut it. He went on to become Chief Pilot of a large medevac company, who then went bankrupt. Serves him right for trying to cramp my style ;)

The survival trip was an experience all right. We were split up into groups of 4 people and marched into the bush somewhere around the Christian Valley, near Midway BC. We spent the first day trying to build a warm shelter, which meant when the outside temp was -29, inside it was only -19 or so. Between the 4 of us, we had a single package of expired life-raft cookies for the 5 days. It's truly amazing how useless your standard survival kit is on most small aircraft. We had a tiny saw, a tarp, a foil blanket, the aforementioned food, a compass, a mirror, some teabags and a few packs of sugar.

At night, we'd go in 2-hour shifts, watching the fire. We weren't allowed to cut wood after dark - too dangerous - so we had to cut enough wood during the day to last all night. That's a lot more work than you'd think, especially when you only have a little tiny axe.

During the day the instructors told us that in a real survival situation we were to rest and conserve as much energy as possible, but because this was a training experience we did a lot of trekking through the woods, with the instructors randomly yelling "airplane, airplane" whereupon we attempted to be the first group to make a signal fire and get smoke above the trees.

It was pretty interesting - a lot of the guys I went to flight school with were rich boys from Vancouver who hadn't ever slept outdoors before, and it was a lot harder on them than me. Some of them refused to go to the bathroom outdoors and attempted to hold it for 5 days. I'm not even going to get into how that ended up for them...

There were no major injuries, but a lot of the people had significant conflict with their survival mates, whether it was aruging over food or whose turn it was to watch the fire or who got the sweet spot in our shelter that was closest to the fire. In real life, remind me to bring a handgun, rendering my argument the most compelling.

I didn't change clothes for 5 days, and when we were finally done and made it back home, I burned everything I was wearing. I also suffered from acne at the time, and let me tell you, after 5 days of wearing a wool toque over my face and not washing, I looked pretty rough. Overall it was an adventure, but not a fun one - more like one of those stories that gets better when you talk about it years later, but actually really sucked at the time. Still, when I saw this pic it brought back a fond memory. Most of the guys in this pic are with Air Canada, and all but 2 are flying as a career. I really enjoyed my time at Selkirk College and made some lifetime friendships. Oh, and learned a few things about how to fly planes :)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A pal of mine took some shots of one of the planes I fly. Artistic eh! :D

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sully attempts to get to Vr.

Music Video Time! This contains some naughty words, so prepare yourself. To make up for it, the videos are hilarious.

I present to you, the most awesome bar-closing song evar, "What's it Gonna Be". It's efficient, clocking in at 2 minutes and 16 seconds. But it certainly gets the central theme of the song across :)

Now this one is great for two reasons. First of all, it's a cover of a death-metal song by a band called "Cannibal Corpse". Done lounge-style. Secondly, the guy does a great job. Inspired even. Feast your ears on this:

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Here are some pics of one of our planes, taken a couple of hours ago. She's a sweet ride! I fly it as Captain, so that essentially means I get my license taken away if anything goes wrong on a flight ;) I have over 500 hours on Citation 550's now, and I think I have the plane pretty much figured out. But I won't be getting bored any time soon - a little birdie tells me we have a much larger aircraft due to arrive on our ramp very soon :)

Started playing with a digital camera today. Much fun!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The car is looking pretty cool with tinted windows. You can't see the interior blue lights, but they are there. At night, both front seats are illuminated with a soft blue. It's most awesome. And don't even get me started about the subwoofer ;)

For my final tweak, the tire rims have to go and get replaced with decent ones.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Mostest funny mouses evar.

I still want a cat though ;)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Nice plane eh! :)

I spent the past couple of days in Chicago, taking some very nice ladies to a funeral. Chicago is a great city, there is a lot of stuff to do and see, and the food is terrific.

O'Hare airport is a zoo - one of the busiest places on the planet for traffic, but everything seemed to work out okay for us and we had an uneventful trip. I was flying for a different company than my employer - I pimped myself out to a fellow jet operator as they needed a pilot and I'm on good terms with them, so it was almost like a good deed, if you don't count the $1,000 that my company billed them for my overnight services. The plane I flew was a Citation Bravo, which is the more advanced model of the one I fly at the moment. Check out the cockpit! I flew it from the left seat on the way home, which was a lot of fun. The level of automation is greater than I have previously experienced, but I'm catching on pretty quick.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I just read a post on being poor and it brought tears to my eyes. Sure, I have problems, but in the great scheme of things, I don't deserve to complain about a thing. Here I am, posting about new toys and new cars and there are people who go to sleep hungry every night. I hope I never forget how lucky I am, and that I can do my part to help those who didn't win the parent/citizenship/education lottery like I did.

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.

Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they're what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there's not an $800 car in America that's worth a damn.

Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.

Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends' houses but never has friends over to yours.

Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won't hear you say "I get free lunch" when you get to the cashier.

Being poor is living next to the freeway.

Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching that box of Raisin Bran you just bought and trying to think of a way to make the kids understand that the box has to last.

Being poor is wondering if your well-off sibling is lying when he says he doesn't mind when you ask for help.

Being poor is off-brand toys.

Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house.

Being poor is knowing you can't leave $5 on the coffee table when your friends are around.

Being poor is hoping your kids don't have a growth spurt.

Being poor is stealing meat from the store, frying it up before your mom gets home and then telling her she doesn't have make dinner tonight because you're not hungry anyway.

Being poor is Goodwill underwear.

Being poor is not enough space for everyone who lives with you.

Being poor is feeling the glued soles tear off your supermarket shoes when you run around the playground.

Being poor is your kid's school being the one with the 15-year-old textbooks and no air conditioning.

Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.

Being poor is relying on people who don't give a damn about you.

Being poor is an overnight shift under florescent lights.

Being poor is finding the letter your mom wrote to your dad, begging him for the child support.

Being poor is a bathtub you have to empty into the toilet.

Being poor is stopping the car to take a lamp from a stranger's trash.

Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw.

Being poor is believing a GED actually makes a goddamned difference.

Being poor is people angry at you just for walking around in the mall.

Being poor is not taking the job because you can't find someone you trust to watch your kids.

Being poor is the police busting into the apartment right next to yours.

Being poor is not talking to that girl because she'll probably just laugh at your clothes.

Being poor is hoping you'll be invited for dinner.

Being poor is a sidewalk with lots of brown glass on it.

Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk.

Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.

Being poor is your kid's teacher assuming you don't have any books in your home.

Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.

Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.

Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you're not actually stupid.

Being poor is people surprised to discover you're not actually lazy.

Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.

Being poor is never buying anything someone else hasn't bought first.

Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that's two extra packages for every dollar.

Being poor is having to live with choices you didn't know you made when you were 14 years old.

Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.

Being poor is knowing you're being judged.

Being poor is a box of crayons and a $1 coloring book from a community center Santa.

Being poor is checking the coin return slot of every soda machine you go by.

Being poor is deciding that it's all right to base a relationship on shelter.

Being poor is knowing you really shouldn't spend that buck on a Lotto ticket.

Being poor is hoping the register lady will spot you the dime.

Being poor is feeling helpless when your child makes the same mistakes you did, and won't listen to you beg them against doing so.

Being poor is a cough that doesn't go away.

Being poor is making sure you don't spill on the couch, just in case you have to give it back before the lease is up.

Being poor is a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.

Being poor is four years of night classes for an Associates of Art degree.

Being poor is a lumpy futon bed.

Being poor is knowing where the shelter is.

Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

Being poor is running in place.

Being poor is people wondering why you didn't leave.
Behold, the Storm Launcher. It'll be released to Target stores on July 26th. It's $79.99. I'm stoked! Give the video 40 seconds or so before it gets totally crazy...

Monday, July 10, 2006

This is Honda girl, my Civic Hybrid.

It has a 93hp gas engine, and a 20hp electric motor powered by a battery back which is located behind the rear passenger seats. They work in conjunction with each other, and a little display on the instrument panel lets you know if you are charging or discharging your big battery, along with your overall charge on the big battery.

If you are driving in the city, at a steady speed below 60km/hr, then the gas engine will most likely shut off, and the car will be powered exclusively by the electric motor - if the battery level gets low, then the gas engine fires up again, to charge the battery and to assist with moving the car forward while it's charging the battery. The battery is Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) and is warrantied for 8 years/130,000km. The gas engine is a 1.3l i-VTEC 4-cylinder engine.

Retails for just over $27k. You can get $2k back from the government 'cause it's a green car. You will save money on gas, but you will still end up paying more overall for a hybrid than the conventional version. I'll save around $600/year in gas, but I'll pay more in overall purchase costs. When all is said and done, I'm going to pay a couple of thousand bucks more for this car over the life of the vehicle, and that's entirely due to the purchase price. and it's something I'm willing to do - much like how a person who drives a Hummer is willing to pay more for their particular vision of how they want to get from point A to B.

The transmission is automatic, a CVT (continuously variable transmission) setup that means there is only 1 gear, but the ratio changes depending on what you are asking the car to do. Kinda like a snowmobile! Smile

It comes with all the standard stuff that modern cars do, power windows, locks, air conditioning, cd/mp3/wma player, 2 power outlets, cruise control, ABS, side airbags, etc. The 2006 Canadian model does not come with a GPS system, though the US model does. That's too bad, I was looking forward to actually not getting lost on a regular basis like I do now, but I can wait a few more years until that happens I guess.

It's all about the fuel:

4.9l/100km@100km/hour - Air Conditioner OFF
4.8l/100km@110km/hour - A/C OFF
4.7l/100km@130km/hour - A/C OFF

6.5l/100km@all speeds - A/C ON

The air conditioner is the single greatest factor in gas mileage. City driving vs highway driving doesn't seem to make much of a difference as far as mileage goes.

Acceleration is just fine for a Civic, and I'm betting it's faster than you'd think. The car is rock-solid @ 140km/hour and above (I have only taken it to 165) with very little outside noise.

Inside, it's very quiet. You can hardly hear the engine unless it's revving above 4,000rpm, which it seems to do on steep hills at high speeds.

I like the two-tone interior and teh exterior styling, with the exception of the wheel rims, which are kinda sukky. If a truck load of money appears in my pockets some time, I'll get aftermarket rims which I had never considered before this car.

You just drive it like a normal car, all the hybrid technology is transparent to the user. I mentioned this in a previous post, but one of the most mind-blowing things about this car is when you come to a stop, the gas engine cuts out and you run on the electric battery. A/C still works, as do all your electrical systems. As soon as you take your foot off the brake and hit the accelerator pedal, the gas engine lights up and off you go, with no lag. The accelerator pedal is throttle-by-wire, with no direct mechanical linkage to the engine.

I like that I can realistically get 1,000km on a 46.5l tank of fuel. In 20 years we'll be switching over to hydrogen fuel-cel cars, but until then, I want to squeeze every drop of gas I can into the longest distance I can.

You don't need to plug in the car at all, it's entirely self-contained. There is no electrical cord on the car, you just put gas in like normal.

The battery is charged by the gas engine when required, and by the elecrical motor. The electrical motor acts as a generator when you brake, and it converts your brake energy back into useful energy and stores it in the battery. There is a pretty big power cable under the hood that leads from the electrical motor to the batteries in the back, and it appears that the electrons flow very freely back and forth.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Thou Star That Shines in Darkest Night
When Most I Need Thine Aid
Nor Changes, But To Burn More Bright
When Others Slowly Fade

I want to be a supernova when I grow up

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I'm in New Jersey as I write this. Waiting on passengers, business types who live for golf. I don't live for golf. I live for:

A kiss on the back of my neck or a warm smooch on my nose
An unexpected piece of chocolate
A warm comforter in a cool room
When someone tells me I'm unique in some way
A familiar tune when I'm driving down the highway
interesting dinner conversation
A movie that presents life in some way I hadn't thought about before
A good, funny book. dark humor is allowed, and encouraged
Seeing a thunderstorm from above it, watching the lighting in the cloud as I pass overhead, marvelling at how very small I am and how very big nature is
Sleeping in an extra 5 minutes
Knowing that I am missed - a sad pleasure, but a pleasure anyway
Floating in warm water and watching the sunlight play on the surface, a million sparkles of light
Knowing that somewhere out there, sometime soon, there is a cat for me
Knowing that my mom and dad think I'm pretty cool
Feeling strong and healthy
What does it take to make me happy? Lots of time off? Lots of money? Regular contact with a loved one? Why does this job demand such constant sacrifice? What matters in life? When I look back on it in 50 years, what will stand out as the cornerstones of my life?