Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This continues from my last two (non-reindeer) posts, so read down to catch up.

I got a whole whack of information in this post from AvCanada, specifically the accident speculation thread. Stuff in quotes is taken verbatim from the discussion thread.

This is the ILS approach chart for Runway 35T into Resolute Bay. Do NOT use this to navigate, it's out-of-date now.

This is what the ILS into Resolute Bay looks like. The ceiling in this approach was 1,300':

On August 20th 2011, First Air flight 6560 was a 737 travelling from Yellowknife to Resolute Bay with 15 people on board, including four crew members. They called about 4 miles final for the runway, and then crashed a few minutes later. The aircraft appears to have been under control, and the surviving passengers reported nothing unusual right up to the point of impact.

The accident report hasn't come out yet, and the following stuff is entirely speculation - I want to make that clear. But I'm going to speculate.

METAR CYRB 202000Z 18009KT 8SM VCFG SCT003 OVC005 07/07 A2986 RMK

The weather at the time of the accident was foggy with low (300') scattered and (500') overcast layers. People on the ground couldn't see much at all, but flight visibility can be very different from ground visibility.

We do know some things: The crew was still in control on three mile final, the engines were running, the aircraft is oriented parallel to the runway and level with the horizon, and the wreckage is strewn across a large area. If it had stalled or a mechanical failure had caused it to rapidly descend it would leave a much smaller impact area. That has all the hallmarks of classic CFIT, or 'controlled flight into terrain'.

Here's a Google earth view of the area around the accident. The wreckage trail is represented by the yellow line. The gully leading down from the nose of the aircraft at the end of the wreckage appears to contain the same washed out sort of area in google and the photo. The two red circles outline similar geometric forms. One is the approach end of 35T. The other is a road structure on a slightly sloping flat area elevated above the airport by about 325 feet and one mile to the right of the centerline of the runway. The lake to the southeast of the wreckage trail could appear in certain cloud arrangements to be similar to the shoreline on the approach to 35T.

The aircraft would have been between two layers of clouds with approximately 200 feet between layers, with the bottom scattered layer at 475 ASL and the top broken layer at 675 ASL. Some of what was a scattered layer from the weather observation point may have been broken in the hill above.

Now here's the thing: Even with the local terrain being a bit confusing, there should have been no problem finding the runway and landing with any normal kind of ILS approach, with a 500 foot ceiling. ILS tolerances are pretty tight, and it would be really hard to conceive why the aircraft would have been a mile to the right of its course, and more or less on runway heading without any abnormal indications to the crew.

Let's add some more information: here's another picture of the accident site, this time with the Resolute VOR location plotted. This one chills my bones.

It turns out the ILS was functional on that day, but suppose the crew didn't get a glideslope indication and decided to fly the Localizer only approach. That takes them down to 540' ASL. The ridge they hit was 653' ASL.

The step down approach (localizer) really comes into the equation if the aircraft is mistakenly inbound on the 167T radial from YRB. In that scenario, the crew believes it is tuned to the ILS, can't get glideslope, and switches to a localizer approach with the final drop only 160 feet four miles back. They keep tracking the 167T radial as if it were the localizer. They don't have glideslope because they're tuned to 112.1 instead of 110.3. Their DME is coming off the VOR.

"In the mistuned VOR scenario, they have to have POKAN on the 167 radial at 4 DME, a mile east of proper track. Then do the procedure turn and fly back inbound on the false localizer. Maybe they left the VOR eastbound with 167 already set on the OBS, flew it needle centered to the false POKAN, did the PT and re-intercepted inbound. Get no GS, maybe call it in U/S, and fly the localizer approach instead. That scenario ends exactly where the accident happened.

I can't see a late tuning of the VOR and nobody noticing that the needle moved when the OBS was turned. If they'd been tracking 167 outbound to Pokan, and then set up the inbound course on the CDI, they wouldn't have noticed it so much as they would have been in the PT where they would expect it to be deflected."

An added factor now: Has anyone noticed that there is no missed approach point for the LOC/DME approach on the ILS/DME 35T plate? Not on the DND copies anyway. Take a look.

A second factor: Notice how the VOR isn't even depicted on the ILS chart? Why on earth would the crew have it tuned in? Well, a couple of possibilities exist. There was a temporary military control tower at Resolute that day, coordinating aircraft that were participating in a mock search-and-rescue exercise. The control tower was asking other aircraft for their radial and distance to the airport, and the accident aircraft had reported that information to the control tower fairly late in their approach. In order to report that information they would have had to tune in the VOR. The other possibility is that maybe they were using the VOR to navigate to the airport before commencing the approach.

"Another Canadian carrier used to have an unofficial procedure on the 737-200. If you wanted to retain the DME display while doing an ILS, you would tune #1 to the ILS and #2 to the VOR. Then you would transfer the display [overhead switch] to "both on 1" Now, both pilots would have their HSI displaying the info from the #1 radio, and the dme would readout from the vor still tuned on the #2 radio. This practice was banned after a crew mistakenly switched "both on 2" during an approach to Prince George. Thinking they were tracking the LOC, the aircraft descended towards the YXS VOR and very nearly had an accident. [With both radios tuned to the ILS you would not have a DME readout and there is no DME hold switch on the 200] The practice of transferring the display was then banned and to be used only in case of radio failure. Keep in mind that was another air carrier, not First Air."

Here's a pic of the panel from the actual accident aircraft.

Hmm, same switches.

But wouldn't their GPWS (Ground Proximity Warning System) have saved them? The 737 in question was equipped with an older model, which basically gives no warnings once the landing gear is down. GPWS will only give you two calls "500'" and "Sink Rate", whereas the newer Enhanced GPWS will give 1000', 500' 100', 50', 40', 30', 20', and 10' above ground calls. This late in the approach, the gear would have been down.

So here's my speculation: With the knowledge that the military was asking for radials/DME bearings prior to the crash, maybe the VOR was tuned in, thinking they had the ILS frequency up. Now to those of you who fly IFR, how often have you made a late change in the approach? It happens to me once in a while. If you thought you had the ILS tuned in and once on the approach you had a G/S flag, it would be a fast and easy brief to re-brief for the LOC only approach and continue to the higher minumums (especially in an environment such as the Arctic airports)...if that was the case here, the LOC only minimums still would have put them into a hill if they were tracking the VOR.

One final pic:

This was taken on the LOC DME BC approach to rwy 17T (the accident runway, just landing in the opposite direction) in 2009. The distance to the rwy threshold is less than 1.5NM. Can you spot the runway? Imagine looking for that in low cloud and fog, let alone adding being on the wrong approach frequency.

Lots of links in the accident chain on this one, and again the final report hasn't come out yet - but if it went even remotely close to how I think it went, you can see the tragedy that resulted from a bunch of different factors that added up all at once.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Lisa, myself and the angriest and smelliest reindeer ever :)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I'm referencing my last post, so read down to get caught up.

Those of you who guessed there may have been some confusion with the Teterboro VOR and ILS frequencies, you win a cookie!

The inbound ILS course was set, but when the non-flying pilot read the chart and saw the TEB frequency in the 108 mhz range, he thought "108 is an ILS frequency", and tuned it and identified it. It's not quite that simple,so I'll paraphrase from Wiki:

VORs are assigned radio channels between 108.0 MHz and 117.95 MHz. Turns out the first 4 MHz is shared with the ILS band though. To leave channels for ILS, in the range 108.0 to 111.95 MHz, the 100 kHz digit (the first decimal place) is always even, so 108.00, 108.05, 108.20, and so on are VOR frequencies but 108.10, 108.15, 108.30, and so on, are reserved for ILS.

I didn't know that, but now I do. 108.4 would be a VOR because the .4 is even, where 108.9 would be an ILS because the .9 is not. I learn something new every day, and it's a good way to add a cross-check to the frequency being selected.

As we weren't expecting to see a glideslope indication (the G/S being out of service on this particular day), no warning flares went up right away.

Fortunately for us we were in good weather so we saw the airport a fair ways back, and got aligned with the runway, then discovered our mistake. Also fortunate for us, we were in a radar environment with ATC services, so if we had gone off-course in any major way (or even a minor way, this being among the busiest airspace on the planet), ATC would have let us know.

So how do we prevent this from happening again? Well, with SMS we ask ourselves a bunch of "whys".

Why were we off course? The wrong frequency was entered by the non-flying pilot on the approach.

Why was the wrong frequency entered? The non-flying pilot misread the chart and didn't see the correct frequency.

Why did he misread the chart? From his previous flight experience, he assumed a 108.** frequency would be an ILS (the desired approach), and didn't read further to the right of the chart where the ILS frequency was. It doesn't help that most people read from left to right, and the box on the left was the VOR, while the box on the right was the ILS. A contributing factor was that this was his first trip into the airport.

Why didn't the other pilot catch that in the approach briefing? Because our SOP's dictated that the non-flying pilot is solely responsible for entering the approach frequencies into our radios. A contributing factor was the Glideslope was out of service, so nobody was expecting to see it, the lack of which normally would have been an early indicator of something not-quite-right on the approach.

A-ha! The first part of that last paragraph seems to show a weakness on the part of our procedures - we had just one pilot in charge of confirming the information in the box, and while it had served us for a decade, this incident showed us that it could be improved. I immediately issued a memo stating that from now on, both pilots shall confirm the proper radio frequency is entered into the navigation radios prior to the start of the approach. We have added standard phraseology to our approach briefings "Radio tuned and identified to ***** (whatever the appropriate frequency is), Confirm?" The other pilot will physically point to the approach chart with the desired frequency and then to the nav radio, then both will listen to the proper approach ident, followed by "Confirmed". This will put both pilots more in the loop when it comes to entering this data into the box, which will add an extra layer of protection into our approach procedures.

Tomorrow we will talk about another aircraft that *appears* to have made a chillingly similar error, but with considerably more tragic results. It's pretty fascinating, and from our recent experience I totally get how it could occur. I'm talking about First Air flight 6560, which crashed in August of this year. More tomorrow.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Something happened recently that I want to share with you. We made a mistake, and learned from it. As part of our SMS (Safety Management System), when we make mistakes we try to identify the root cause, and then come up with a way to mitigate the situation so we don't make the same mistake in the future.

We fly to KTEB, Teterboro New Jersey, a lot. It's where most of the corporate jets go when they have passengers who wish to do business in downtown Manhattan. It's about a 30-40 minute drive from the airport to Wall Street, and the airport has less congestion than Newark, JFK or La Guardia.

A little while ago, the plane did a KTEB trip. It was an early-morning departure, and the weather was fine. The approach in use was the ILS (Instrument Landing System) to runway 06. On a full ILS approach, the radio signal lines you up with the runway and also tells you when to descend, and if you are high or low on your descent angle. The ILS approach is the most common instrument approach in most large airports, because most airplanes that use it can fly down to 200' above the ground without looking outside, and on some advanced ILS approaches, some sophisticated airplanes can use the radio signal to fly right down onto the runway without looking outside at all - pretty handy in places like Boston or Vancouver where it can get pretty foggy.

The only unusual variable on this trip was that the ILS for runway 06 had the glideslope radio signal out of service, so the approach only offered lateral guidance, ie it would only line you up with the runway, and you had to use alternate methods to calculate when to descend.

That's a link to the ILS approach onto runway 06, so you can follow along in glorious hi-res if you have a .pdf reader.

This next part is kinda technical, and I can`t figure out how to make it less so for non-pilots, but I`ll have a summary afterwards so bear with me.

The approach is pretty straight-forward - Air Traffic Control will give you radar vectors to intercept the inbound track, which is an angle of 060 degrees to the airport. They usually angle you so that you intercept the approach track at Vings intersection. Now there are a few ways to verify that you are at Vings intersection. One way is to put the waypoint in your GPS receiver, another way is to put the 294 degree radial off the JFK VOR and the 080 degree radial off Solberg VOR and fly over where they cross each other, but another way is to dial in the TEB VOR and when you are on the localizer and at 12.5 DME (taken from the VOR), then you are at Vings. The last way is the way we chose to identify Vings.

In our SOP`s (Standard Operating Procedures), the pilot flying (the guy in the left seat) will brief the approach and the non-flying pilot will tune and identify the radios. This was done, but as the plane approached the airport, it became obvious that the airplane wasn`t quite where it should be. The weather was good, so the pilot flying was able to see the runway about 20 miles back, and lined the airplane up with it nicely.

The thing is, the navigation radios were saying that the airplane was pretty far to the left of the runway, and this caused some confusion in the cockpit. I happened to be sitting in the back on this flight, watching the flight crew, and I was also confused for a few seconds.

Take a long hard look at the approach plate, and see if you can figure out the mistake that was made. Keep in mind that the glideslope was out of service for the ILS, so we weren`t expecting to see any glidepath information, nor did we.

//edit - to add a little information, the plane was showing off-track by only a few degrees, but our localizer indicator was showing nearly full deflection even though we were lined up with the runway. As mentioned earlier, the weather was fine so the briefing was for the visual approach backed up by the Localizer (the localizer is the ILS system without the glidepath system). The pilot flying had flown this approach probably a hundred times in the past few years, but this was the first time the non-flying pilot had been into Teterboro.//

I`ll talk about what happened next tomorrow.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

See how many contributing factors you can identify in this particular gear-up accident. Full-screen and 1080p for maximum detail.

I'm not gonna judge - I have been in situations where I was distracted enough that the gear warning horn was what saved me from a similarly embarrassing landing.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The portable XM iPad weather works great on the ground and in my car, but we don't fly til Sunday so I won't have an airborne assessment for another couple of days.

Let's watch an airplane get hit by lightning while we wait. The difference here is that the airplane is parked on the ramp. Watch it in 480p and fullscreen so you don't miss the tiny details.

From a post on AvCanada by ktcanuk called "Why your bags are delayed in a thunderstorm" :

"An AeroRepublica Embraer 190 hit by lightning in Medellin, Colombia at the gate. You'll need to watch it several times to see all of the action; It’s only about 10 seconds duration. Three key things/areas to watch. First watch the tail of the aircraft as the lightning bolt hits the vertical stabilizer, do not blink, it happens that fast. Next, watch the nose of the aircraft where ground crew walk up to and under the nose of the airplane, then quickly retreat. Then, look just to your left of the nose gear. That brown square on the ground is a metal plate imbedded in the concrete, with an access cover in it. The lightning strike exits the airplane onto the metal plate, which sends the access cover flying through the air toward the tug on the far left."

Friday, November 11, 2011

The iPad has truly revolutionized aviation. I can use it as a moving map, look up airport data, file flight plans and do all sorts of useful and relevant activities.

'real' iPad post coming up next week when our airborne XM weather hardware arrives- I just ordered the Mobile Link package from Baron Systems - it will apparently stream XM weather from the receiver via wifi to my iPad. Gonna use the Foreflight Mobile HD app, which has geo-referenced US approach charts, Canadian charts, and will display the weather right on the charts. At least, that's my hope. We have on-board XM weather already, but it's through a 6-year-old tablet PC that's cranky at the best of times, so I'm hoping for something a little more stable. Next week will tell!

Friday, November 04, 2011

This is why people fly private.

I'm in Orlando at the moment, after dropping the plane off here for a few days, and I'm trying to fly home on Air Canada. As you can see from the pic, the flight is delayed. No big deal there, I understand that planes go mechanical and that sometimes weather can be a factor.

Here's what angers me though: The display is essentially useless: there is no revised ETA. Oh, and no actual human being to talk to either. I took this pic AFTER our scheduled departure time, and we still haven't seen a gate agent or AC rep. If I displayed a similar lack of concern for my clients I'd be out of a job pretty freakin' fast, I can tell you that.

Oh well, at least I can more fully consider my options next time I book a commercial airline ticket. Yeah, I sound bitchy - I'm away from Lisa and Nolan for the first time since he was born, and I don't know when I'm getting home. C'mon Air Canada, get your act together!

I'm fairly proactive when it comes to stuff like this, so I sent a copy of my pic to the Air Canada customer feedback website. This is the reply I got:


Thank you for contacting us.

This is to confirm that we have received your correspondence and there is no requirement to re-submit your information. Our processing time is currently 20 business days for general customer concerns, 30 business days for baggage related issues and up to 4 weeks for baggage tracing. We will make every effort to respond sooner.

We appreciate your patience and understanding as you await our response.


Oh Em Eff Gee. Why even have a customer feedback website if you are going to have delays like that? It only enrages me further...

//continues to grumble about the sorry state of airline travel under his breath...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

First of all, here's a pic of Nolan being philosophical while wearing a monkey hat. I'm absolutely in love, even though he's currently living life on Australian time :)

Now this is kind of a total bait n' switch on my part because this next Youtube video is one of the most tense and disturbing things I have ever listened to. *SPOILER* The guys live. I'm saying this ahead of time because otherwise it would be pretty unbearable listening. I found this video posted on AvCanada.

This is a Mitsubishi MU-2 in severe icing, over the mountains, trying to make it to Kelowna BC. Kelowna is in a valley, with high mountains all around.

The MU-2 has gotten a pretty bad reputation in icing, in fact it was subject to a full icing recertification review after some high-profile accidents. The review found that the MU-2 was properly certified for flight into icing, and that it's perfectly safe to fly in light-to-moderate icing as long as you follow the proper procedures. If you disrespect the airplane in icing, you will hear the angels singing sooner rather than later. I'm absolutely NOT saying that's what happened in this situation, it sounds to me like they were doing everything right but got caught in severe icing, which by definition will even overwhelm icing equipment that's working properly.

If you check the first part of this video
, you'll hear the the guys picked up a lot of icing, and it caused a propellor imbalance. That can cause some serious vibration, to the point of the prop departing the aircraft. The only solution is to reduce power (and descend), or keep the power up and hope the plane doesn't shake apart. A hell of a choice.

I flew the MU-2 for just over a thousand hours, and my older blog entries are full of stories about it. A beautiful machine, but particularly unforgiving.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Welcome Nolan! Weighing in at 7 lbs 5 ounces and scoring a perfect 9/9 on his APGAR test, he entered the world at 830 this morning with a mighty roar. Happy birthday to our champion son! Man, I have never felt an adrenaline rush like that before in my life. I have also never cried like that before in my life. Such a primal rush! Both baby and mom are doing great - they are napping and I'm riding an endorphin high that's taking me into low-earth orbit.

Now back to staring at him while he sleeps...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

*Update* From yesterday's post. We got back from the Doc's office just now and baby Balthor* is scheduled to make his debut blog post on Monday at 8am. My last sleep-in weekend! Ever :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

We are totally set for a home birth, so that's cool. We completed all the checklists, bought all the accessories (sheets, towels, tarps for our bedroom, beer-for-daddy, etc) and are totally set to have our son in 3 weeks! Except for one thing...

We spent a whole whack of time at the hospital yesterday and today, and after taking most of Lisa's blood and most of my sanity, the doc told us a word.

Choleostasis. Ko-leo-stasis.

Big word, right? It translates to "itchy hands and feet at the end of pregnancy, with possible side-effect". Sometimes when a woman is near the end of her pregnancy, her hormones make her liver angry. The angry liver beats up on her gallbladder, which screws up the ratio of gall-bladder salts that it produces.

Fun fact: when your gallbladder salt ratio gets screwed up, it makes your extremities itch like a mofo. It's absolutely unbearable for her, and it gets even worse at night. In fact, we have a big Tupperware container that I fill with water and ice packs, and we get up a couple of times in the middle of the night to soak her feet and hands so she can sleep again for an hour or two.

Unfortunately there is a possible side-effect for our son, and even more unfortunately, the side-effect is 'possible late-term stillbirth', especially if Lisa carries past 38 weeks. The odds are still low, but they are above zero so we are going to err on the side of caution. Lisa is currently at 37 weeks and 2 days, so we are meeting with the obstetrician tomorrow to discuss when she's gonna induce Lisa, which will be before next Tuesday.

Inducing is carried out at the hospital. Oh, as an added bonus they tell us that baby Balthor* will likely enter the world via Cesarean due to (whatever the hell it was the doc said this morning when I was zoned out and not paying attention - I think it had something to do with itchy hands and feet though).

Heck of a thing to go from anticipating an uneventful home-birth to getting ready for a Cesarean in the hospital. At least the end result is a healthy baby, and that's really the point of all of this, isn't it.

Last but not least, we got to see a whole bunch of awesome ultrasound footage of him in the past 24 hours, and he's pretty damn cute. Watch out, ladies who will be graduating in 2029!

Anyway, that's my story. Now to try to get some rest for what is guaranteed to be a loooong day tomorrow, followed by a loooong 18+ years or so :) My God I'm looking forward to it!

*As per agreement between Lisa and myself, Balthor is now a placeholder name (we have a more normal one picked out) unless he enters the world and obviously is a Balthor.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

This is our new F/o. He passed (and did good on) his checkride today! As it was his first jet we had to do some in-aircraft training, so this is our new hire on his first flight in the actual aircraft. For the pilot-geek crowd, the Canadian Air Regulations are written in such a way that if you have not acted as a crewmember on a jet before, you have to do 3 takeoffs and landings in the actual airplane before you are signed off, which must include: normal t/o, visual circuit, normal landing, simulated engine failure on takeoff, simulated engine failure at V1, simulated single-engine landing, non-precision approach, circling approach (if applicable), and at least 1 more landing. I mean, this is on top of spending a couple of weeks at Flightsafety, doing dozens of emergency drills and sweating it out in their simulator with the computer graphics and the motion and whatnot.

You may note that I call him a First Officer but he's sitting in the Captain's seat. Yup. At our company we swap flying legs, meaning we swap between "pilot who is moving the control surfaces of the airplane" and "pilot who is navigating and handling the radios". The placement of the controls / switches / instruments in the cockpit is such that it's a lot easier to actually fly the airplane from the left seat, so that's what we do. All our flight crew are trained and qualified to perform Captain or First Officer duties from either seat, so while our new guy will be sitting in the left seat, the person in the right seat will be a qualified Captain.

Now that he's a flight crew member with us he may turn up from time to time in the blog. I asked him what he wanted to be named online and he had no opinion on the matter, so next up - a contest to give our new F/o an internet handle! Polite suggestions only please :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Yeah, it's been a while since I posted last. I have been both busy and lazy, but I have a few spare moments now so here goes nothing.

1. We hired a new pilot, and he started his training course at Flightsafety earlier this week. In this business attitude is everything and he has a good one, so we are very hopeful for a successful outcome. His last gig was as a Training Captain on the Beech 1900, which is a 19-seat turboprop used by commuter airlines. I think he will likely find the Citation 550 anticlimactic rather than intimidating, at least compared to the Beech 1900 which apparently can be a handful during emergencies.

2. Kitsch flew his first line flight at Air Canada last Monday, and I look forward to hearing about his adventures as an Embraer pilot. It's a very different lifestyle, and it'll be interesting to see how it compares / contrasts to corporate life.

3. Lisa is still pregnant as heck, so that's cool. We are less than 6 weeks from our son's predicted arrival date and I'm enjoying every morsel of rest I get in the interim. Still no consensus on a name though, so keep those suggestions coming. Lisa has agreed to 'Balthor' as a middle name if I whine enough, but that's as far as we have gotten.

4. Lisa's hometown of Goderich (where her and I met) was hit by an F3 tornado and eaten for breakfast by mother nature, so that sucked. The devastation was truly amazing, it looked like a disaster-movie set. Her family is fine, but some of the buildings they own were damaged pretty badly, to the extent that demolition may be required. Again, that sucks. One nice thing was that the company Lisa and I work for donated a bunch of money for relief supplies, so we hit Costco, drove to Goderich, and were able to deliver a lot of good stuff to families who really need it.

Oh, and I continue to fly here and there. For example, I flew to California yesterday. Here, let's talk about that for a second.

Here's a pic I took yesterday afternoon, heading toward Van Nuys airport. You know what's disturbing? See all that white fog? That's not fog, but it rhymes with fog. Mental note: take shallow breaths when inhaling air in L.A.

California was nice, but it was pretty hot. We hurried home so we could ride the ILS into Newark NJ today, which is featured below. Nothing too weird, just an ILS down to 300' with about 2 miles visibility. You can skip forward to about 6:20 when we start to get the lights...

Oh, one last thing for now - here's a special quick video I took a couple of weeks ago and then forgot about.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Our iPad2 is very useful on board the airplane - we have Jeppesen charts installed as well as lots of other useful apps. The iPad2 replaces the original iPad, which I left in a hotel room in Phoenix, AZ. What I'm waiting for is an XM weather receiver that will talk to the iPad via bluetooth so that we can get airborne weather on the iPad. We already have airborne XM weather via a tablet PC on board, but the tablet is cranky and clunky.

Ideally Jeppesen puts weather on their charts as well so we can switch from the weather app to the approach app and still maintain that situational awareness. Their current app is decent, but lots of other iPad apps give you US charts with the airplane superimposed on the charts so you can watch as you fly the approach, and Jepp doesn't offer that yet.

But I digress...yup the iPad2 sure is a neat piece of hardware. Wait, what's that on the top right corner?

Seagull poop maybe?


That's not good. That's what happens when I leave the iPad between the seats, then unlatch my seatbelt and let the buckle fall to the floor, through the iPad screen. I got a cover for it, which was inconveniently underneath the iPad when I dropped the seatbelt buckle on it.

I did that on Wednesday, and yesterday I made an online appointment at the Apple store to see what could be done. When I got there I showed the iPad to the guy and explained that I broke it because I was stoopid, the guy said "Tell you what - I'm going to give you a one-time replacement for it. This time it's free, but if you do this again it'll be $325 to fix the screen." Hell yeah I can agree to those terms! 5 minutes later I walked out of the store with a brand-new replacement iPad for the one I carelessly broke, and new-found respect and admiration for the customer service at Apple.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Red Bull at night, pilot's delight. I have flown 10 of the past 12 days, which is pretty unusual, and the occasional pick-me-up comes in pretty handy - I think this particular Red Bull met its demise on the way back from Boston. I love Red Bull so hard, I seriously do.

Kitch's last day is tomorrow, so we are spending today and tomorrow paperworking and tidying up. The replacement hiring process continues, with many interviews and a couple more to come. Turns out it's pretty hard to blog about the process, at least for the moment, so I think I might wait until we pick someone before I go any further on that front.

Oh, I have used lots of the suggested interview questions / techniques that you all posted in response to my last blog entry, so thanks for those :)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Okay, let's talk more about the hiring process.

For some background, scroll down a couple of posts to the 'everything changes, everything ends' one, then come on back because I need some advice.

The stakes are pretty high for me - whomever gets hired will be working closely with me, and I want to make sure we mesh well. They will also be flying with my boss, who is a great pilot, a smart guy and pretty reasonable to work for, but who also assumes that people will operate at 110% efficiency, so there isn't any room for stupidity or laziness. I like that, because I like the challenge and frankly because I'm up to the challenge - yeah, I certainly have the Captain's ego to go along with my Captain's qualifications and experience, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing in this situation.

Anyway, if I end up hiring someone who turns out to be a dud, it's gonna be an expensive mistake, and my job security is pretty much directly proportional to the number of expensive mistakes I don't make, if you catch my drift.

I don't care nearly as much about flying experience as I do about personality. "Hire for attitude, train for experience" is my mantra in corporate aviation-land, and it has served me well thus far. That being said, if we hire a 200-hour wonder then they will be sitting right-seat for ages and ages until they qualify for their Airline Transport Pilot's License (which they need to fly as Captain), so there are some experience considerations involved.

My plan is to hold the interviews at a nearby restaurant or pub - I think you can learn a lot more about a person during lunch / over beers than you can sitting across from them in a boardroom. Am I wrong?

I looked online and found a valuable post at a blog called 'Pilot Notes', and I think I'll shamelessly steal some of the questions listed, but I think there are some other areas that could be covered - after all, the actual flying part of this job is a relatively small portion of the job itself - we do lots of paperwork, and we will be spending days on the road together, so want to be able to assess that stuff as well.

Now here's the whole point of this post: If you were in my position, what other questions might you be asking the candidates during interviews? Let's assume that the candidates demonstrate good technical knowledge about aviation / airplanes, so that stuff is not in question.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I'm gonna go back in time for a second.

Kitsch and I were at our Toronto Pearson office a few months ago, hanging out and paperworking, when we got a phone call. It went something like this:

"Hey, do you have your plane available?"
"Sure. When? Where?"
"St. Catharines. As soon as you can get here"
"But St. Catharines is only 12 minutes away. Wouldn't it be faster for your clients to drive? Also, we are gonna burn a lot of fuel for a short flight, so it's gonna cost extra."
"We'll pay the extra cost, just get here now. You aren't taking anyone anywhere, we just need the plane. It's for a tv show."
"I love television shows! We'll be right over."

We hauled airplane butt across the lake, and landed. We sat in the airplane for a few hours as they filmed some actors getting in and out of the airplane over and over again. We watched an actor dressed up as a pilot. We ate delicious catering while the pilot-actor got shot, over and over again. They gave us back our airplane, and we flew home. The actual filming process was pretty boring, but the food was delicious and our airplane is immortalized!

Here's a sample of the result :)

For the full experience, watch Covert Affairs Season 2 Episode 4, which came out last night. I imagine the episode is likely available online or on bittorrent, but I wouldn't know for sure :p

That being said, the plane is only in the first few minutes of the show - once the pilot gets shot, it's pretty much over for us.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Everything changes, everything ends.

Kitsch got "The Call" from Air Canada last week, and will be starting with them at the end of July. He is a great pilot and a good person to be in the road with, and I'm really sorry to see him go, but I understand why - he's 30 and will have a 35-year career with them if he starts now. Unfortunately it does involve some sacrifice - the shameful truth about Air Canada is that the initial pay is just a hair over 35k/year and a new hire's schedule is best described as "often, and chaotic". However, after a few years the pay and schedule start getting decent, and after a few years more it gets downright lavish ;) That, along with free travel passes and the opportunity to fly heavy equipment across the planet really makes it a no-brainer for someone interested in those things. More power to him!

Anyway, that means I need to hire a new pilot to replace Kitsch, and I need to do that pretty quickly. The most-trafficked aviation website in Canada is AvCanada, so I put a job ad there. I took it down after a few days and am now starting to go through the 342 resumes I have in my inbox as a result of the ad, electronically sorting a small pile from the large pile. I tried to make the ad realistic and descriptive so that people would have an idea of what is required, and what is offered.

Here's what I wrote - I have edited out the identifying stuff because the application time has elapsed and I have enough resumes already ;)


Position: Citation 550 First Officer
Company Name:
Contact Person: Ops Manager
Street Address:
City: Oakville
Province/Territory or State: Ontario
Web address:
Email address:
Phone number: NO phone calls or drop-ins please.
Apply via: Email or snailmail only.
Aircraft Types: C550 Citation II

Hmm, the airlines are hiring again. That means it looks like we may need to refresh our resume pile for a Citation 550 pilot, specifically an F/o position.

Are you smart? Are you polite when appropriate? Are you willing to live within an hour of CYYZ Toronto Pearson Airport? Are you okay with an F/o position on a light corporate jet? Do you use soap? Do you promise to read the parts below about the extra office duties and especially the part about not offering to pay for your training? Could you stand to work a bunch of long days in a row with a sarcastic bald guy? If your answers are 'Yeah', 'Sure' and 'Yup' so far, then please read on!

Absolute Minimum requirement: Functioning cerebral cortex (preferably with 'sense of humor' addon), current CPL / Multi-IFR with the right to live and work in Canada. Also, a working knowledge of MS Office. As the plane is a 2-crew turbojet, you'll need an ATPL if you ever want to log PIC (we'll discuss that after a year or two). Current C550 PPC/Type Rating an asset, but we will train the right candidate.

About us:

We are a corporate flight department for a publicly-traded renewable energy corporation, based at Pearson Airport in Toronto. We fly 90% corporate, 10% charter. The successful applicant can expect to fly 200-250 hours per year, plus or minus. Please do NOT offer to pay for your training. We will pay all your training costs at Flightsafety and you, being an honorable person, will agree to stay for 2 years. We don't pay per diems, we pay all your meals and hotel bills when on the road, and we stay at decent hotels and have the option to eat at restaurants with actual utensils. We will provide you with a nice laptop, a generous mobile phone allowance and a full benefit plan, 'cause that's how we roll. Heck, we'll even pay for your pilot medicals.

Normal work-week schedule is Monday to Friday, with the occasional weekend trip. Realistically we fly once or twice a week. Most flights are booked well in advance - in the past 6 years we have had a total of 2 same-day trip requests. We mostly fly throughout Eastern Canada and the US, and sometimes down to the Caribbean - 90% of our trips are within a thousand miles of YYZ, with the other 10% of trips being company runs to Arizona.

There's more, and this is important - we are a small flight department (2 Citation 550's) and everyone here pulls their weight on the operational side as well as the flight line.

This means flight planning trips, organizing customs / airport slots, arranging hotels / ground transportation, helping with audit preparation, billing, picking up commissary and the thousand other tiny jobs that make up a corporate flight department. For example: I'm not gonna ask you to wash the boss's car, but I may ask you to help with an Ops Manual update, or to assume some Quality Assurance roles within the flight department. This means less spare time when we're not flying, but on the upside it will certainly keep you mentally active.

Pop quiz: Did you really read the part about not offering to pay for your training and about the extra flight-department-related duties involved in this position? How about the part where you need to have a current CPL / Multi-IFR? And especially the part about no phone calls or unscheduled visits to my office or home? Cool, then let's continue...

We have high standards, and that's a good thing. Our planes are maintained by an Air Canada connector, we don't cut corners, and we expect you to bring your 'A' game. In return, you'll get a good F/o job working with good people on a good-natured corporate jet. For real: You will get treated like a capable human being, with all the respect and expectation that brings. You in?

If so, please send your resume in .pdf or MS Word format to Ops Manager, or mail it to me.

Again, NO phone calls please, and no drop-ins (this is to see if you can follow instructions).

In return, I will do my absolute damnedest to reply to all applicants within a month.

Salary:$ 50k/year + expenses + full benefits
Closing Date: June 20th 2011. Possibly hiring for early July.


Some of the resumes I have gotten are truly spectacular - some in a good way, and some not so much. Can you believe that one guy actually sent me a resume offering to pay for his training and to work for free? I'm not even kidding, but that's for a future post.

What I think I'll blog about next is walking through the hiring process, from resumes to interviews and beyond. Hopefully we will end up with a candidate who can handle the requirements, and who doesn't hate being featured in the occasional blog post :) Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

All Hail Baby Balthor*!! This is his portrait, taken as of yesterday when we found out he is going to be a he. He's still baking, but we have high hopes for midnight on Halloween, when he is scheduled to make his first appearance out in the world.

*Name subject to likely change/veto by Lisa

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Let's talk about CRM for a second. What's CRM? Cockpit Resource Management, which is basically a fancy way of saying "getting the crew members to work together toward a common goal". Good CRM is a beautiful thing - you know what the other crew member is thinking and everyone performs their duties in a synchronized and orderly fashion.

These guys take CRM to a whole new level. They are flying a C-130 Hercules aircraft at an airshow, and it's pretty amazing to watch how the 3 crew members synch up. It's the aviation equivalent of ballet.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

This had me captivated. It's 51 takeoffs in two and a half minutes. Watch it and you'll see what I mean.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I decided to slack off and sleep in until 3:45am today. After I woke up, we did this. The eastern seaboard was all fogged up this morning, and one of the few exceptions was our destination, which was 300' overcast and 6 miles visibility. Kitsch hand-flew this one just for fun, while I jealously pouted and watched from the F/o's side.

A few things of note - for the first couple of minutes we are cruising above the final cloud layer, which was at 3,000'.

Then not much interesting happens until around 6:15, when you can hear the Ground Proximity Warning System call out "500", which tells us we are 500' above the ground. We see the runway around 30 seconds later.

At around 6:50 you can hear the GPWS freak out a little bit, yelling "Glide Slope" a couple of times. On short final we were stable and in visual conditions, and Kitsch decided to duck under the glideslope a little bit in order to make a nearby runway turnoff. It's not a big deal in a case like this where the runway threshold is displaced - you'll note that the actual runway began well before the paint markings did.

After we land you can hear the pax clapping - at our parent company it's customary for the passengers to applaud such a smooth and skilled arrival. Funny thing is, I'm not even kidding - gotta love a job where you get clapped at just for doing it correctly :)

I was lazy with this vid and didn't edit it, so the rest of it is pretty boring - we taxi into the US Customs apron and await the tender mercies of the customs officers. As I'm writing this from my hotel room, clearly things went okay :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

A trio of landing videos for your enjoyment / criticism :) As per usual, 720p and full-screen makes it cooler ;)

This one was at KRDU, Raleigh-Durham. They switched runways on us twice while we were on final, and we ended up aiming at runway 05, 5 miles back at 5,000'. A normal glideslope height at 5 miles would be about 1,500' above ground, so we were about 3x that, yee-haw! We were empty, so Kitsch pulled the power to idle, dropped the speed brakes and the plane took the express elevator down. The Citation 550 can descend pretty much vertically if we need to, and you might note (through the wind noise) that we actually had to add power on short final to make the approach. That's also good airmanship in our jet - the engines take a little while to spool up, so if they were at idle power and we had to go around suddenly for some reason, we might be at a bit of a disadvantage. I like to keep the power at around 55 - 60% until we are at 50' and crossing the runway threshold, just in case.

This was coming back home on a cloudy day. I forgot to turn on the camera until we had already mostly broken out, but there's about 2 minutes of ok footage, and I didn't completely pooch the landing so there's that too ;) Not too challenging overall as the winds were light, and theceiling was 1,000' (we can get down to 200' without having to look outside) but it was still kinda fun. About 2:10 into the video you'll see a big cloud-generating building in the distance. You might wonder why they have a cloud-generating building so close to the runways - I did, and then found out that it's the power plant for the airport. I guess they need it nearby, but on foggy days it can really add to the overall overcast.

This last one is landing on runway 23 at Pearson, also known as the opposite end of runway 05. We did this one a few days ago, on a smoggy, hot, thunderstormy day. The ceiling was 9,000' but as you can see, the smog made for some pretty poor visibility. The approach was fairly routine, but they kept us in pretty close so we got to turn and drop like a stone during the last couple of minutes. Always fun for the flight crew, sometimes less fun for the passengers. The thing that concerns me the most is thinking about the fact that I breathe that same polluted air.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Things you don't expect to see at the airport in Quincy, Illinois, part 1.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

In this pic (taken from Aviation Explorer), an unfortunate pilot is encountering three different types of turbulence, and presumably encountering turbulent conditions in his underwear as well. I'm not actually sure if that last part makes sense, but I'm gonna go with it.
What the hell is turbulence anyway? Here's the short answer: it's when the air around your airplane changes direction and/or speed quickly. It's a fact of life for a pilot, so I'm gonna yammer on about it for a little bit more.

Turbulence is caused by 4 basic building blocks, which can act separately or join forces in an orchestra of suck (as per the picture above). The components are Mechanical, Thermal, Wake and Wind Shear.

With mechanical turbulence, the wind travels along the surface of the earth and hits various objects, like trees, buildings, mountains and whatnot. The air moves around the objects and becomes turbulent. As you fly over (or behind, relative to the wind) these objects, you get bumped about.

A description of thermal now: On a warm day, the ground gets hot. The hot ground causes the air above it to heat up, and that air rises. The rising air screws up the smooth ride for airplanes flying through it. One rule of thumb that works is if there is a layer of puffy clouds on a hot day, the thermal turbulence will only rise as high as the cloud layer and the ride above the clouds will be thermal-free.

Wake turbulence is caused by other aircraft. While an aircraft flies to and fro burning fuel and money, the lifting surfaces displace a whole lot of air and the engines blow air out the back end at high speed. All this air takes a little while to settle down, and if you fly close behind another aircraft you could be exposed to its wake. Depending on the size and configuration of the offending aircraft, it can be nearly imperceptible or it can be the aviation equivalent of being in a canoe out on the water as a supertanker goes by at high speed. Generally an aircraft that has flaps lowered and is at a low airspeed generates the most wake turbulence. Boeing 757's and 767's are nice planes, but are notorious for their unpleasant wake characteristics.

Wind Shear is caused by an angry god who wants to smite you with thunder and lightning, and by other stuff too. When the direction or speed of wind changes significantly within a short horizontal or vertical distance, the boundary areas will be bumpy. A rough ride caused by flying through a thunderstorm or crossing through a jet-stream boundary area would both qualify as wind shear turbulence.

Back to that pic at the top for a second, hopefully now it makes a little more sense - first the pilot encounters turbulence in the forms of thermal, then mechanical, then wind shear. Good thing no other planes were in the area or he coulda had 4/4, a perfect score (if you hate your airplane's wings).

In Canada, we report turbulence based on 3 levels of intensity. The following is shamelessly stolen from the Canadian AIM:

Occasional: Less than 1/3 of the time. Intermittent: 1/3 to 2/3. Continuous: More than 2/3.

Light - Turbulence that momentarily causes slight, erratic changes in altitude and/or attitude (pitch, roll, yaw). Report as “Light Turbulence”.
Turbulence that causes slight, rapid and somewhat rhythmic bumpiness without appreciable changes in altitude or attitude. Report as “Light Chop”.

Occupants may feel a slight strain against seat belts or shoulder straps. Unsecured objects may be displaced slightly. Food service may be conducted and little or no difficulty is encountered in walking.

Not a big deal for most people, but it gets bumpier ;)
Moderate - Turbulence that is similar to Light Turbulence but of greater intensity. Changes in altitude and/or attitude occur but the aircraft remains in positive control at all times. It usually causes variations in indicated airspeed. Report as “Moderate Turbulence”.
Turbulence that is similar to Light Chop but of greater intensity. It causes rapid bumps or jolts without appreciable changes in aircraft altitude or attitude. Report as “Moderate Chop”.

Occupants feel definite strains against seat belts or shoulder straps. Unsecured objects are dislodged. Food service and walking are difficult.

When it's moderate, you know you are flying through the air in a small metal tube. White-knucklers will be having a bad day, and the occasional beverage might end up on the floor or walls.

Here's a video of moderate chop that I took a little while ago - you can really only tell it's a rough ride 'cause the camera is shaking.

Severe - Turbulence that causes large, abrupt changes in altitude and/or attitude. It usually causes large variations in indicated airspeed. Aircraft may be momentarily out of control. Report as “Severe Turbulence”.

Occupants are forced violently against seat belts or shoulder straps. Unsecured objects are tossed about. Food service and walking impossible.

You'll notice there is no "Severe Chop" - at this level it's all just lousy.

We do our best to avoid turbulence - at cruising altitude sometimes all it takes is a climb or a descent of a couple of thousand feet to change a rough ride into a smooth one, or we might alter our route laterally to avoid an area of widespread unrest. If we have no choice but to fly through a zone of turbulence, we can also slow down. As our airspeed increases, our lifting surfaces are capable of generating more lift. This is good, but only to a point. Airplanes have an airspeed called 'maneuvering speed' (Va), below which a sudden intense gust of wind will cause the lifting surface to stall (and unload) rather than producing so much lift as to cause structural deformation. Depending on the situation, you might prefer to have a stalled wing or tail instead of having them depart the aircraft, but then you are dealing with a stalled airplane and that can have its own set of complications. Anyway, maneuvering speed decreases with weight and if you wanna totally nerd out, as a general rule the reduction in Va will be half the percentage reduction in aircraft weight. Another important note is that Va is also only predicated on full deflection of the controls on a single axis, and some forms of turbulence (ie thunderstorms) can cause intense stresses in multiple directions, which can easily result in catastrophic structural damage at speeds below Va.

What prompted this post?

This is a Citation that I was flying for another company a while back when we got a taste of severe turbulence. The skies were clear, but a strong frontal passage had caused lots of wind shear and mechanical turbulence, and it had been reported as severe by other pilots just ahead of us. I slowed down to our maneuvering speed, cinched up my seat-belt and shoulder harness, told the pax to hang on, and waited for it. Going through about 8,000 feet on the descent, we hit the wall. I was hand-flying (I prefer to hand-fly if it's gonna be really bumpy, so I can tune into what the plane is doing a little better) and the plane started to act like she'd been tasered. The severe bumps were only for a few seconds, but during that time, the oxygen masks in the back deployed uncommanded. The above pic is of a nice mechanic packing them back into the ceiling. The plane was fine - we were nice and slow when we hit the bumps and there wasn't any structural damage or anything, but it kinda got my mind on the subject.

I hope all your airflow is smooth, and your oxygen masks only deploy when you ask them to :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I think pregnancy agrees with her. I mean, except for the barfing and sleep disruption, which are symptoms she apparently has also. Yes, I'm terrified, thank you for asking ;)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A quick update to the A380 video I posted recently. A guy on AvCanada posted a pic that shows the wingspan of the A380 superimposed over a Google Earth view of the accident scene.

The wingspan is the yellow line with the red dots at each end, near the bottom left corner of the picture. It looks like there should be enough clearance if the 380 is on the center line of the taxiway and the RJ is north of the the road. Hmm.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This happened last night, when an Air France A380 was trying to depart JFK for Paris and its left wingtip caught the tail of a Comair RJ. No injuries reported, so that's good, though if I was in the RJ cockpit I'm thinking the seat upholstery would likely need to be replaced. It does makes me take the "please keep your seatbelts on until the plane has arrived at the gate" warnings a little more seriously too.

How did this happen? I'm sure there will be a report, but right away I see there are a few things of interest:

- The A380 seemed to be going faster than a normal taxi speed, but it also seems like the video might be sped up a bit.
- It was at night, so visibility wasn't the greatest.
- The widest runways at JFK are 200 feet across.
- The wingspan of the A380 is just over 261 feet.

Looks like they might want to revise the procedures for handling the A380 when other aircraft are in the neighborhood. From the way it completely manhandled the RJ, I'm not sure the A380 would even notice if they ran over our Citation 550. I bet I would though, so I'm making a mental note to give it at least 131 feet of lateral separation on the ramp if I ever come across one.

Update: Here's the ATC audio, and a couple of pics

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A shout-out to Kitsch, who successfully navigated the Transport Canada vetting process (as seen above) and will be our next Chief Pilot!

Friday, March 11, 2011

My heart goes out to those people affected by the earthquake (and subsequent tsunami) off the coast of Japan.

FlightGlobal is reporting that Japan's Sendai airport is detroyed by the tsunami.

Lots of pics here:

The NY Times also has some breathtaking pictures of the destruction.

Last night's return flight to Toronto was a bit more interesting. A low-level jetstream was causing severe turbulence in a line south of Rochester NY to Buffalo NY, and we were flying right along the northern edge of it. We didn't get anything too bad, but I kind of hate sitting in solid cloud for 2 hours, waiting for the bumps to get bumpier. I was a bit under the weather so Kitsch flew us home. The ceiling in Toronto was better than forecast, it was 400' and 5 miles visibilty while we were expecting 200' (or lower) and 1/2 a mile vis, so it worked out fine.

We landed on runway 05, which is my favorite in Toronto because a) it's close to our home base FBO and b) it has pretty wickedly bright runway lighting. Our rules say that we can continue our approach if we see the runway lights, and I have yet to encounter clouds in Toronto that were so thick the runway lights weren't visible through them. I mean, if we did we'd go around and either try again or go somewhere else, but it has yet to happen.

I started the video close to the decision height - the previous 2 hours was solid cloud with occasional rain and that's not very fun to watch.

You can hear the GPWS (ground proximity warning system) voice call "five hundred" (feet above ground) about 20 seconds into the video.

Oh yeah - my camera's batteries croaked just as we were decelerating on the runway, but you get the idea.

//I'll work on a non-landing-video post today.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

By request, here's a video of our ILS into Boston this morning. select 720p and embiggen it to fullscreen for maximum fun. The weather was fine - 2,900' overcast with decent visibility underneath - but a gusty crosswind from the right kept it from being boring. This is runway 04R. They were using runway 09 to depart airplanes, so from time to time you might see other airplanes blasting off across our runway from left to right.

Kitsch hand-flew the approach, I played on the radios.

For those of you who care - there are 4 lights just to the left of the runway, called PAPI lights. They are used when flying the visual approach - if you are on the correct glide path, two of the lights will appear white, and 2 of them will appear red. If you see more white lights, you are a little high, and if you see more red lights, you are a little low. An ILS approach may have a slightly different touchdown point on the runway, and the PAPI lights may indicate a different picture than the instruments on board the airplane - for example, on runway 05 going into Toronto, the PAPI lights will show 3 or 4 red lights while the Instrument Landing System shows us as being on the glidepath. If we are flying the visual approach, we'll fly the PAPI lights, and if we are flying the ILS we'll fly the electronic glideslope indication in our airplane.

A person in the comments section asked about the construction cranes on an island just before we landed at Boston - they are actually loading cranes used to put shipping containers onto ocean-going vessels. The person expressed surprise that they are allowed to be placed so close to the runway. As far as the cranes - they are maybe 50 - 70' above the water, and maybe 1 1/2 miles from the threshold - you can hear the radar altimeter lady say "500" as we are passing them, so she's telling us we are 500' above the ground at the time. If you are low enough to hit the cranes at 1 1/2 miles back, you have bigger problems than the cranes, like hitting the water. If you stay on the correct slope, you will have plenty of vertical clearance over them - at a 3 degree glideslope, you will be 300' above the runway for every mile back you are.

If we are taking off, we are assured of vertical clearance over any obstacles in our departure path as long as we adhere to the appropriate departure procedures, which is normally a climb gradient of 200' per horizontal nautical mile. In this case, the required climb gradient on runway 22L (the reverse heading of the runway we landed on) is "standard if tower reports no tall vessels in the departure area". However, on runway 22R, which is just a couple of hundred feet away from it (and in fact a bit closer to the loading cranes), you need a higher climb gradient than normal to assure obstacle clearance. In that case, you need to climb at 320' per nautical mile until you are 600' above sea level. If we were departing on that runway and the weather was bad, we'd consult our airplane charts to make sure that at our takeoff weight we could climb at that climb gradient even if we lost an engine right as we took off.

That actually would be a good subject for a pilot-geek-post - the things we do in low visibility conditions to assure obstacle clearance. If the weather is good, we can just turn to avoid things like cranes and buildings and mountains, but when we can't see outside due to fog etc, we follow a whole complicated set of rules, and the math gets a lot more in-depth (we have an app for that :p). I will start on a post like that some time in the near future.

Anyway, this morning was a nice, routine flight. Now off to a yummy seafood place for lunch! :)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

For my second video of the day, here's one where a flight instructor intentionally shuts the engine down on a student for forced approach practice. I think I'd probably beat the instructor unconscious after the landing - shutting down a healthy engine is just plain retarded. What if another airplane was on the runway or a moose ran out, or what if the student screwed up the forced approach? The mind boggles.

Australia's Helicopter Cowboys. Pretty breathtaking - I'd be scared to do this in a video game, let alone real life. They lose an average of ten (TEN!) helicopters per year to crashes, and unfortunately not all the pilots walk away either. I wonder if they can even get insurance?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Well, I certainly didn't like that. Blogger toasted my blog for about a day - apparently I did something to set off the spam alert. My guess is that it didn't like me logging in from Toronto, then Quebec City, then Montreal within a few hours. Anyway, I begged shamelessly to have it restored. And so it is! The first thing I did was make a complete backup of this blog, which I had never done before. You know, just in case. More flying stuff coming up soon!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Here's the other ILS we did yesterday. This one was considerably less challenging from a technical perspective - the ceiling was 1200' and the visibility was 2 miles. The only notable thing was the direct crosswind from the left at 25 knots, and you can see a classic crosswind landing technique being applied here - drop a wing into the wind, keep aligned with the runway using rudder. Touch down on the left main gear first, then the right main gear, then the nose gear. Other than that, not much to it. Like yesterday's post, a few minutes of boring "solid IMC" was removed from the middle of the clip.

Now onto the gross stuff - I have two things that may cause you discomfort. They are both kinda gross, you have been warned!

The first one happened last night - I got back from supper and passed out on my hotel room couch while watching Oprah reruns, and woke up around 1am. I decided to reposition to my bed, but first I had to brush my fangs. I didn't want to turn the lights on and destroy my melatonin buildup, so I fumbled around in my overnight bag for my toothbrush.

Instead, I found my razor. If you look closely, you'll see that I actually peeled back a long thin strip nearly all the way to my first digit. Atomic hangnail! So much blood! I feel bad because the people will likely have to steam-clean the carpet before they can use the hotel room again.

Now for the other disturbing thing, and it's mostly because it showcases my bloated ego.

I found these at a pilot supply shop at my current airport. After chuckling and thinking "who on earth would buy these", I immediately bought them. Lots of people have what it takes to be a Captain, but only a certain few have what it takes to be a dictator! I'm officially a terrible person :)

Monday, January 31, 2011

This was our excitement this morning, an ILS to minimums, in this case 200' ceiling and 1/2 mile visibility, somewhere in Texas. For maximum coolness, set the video to 720p and full-screen it (it may take Youtube an hour or so after I post this to process the video to 720p). At 2:02 you can hear the other pilot start to say "And minimums" when I interrupt him and call the runway lights in sight - we were about 1 second from going missed approach when we saw the runway, so hooray for us!

I cut about 5 minutes out of the middle of the video - it was boring - you can see the jump around the 1:50 mark when the clouds get a lot darker.

We did an ILS in Arkansas before this one, I'll post that later on today when I'm done flying. We still have another leg to go, we are heading west for a few more hours before we stop for the night.

Monday, January 24, 2011

This will bake your noodles. Go full-screen, then use the mouse to look around.

It's part of an ad for a high-end fly-in fishing resort in British Columbia. I don't know if I'd pay the big bucks to catch a fish, but I do know I like the video and the technology behind it.

As a side-note, the song is "Hallelujah", written by Canadian poet Leonard Cohen. It was part of our wedding ceremony when Lisa and I got hitched.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

We did this last night. Coming home empty, we were over the field at 6,000' when ATC said "I can put you number one for the runway if you can keep it in tight. Can you keep it in tight?". After giggling a little, we replied "Yes, yes we can". The landing worked out pretty good too, I get lucky once in a while :) I wish my camera was better at night, but for $150 I'm not gonna complain too loudly ;)

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Picture frenzy! These pics have been accumulating on the iphone for the last couple of months, and it's time to post them in no real order whatsoever!

Spiritual warfare checklist found in an FBO in Nassau.

Some random gorgeous islands in the deep Caribbean. I can't get over how clear the water was - you could see all the way to the bottom from 38,000'.

Turks Head beer, quaffed in the Turks and Caicos.

Instrument panel found in a Supercub in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Appetizer platter in Deer Lake, Newfoundland. Served to you in an actual kitchen sink.

Magazine cover in Halifax. I'll try to remember to follow up on this one.

Pad Thai in Montreal. Yummy!

At an FBO, a couple of ramp attendants were wrestling in the coffee room while I was making some hot tea. One of them pushed the other one into the wall. They then both asked me to forget either of them was around, and fled into the nearby hangar.

On the beach in Punta Cana, feeling quite pleased with myself.

Same place, watching a Russian couple. She was thirty years his junior. Most days she wore high heels in the sand, but this day she was barefoot. She wrote in the sand with her feet - just her name though.

Some caterers shouldn't. We ordered a 'veggie tray' for our customers. This is what arrived. Yummy tomato slices and whole lettuce leaves. You don't wanna know how much they charged us for this...

Bacon-covered steak at '29 South' restaurant in Fernandina Beach, Florida. One of the best restaurants I have ever had the pleasure of dining in.

Sure they forgot to fuel us and we ended up being late, but hey, free cookies and ice cream! All is forgiven, Signature FBO in Miami.

Check gear down.

I told the other pilot not to order a Caesar salad at a sushi bar, but he insisted on it. Serves him right - who does that?

A lobster corndog with vodka horseradish ketchup. This is what love tastes like.

We explored an abandoned gas station in Georgia. If anyone who views this is in a band and wants to use this as a CD cover, I'd be honored. Because I think this looks like it could be a CD cover.

A sign you won't see in anywhere in Canada.

Watching the prairie give way to the desert, west of Kansas and east of Arizona.

Random incredibly beautiful view from 38,000'. Snow in the mountains!

This hotel room featured an ever-stocked beer fridge, snacks and free pornography. I blurred the picture to hopefully a PG-13 rating at most.

I took this while doing a checkride on a guy in a PC-12 recently. He was upgrading from First Officer to Captain. He was nervous as hell but did just fine on the ride. You never sleep more soundly than the night after a successful checkride.

Random skeezy bar in the Caribbean. In a stunning reversal of normal rules in the Caribbean, food was dirt cheap but beers were $9 each. We won't be back.

Catching up on current events during a 4-hour cruise portion.

Duck Wellington in St. Louis Missouri. Much better than the Missouri coconut shrimp.

Sweet old Mercedes crew car in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

Checking out Fort Clinch in Amelia Island, Florida. Lots of dressed-up people who stayed in character the entire time. Pretty great actually.

I imagine this is the house beverage in Hell.

Fantastic breakfast in Montreal.

Attending a friend's wedding. Me being blurry, Lisa being gorgeous.