Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Hallowe'en!

This is what I'm up against. It's going to be a vicious fight, but I'm hopeful that I'll succeed. If I do, that pic will be clothed in fun-fur.

Wait.... What?

A little background:

Lisa and I are gonna get hitched, it's a given. We have been together forever, I'm crazy about that girl, and I think she has grown to tolerate me. Over the years, we have talked about the actual wedding and what it might look like.

She is fairly traditional; she wants the white dress, me in a tux; we'd take wedding pictures in a scenic meadow somewhere, then go to a large hall where we'd listen to tipsy people make impassioned speeches about how perfect we are for each other, and how they always thought we'd last this long. We'd do this in front of 200-300 relatives, everying eating and drinking and carousing. There would be dancing and an open bar and it would be a good, straight-forward wedding.

Mine is mostly the same, but with one small change. I want the theme to be "woodland forest creatures", and I want to dress in a bear suit.

Like that, but maybe without the mustache or gun.

There would be costumes provided for the guests also, from little accessories like ears and tails to full-body suits for those guests who wanted to truly get into the swing of things. There would still be music, eating, drinking and dancing, but in costume.

Lisa laughed it off the first time I told her my idea, but as the years went by and I didn't change my mind, she realized, with growing horror, that I was in fact serious . And I am.

Which brings me to our bet. On Sunday we measured each other's various physical dimensions (get your mind out of the gutter, it was very scientific), and our bet is that if she gets more buff and I do in the next 8 weeks, I shall totally submit to her will regarding the wedding, and there will be no bears allowed. No tails, no fangs, no ears, just a tasteful regular tuxedo.

If I win, we both dress as bears and the theme will be the aforementioned "woodland forest creatures". I'm a pretty flexible guy, I don't care what type of bear she dresses as. A polar bear costume might be appropriate with the whole white wedding thing, or perhaps a panda as that sort of looks formal.

This is a real contest, and I will be updating my blog every couple of weeks with our respective progress.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

3 fighters doing a loooow flyby. Check out the third one. Darwin was robbed.

I like this little fighter video, it shows them just playing around.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A few years ago, I took a job a few provinces away from my honey at the time, and she said she'd be with me through thick and thin. She lasted almost 3 months before mailing the rest of my stuff to me and saying adios.


One of my best friends while growing up was a guy called Chuck. His mom had moved from Taiwan to Canada to send her kids through school while his dad stayed behind in Taiwan to work, only coming to visit for a few weeks each summer. They both stuck with it. After 12 years, Chuck and his sister graduated, and his mom moved back to Taiwan to be with his dad. That showed me something about dedication and loyalty. I know it can be done.

I'm at Lisa's place as I write this.

This morning, I made a run to the local deli for some fresh whole-wheat sesame bread and some fruit salad. We devoured half the loaf while it was still hot, and munched on fresh grapes and cantaloupe slices. A simple, shared pleasure.

We have been together for nearly 6 1/2 years now, and for more than half of that, we have been long-distance. My schedule right now is generally Monday - Friday on, with weekends off, and every time I have been able to, I go see Lisa for the weekend, like now. I am lucky in that it no longer takes me all day to see her, but we are still in different area codes.

So how have we made it work? Well, I have a few tips for having a relationship with a a non-pilot girl, and I hope that some of it might be apply to both sexes.

1. We both have internet and webcams. A half-decent webcam is $30, and is worth it's weight in gold. Microsoft Messenger has webcam stuff built into it, so it's a simple matter of plugging it in and hitting a button, and we can see each other in realtime while chatting. It's not the same as a good snuggle, but it beats the hell out of a mere phonecall. If you happen to be dirt-poor, which is sadly very common in aviation, note that both of you don't have to have webcams for it to work, even if only one person can see the other it's still better than a disembodied voice on the phone.

2. Speaking of phonecalls, I talk to her at least 3 times a day. You can buy a phonecard; I used these awesome ones called Ci Ci Ola, they are 4 cents a minute with no connection fee. I call her to touch base even when I'm sitting in Upper Dog Testicle. We talk about important stuff, and we talk about stupid stuff, and we talk about boring stuff. In any relationship, communication is what helps you get through the rough parts. I developed my speaking skills, and I'm not be afraid to be mushy-mushy on the phone. I tell her I love her more than goats love oats amd bunnies love bunnies. Yeah it might seem a little unmanly, but it melts her heart. If I wind up fighting on the phone, I don't let it go overnight without resolving it. Does it really matter that much that she spend an extra few bucks on a pair of shoes or that some slimeball hit on her when she was out for supper with her girlfriends? We don't sweat the small stuff. I reinforce the fact that I love her and we will be together for years and years, just not right now. But each time we wake up, it's another day closer to when we can be with each other again.

3. She sends me internet greeting cards all the time. I love them, and they are totally free to send. A quick Google will reveal a zillion sites out there. It's awesome to open my email and see an animated woodland creature sing a little song to me about how I rock Lisa's socks.

4. We always know when our next visit is. That way it never totally feels like we are stuck treading water, there's always something to look forward to. I'm on a layover through next weekend (you hear me, internet stalker?), but I will be here for a visit in 2 weeks, and the weekend after that looks pretty good too.

5. We are both independent. We are together because we want to be, not because we need someone in our lives. When we lived in the same place, we still had our own interests and a few friends apart from each other. If you fly for a living, you'll understand why this is necessary. If you are still looking for that first job, then be aware that you are going to be away from your loved ones for extended periods of time even if you live with them. If you are constantly worried about what your significant other is up to, it's not gonna work out. That's really the single most important thing to have; without trust, you might as well not even bother.

6. We both know why I'm here and she's there. I'm here so I can make some decent money and continue building my worldwide empire, and she's there so she can attend The University of Her Choice. I help to support her while she's in TUOHC, and she understands the importance of having income. I could quit my job and move back to where she is, sure. We'd be together, but I wouldn't be doing what I love, and neither of us would be able to afford to eat every day. She could quit University to come here, but that's not practical as she is in her 4th year, and we both know it's important for her to have some specialized education for when she enters the skilled labour pool. After all, she's gotta support me in my old age :)

Now here's the kick in the ass:

Unfortunately, the ultimate decision to stay together through long-distance has nothing to do with what I just written; basically it depends on the two of you and the relationship you have.

If your partner is going to bail on you after a few months, they are going to bail on you no matter what you do. If they are going to stay with you, just try to remind them why they chose you in the first place. Send letters, phone messages, emails, maybe the occasional small gift just because you love them. Think about the amount of money you would spend on them if they were with you, and try to spend at least a portion of that on them even when you're far away. It's not really the money that counts, but it will force you to be creative and keep your bonds strong.

"Aww, that's sooo cute. He was thinking of me" That's what I wanna go for.

Not everyone can handle the lifestyle. But if it's what you love, you have to be true to your soul and follow your dream of being a pilot. Damn that sounds like TV-movie dialogue, but it's true. If they really love you, they'll be proud to be with such a dedicated, ambitious person.

Friday, October 27, 2006

4am came pretty early this morning.

We are eastbound, heading toward the rising sun. Next stop, Montreal. The photos are a little blurry, but that's realistic as I feel a little blurry this early anyway.

I took a little video of us climbing through a thin layer of cloud to emerge on top. The sound is staticky, so it can be turned off.

The vampire within me cringes, but the rest of me welcomes the morning light and the surge of energy it provides.

We fly over a solid undercast layer, which has always reminded me of an endless ocean.

Descent time comes and I push the nose forward, toward the airport and our waiting hotel rooms.

We lucked out at the fbo. Check out our sweet courtesy car.

It has push-button start, which is really simple. So naturally it took us 3 tries to get it to fire up. Good thing we don't have to operate complicated machinery very often :)

We drove at high speed to the hotel, where I am writing this before I start on my daily emailing, scheduling, etc. No rest for the wicked!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blog life and real life collide in a collision of cataclysmic consequences!

I went for coffee with Aviatrix yesterday. No, it wasn't in Toronto. In fact, it wasn't within some hour's cruise speed of Toronto, I mean, depending on what airplane you are flying. Okay, it was in Halifax, at the Tim Horton's on the corner of Main and 7th. Oh wait, my mistake. It wasn't in Halifax, I don't think. But there was an ocean involved. Or were those mountains? Do they have mountains in the prairies? Hmm, maybe I was thinking of a forest. But there was a Tim Horton's involved. Tim Horton's is the place that serves sushi, right? I forget most of the details, but I'm absolutely, without a doubt, nearly positive we were in Canada and I’m somewhat positive it was yesterday, or at least it feels like yesterday.

But it was her. I asked to see Picture ID and it confirmed her identity, and that she was a cross between Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton.

Now I noticed that in her blog she has failed to mention a few things about herself that I thought deserved attention. Here are the top 5:

1. She’s only 36 inches tall and rides in a backpack on a trained brown bear named “Wingnut”, who walks on two legs. Wingnut was painfully shy at first, but quickly grew much friendlier when Wingnut noticed I was made almost entirely of meat.

2. Aviatrix is completely covered in cartoon tattoos. It takes a lot of guts to get the entire cast of Snoopy characters etched on a person’s gums, but she said it was worth it and frankly, I believe her.

3. The name on her driver’s license is in fact “Aviatrix” – she says her ancestors came from a small village in Gaul, where they amused themselves by drinking strength potions and beating up Roman soldiers.

4. During our coffee session, we were twice attacked by groups of ninjas. Both times, before I had even figured out we were in mortal danger, she had deftly dispatched them all with nearly imperceptible flicks of her wrist, and bites from a bear. She says it happens all the time and barely even notices it any more.

5. She patterns her life philosophy on “Dog the Bounty Hunter”. She briefly explained it to me as “If they don’t pay, they go to jail. And by ‘jail’ I mean the bottom of the lake”. She cracked her knuckles menacingly, as did Wingnut.

I asked her to prove she’s a flight instructor and she promptly took me to her car and showed me 3 student pilots, bound and gagged in the trunk. She offered to have Wingnut drive us to a nearby coffee shop but I wanted a breath of fresh air after the flight and the constant sobbing from the trunk was really bringing me down, so we instead walked to Uncle Tim and Brother Bernie’s Worm Farm and Coffee Emporium. I had the chai nightcrawler latte while she made do with a soy nematode decaf. Mine was hot, but a bit wriggly. Wingnut snacked on a fat, unwary doberman.

I’m not going to mention what we talked about as most of it was classified, relating to my as-yet undeclared war on the lawncare industry, and her recent discovery of a hole in her basement that leads to middle earth. Hmm, I think I have said too much already. I mean, we mostly talked about politics.

Anyway, it was great to talk to her and chat about airplanes and the internet and life in general. She was happy about getting her flying medical, and looking forward to her upcoming job. Oh wait, forget I said that last part.

When we were done chatting, I said goodbye and then let my flying golden rabbit take me back to my home. Hmm, maybe that part was a dream. I forget. All I know is I’m pretty sure I met Aviatrix or read her blog or something. But I’m sure I met her. And if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that I think I met her. I mean, it seemed so real.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

There is wireless internet at the airport we landed in this morning, which is unexpected and delightful. So I took some pics and a couple of videos and here they are.

There was a Canadian Forces Hercules doing touch-and-goes at the airport, so I got a few shots of it. They are pretty freakin' cool.

Here's a video of a touch n go:

I wandered around the local hangars and came upon some crop spraying aircraft. They were pretty interesting to look at, and I took a few pics. Some of them had old radial engines and some had new turbine engines. The largest one was a monster - it holds 6,000lbs of pesticide (or flame retardant spray when it doubles as a fire-fighting airplane) and it's gross takeoff weight.

Here's a video of a hangar tour I did, followed by some pics.

This beast is the one that has a heavier gross weight than our jets. It'll take off at 16,000 lbs and we are only good to 14,500. I spoke to the owner and he said they paid 1.1 million bucks for it.

I climbed up and took a look at the instrument panel. I wouldn't want to fly this puppy in IFR weather :) The big display in the middle and the panel on the right side are GPS units that allow the pilot to set up a track across crop fields and then fly a very precise pattern so as to spray all the crops without missing any and without spraying the same crops twice. In practise the pilot sets up the coordinates of the field, and then the GPS display has a series of lights that illuminate laterally, telling the pilot to slide left or right along the field, should they start to drift.

This is a crop sprayer biplane. I had no idea.

This airport is a bit chilly, around -5 celsius right now. And piston engines are cranky in the cold, so this airplane has a preheater going, pushing warm air through the engine shroud for an hour or two before they light it up to go flying.

More crop duster airplanes. Ugly, but cool. Like Keith Richards, but with less heroin, and better mileage.

More to come as the day isn't over.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Hubble space telescope took that. Do you ever feel like you are being watched?

I got to fly a thousand miles today, and it was really good. The weather cooperated and the passengers were happy and life was as it should be. I listened to U2 on the mp3 player, and the plane thrummed happily as the engines hissed and whined and spat vast amounts of hot gasses at incredibly high velocities, kind of like after a big meal at Taco Bell.

As we headed west I flew over my old medevac stomping grounds, and I even heard one of my former MU-2's in the air, heading north, going to pick up someone who must be having a far worse day that I am.

When we landed I put the plane to bed, then checked into my hotel. I made a little youtube video to show what I found there.

Tomorrow is an early morning wakeup for a short flight, then a long one back to Toronto. I'll be sure to take lots of pics so you can share in the adventure :)

Monday, October 23, 2006

I had an accident with my clothes dryer today and I reek of Bounce, so please try to ignore the terrible odor of meadow-fresh seeping from my post and contaminating your computer monitor. Now that I think about it, it would be cool to have some sort of smell function on the internet. Much hilarity would ensue, and I'm not even taking the porn sites into consideration.

Anyway, back to orbiting the planet Earth:

This is my life, somewhere around 100 nights a year:

Quick note to other pilots: Even if you don't use the little soaps and shampoos that they give you in the hotel, remember to snag them for your bag anyway - you can give them to women's shelters later. I'm not kidding - you'll feel good, and they save money on toiletries. I got tuned into the idea last year when I attended a Women in Aviation meeting that my friend had put on; I was allowed in as a token male to talk about resume stuff.

I haven't flown in a couple of weeks, and tomorrow I'm off across the country, which makes me happy. I'll take the camera and try to get some cool shots; I really want to get a little video of landing in Pearson.

I'm almost done my fellow blogger post, but I honestly didn't get more than 3 minutes to myself today to finish it, so I guess we are looking at tomorrow.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Nothing new to report today; I made sure my logbook was up-to-date as I hadn't touched it in a while.

Here's a question: Who is allowed to certify my logbook?

Is the Ops Manager allowed? What if I was the Ops Manager?

I looked in the Canadian Air Regs and I can't find any mention of who is authorized to sign off a person's logbook. After I left Northern Dene Airways, I had a fellow pilot sign it off as the boss was in another city, and Transport Canada didn't seem to have a problem with that when I went for my Airline Transport License and had to show them my logbook.

I am working on a post tonight that I'll publish soon; it's a cross-post. You'll see what I mean shortly.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

One of my former Captains on the MU-2 reminded me of this story, I'm surprised I could have forgotten it.

It's really disturbing, so consider yourself warned.

It was a gorgeous Summer's day in 2004, and we were on medevac patrol.

When flying all day, we would bring our lunches with us, along with beverages like water or juice. On hot days, we also had to pay particular attention to keeping well hydrated, as the air at altitude is really dry, and the windows in the MU-2 are fairly large, letting a lot of sunlight through. We would sweat a LOT in the cockpit and when loading/unloading patients. As a flight crew we had all recently gotten hooked on the single-serving packages of Crystal Light, the ones that you dump into a 500ml bottle of water and shake. Our current favorite flavor was a citrus lemonade style of drink.

We got paged out to do a call, and the details were thus: We were to pick up a guy in a small city and fly him home to die. Home was a small town in Northern Ontario, about an hour away from the city we picked him up in. The ambulance that came to drop him off was flanked by a police cruiser, which was unusual for a standard medevac call. As the ambulance unloaded the stretcher, the OPP officers helped to lift it into the airplane, which was also unusual. The guy's wife came with him on the flight as his time was short and it was conceivable that he might die during the short flight. She was calm, and spoke briefly to our medic about their situation. She was an OPP officer, and he was also an OPP officer in the days when he was healthy, before the cancer had eaten him up.

The flight was uneventful, he was stable and we landed in the small town where another OPP cruiser was waiting with the ambulance to pick him up and take him to his house. My captain and I helped to unload him, and we got a good look at his condition.

"He smoked, and he got aggresive esophogeal cancer which spread to his face" said our medic.

//I want to reiterate that my heart goes out to this fellow and his family for their loss and I feel really bad for the suffering they all went through during his illness. Nobody deserves to be sick like he was, and nobody deserves to die how he was dying. When you fly medevacs, sometimes you use humor as a way of dealing with the things you experience, so you don't wind up in a rubber room somewhere. Keep that in mind before you read the conclusion of this story//

Where his eyes and nose and mouth were supposed to be, there was only a plastic cover, and running from the cover was a long tube, a drainage tube for his brain. It ran into a clear bag, and the contents of the bag looked like citrus lemonade, complete with pulp. It really looked a lot like lemonade, in fact on a hot Summer's day like this one, it looked quite refreshing. I remarked on this to my Captain, who was a smoker at the time.

"Smoking equals brain-tube. That does look delicious though. I wonder what flavor you'll be?"

My Captain quit smoking right there.
I went out last night with a friend of mine, a guy I used to work with a few years ago, and I got pretty toasted, so today I'm guzzling fruit juices and popping advil like M&Ms.

Why is beer math so screwed up? "Wow, I had 4 beer and I feel amazing, so logically I should feel twice as good if I have 8". Beware, it's trickery!

I haven't been hung over in a long, long time and I now remember why I don't get toasted in a regular basis.

Anyway, I was chatting with my pal last night at the pub, and as we have both worked in aviation for a number of years, the topic turned to flying and pilots and whatnot. My pal got out of aviation a few years ago, after owning his own flight training school and getting tired of the constant stress that it exerted in his life. He is now in construction and makes more money than he did as a pilot, but he said he's starting to feel the old familiar pull of the skies, and is thinking about returning to fly for a living.

I have held a few non-flying jobs and none of them has scratched my fundamental itch in the same way that flying has, so I understand what he's going through. How hooked are we that we seriously consider making a career of an industry that pays us poorly, keeps us away from our families, has us working longer hours than truck drivers, and has about a zillion environmental stresses associated with it. People with 'real' jobs can conceivably work for one or two employers for their entire professioncal lives, but when I talk to my buddies in flying world, most of us consider 3 years with the same employer as exceptionally long.

I could easily give up beer for the rest of my life and I wouldn't pine for it. But to make me feel fully alive, I need the smell of jet fuel, the soft hum of generators in the background of my headset, and a thousand miles to go before I sleep.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A flight department isn't all about Caribbean sunrises and fine restaurants. There's a lot of work that needs to be done before we even get near the airplane to jet off to our resort locations. My motivation is to keep everything running smoothly for the bosses, and also to avoid federal prison should we get audited by Transport Canada. Together those are fairly powerful influences, so I got down to work today.

For example, this is what I have done today:

1. Searched for more details regarding a new avionics package for one of our aircraft. The hard part is that it has to be upgradeable for the future, and that adds an order of magnitude more complexity to the project. As long as I can sneak an Xbox into the installation, I'm a happy guy.

2. I coded and paid nearly 3 inches of stacked invoices. Three hours later I did the exact same thing again due to a screwup in the accounting department, but this time I used Roman Numerals 'cause I'm mean. We spent $MMDC,LXXXV.XLV on hotel rooms in September, nearly $DCC more than in August. Now that I think about it, this might explain the severed horse head I found on my desk this aftrnoon.

2a. I drank a lot of coffee and thought about taking up smoking tobacco.

3. I updated contact information with various suppliers and aircraft charter coordinators, identifying myself as the new point-of-contact for my flight department.

4. Called customer support and resolved a technical issue with our flight planning software.

5. Called different customer support people and resolved a technical issue with our online flight-booking software.

4a. I called the original customer support people various expletives when our flight planning program displayed the same incorrect behaviour after it had supposedly been 'fixed'.

6. I filed maintenance invoices and work orders for both our aircraft.

7. I called our aircraft mechanics and discussed various upcoming maintenance projects, and coordinated the dates of said projects to fit within our flight schedule.

8. I went upstairs to accounting and apologized as I noticed the error mentioned in 2. was caused entirely by me. I brought a flower I pulled from our office garden and everything, but I guess some people have serious anger issues.

9. I did some minor housekeeping on our Ops Manual in anticipation of an upcoming amendment. I also added a couple of things in there just for giggles. I can't wait until the first person notices that our SOP's now state that "All flight crew shall conduct their duties while dressed as polar bears" and "All communication with passengers shall be done in rhyme"

10. I spoke on the phone with 3 different people who want 3 different charter quotes. No big deal there, but gosh I sure love the people who have never chartered a jet before. They say they want to go to Vegas for the weekend, and are shocked, SHOCKED when I tell them it will cost a wee bit more than going commercial. Then they get hostile, call me a crook and hang up. I hate being called a crook by some skinflint who wants a jet for the price of a Greyhound bus ticket.

11. I called Jeppesen Maps in order to fix the fact that they mail us an extra copy of all our maps and charts. That wouldn't be a big deal, but they also bill us for the extra, unneeded copy and that's not cool.

12. I ate lunch and took the car to get the oil changed. On that note, I tried Mr. Lube, Jiffy Lube, Canadian Tire and Wal-Mart, and none of them will touch a hybrid car for an oil change, so I had to get it done at the Honda dealership. $85 later, I stumbled out of the dealership with fresh oil in my car and a fresh hole in my bank account.

13. Continued to unpack my office cubicle after moving it to another part of our office. Our parent company continues to expand greatly, so space is at a premium. My new cubicle is, shall we say, more cozy than my previous one.

14. Ordered our 2007 US Customs decal online, so we can legally fly across the border next year.

15. I scheduled interviews for a job opening within our fight department.

16. I looked forward to the next time I get in the air.

17. I went through all our old training records and removed old outdated exams and such. Not much fun there, except for the part when I noticed on a license that one of our pilots' middle name is Clarice. I hope he likes the dress I'm buying him for his upcoming birthday.

18. I bought some commissary supplies for our commissary locker in the hangar, and for my kitchen shelves. Wait, forget I said that last part. I also got some bottled water with our logo on it, which turned out to be a LOT cheaper than I had initially feared. I know it sounds like a stupid little thing but it's actually pretty damn cool. I visited the planes and made sure they were fully stocked with blankets, engine oil, customs cards, blah blah blah. We have a guy who does this once a month, but I feel like our 2 jets are family, or at least pets, and I enjoy the occasional afternoon of quality time with them in a calm setting.

So how was your day?

How to Beat A Speeding ticket or at least better your chances:

This is directly lifted from a great article by Stewart Rutledge

Blue Lights!! You are getting pulled over:

1. Get your attitude right.

Fighting with the police officer never increases your chances of leniency. You want him to like you. Prepare to achieve this goal.

2. Turn your car off, and turn the interior lights of your car on.

Place your hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel and remove your sunglasses or hat. Some people even advise you to place your keys on the roof of your car as a sign of total submission. Never, ever get out of the car.

The whole point of this is to take any unnecessary tension out of the encounter. You want the officer to be comfortable. Imagine the types of people and the dangers that most officers have had to deal with. Be just the opposite.

3. Be very polite and do exactly what the nice cop with the big gun says.

Save your pleas until after the basics are finished. Many officers will never speak to you until after they've done the basics. It's almost a litmus test for jerk drivers.

4. Once the officer has gotten your information, ask him politely if you may speak to him about your violation.

If you know you broke the law, admit it vehemently and tell the officer that he was completely right for pulling you over. Honest officers will admit that there is a lot of pride in police work, and, if you can sufficiently satisfy the pride factor, sometimes officers don't feel it necessary to punish you any further. The better you make the officer feel; the more likely he's going to like you enough to let you go.

5. Ask to see the radar then ask a few questions.

Many jurisdictions require that the officer allow you to see the radar. Don't press it if the officer says no because that's what a courtroom is for. But, at least ask, then ask a few more questions to show that you are watching.

You might ask, "When was the last time your radar gun was calibrated?" or "Where were you when you clocked my speed?" or "Were you moving when you clocked my speed?"

Do not ask these in an argumentative tone or sarcastic, know-it-all way. All that will do is make the pride in the officer fight you harder.

6. Plea your case.

Once you've gone over some basics with the officer and developed a temporary rapport, ask for mercy. Make it sincere and let the officer know that it's a big deal to you. Resist all urges to fight and get angry and simply beg as much as your dignity will allow. But, there is no reason to grovel.

7. Leave the scene as a non-memorable, nice person.

If the officer didn't let you go on the scene, then you want him to never remember you. Your next steps are in a more legal setting, and the less the officer remembers you, the better. Usually, officers only remember you if they want to remember to show you no mercy.

You've gotten a ticket, but you still want out .

8. Call the officer at work.

Ask politely if you can arrange a time to meet with the officer to talk to him or her about a ticket you got recently. Usually, officers will readily meet with you, the taxpayer, and this meeting has gotten me out of many tickets.

But, don't go to the meeting and just say, "Will you let me out of this ticket?" You better have a story or some reason to motivate the officer to let you out. That's just up to you, but just be really nice and try to bridge that officer-civilian gap with a personal story and plea for mercy. The more the officer can identify with you, the more likely he is to want to show you mercy.

Remember always, the officer has full authority to drop your ticket, so remember how important he is in this process. Treat him and pursue him as the gatekeeper to your freedom. Don't be scared, though. You have a right to try to talk to the officer. You pay his salary.

9. Write a letter to the officer.

Even if you met with the officer, it can't hurt to write him a letter pleading your case to him. Write it professionally, succinctly, and include complete contact information. I've even gone so far as to offer alternative punishment. Although that alternative wasn't accepted, the officer was pretty surprised at my tenacity, and it motivated him to let me off the hook. He could tell that I really did care about this one ticket.

Make the ticket a bigger deal to you than to him, but you have to carefully do this in a professional, civil way. Anything else, and you're playing with fire.

10. Repeat calls and letters to the judge and/or the prosecutor.

If the officer won't listen to you, feel free to contact the judge that will preside over your case. Also, find out who the prosecuting attorney will be and call him at his office. They are just people, and the worst they can say is "no." You have nothing to lose at this point. Plea your case to either of them, but do not be a pest and be consistently apologetic for the lengths to which you are going to get out of your ticket. You must be sincere, or don't bother going at all.

In steps 8-10, you stand the risk of being labeled a nuisance or a troublemaker. If you get this impression too much, then bail out with apologies. But, do not be afraid to at least try to talk to the officials face-to-face. They are, after all, public servants, and you are that public.
The court is your friend

11. Follow all court guidelines.

Make the court clerk your best friend. Call the clerk often, and address him or her by first name. You want to make all court employees' jobs as easy as possible. Also, you do not want to miss any deadlines.

12. Delay.

Once you've gotten to know the clerk, ask for as many continuances (delays of your trial) as you can honestly ask for. Do not lie, but do plea for continuances to delay your trial date as long as possible. The farther you are out of the officer's memory, the better. I have heard of one case where the case was continued so long that the ticketing officer had transferred... case dismissed automatically.

13. Ask for alternative punishment.

Usually, your primary concern is keeping your ticket off your insurance. Many times, court clerks have the authority to let you go to driving school and keep the ticket off your record. Sometimes you have to pay court costs and the ticket, but at least your insurance premiums aren't going up. This completely depends on the court.
You can't handle the truth!

14. Understand your trial and your rights.

If you got a ticket, you have been accused of a crime. The ticketing officer signed a sheet of paper swearing that you broke a certain traffic law, and he saw you do it. That sworn statement is called an affidavit, and most tickets say that at the top. Don't get nervous, though; it's just a misdemeanor.

First, you'll have a hearing where you plead guilty, not guilty, or some other plea. Then, you'll have your trial where you plea your case. Then the judge decides your fate. It's really not scary at all, and you have every right to participate fully in this process no matter how much you are intimidated.

15. Show up to your first court date and plead anything but guilty.

Whatever you do, show up to your first hearing on time and dressed decently. It's probably not a good idea to wear a suit, though. In most traffic courts, you'll look silly. If you really want to know, go scope out the court ahead of time to see what to wear to blend in best.

You'll then be asked "what you plea." Pleading not guilty is a safe bet, although there are other pleas (e.g. nolo contendre) that have strange consequences in some courts. In some courts, a plea of nolo contendre has the strange effect of making your ticket just disappear to the court's files. You'd want to talk to a local lawyer about that one, though.

Most of the time, just politely say, "I plead not guilty, your honor." You'll be assigned a court date, and spend the next few weeks repeating steps 8-13. This is your second chance before the big day.

16. Go to court and duke it out.

If all else has failed, you should then go to your trial. Do not miss this out of fear, or you will definitely be found guilty. For instance, if the officer doesn't show up, for any reason, you're automatically out of the ticket. This is not unheard of.

Also, you may be able to talk to the officer or prosecutor before trial and cut a deal, just like the real convicts do on TV. If the officer is nervous about his case against you, he might let you off. This just depends on your case, but at least ask.

The trial is pretty simple. The prosecution will present their case against you. You get to respond and call witnesses if you want, and then the prosecution rebuts you. You cannot screw this up. At the very worst, you're found guilty, and you've lost nothing. Do not be scared to do this. It is your right, and you should claim it.

17. Suck it up, or fight on.

The judge will rule on you... guilty, not guilty, or some other punishment. You either take it or appeal it to the court of appeals. Rarely would it be financially wise to appeal a traffic decision, but that is up to you. And you do have the right.

Chances are, you let it die here. Try to make friends with the officer and prosecutor for next time, though.

18. Suck up... err, I mean write more letters.

It can't hurt to write the officer and prosecutor a letter telling them how nice they were and easy to deal with. Also, copy this letter to the mayor and the chief of police, and make sure you show the cc: at the bottom of the letter. That's your investment in next time.

Rage against the machine (without all the rage)

This stuff isn't rocket science. You're just dealing with people and trying to get them to see things your way. You have very little to lose, and it's a fun way to get to participate in the very government under which you live. I encourage all of you to employ all these steps in a friendly, civil way. Forget everything you've learned about courtrooms and lawyers and cops, and just go in there as a human being. It's your right, and it can really be fun and exciting. Think of it as your own personal crusade, and, if you push on, you will be amazed at how easy it is to find justice.

Slow it down there, speedy. This is not a legal advice. I am not a lawyer, but I am a law student. These are generalized discussions of life experiences, and any legal statements are simply journalistic opinion and fact. If you've got real problems, remember everything you've learned about lawyers, and go hire one.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A fine pic of Lisa drinking away the pain of being with a pilot. It's also symbolic 'cause I'm supposed to be on the left side of the pic, but I'm off flying somewhere.

I was up at the airport yesterday and I ran into my good friend, a Captain on the MU-2, doing medevacs. The Captain was at Pearson for a few hours and we got to hang out for a little bit. It was great to my friend, and it was also nice to see one of the MU-2's I used to fly. The weather was crap yesterday lots of low ceilings, poor visibilities, rain, and icing and my friend told me they were having a hard time planning for a suitable alternate airport, as the weather stretched a few hundred miles in every direction. We walked to our hangar so I could show off our plane and as we walked, we watched airliners breaking out of the low clouds just before landing at Pearson. It was pretty cool as all the water vapour in the air was condensing in vortices around the wings and engines of the airliners, so it looked like they were all leaving smoke trails behind them, like aircraft at an airshow.

Anyway, I was waxing nostalgic so I went through some old notes I made and found this previously unblogged bit of writing from when I was flying the MU-2 on medevacs. All these vignettes took place while I was flying with my Captain pal.

From May 2004:
A random listing of the past few medevac patients that have stood out:

An stunningly attractive 75-year-old woman recovering from a broken arm and broken leg, telling us stories about leaving her family in Italy to escape the Nazis in WW2, coming to Canada and becoming Miss Canada circa 1950. Another woman blessed with amazing cheekbones and flawless skin. I only hope I can age as well as she has.

A 45 year old poor bugger with testicle, prostate, urethral and bladder cancer whose testicles were so swollen they needed to be specially supported and elevated the entire flight. The medic earned his money on that one.

A 14 year old boy being taken home after a kidney transplant. Before we boarded he asked his mom if he could use the washroom. His mom said sure, and as he walked off to go pee, she noticed my quizzical gaze. She said "He's still getting used to using the washroom, he hasn't gone pee for the past 5 years so it's a little strange for him". He was a great kid and we let him sit up front and fly for a bit on the way home. His eyes were the size of dinner plates while he flew us onward with his mom videotaping the whole thing. Definitely got the warm fuzzies on that trip.

A young fellow with a popped eyeball with a plastic dixie cup taped over the socket, going to have some metal chunks removed from his face.

The 20 year old psych patient we flew to the psych center a few times. After the first time, he escaped and hopped on the train back home to Moosonee, where he was picked up wandering in the railway yard and eating rocks. Yeah that's right, eating rocks. Hopefully he didnt chew. A couple of weeks later once his new meds kicked in, we flew him home where hopefully he'll enjoy a more normal diet.

the 300+ lb woman we were taking to be treated for heart problems who remarked "You are lucky I lost 40 pounds in the past few months" as I was grunting and sweating unloading her. I would have preferred she had showered in the past 30 days over losing the weight, because...well...you don't wanna know.

The poor 35-year old fellow with no previous medical history who checked into the hospital one morning cause he had an unusually painful headache, then had a stroke. We took him down to a major center that afternoon to get his organs harvested before they unplugged him. Makes my worries about paying the phone bill on time or what to thaw out for supper seem totally meaningless.

Those are the ones off the top of my head that have been remarkable over the past couple of weeks. The rest have been standard heart problems or whatever.

On that note, thank Jebus for the smokers, they are our bread and butter. If you smoke and aren't smoking at this exact second, I urge you to pull one out and light it up. Things have been a bit slow so far today and I wouldn't mind flying.

Monday, October 16, 2006

This is one of the most beautiful clips I have seen on Youtube.
The footage is from Project Excelsior, in which Joseph Kittinger jumped from an altitude of over 102,000' and fell to earth at supersonic speeds. The music is Boards of Canada's song "Dayvan Cowboy"

This is beautiful, and it's also very sad. It's only a cartoon, but that doesn't matter. It's "Hunted by a freak" by the band Mogwai.
This is ZNS, which was one of the nicest MU-2's that Thunder Airlines operated.

Add a bit of photoshop glow to the pic and it comes out like this:

ZNS was the plane I was flying when this story occurred.

Let's call this story "His teeth skittered across the ramp like little red candies"

This was Summer 2003. A very nice middle-aged lady had a bleeding pancreas, and we were gonna take her from our home base to a larger centre so they could give her stitches or run it under the faucet or something. She was exceptionally sick so in addition to our medic we had a nurse from the hospital on board, and the woman's husband. The woman was calm, but the husband was distraught. He had all the physical signs of shock; he was sweating, distracted etc. I should have twigged when the hospital nurse told him she didn't think he was up to the flight, but he said he was fine. He stumbled as he got into the plane, and that should have been my second hint.

This was the first flight after an inspection, so naturally after we fired up, the plane went mechanical. In this case, the cabin heat was stuck on full high, which is a pretty noticeable snag. In fact, we only taxiied about a hundred feet toward the runway before turning around and heading back to the hangar. We were all soaked in sweat by the time we shut down and opened the door, and I felt really bad for our poor patient having to go through this extra hassle. The captain went inside to advise Medcom of our delay, and I hopped out the back and headed toward the hangar where a spare plane was, and asked the mechanics to tow it out so we could continue the trip with a fresh plane.

As I was walking with the good plane back toward our broken plane, I saw the husband exit the aircraft. The thing is, he didn't actually put his foot out in front of him, he kinda pitched out the door and fell forward onto the ramp, not even putting his arms out in front of him. The husband was a big boy, and he had built up a lot of momentum by the time he impaced the pavement, face-first.

That didn't just happen, did it? I'd better close my eyes and look again. I open them and yup, it was real. Man oh man. I knew our medic and nurse were responsible for the lady patient, so I ran inside and told our dispatcher what had happened, while the nearby mechanics ran to his side. Fortunately for us, another medic was also in the office, and he ran outside to help the husband also.

The dispatcher called an ambulance - usually they call us ;) - and I went outside to see what was going on. The husband's face was a mess, his mouth and nose had exploded, and he was complaining of chest pains. The ambulance (same ambulance that had dropped them off earlier) was there in less than 5 minutes, the husband was loaded into it and they departed for the local hospital, and hopefully a good plastic surgeon.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. We loaded into the new plane and the MU-2 howled happily all the way to the big city. We put the lady and the nurse in the ambulance and went home. A couple of days later, I found 2 tooth fragments and an entire tooth on the ramp. Hey, finders keepers right? I put them under my pillow, but the tooth fairy must have taken the night off 'cause I got nothing for them the next morning, not even a quarter.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Today we have a multi-media spectacular! I hope you have highspeed 'cause this isn't safe for dial-up internet connections.

All this stuff is from a week ago, when I was in Bahamas. We departed Toronto at 4am and flew to Nassau, then left Nassau the following afternoon to return home.

Watching the sun come up at FL360. We had been airborne for over an hour by the time we saw the first morning light. As soon as the sun came up, the shades of light changed. You can see it really well in the contrast between the second and third pics.

Here's a 9 minute clip of us on approach and landing in Nassau. The first few seconds are kind of cool, at around 3 minutes you get a quick glimpse of the instruments and John, and at around 6 1/2 mins into it you can see steam coming out of the windshield air vents and that's also kind of cool. The rest isn't very exciting. When we landed I tried to focus on the instruments so you could see the deceleration and stuff, but it didn't work out very well. The music is "cowgirl" by Underworld. I don't know much about Windows Movie Maker, but I'm going to learn it a little better as I can see the potential for creating some decent stuff with it.

I really have to get a video camera too - maybe I'll go to Future Shop tomorrow and see what they have in the way of hi-def cameras, find a model I like, then find a better price for it online and pick one up :)

Yeah, yeah, the Hilton again.

Most of the buildings downtown look like these ones:

The bus system in Nassau is privatized - you jump on a bus, pay a buck and it takes you wherever you want to go. Each bus seems to be individually owned by a small business operator, I didn't see any fleets.

This is Winston, a local carver. He's got a great smile. He's been carving for 30 years. You might recognize a piece or two from these pics in my mom's kitchen from a few days back.

I wandered through a local market and took this video. At the end, I walk outside and you can see one of the many cruise ships that dock in Nassau every day. A zillion tourists come out and buy whatever they get their hands on, hence the market.

This was on our way home, about 100 miles south of Carolina Beach. If convective clouds have managed to make it up to nearly 40,000', then it's a good idea to go around then as they probably have some serious power to them. You can see a line of weather on the radar, then in the next pics you can kind of see the cels in the distance. It's hard to tell from the pics, but the weather reached above our altitude at Flight Level 390 (39,000'). We picked our way around this bunch.

You can see the particular cel I was going around on the radar, then you can sort of see it peeking up above the rest of the clouds on the right hand side.

We watched the sun go down on our return flight. The view was pretty spectacular from 39,000'

I took a quick video as the sun disappeared and the moon shined bright. Good thing werewolves are rare at this altitude! Aroooo!

Friday, October 13, 2006

First of all, I'm making all this up. 'Cause if this had actually happened, I certainly wouldn't admit to it, and I also would be pretty ashamed of myself for my course of actions. Do you hear me, internet stalker? This is exceptionally fictional. No need to fret.

I had been asleep for about 45 minutes. What woke me up was the sound of the outboard tanks running dry. In the Navajo, when you run the outboard tanks dry, the engines will surge for a few moments before quitting completely. It makes a "Wow wow wow" sound. I felt like I had been clubbed like a baby seal, and it took a second or two for my eyes to adjust to the light in the cockpit, but I was already reaching for the proper switches. I changed the fuel selectors to the inboard tanks, and the engines resumed their normal routine. The adrenaline rush was enough to keep my eyes open until I made it back to home base. After I landed I walked home and slept for 18 hours.

I suppose I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.

It was nearly a decade ago. I was flying for Northern Dene Airways, on their Navajos and Barons. In the morning and afternoon, I had done a passenger run in the 'ho, taking miners from the local communities to a uranium mine, and taking miners who were done their rotations at the mine back home to the local communities.

I got home at around 6pm, and crashed on the couch, watching CBC North. (At the time, there were only 3 tv channels in Stony Rapids - CBC North, HBO, and a small tv station from La Ronge that mostly played old Westerns. HBO was awesome until I noticed that they repeat most of their progamming like twenty times a day).

Anyway, around 10pm the phone rang, it was a medevac. The owner didn't want to do it, so I took the trip. I showed up at the airport and found a little boy with his arm in a splint, along with his dad. The kid had been climbing or running or running and climbing, and had taken a header, resulting in a broken arm, so we were going south to make sure it was set in a cast.

I dropped them off in Prince Albert, and headed back up north at around 2am. I got back around 4:30am or so, put the plane to bed, went home and crawled into bed myself. The phone rang at 6:00am. It was the boss. He told me that he wasn't able to do the mine run that day, and so it was up to me to do the trips. I reminded him that I had less than an hour's worth of sleep, and he said "Yeah, that must be tough".

I went to the airport and fired up the plane, loaded up my miners and took them to the mine, a different mine than the day before. I waited there for a few hours, but unfortunately there were no bunks available, so I sat in the dining room and drank coffee. After a few hours, the outbound miners showed up and we flew home, dropping a few off along the way at places like Wollaston and Camsell Portage.

I got home at 7pm and walked into the house, nearly delerious with fatigue, and also with a wicked acid stomach, the result of too much coffee.

At 7:30pm, the phone rang. I didn't answer. At 7:40, the boss knocked on my door and told me I had a medevac flight down south. I told him I was exhausted and he said he had some hot coffee in the truck, I could drink it on my way to the airport. He said he'd even drive me there.

"Sir, I'm really, really tired. I probably shouldn't do this flight"
"We don't have anyone else to do it, unless I fix the problem by hiring someone tomorrow to come up here and do the flying you don't want to do"


We got to the airport and my passenger was there already, a pregnant girl who needed some sort of tune-up down south. We launched, and flew to La Ronge, landing around 10:30pm. My landing was so hard, I was lucky the girl didn't deliver right there in the plane. I just didn't care any more, all I wanted was to relax for a few minutes with my eyes closed.

I called the boss and told him I wanted to get a room for the night, then I'd bring the plane back the next morning.

"We need the plane first thing tomorrow for a mine run. You have to bring it back tonight. Either bring it back tonight or don't bother flying it up in the morning. You don't have to do tomorrow's mine run, so you get to sleep in as soon as you get back here."

The little man in my head told me to quit on the spot, but I told him to shut up. I had maybe 400 hours at this time and I knew I could be replaced the next day. So yeah, I took the coward's way and got in the plane for the flight back up north.

It was dark, the air was smooth, and the weather was perfect. And the sleep demons were coming for me. I was halfway back up north when I realized what I had done. There was no place for me to land nearby, the closest runway was now at my destination. Turning up all the lights to full bright in the airplane didn't do a damn thing. I smacked myself in the face, hard. It just made me angry and tired. I tried singing to myself, but that didn't work, I kept forgetting the lyrics to the songs I was trying to sing.

So I set the autopilot on heading mode, pointed in the direction of my northern home(the navajos I flew weren't coupled to the GPS at all, and heading mode was all we had), and I set it to maintain 9500' altitude.

And I sat back in my chair, and closed my eyes for a few seconds. Which brings me to the end, and the beginning of my story.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Random stuff today:

Scary video showing an Airbus A-321 attempting to land in high winds.


I got my Commercial Licence when I was 18. I didn't have my driver's licence until I turned 19. I was able to fly a plane for hire, as long as I took the bus to the airport. Thank goodness none of my compatriots at Selkirk College Aviation knew about my lack of driver's licence, I can only imagine the ribbing I would have taken.


Driving recently with Lisa, I pondered the lack of visibility above our heads.

"I wish the Civic had a moonroof. We should get a car with a moonroof."
"You're a moonroof."
"I guess that's a no then."


I was living in Stony Rapids; it was an October morning and it was time for me to go to work. I was just walking out the door when I heard a "KA-BLAM!". I looked around and watched a moose fall over dead in my front yard, not ten yards from me. It's tongue was hanging out and everything. A man whom I recognized as a Saskatchewan Department of Highways employee yelled "Yeah, got him!", and put his rifle back into his truck. He then smiled at me and waved, while walking toward the moose with a large saw. I had a salad for lunch that day.


The second volume of scary videos, this time showing a bunch of jets attempting to land in a wicked crosswind.


When I was working for Western Air in Goderich, flying the B-58 Baron, we had a Transport Canada audit. We passed with flying colors, with only one small snag. The inspector insisted that we have a placard inside our B-58 Baron which read "This aircraft may only be operated in unpressurized flight". He said it was due to issues surrounding door seal problems that the Baron had. He didn't care that the B-58 Baron isn't a pressurized airplane, we still had to have the sticker. We had one printed up and stuck it by the door, and everyone was happy.


Speaking of strange redundancy, this last little snippet took place during a recurrent check-ride on the B-58 Baron I flew for Western Air Services. I was doing a single-pilot IFR ride, which meant that I had to fly the airplane in cloud by myself and deal with any emergencies that the Transport Canada guy threw my way. I somehow tricked him into thinking I was competent and when we landed, he told me I had done a good ride. I was a little non-plussed when he gave me a copy of my ride report and the only note on it was "Needs to delegate more tasks to the co-pilot". I hadn't used a copilot for the ride. I didn't bother mentioning that at the time, I was just grateful to have my ratings renewed for another year. I still have a copy of this ride report and when I make it home I'll post it here so you can see I'm not lying.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I hopped over to the big city yesterday and walked all over the place. The weather here is unseasonably great, and I am enjoying every minute of it.

I commuted to the big city via a Turbo Otter on floats, and the Captain was kind enough to let me sit in the right seat for one of the legs. It seems to be a pretty cool job - the Captains are home every night, and have weekends off. Most of the Captains are middle-aged guys, and there is very little movement. That also tells me it's a good gig, as nobody seems to want to leave it. Here's footage of the takeoff and landing, courtesy of my crappy little digital camera. I really have to get a good video camera; I saw a nice HD one at Future Shop in Toronto last week, so maybe I'll splurge in a month or two.

The refresh rate of the camera makes the prop appear to do funky things.

We got to buzz a passenger/car ferry on takeoff:

Landing in the downtown harbour:

This is a lighthouse we passed by on our way into town. I wonder if they get isolation pay.

The scenery from 500' is truly spectacular. My camera doesn't do it justice at all.

Getting closer to the city now.

Walking along the shoreline on Sunday I took a few pics:

At the park we were at, lots of people were flying kites.

I was pretty fascinated by this one kite, shaped like a biplane:
The sound is decent on this one.

These are the front steps leading up to mom's house. It's funny watching people crab-walk up the steps to avoid stepping on anyone's face.

This is Reg, one of mom's dreaded guard animals. Fear the rabies/tetanus combination that his bite would bring.

Some pics of the inside of mom's house. There is so much to look at!

This is a view of the back garden, by the studio, looking toward the house. The view from the living room looks out over the ocean. It's pretty damn cool.

Note the wood figures at the top right - I got those for Mom when I was in Bahamas and they fit right in to general decor.

This is in the bathroom. It beats magazines :)

The living room, but I screwed up the exposure so it's hard to see some of it.