Sunday, November 22, 2009

On November 1st, Toronto Pearson abolished late-night or early morning arrivals and departure for general aviation (meaning non-airline) aircraft. That means we can no longer operate between the hours of 12:30am and 6:30am, under penalty of a fine equivalent to 16x the max landing fee (which is already exorbitant).

We do about 50 company flights a year, and about a third of those are scheduled for departure before 6am - the object of a business trip is usually to fly somewhere far away but arrive in time for a morning meeting. Anyway, Pearson has totally screwed us and I'm sure I will rant more about this at a future date, but for now I will just include this so you are aware it's an additional consideration in my flight planning.

For example, we flew to Quebec City last week to take some people to an evening function there. On the return trip home, we were scheduled to drop off a few of the passengers at a smaller airport before heading back to Pearson for the night.

We figured that in still-air conditions, we would have to be airborne at 10:30pm at the latest in order to land at the smaller airport and drop off some pax and then fly to Pearson and land before the 12:30am cutoff. We told the passengers this, and explained that if we weren't airborne by 10:30 no matter what, we wouldn't be ending up in Pearson that night.

I mentioned still-air conditions. Turns out, the air wasn't still at all. The jetstream was in town, and at 33,000' we had 100 knots on the tail on the way to Quebec City. That meant we got there in just over an hour, but it also meant that it would take us just over 90 minutes to fly the same thing in reverse, which would put us pretty tight on time for getting back into Pearson.

Our passengers showed up at 10:15, and we were airborne at 10:29. At our flight-planned altitude we were estimating an 89-minute flight to the small airport before a roughly 20-minute flight home, giving us 10 minutes to land, taxi in, drop off our passengers then fire up and take off. My previous world-record quick-turn time is 12 minutes, so this was going to be a real challenge, if not impossible.

Have no fear, this is when I get a chance to shine and to show I earn my few bucks an hour salary. I took a page from Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan and decided to think in 3 dimensions, which took a lot of brain power so I made sure I was sitting down first.

A couple of relevant performance figures:

At 33,000', we burn ~1,100 lbs/hour of fuel and cruise at 355 knots true.
At 18,000', we burn ~1,700 lbs/hour of fuel and cruise at 340 knots true.

I decided to eat the additional fuel burn and fly to the small airport at 18,000', where the winds were only 10 knots. We avoided the wicked headwinds upstairs and got there in 70 minutes, saving us 20 minutes of flight time and giving us a decent buffer for landing in Toronto. And on top of that, we even saved money.

We burned more gas per hour, but for less hours. The end result was we burned maybe 200 lbs more fuel than if we had climbed to a higher altitude and flown home at 33,000', but we saved 0.3 flight hours.

For the blog, we'll estimate it costs us roughly twenty-two dollars per minute to operate our jet. A pound of gas costs us about 50 cents. So, I burned about a hundred bucks more worth of fuel by flying low, but as a result I was able to save about four hundred bucks in operating costs. As a flight department manager that's a relevant consideration, so it was nice to be able to save a few bucks in addition to making it home before the curfew.

We arrived to clear skies and calm winds, and touched down 15 minutes before cutoff.


Paul Tomblin said...

Don't you have flight planning software that will do calculations like this automatically and find you the optimum altitude? I know they exist, I've just never used them because in a piston single I like to fly high (9000 or 10000 feet) no matter what the winds because the ride is smoother and you have more time to react to problems than if you're bouncing along at 3000 feet).

ScurvyDog said...

How have the powers at the company reacted to the curfew at YYZ? I'm sure having a multi million dollar flight department and not being able to use it 1/3 of the day would burn their butt! Plus as you said, most business meeting are in the morning, making it incredibly difficult to arrive in time.

david said...

WTF? Canada's largest airport bans G.A. for six hours/day? Sounds like some people at the GTAA need to clear their heads by pounding them with bricks for a few hours.

Aviatrix said...

Are they trying to push GA out to Buttonville or Downsview or somewhere?

Blake said...

Hmm.. they could be trying to push them to Buttonville. However, last I checked YKZ is PPR between 11pm-7am.

Last I checked, Downsview was PPR 24/7.

The only other reason why I could think of the ban would be noise Abatement? But that's just ridiculous!

david said...

I'm guessing it is noise abatement, but if it is, what a moronic idea!

Not only is CYYZ a major international hub, but there are very few jet-capable alternates nearby: Buttonville and Oshawa also have curfews, City Centre has a curfew *and* bans jets (except for medevac), and Downsview is closed to the public.

That leaves Peterborough, Waterloo, and Hamilton, which are all far out of town (and I'm not 100% sure Hamilton and Waterloo don't have curfews, too).

Maybe Sulako's company should sell the Citation and set up with a King Air on the Island. They'll still have to deal with a curfew, but they'll be at a cooler (and cheaper) airport, at least, and right downtown.

Aluwings said...

Hoo hoo! Great thinking-on-your-feet... or whatever part of the anatomy is involved while flight planning.

I can sympathize with your angst, your operational complications as well as financial implications. The airlines, as you know, have been dealing with curfews for a long time. More than once I've ended up cruising at FL280 for maximum TAS, with VMO/MMO on the speed dial, to avoid a late night diversion to Mirabel instead of Dorval/Trudeau.

Our flight planning software uses a Cost Index (CI) number that includes the company's individual hourly costs vs. average fuel costs. There must be something like that available for bizjets? No?

Interesting story - thank's as always for sharing.

Chef. said...

I personally love the reference to Khan and Star Trek. It's always bugged me that bizspeak embraced 'thinking outside the box' over Kirk's far superior 'three-dimensional thinking'. Three-dimensional thinkers think outside the cube ;)

gmc said...

Only three dimensions? What about our 4th D. time - like the captain used here? ;-) ... Not even thinking about String Theory and all the other possible dimensions... and isn't a box already a three-dimensional object?

Just being a troublemaker! Great blog. Great comments.

Security Word: iNesting - what I is doing this Thanksgiving season.