Sunday, July 29, 2007

I sit in the waiting room, hyper-alert, watching the clock tick a minute forward every hour or so. We had both done all the reading, about how this was a necessary procedure and the complication rate is only 10% or so, and recovery time will probably only be a week or two and blah blah blah.

Intellectually, I get it. But my intellect isn't working very well at the moment.

She's gonna be just fine. And here I sit, looking up from my magazine every time someone walks into this large, crowded room. Is it an orderly, telling me that surgery went fine and I can go see her? Or is it far worse, a doctor, eyes burning red from fatigue and sadness, coming to tell me about unexpected complications and they did everything they could but...

I'm used to having control, and I have none. I can just sit here and vibrate and watch the clock. My hands are cold and damp. My face feels hot, and my eyes are watering like when I stick my head out the car window while doing 130 down the highway.

The door opens. A man walks in. He's not an orderly, in fact he's dressed like a surgeon. I concentrate on dissolving. I am silent and I am invisible, and if he wants to deliver bad news, he won't be able to because I am not there, I have ceased to exist. He sits down next to me and time freezes. His eyes are kind, but they are also weary - maybe resigned? He has delivered bad news before. I can see his bushy beard poke through his surgical mask in a few places, the occasional grey hair mixed in to remind him that his path has been a long one. I see the yellow stains between the fingers of his right hand, and I see that he's wearing a wedding ring on his left. As time is frozen, I can take a look around him, and I see that his glasses are held on with a hand-made string clasp, thin red cord knotted with shiny thread. His kid probably made it for him.

I freeze things for as long as I can, but eventually I have to let time start up again. I think of her lips on my forehead, then her hand in mine as we walk across the park near our house.

He turns to me and speaks.
"Are you Mr. Rasmussen?"
Angels start to sing.
"No, I'm not. Sorry." The 'sorry' part is one of the biggest lies I have ever told.
"Oh. Thanks."

The surgeon gets up and walks across the room to another bald guy, and asks him the same question. The man answers, and they both leave the room together. Neither man returns.

I'm too nervous to read any more. I just sit, and stare at that fucking clock on the wall.

Nineteen minutes later, an orderly comes over to me.
"Are you Mr. Sulako?"
"Yes, yes I am"
"The doctor said the surgery went well; she's in the recovery room now, and you'll be able to see her in about an hour"

This woman is my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Yeah, I'm still here. I flew a lot last week, and this week I'm on vacation so I'm not sure if I'll be posting much. Lisa is going in for a minor tune-up tomorrow, so I will be mostly hanging out and taking care of her through her recovery.

Here are some pics I have shamelessly looted from some friends of mine, who fly long-haul for Air Canada. Eternal thanks to Smokey McT and Linus for the images, and the permission to post them.

Japan Airlines 747 catching the sun

Shanghai 767-300, flying a thousand feet above.

Over Alaska en route to Tokyo, China Airways 747 a thousand feet above.

672 on the groundspeed. Roughly double that of my fine Citation 550 :)

The sun sets as we are landing at Incheon airport, Seoul South Korea

Morning breaks over Greenland... en route to London from Vancouver

Mostly dormant volcano over Alaska

Volcano over Kamchatka, Russia

Middleton reef, South Pacific

cluster of islands in the South Pacific ..... just south of Fiji

Upside down in a Tutor jet, circa 15 years ago.

Going supersonic in the back seat of an F-18, circa 15 years ago

Vancouver at ten thousand feet, looking east

Petropovlosk, looking south.

Sandy Bay, Australia

The 12 Apostles on the Great Coast Highway, a few hours out of Melbourne, Australia


Tiannamin Square, looking north toward the Forbidden City.

The Algarve


Tel Aviv

Monday, July 16, 2007

P-51 landing gone embarrassingly wrong. You can hear the prop strike quite clearly.

The only thing worse than making a bad landing is making a bad landing while being watched. And taped. And commented on by a loud-mouth.

The s-word is mentioned a couple of times in this clip, but it's pretty appropriate.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Earlier this week we were south, heading north, when we heard this:

"We have 71 souls on board, and 13,000 on the fuel. Smoke in the cockpit, we need vectors to the nearest airport"

The guy sounded scared, but he was keeping it together.

On our flightdeck, cruising at 38,000 feet, we looked at each other and shivered. Short of a thunderstorm removing the wings, any sort of cabin fire in flight is the worst thing I can think of. At 35,000 feet, even with an emergency descent and a runway nearby, it's going to take us at least 10 minutes to get on the ground. There are a lot of flammable, toxic materials used in the construction of airplanes, and a lot can happen in 10 minutes. I'm not even talking about the thousands of pounds of jet fuel, which by weight is more explosive than dynamite.

We listened in, gut-sick and silent. They were handed off to a local tower frequency, and we lost radio contact right after they repeated their landing clearance. I have no idea what the cause was and I have no idea how they fared after they landed. I didn't see any newspaper headlines so I assume they were okay.

I just thought it was interesting how a few overheard words from a stranger can propel us into their world so quickly, how I could see myself in that same situation, and how freaked-out I would be.

I said a silent prayer to the avionics and wiring gods, and continued our flight back home, to an uneventful landing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pretty damn cool Cat II ILS approach into London Heathrow.

It's neat to hear the automated voice call out "five hundred" before they even enter the cloud layer.

I'm not even going to touch the "retard" callout ;)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Flying home a couple of nights ago, we saw a particularly spectacular light show, courtesy of some major thunderstorms. Thanks to Kitsch for the pic.

We also got to deal with thunderstorms yesterday. Click on the pic to make it bigger and read my typing.

Here's a little video of some stuff I went around yesterday. I tried to make it self-explanatory. Turn the sound down as my camera sucks at sound. It also sucks at video. I really need to get a better one.

Clouds are fine when they behave.

Here's a shot of some of the weather that was referenced in the previous pics of our radar system. Nasty stuff.

Here's how they should look, when they are nice and calm:

Contrails are cool. I took this yesterday morning, while flying southward at 36,000'. That plane was 2,000' above us, but it sure seemed closer when I looked at it.

Turn the sound down, my camera can't handle any sort of noise level and it sounds all staticky.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

It's Summer, and that means thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are the only weather-related thing in aviation that really makes me sweat. I guess I'm still a little gun-shy.

I took this video a couple of days ago, on the climbout to our destination. The lightning detector told us that the cel on the left would be a bad place to fly near, so we kept our distance. The bright sun made it impossible to see the lightning flashes, but they were there - the lightning detector showed dozens and dozens of strikes every 5 minutes. We skirted around it and landed uneventfully, cheating death again to fly another day ;)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

This is my all-time favorite ride report. Click on it to make it bigger.

I was going through my training files here, and I came upon an old copy of a PPC renewal ride I did, back when I flew a B-58 Baron for Western Air in Goderich.

Wanna know why?

Well, check out the only thing I got less than perfect on. It's item 7B, Crew Co-ordination. The comment on my ride report says "Needed to delegate more work (checklists, etc) to F/O". That means as a Captain, I should have involved the First Officer more during my ride, and delegated more tasks to the First Officer during emergencies rather than trying to do it all on my own.

The thing is, this was a single-pilot ride and I was the only crew member.

It even says in the comments section "Single-pilot authority demonstrated and approved". Incongruous much?

I didn't get a copy of the ride report that day, otherwise I would have asked my Transport Inspector for further clarification. I did have a good laugh when it showed up in the mail though :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The first airplane I ever flew was a Cessna 152, C-GZCT. I was 16 years old and taking my Private License through Mitchinson Flying Service in Saskatoon. My dad paid $30 for an intro flight for me, and I went up with an instructor for about twenty minutes. The instructor told me we would do a quick tour of the city before returning for an uneventful landing. I told him that a fam flight was a formality, that I intended to become a commercial pilot, and that we should skip ahead to something interesting.

He arched his eyebrow.

"Oh realllllly?"

I did my first spin in Zulu Charlie Tango; the instructor took great pains to describe the whole process before we entered the spin, then asked me if I was comfortable continuing. I was like "Hell yeah, I am a total badass and I laugh in the face of danger and stuff".

I still remember gripping his shoulder and saying "Ohhh shitttttt!" as we entered the first revolution. It was one of the few times I haven't been able to keep the little man in my head under control while sober and the entire sequence is burned into my brain.

It went like this:

The stable platform somehow became an angry bronco, bucking and twisting in an effort to eject us from the plane or embed us in the ground beneath.

I remember looking at the Saskatchewan farmers fields rushing toward us while we spun down, and thinking what we were doing was impossible, that the wings would be coming off any second even while the instructor assured me that the G-load was very minor on the airplane, and we would live again to spin another day, and to kindly stop applying the claw to his shoulder or he'd have to bust me in the nose.

When he broke the stall and applied opposite rudder, the trusty plane immediately responded, transforming back into the docile beast I assumed all airplanes were. I detached my claw from his shoulder, and looked around, wild-eyed.

I have heard anecdotal evidence about abusing hard drugs, and from those stories, it appears I took a big hit off the aviation crack pipe right then. I have been chasing that high ever since - I got a feeling like that when I passed my first PPC ride, and also when I flew a jet for the first time, but it still wasn't anything like the original sensation.

I was distraught when ZCT was destroyed in a fatal accident a decade later, practicing the same manoeuvres that we did that first day. For reasons unknown, The spin was initiated and continued below the CARs minimum aerobatic recovery altitude. The wings hadn't come off, but a hole in the engine exhaust stack had allowed some carbon monoxide to enter the cabin, which combined with some health issues the instructor had, were listed as contributing factors in the accident.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

I'm at Lisa's parents house right now, hanging out with them for the Canada Day weekend.

We are in a small town, but they had a fireworks display last night which we attended. The fireworks were loaded aboard a barge and towed out into the middle of the local harbour, with the whole town turning out along the shoreline to watch them. We lucked out; a guy I used to work with who goes by the name of Scurvy Dog lives here and he graciously invited us aboard his boat for the display.

Lisa took these pics on the boat while I was upstairs watching Scurvy Dog get his nautical groove on, deftly moving the boat through the harbour to get us a good view of the upcoming fireworks.

The reflection in this next pic is the all-seeing eye of Sauron. Or the camera. The former makes for a better story, so I'm going to go with that.

Once it got dark, the fireworks started. They were decent, but really short. As in 14 minutes long. You can see the other boats in the harbour, sort of. I like how the fireworks shade the color of the water beneath them.

Anyway, that was yesterday.

Today, we went to see some friends, then went to the local Canada Day parade. This community is rural, so the parade definitely had a country theme.

The little girl was ridiculously cute; her father would waggle the wheelbarrow and she would wave her flag to the crowd.

I spent a little too much time in the sun, and I broiled my hairless skull a wee bit. Trust me when I say that a scalp-burn hurts like hell. I dunked my head in a pail of aloe vera and I'm hoping my remaining hair doesn't peel off.

I'm too embarassed to take a real pic of myself right now, so I have simulated what I look like at the moment using a pic I took earlier today.

Despite my hideous visage, Lisa's parents took the family out to a nice restaurant to celebrate her convocation from university a few weeks ago. I ate half my body weight. Now we are back home, where I am rubbing more lotion on my sunburn and watching an amazing nature documentary called "Planet Earth"

I love my job, but I also enjoy the occasional day like this, where aviation seems a thousand miles away.

Happy Canada Day eh!!!