Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Things I want, in random order:

1. A Nintendo Wii. It looks like a really cool, cheap system but they are always sold out.
2. Abs. I blame the movie '300'. Damn you Gerard Butler!
3. My own Twin Otter on floats with custom interior featuring fridge and massive stereo system and grill that attaches to one of the floats.
4. Good health right up until I croak
5. Six-figure salary and good lifestyle in a stable job
6. While I'm wishing for #5 above, I might as well wish for a unicorn too
7. Zero debt, or at least less debt.
8. Some solution to what appears to be the imminent environmental end of our planet
9. A steaming hot shrimp / bacon / swiss cheese with lettuce and fiery plum sauce on a baguette
10. Live closer to my family. I miss them.
11. See 'Tool' live in concert again
12. Select invisibility so I can walk around naked in my house and not have to draw the blinds. You're welcome for the visual ;)
13. Watch a good new zombie movie - like maybe zombies downtown in a major city vs. the remnants of a SWAT team. The upcoming Fido looks promising, as does the upcoming project by Zack Snider (director of 300) called "Army of the Dead", which features a dad attempting to rescue his daughter in zombie-infested Las Vegas

I'm done with:

1. Rude or psycho drivers on highway 401 on my drive to/from the airport
2. Playstation 3. A thousand bucks for a game system and a game? I don't think so.
3. Dark ales that taste like motor oil and are served at room temperature.
4. The smell of cigarette smoke
5. Hair salons (get it? 'cause I'm bald!)
6. Bottled water.

What's on your list?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's an anniversary today, thought not a good one.

Today marks 30 years since the deadliest airplane accident ever in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, where 583 people died and scores of others were injured.

It's a prime example of links in the accident chain, and this accident is frequently quoted during cockpit resource management training, so let's take a quick look at it. This is just a blog post though, so it's kind of half-assed. For a full report on this, try Wikipedia,

The two Boeing 747 jumbo jets involved were initially headed to Las Palmas airport in the Canary Islands, but it had been closed due to a terrorist attack, so both jets were sent to Los Rodeos airport in Tenerife, which was a small airport that wasn't easily able to accomodate large passenger jets.

There was only 1 runway and 1 taxiway at the airport, and other diverted large jets were parked on the taxiway, so aircraft wanting to depart would have to go on the runway and taxi all the way down to the end before turning around and taking off.

A KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 747 was ready to go, so it was cleared to taxi down the runway to the end, turn around and wait there for further clearance. At the same time, a Pan Am 747 was given clearance to taxi down the runway behind the KLM 747, then to turn off the runway on a short taxiway so as to clear the runway for the KLM 747 to take off.

This sounds like a good time to add some thick fog, so let's do that. Fog started to form around the Los Rodeos airport, limiting the visual range to between 1/4 and 1/8th of a mile of visibility.

Now check out this diagram. It's a simplified drawing of the airport at Los Rodeos, and it sort of shows what happened.

The KLM plane taxied all the way down to the end of the runway and turned around. The Captain, perhaps wanting to make up some lost time, initially attempted to take off but was immediately stopped by the First Officer who pointed out that they didn't have clearance. So the plane sat at the end of the runway, in heavy fog, and waited for clearance.

Now the Pan Am 747 was told to taxi down the runway in the fog, and then to take the 3rd exit on the left so as to clear the runway. The runway charts weren't very detailed and there was some confusion on the part of the Pan Am plane - if you look at exit '3' on the drawing, you'll see that if you are planning on taking it, you need to turn sharply to get on it, and then turn sharply again to get off it. That's not an easy thing to do on a 747, so the crew assumed that the controller meant they were supposed to go to taxiway '4' and clear, which is a gentle turn and which would be a lot easier for the 747 to do.

(I cut n pasted this next paragraph from Wikipedia as their wording is perfect) "he KLM crew then received an ATC airways clearance; a clearance to fly a certain route after take-off, but not permission for the take-off itself. The captain may have mistaken this for a take-off clearance. He released the brakes of the aircraft and the co-pilot responded with a heavy Dutch accent with words that could either be "We are at take off" or "We are taking off". The control tower was confused by the message and asked for the KLM plane to stand by. However, simultaneous communication from Pan Am caused mutual interference. All that was audible was a heterodyne beat tone, making the tower response inaudible to the pilots. Coincidentally, Pan Am was reporting they had not finished taxiing. Either message, if broadcast separately, might have given the KLM crew time to abort its takeoff."

Because it was really foggy, the KLM plane couldn't see the Pan Am plane down the runway. The airport control tower couldn't see either aircraft, and unfortunately the airport didn't have ground radar either.

While the KLM crew had started its take-off run, the tower instructed the Pan Am crew to "report when runway clear". The crew replied: "OK, we'll report when we're clear". On hearing this, the KLM flight engineer expressed his concern about the Pan Am not being clear of the runway, repeating this concern a few seconds later, but he was overruled by the captain. The flight engineer did not explicitly challenge him on this decision.

How unfortunate that the company culture of KLM at the time was such that the captain's word was not to be questioned. The Captain on the KLM flight was one of the most senior and respected Captains, and had even appeared in KLM advertisements. If the flight engineer had felt more confident, perhaps his warnings would have been more forceful.

Anyway, the KLM plane rolled down the runway toward the Pan Am plane. Both Captains then saw each other's lights in the fog, which must have been...unpleasant. The Pan Am Captain immediately added full power in an attempt to make taxiway 4 in time. The KLM Captain was going too fast to stop before hitting the Pan Am 747, so he immediately started to pull the nose of his plane up in an attempt to fly over the Pan Am 747 and avoid a collision that way.

It didn't work out.

The bottom of the KLM plane slammed into the top of the Pan Am plane, which tore the Pan Am plane apart. The KLM plane continued for a few hundred feet, then crashed back down onto the runway, caught fire and exploded.

All 248 people aboard the KLM 747 died, as well as 326 passengers and 9 crew members aboard the Pan Am 747. 61 people aboard the Pan Am aircraft survived, including the cockpit crew.

So let's summarize:

1. The KLM 747 started to take off without a take-off clearance.
2. The KLM captain did not abort take-off when the Pan Am crew reported that they were still on the runway, as both the tower and the Pan Am plane were talking at the same time, which results in the radios broadcasting static instead of anything useful.
3. The Pan Am 747 continued to exit 4 instead of exiting at number 3 as directed by ATC.
4. The KLM Captain emphatically told the Flight Engineer that the Pan Am plane was clear of the runway when the Flight Engineer expressed concern.
5. There was use of non-standard phrases used by the KLM co-pilot ("We're at take off") and the Tenerife control tower ("O.K.").
6. Heavy ground fog prevented either plane from seeing each other on the runway until it was too late.

Those are just the most obvious links too.

As I think about this, I think about one of the most valuable things I have ever heard from a Transport Canada Inspector. This was years ago, and I was attending a Pilot Decision Making course. He said "Any time anything isn't totally routine on a flight, sit up and take notice. Double-check your procedures and double-check your checklists, because the first link in the accident chain has already been created, and your odds of crashing just went way up."

Words to live by.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The charter flight went fine; the weather was perfect and despite worries of freezing fog at our destination, nothing materialized and we landed under clear blue skies. It was +7 when we departed Toronto but considerably colder at our destination and I forgot to bring my warm winter jacket and I was a chilly willy in the outdoors.

We gassed up, loaded our pax and headed home. I took some pics but they are all boring ones like this view of northern Ontario at 37,000':

Waiting for our pax in the great white north.

Shiny metal on the thrust revserers aids my egocentric nature

Our pax showed up and we loaded up. We lit the fires and headed for home, the engines happily converting huge amounts of money into smaller amounts of forward thrust.

One minor note is that one or more of the passengers must have recently had some internal tweaking, as over the course of our return flight both Kitsch and I were afforded the luxury of inhaling some odors that really should not exist. It wasn't bad enough for us to have to go on oxygen, but it wasn't the smell of Grandma's fresh apple pie either.

*The Next Paragraph Is Gross* You Have Been Warned*

This leads me to an aside - the only time I have had to go on oxygen while flying was when I flew medevacs, and it was due to the smell of the burn victims in the back of the MU-2's. It's really hard to convey the smell of that, but apparently we are hard-wired to recognize the smell as "VERY BAD" in nose-speak, and just smelling it can be completely distracting, so much so that flying the airplane was nearly impossible unless we got our air from a sealed, separate source. Oh, and just to really gross you out, not only does your nose recognize the smell of cooked human as "VERY BAD", it also recognizes it as delicious food, which can really set up a short-circuit in the ol' brainpan. Hopefully I packed peanut butter sandwiches in my crew lunch those days rather than roast beef.

Anyway, long story short, the entire flight was very pleasing to most of my other senses, if not my nose.

We landed safely back home, and loaded our pax into one limousine and their 2 bags into a second limousine. I guess if you have the cash to charter a private jet for a long flight, it's not too outrageous to meet the flight with a separate car just for a couple of small pieces of luggage. I guess.

I'm looking at the ending to this post and it doesn't have a 'zinger', so here's something scary and awesome to look at instead.

(From YouTube link) "One of largest and fastest passenger cruisers Voyager, in cyclone Valentina, middle Mediterranean Sea, 14.02.2005"

I hope they had lots of barf bags on board.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tomorrow we have a pop-up charter - heading 3 hours northwest then 2 hours southeast back home.

Yeah, that's right; what will take us 2 hours and 57 minutes to get to will only take us 1 hour and 47 minutes to return home from.

What causes this crazy difference in time? Let's blame it on the jetstream! Tomorrow, the jetstream is predicted to be directly along most of our route at around 140 miles per hour.

What's the jetstream anyway? Well, first of all it's a mass of air around thirty thousand feet up. It's a relatively skinny airmass, like a ribbon, that usually moves from west to east at a hundred and fifty miles an hour in summer, and two hundred and fifty miles an hour in winter.

That's great if you are going east, but not so good if you are going west. If we are going 400 mph heading west through the air but the air is doing 150 mph heading east, then we are only flying over the ground at 250mph, which means it takes us longer to cover the distance of a trip. This map shows the jetstream and is scheduled to come into effect at 8am Toronto time tomorrow morning.

The jetstreams are the thick blue lines on this chart.

If a jetstream is unusually strong it might have CAT, or clear air turbulence associated with it, which can make for a really bumpy ride. If you refer back to the weather chart, you'll see that around Toronto, there is a warning on the map to expect moderate Clear Air Turbulence (CAT) below 36,000', expressed exquisitely in aviation talk as MDT CAT BLO 360. You'll also see that just north of the Toronto area, 2 jetstreams merge into one. You know that ain't good when it comes to turbulence.

So this is where I can earn my Captain's bars - I look at that and decide maybe we should climb up to 38,000' on our flight so as to be above the predicted turbulence. By eliminating one source of possible discomfort for my passengers, I have potentially saved hot coffee from being spilled in a lap, or perhaps fresh catered lunches from being barfed on our expensive interior.

But unfortunately even though we'll be above the core of the jetstream, we'll still have to suffer through 3 hours of headwind and maybe 2 hours of tailwind. Good thing we have an MP3 player on board :)

I have a fresh battery pack for the camera and I'll be sure to get some good photos.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The title of the article and the web-page are both slightly inflammatory, no? Read the article for what actually happened.

[warning: lots of popups so make sure your popup blocker is on]
Delhi-Bangkok flight makes crash landing at Kolkata!!

Delhi-Bangkok flight makes crash landing at KolkataAdd to Clippings

21 Mar, 2007 1644hrs

KOLKATA: A Delhi-Bangkok flight of Indian Airlines made an emergency landing at the Kolkata airport on Wednesday afternoon after a passenger reportedly claimed to be carrying explosives.

The passenger, a foreign national, was arrested and handed over to the police after the flight landed here, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport director V K Monga said.

The plane was being checked for any explosives, said the official, adding that all passengers were safe.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I was at an office the other morning, and I was walking down the hallway when I heard this:

"Hey, do you like hash brownies?" - from one computer network guy to another.
"What?" - the astonished reply.

Keep in mind that the office is open, so a yelled conversation is audible to most of the floor.

"" - spoken slowly and condescendingly, and at volume.

I walked over to the first guy's cubicle, saw the bag of McDonald's Breakfast Value Meal on the desk and had a good chuckle.

"Those are hash browns. Hash brownies are different."
"Oh. Well do you want them or not? I don't like the grease."

Hey, the guy is a whiz on the mainframe.
Chopper wars 2!! The hobby store is starting to love us...

It gets good around 40 seconds in, with the grand finale around 1:20.

Airplane stuff coming up shortly.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Whilst I'm blogging about arial hijinks, here's a clip I found on that shows in-flight refueling gone wrong.

Pilot Screws Up In Flight Refueling - Click Here for more great videos and pictures!
Highlights of our chopper wars, this video was taken in my living room.

Meet Superfly and J-rod, the two guys who live in my basement. They work for regional air carriers. Between the 3 of us we can get pretty stupid when it comes to radio controlled action.

Funny / cool stuff at 1:20, 2:30, 2:55, 3:30

Sunday, March 18, 2007

My 'real' aviation post is the one below this, this is just a bonus.

Check out this insane fiddler doing some 80's rock tunes.

I took this pic yesterday morning just before heading toward the airport, just to provide positive proof that there is a 3:44 of the am. The glamorous life of a pilot. Yeah the pic is blurry, but at 3:44am I'm fairly blurry too so it's an accurate image.

Once airborne, I make sure my energy level remains high.

A million square miles of earth below us, we soak up the sunshine as we head toward home.

We are in cruise when we hear "Air Transat 923 TCAS descending"

That means that a box in the Air Transat plane has told it that it has detected another plane on a collision course and the Air Transat plane needs to take evasive action, usually in the form of an immediate climb or descent. The Air Transat plane's magic box told it to descend, and when you use TCAS (the magic box), you are trained to follow its orders over the orders of air traffic control, so if the controller says to climb and your magic box says to descend, then you descend.

And when your TCAS tells you to climb or descend, you do it whether or not the lunch carts are in the aisles and whether or not any passengers are taking sharp, heavy things out of the overhead bins. A TCAS collision resolution isn't as violent a manoeuvre as a loop or a roll, but I bet it wouldn't be very fun to be a passenger sitting in the back.

The controller came back immediately. "Air Transat confirm level at FL 330 (33,000')"

"We read back FL 390" said the Air Transat pilot

"Okay, Air Transat 923, immediately descend and maintain FL 330"

And that was that. The controller had wanted the Air Transat plane to level off at 33,000', but they mistakenly thought they were good to climb up to 39,000', which put them in conflict with other traffic. Fortunately, the TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system) magic box intervened and helped prevent a possible mid-air collision.

Now here's an interesting part - not very many airplanes have to have TCAS installed on board, and it's generally only larger jets that have the technology. If the Air Transat plane had been a smaller, older jet instead, odds are they wouldn't have had the TCAS magic box on board.

Anyway, here's a quick video of our return flight yesterday, goofing around. The camera's resolution sucks, so you can't see any GPS details like I had hoped.

We are indicating 188 knots at FL 370, which means you can see us in our Mach 0.60 glory.

Friday, March 16, 2007

We got back from lunch to hear the howling of a thousand angry vacuum cleaners. It was an MU-2, one of the actual planes I used to fly on medevacs a few years ago. My logbook tells me the last time I flew this plane it was from Sudbury to Moosonee to Kingston to North Bay to Timmins to Sudbury, logging nearly 8 hours flight time in the process. It says only 1.5 hours of the flying was at night, so I'm guessing the trip was scheduled for a decent hour and wasn't the dreaded 3am callout.

Anyway, I spoke to the flight crew briefly - they are doing a drop-off and a pick-up, and about to head seriously north for the second-last leg of their day. I got the captain to show me his pager, which was the same make and model as the one I wore when I flew medevacs. He made it play the tone, and even though I was standing there watching him, and even though I haven't flown an MU-2 since 2004, I still got a jolt of adrenaline when I heard the pager tone. Pavlov pwns.

I bumped into a medic I had befriended and hadn't seen since I left Thunder, so that was cool.

We head south tomorrow for some flying, so I'll take a pile of pics then.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Things have been slow lately, and that's fine by me.

No news is good news and all that ;)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

At least the flight down was nice - we had clear blue sky for the whole trip, and the air was smooth. The pax in the back were happy and content, and Kitsch's landing was of sufficient quality that we could use the airplane again afterwards, so it was all good.

We arrived around 1pm today, and taxied over to US Customs for clearance. The US Customs ramp we visited today is funny - you can taxi the airplane there, but it also holds cars, so we pulled up right next to a Customs SUV and then shut down to await our officers.

Customs has a special way of doing things here, a way that involves different forms and procedures than anywhere else I have ever been, so that was fun.

The customs officers asked "Do you have any food on board?"
"Yes, we have catered lunches for our passengers"
"Do they have any fruit or meat?"
"Then you'll have to throw them out."
"Okay, we were going to throw out the boxes when we got to the FBO"
"No, you have to throw them out in this designated bin"

The officer pointed to a bright red bin that was clearly too small to hold our used box lunches. So I stacked them on top of the bin, precariously like a Jenga puzzle, and that seemed to satisfy him.

We said goodbye to Customs, fired up the plane and taxied to to the FBO. We dropped off our pax and put the plane to bed. After that we took a courtesy car to a local restaurant for lunch, which was able to show me that it is actually possible to screw up corn on the cob.

Headed back to the FBO, and we saw a US Navy 737 coming in to great fanfare. They were bringing troops back from Iraq and there was a full police escort assembled to welcome them back. The FBO worker who gave us a ride to the main terminal said "Those are reserve troops. I am in the regular forces and I didn't get none of that when I came back from Iraq"

There was a full complement of bagpipers, with American flags affixed to their bagpipes like bayonets. I bet those soldiers felt relieved coming home.

We hitched a ride from the FBO to the main airport at the airport, and waited in line for 30 minutes before the non-smiling Air Canada lady told us we had to wait an additional 30 minutes before they'd let us check in. I told her that it would take us at least 30 minutes to go through the line again and she looked at me blankly, with lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eyes, chief.

Kitsch then remembered the ban on liquids and also remembered he had a whole bunch of expensive moisturizers and lotions in his bag, so he called the FBO, got a ride back to our jet and put his stuff on board for safekeeping. He hitched a ride back to the main terminal and arrived back here before I was done going through the line-up the second time. I laughed at him for forgetting about the liquid ban.

Oh yeah, the second time I lined up, it sucked. There were 2 people on duty and the line-up was over a hundred people by the time we got to the front. I asked the lady why there weren't more check-in people and she said "I couldn't even tell you", so I left her alone.

Why are we flying commercial anyway? We are flying back to Pearson on Air Canada because it it cheaper and more convenient for us to fly home for a week, then fly back to pick up our plane and passengers for the return leg.

Anyway, the non-smiling Air Canada lady gave us our boarding passes, and we went to line up for security. I forgot that we have to remove our shoes to go through the security station, and to my eternal shame I wore socks with holes in them. They double-checked my laptop, my Blackberry, and the contents of my laptop bag.

Now remember how I laughed at Kitsch for forgetting the ban on liquids?

The security guard pulled out my Leatherman Super Tool from my laptop bag and raised his eyebrow. A Leatherman is just like a Swiss Army knife, and I know they aren't allowed on carry-on. I have it my flight bag and it's proven useful over the years. Unfortunately I only brought my laptop bag on this trip because I didn't want to wait in Toronto for an hour tonight to pick up my checked bag. The TSA guy was helpful and apologetic; he said I could go back through the line and go to the Air Canada counter and ask them to check my Leatherman, but I didn't want to stand in line for a third time, so I gave up my Leatherman, which I have had since my first job at Northern Dene Airways in 1997.

We took the monorail to our gate, had some airport food, loaded up on the 321, then watched movies and ate sandwiches for the 2 hours and 40 minutes back to Toronto

So what happens to my Leatherman now?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

This could have been a LOT worse.
Not-safe-for-work language.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Random memories about flying commercial when I was young and small. When I was young and small I traveled a lot with my parents and some of my earliest memories are aviation-related.

The sound of a pop can opening does it for me. I guess the first times I heard it must have been on board an airliner, because it always makes me think of a flight attendant opening a can of Coke for a passenger. The passenger is reading a magazine on a long-haul flight to Europe, the cabin is dimmed and "Heaven Can Wait" is playing on the in-flight movie. The Coke has been poured into a small plastic cup, and there is a maraschino cherry impaled on a little plastic sword also sitting in the cup. A couple of airplane ice cubes and a napkin, maybe a couple of shortbread cookies completes the scene.

The smell of lit jet fuel has also seeped into my brain - it brings back the memory of flying to Dublin on a Wardair 747, listening to David Bowie's "Let's Dance" on my Sony Walkman tape player and reading comic books for 6 hours straight. Those were good times - I was just entering my teens, discovering girls, dyeing my hair blue and wearing combat boots, and my trips with my parents were among the occasions we could relax and enjoy each other's company.

I remember talking to a flight attendant and asking him if he liked airplane food. "I'm sick and tired of it, Sir" was his reply. I remember thinking it was a very curious response, as flying in an airplane was an exceptionally glamorous way to make a living.

Once when I was around 8 or 10, I was flying transcontinental with my dad and when I had to go pee, I forgot to latch the little lock in the airplane's washroom. A fellow passenger opened the door soon afterwards and I nearly peed on his shoes when I spun around. I triple-check the lock on the bathroom door now.

I remember visiting my relatives in British Columbia for a week each Summer and travelling as an unaccompanied minor and having to wear a nametag around my neck. I loved it though - I felt very grown-up and important because I had a customer service rep sitting with me the entire time I waited to make a connection at Vancouver International airport. Even first-class passengers didn't get their own customer service reps, so clearly it meant I was royalty.

And last but not least, the lemony-detergent smell of moist towelettes is the smell of doing 10 miles a minute over the surface of the planet, just finishing our first in-flight meal, chatting amongst ourselves, excited about what we'd do and see when we landed.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Nice google video of why it might be a good idea to wear a parachute if you happen to be pushing the physical limits of your airplane.

"Kevin Eldridge Bails out of the Super Corsair at the first annual Phoenix Air races. Notice he turns the plane away from the airshow crowd and points the plane at the ground before bailing out. You can bet his butt was getting really hot judging from the intense flames. The Super Corsair exploded upon impact, a sad loss. Kevin had minor injuries, but he is fine today. Announcer is Sandy Sanders"

Monday, March 05, 2007

Responsibility. What the hell is that? That means it's my fault when stuff goes sideways, or when stuff doesn't get done.

Most of the time my official title is a convenient one, a way to explain to the random pilots I meet on the road that I do paperwork as well as fly. During audit time, it means a whole lot more, and less. It means it's my fault if our pilots don't fill out their paperwork. It means it's my fault if a pilot under my care and control requests a long landing and ends up off the end of the runway. It's my fault if the catering is late to arrive, and it happens to also be my fault if there's a lunar eclipse and it somehow results in departure delays of thirty-five minutes on a charter. Just to clarify, and in case our insurance broker is reading this, none of this stuff has actually happened - it's just a way to illustrate my point.

And the funny part is I'm just this guy. I work hard, and I have a brain, but it's not like I was bestowed supernatural knowledge about how to manage operations. There is no training school for this, no "Paperwork" type rating and no memory items that will carry me through. Hell, half the time I feel like I'm about to give a speech in front of the whole school and I forgot to wear pants. At least I am lucky enough to learn quick and that helps a little - it means that for every rookie mistake I make, I learn not to make that particular mistake again.

I just wish there weren't sooo many different kinds of mistakes to make.

Sometimes the operations side of things feels like like taking a competency check ride every day, every day. If I lose, I'm done. And if I pass, my reward is that I get to do it again tomorrow.

For a charter from Toronto to Teterboro, these items have to be completed or I can be fined or punished criminally:

1.Check weather and get printout of said weather, proving the trip is safe
2.file flight plan customs initially with details of flight
4.go to homeland security website and enter a million details about each passenger
5.fax our FAA supervisor with our flight itinerary
6.fill out Gen Dec forms and fax them to customs
7.make sure pax (and crew) fill out Gen Dec cards in addition to aforementioned Gen Dec forms
8.make sure all pax have valid passports
9.make sure predicted / updated arrival time is communicated to customs, no matter what
10. When returning to Canada, repeat steps 1, 2, 3, 8 and 9 but with a Canadian official.

That's 10 steps, and that's just stuff I can go to jail for, that's not including stuff like "make sure passengers have limos waiting" or "make sure de-ice is available at destination airport" or "make sure coffee is always hot and magazines aren't old" or "make sure fuel on board is above minimum required but not above maximum allowed" etc.

All that being said, at least I got to fly today and that helped remind me of why I do this job - it was awesome. The plane behaved, I got to see some really cool sights, and I greased my landing in 35 knot crosswinds, which was a rare and welcome event.

And I guess after all my bitching, that's what it's all about. Flying a jet is the best job on the planet, and I'm lucky to be here. I just have to really keep that in mind for the next while, at least until all our audits are done.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

This is a Dornier Alpha jet that showed up on the ramp on Friday. It's absolutely tiny - I'm taller than the wings are. It's pretty cool looking though.

It's owned by a Quebec-based company that offers combat support services to our armed forces (the site doesn't work in Firefox, I had to use IE)

In my video I say "old-school avionics", which is only partially correct. The main cockpit instrumentation is old, but the owner operates 8 of these jets to help teach electronic warfare to our troops, so I'm guessing it has some pretty sophisticated stuff on board too, probably out of sight of a casual passerby like myself. My bad.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Stuck microphones can be hilarious, or they can be awful. I guess it depends on which end you're on.

The following stories have mild expletives, so if that offends you, tune in tomorrow for a different post.


It was 1999 and we were flying flying back from Hamilton to Goderich in our Baron, C-GPAA. I forget who was in the left seat, but Scurvydog was aboard and we were chatting about various gross things like guys tend to do. Our standard route was direct from Hamilton to Goderich at 6,000', and we were heading straight home when we got an unexpected 30 degree vector for oncoming traffic. We turned to the left and continued talking about some things that had occured when I flew in Northern Saskatchewan - messy things, things that aren't mentioned in mixed company, things that might make people mistakenly think I'm a total pig.

We had been chatting for about 5 minutes when I noticed that our air traffic controller hadn't cleared us back direct to Goderich. I was in full bloom, and announced to Scurvydog "Man, this controller sucks. I mean, Helloooo, how about direct Goderich. Jaysus, if he was here, I'd stick my fist up his ass"

It was then that we both noticed the little green light on our COM1 radio, the one that indicates when we are transmitting, was lit up.

I fumbled with my microphone push-to-talk switch, clicked it a few times, and the light went out.

"PAA, you have had a stuck mic for the past 5 minutes. Watch your language and contact Toronto Center on 135.3"

"I am so, so sorry sir. If you need me, I'll be in the back of the plane with my head in my hands"

"Don't worry about it. Over to center now on 135.3"

As it so happened, a bunch of Scurvydog's friends were flying that night and were on frequency. He fielded a lot of phone calls asking for "The fist of fury" over the next few weeks.


It was 2005, and we were finishing up my airborne training on the Citation II. As it was my first jet type rating, I had to do 3 takeoffs and landings as well as some emergency procedures in the actual airplane, and we elected to go to Peterborough for that. The training went fine, and we were returning to Pearson when we were told by center to switch over to Toronto arrival.

We did, and heard this...

"Hey, is that Citation on frequency yet? When he flips over I'll ask him what runway he wants and give him the opposite! Ha ha ha! I wonder if they want to be screwed with or without a condom. Wait, what's going on..."

Then the controller's stuck mic was cut off, and we heard

"(our registration) are you on frequency?"

"Yes sir. We are hoping for runway 5, and we'd prefer it if you used a condom"

"Roger, expect runway 5 and contact arrival on (whatever frequency)"


So you see, it all depends on which end you are on. The first story wasn't funny at all, but the second one was pretty hilarious :)