Saturday, September 30, 2006

I found some beautiful pics in this fellow's Flickr collection. He appears to be based in Nova Scotia. The top one is my new desktop background.

RenO and I were flying the MU-2 late one winter's night, or perhaps early one winter's morning, heading home empty after dropping a patient off somewhere or other. We were up north, about 10 minutes from our home airport in Timmins and in solid cloud. It was my leg to fly and I was in the left seat, though RenO was the Captain.

Me, rambling, trying to stay awake: "And another thing that sucks about our company management is..."


The sound of electrical feedback zipped through our headphones, then stopped.

Me: "What the Hell was that?"

RenO: "No idea. Maybe I'll get the emergency checklist"

The voice of the young medic in the back "Hey, did you guys hear that too?"

"Yup. We're on it. Just relax"

I was actually pretty relaxed. Fatigue will do that. When I'm very tired, bad things can happen, and I just don't care as much.

A little red light illuminated on our master caution panel. The light said "Inverter Fail", and it meant we had lost a piece of equipment that provided AC power to our instruments.

I had a brainwave, a true stroke of genius.

"Let's switch inverters"

"Okay" RenO flipped the inverter select switch to our second inverter.

"Ahh crap. The Inverter Fail light is still on"

According to the book, that meant both our inverters were screwed. According to the book, being in solid cloud and at night, we were in a semi-bad situation.

In the MU-2, AC power is used to drive a whole of of instruments, but some also run on DC power so the panel wasn't totally dark. In fact, all our instruments were still lit up, even those that were powered by AC current.

RenO: "Hey, do you smell smoke?"

Me: "No. Maybe. I don't know. Do you?"

RenO: "Maybe. I can't tell"

Medic in the back: "WHAT? SMOKE? WHAT SMOKE?"

Our medic was relatively fresh to the operation, but she knew that an on-board fire was a bad thing.

RenO and I simultaneously: "It's Nothing! Don't worry about it"

Me: "All is well, we just have to discuss something"

RenO flipped the switch that disconnected the medic in the back from our intercom so we could talk without worrying about panicking our medic.

"I mean, I think I smelled something, but it might have been me"

"I told you not to have the chili for lunch"

"How about now? Do you smell smoke now?"

"I can't tell, my nose is too tired"

We both giggled.

The red light on our instrument panel remained on, but the instruments that were supposed to be dead as a result seemed just fine.

"Alright RenO, here's my plan. I'll continue to fly the approach, but if my instruments die, then you fly the approach. Does that make sense?"

The gauges on RenO's side ran mostly on DC power, so in the event of a serious AC failure, the person sitting in the copilot's seat would normally take control and fly the airplane.

RenO: "Okay"

We were close to home by now, and Air Traffic Control vectored us for the instrument landing system into Timmins. I flew the approach normally, and the plane behaved just fine. My instruments worked perfectly all the way to touchdown.

We taxiied into our hangar and shut down.

RenO: "I guess we should leave a note for the mechanic so he can take a look at this eh"

Me: "I guess"

We cleaned up, and drove home to bed as the sun started to rise.


The next night, the pager went off. I called RenO.

"Hey. Did the mechanic fix the plane?"
"He said the light didn't go on when he fired it up this morning"
"Oh, okay then. Where are we going?"
"Moosonee - Kingston with an incubator"

That was a good trip if you were paid mileage, as it was a couple of hours each way.

"Okay, see you in 10 minutes"

"See you"

The plane behaved and I forgot about the entire sequence of events until just now. The mechanic never did figure out what happened that first night. Guess it must have been the chili.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I have executed a go-around 3 times in my career.

The first was fall 1998 and I was flying my most favorite airplane of all time, a B-58 Baron by the name of C-GPAA, or "P double A" for short. I was doing a night cargo run with another pilot, Daryl, who was the CFI at Western Air Services, the flight school/charter outfit we worked for in Goderich. We were heading to Hamilton from Goderich, and cruising along in cloud, getting lots of icing. This particular Baron had full de-ice, and I hadn't skeered myself too badly in this airplane so all was well. Part of the deicing package installed in the airplane was an alcohol windshield, which worked thusly: I flip a switch, and isopropyl alcohol is pumped from a reservior in the nose through a plastic tube into the airplane equivalent of a windshield washer, which would spray a fine mist of alcohol onto the windshield and help to melt any ice that might accumulate. The reservoir tank is small and we could only operate the system for maybe 15 minutes before we had to fill it up, so we figured we'd use it during the last few minutes of the approach, just before we landed.

Anyway, this particular night was the first night we had lots of ice, and the wing boots were working hard to shed it while we made our way through the darkness to Hamilton. We could hear the "ting! ting!" sound as ice was shed from the propellors and the centrifugal force flung chunks of it against the side of the airplane. I looked out the windshield and saw that it was coated pretty good, so I knew we'd get to try out the alcohol windshield.

We were still in the clouds, and the weather report indicated that we wouldn't be beneath the clouds until a few hundred feet above the ground. No big deal, as the Hamilton airport has lots of advanced navigation aids, which would enable us to get within 200 feet of the runway before having to look outside. As we were vectored into position for a 5 mile ILS approach for the airport, I flicked on the alcohol switch, and watched as liquid sprayed onto the windshield, loosening the ice clinging to the window so I could see outside and manoeuver the plane for landing .

Except the ice on the windshield didn't loosen. In fact, the liquid seemed to coat over the entire windshield and armor-plate it with more ice.

I was somewhat confused by this, but elected to continue for the time being. We cranked up our cabin heat and set it to the windshield in the hopes that it would help thaw the ice coating, but it didn't do much at all. Daryl completed the before-landing checks and we made sure our flaps and landing gear were set for our anticipated arrival into Hamilton.

The airport was a lot closer now, and we were only a few hundred feet above the ground on short final. We broke out of the clouds, and by looking out the side windows I could see farmhouses and roads and all the other things around the Hamilton airport, with the exception of the runway, which was right in front of us but obscured by this damned ice-covered windshield.

Okay, I figured, I have flown in the bush before and I'll just do what a bush pilot would do. I stomped on the right rudder, yawing the plane to the right so I could see the runway out of the left side window, which wasn't covered in ice at all.

The runway grew closer, and it was time to pull the throttles back, lift the nose a little and touch down. Except I was yawed maybe 30 degrees to the right, and if I touched down like that, I stood a decent chance of going off the side of the runway. I again glanced out the windshield but it was completely useless. Out the left side window, I could see a faint strip of lights that I assumed were the runway edge lights. We were maybe 10 feet above the ground, so I decided to let go of the rudder and center the airplane, and as I did so, we drifted to the left and the runway edge lights disappeared beneath me.

Now in an average flying career I'm sure eventually there will come a few situations in which you realize you've lost your safety margin, and it's time to stop whatever it is you are doing and concentrate on getting back to a happy place. For me, this was one of those times. I squealed "go around" , pushed the power levers forward and pulled the nose up. Daryl cleaned up the airplane, retracting the landing gear and the flaps once we started climbing, and we headed back up into the clouds and icing.

Air traffic control asked us what we wanted to do next, and we elected to head for home, as it was clear over Goderich and we were hoping that some of the ice might have burned off by then.

I mentioned that we had cranked the cabin heat, right? Our cabin heater was a janitrol, which is the bane of most piston airplanes. As a side note, bleed air from a jet engine works better :) Janitrol heaters are essentially combustion heaters, taking a bit of avgas and burning it, then using the hot air to warm up the interior. They are also cranky, lazy and bad-tempered, to personify them a little. Anyway, our cabin heater didn't like the fact that we were demanding a lot out of it, and as soon as we decided to go home, the little yellow light in the instrument panel came on, indicating that we blew the cabin heat circuit breaker. Which was located in the nose of the airplane to prevent in-flight resets.

This left us without any heat whatsoever for the return flight, and I will happily tell anyone who listens that sitting in a B-58 Baron (or any airplane) for more than a few minutes with no heat in winter is not fun at all. I worried about my various appendages, hoping that some would still be semi-functional after this experience. In fact, after this flight, Daryl and I agreed that we would never fly again without long underwear, gloves and heavy winter jackets, even in summer. We remarked dryly about how our breath was causing additional ice to form, but on the inside of the windshield this time.

Fortunately, the gods smile upon fools, drunks, and frozen, underpaid pilots. As we were discussing how badly the return flight was going to suck (lots) and what our options were for removing the ice from our windshield (none), we caught a break. Most of the clouds that had enveloped us during the flight to Hamilton had moved off, leaving clear skies for the return leg. During the half-hour that it took to fly home, enough ice sublimated from the windshield that I could see a tiny patch out of the bottom front left side of the windshield. I flew the approach and landing into Goderich looking like an elderly driver who pokes their head between the steering wheel and the bottom of the windshield, but it was enough to see the runway and land safely back in Goderich.

We had a few beers at the local pub afterwards.

I was very curious as to what had happened, so the next morning I called our mechanic and asked his opinion.

"Oh, I guess I should change that alcohol, it's the same stuff that was in the reservoir from last year and maybe the year before that. It's probably absorbed a lot of moisture since then".

And that was it. Sitting for a year in humid conditions had resulted in the alcohol becoming contaminated with enough water that when I sprayed it onto the windshield, not only did it not remove the existing ice from the windshield, I was essentially spraying water on existing ice, resulting in the windshield being coated much more thickly than if I hadn't used the alcohol.

I could blame the mechanic, but that would be wrong and a total cop-out. As we all know, it's the Captain's responsibility to make sure that the plane is fit for the flight conditions, and I had not done so. I had never flown an aircraft with an alcohol windshield and it never occured to me. Needless to say, during the rest of my tenure with Western Air and PAA, I made sure we had fresh isopropyl each Fall and Winter.

I have spoken in my previous posts about links in the accident chain. I could have made a nice long one with the links in this situation, but I was really lucky and didn't end up hanging myself with it.

Fly safe.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

That's C-GAMC, an MU-2 I used to fly. My friend RenO took this pic a while back; he's a good photographer and he made the most of a quick stop at a winter strip up north to get a patient. RenO was cool to fly with, he was precisely as jaded and cynical as I was, and we got along great.

I feel an MU-2 story coming on, so let's engage the starters and get spooled up.

This is one of the most painful medevac stories I experienced, so if you are squeamish STOP NOW and go to cute overload for some pics of fluffy bunnies instead.

We did a quick hop to Wawa one afternoon, to pick up an elderly woman and bring her back to Thunder Bay. Wawa is a decent little airport; 4,400' long, and it has a huge Canada goose sculpture mounted on a pole, a nice little terminal at the end of the runway, and it's right next to the shore of Lake Superior so you get a good view as you come and go.

Anyway, we landed and the ambulance was waiting for us with our patient. We opened the ambulance doors, and we could hear the poor lady crying and screaming in her stretcher. She had broken a hip, and for whatever reason, the medical personnel in Wawa had decided that she was not to have painkillers before she got to Thunder Bay.

Now I don't know about you, but listening to people scream in agony makes my stomach hurt, and it seemed to unnerve our on-board medic also. Our medic and I attempted to load the lady as fast as we could, which brings me to a good rule of medevacing:

Never load your patient as fast as you can, because you might drop them.

The MU-2's we were using had a little slide that attached from the stretcher holder inside the airplane and stuck out the door of the MU-2. We would place the stretcher on the slide, then move it along along the slide until it clicked into place on top of the stretcher holder. Once it clicked into place, the stretcher was held securely and in theory we could take off without worrying about dumping the patient.

In theory.

When loading a patient in the MU-2, there is not enough room to stand up, and you also have to twist about 90 degrees, so you end up half-crouching while contorting your spine to the right, at the same time bearing half the weight of the patient, assuming the other person is bearing the other half of the weight. It's not fun, and lots of people who fly the MU-2's on medevacs have seriously screwed up their backs.

Now this was not a tiny, motionless woman. I don't blame her for thrashing around, I'm sure if my hip was broken and I had no painkillers I would be in a foul mood too. But as we were halfway through putting her stretcher onto the slide, she moved and I lost my balance, and ended up tipping her on her side. The one with the broken hip. Time went in slow-motion. She screamed like I have never heard anyone scream before, and I just about wet my pants.

I quickly recovered as time sped up again, and with a burst of strength that only mortal fear can provide, I righted her stretcher and completed loading it onto the slide. I apologized quickly to the weeping woman as I closed the door of the plane so the captain could start the engines.

Again, I'm mentioning that this lady was not small. The medic was having a hard time adjusting the straps on our patient so as to secure her to the stretcher, because every time the medic touched the straps, the lady would scream. After a few minutes, the medic said our patient was secure, and we were allowed to taxi the aircraft. It's only a half-hour flight from Wawa to Thunder Bay, and all of us wanted to get it done as rapidly as we possibly could, so this unfortunate woman could get some good drugs from the medics when we arrived.

At Wawa, the terminal is at the end of the runway. So in order to get to the runway, we had to turn 180 degrees to taxi out. The winds were calm, so we were planning on just turning around, then launching down the opposide direction to get airborne.

The medic told us that our patient was deteriorating, so we quickly went through our checks, and started to turn the MU-2 around.

We heard fresh screams from the back.

I turned around to see what was going on, and saw that the woman had slipped through her shoulder harness and the centrifugal force of the quick 180 degree taxi turn had caused her to half-slide out of her stretcher and onto the floor. She was twisted at the waist, with her legs on the stretcher and her upper body hanging off it. Oh, and it was grinding her broken hip into her flesh.

The medic undid her own seatbelt and ran up to the stretcher, while I came out of the cockpit and went to the back also. Together we picked up the lady and tried to straighten her back onto the stretcher, while she continued to scream. The MU-2 cabin is fairly small, and it does have an echo, so trust me when I say it was loud.

Finally we got the poor woman aligned back on the stretcher. The medic normally sat at the rear of the airplane in the seat by the door, but this time she sat on the seat at the head of the stretcher and held the lady on the stretcher by her shoulders.

I ran back up front, thoroughly sick to my stomach. We launched, and flew to Thunder Bay. Of course the air was bumpy.

When we landed, the ambulance was there and I was gratful to see them. I explained the situation to the paramedics and they asked why the lady hadn't been sedated. I said I didn't know, and one of the paramedics quickly read the woman's chart, then immediately walked into the plane with a vial of morphine and gave her a shot.

"Morons. She could have been sedated and asleep this whole time." said the paramedic.

The lady stopped crying, which was an incredible relief to all involved, her included I'm sure.

The unloading process was quick and efficient, and the lady went off to have her hip fixed. I sat down and drank some water, then waited for the captain to tell me where we were going next.

"We are going to Marathon to pick up a guy who had a chainsaw accident"

I wept inwardly, then trudged to the airplane.
I recently had the opportunity to buy a huge DVD movie collection for a fairly reasonable amount of money. The person selling it was kind enough to organize a list of the movies, which I have uploaded here:


These are all the original DVD's, so don't go accusing me of supporting piracy, as I don't. The seller got into some serious debt and had to sell the collection in a short period of time, and I happened to have a few bucks handy. There are little numbered stickers on each dvd case, and that's how they are organized in my living room, rather than alphabetically.

They have arrived, and I have been watching a couple of movies each night after work. But my problem is I don't know a lot of the movies on the list, and I'm not sure what ones are decent and what ones I shouldn't waste my time on.

Give me a hand, would you? Are there any in here that I absolutely have to see? Any of them I should immediately throw in the microwave?

//For those of you who have never tried it, putting a DVD or a CD in the microwave and turning it on can be a most interesting experience, assuming you are a fan of lightning and tesla coils etc. Have a fire extinguisher handy if you choose to do this. Here's a link to a video of the results:

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I just had a long chat with the owner of my company. It was a pleasant chat, and we had a few good chuckles. But there was a subtext, which I will share with you in my own candid, naiive way.

You're never really anonymous on the internet. I mean, I'm not, and I have made no attempt to hide my identity other than not mentioning my actual name and home address. But as a reader of this blog, you aren't exactly anonymous either.

Let me explain further:

It has come to my attention that not all my audience is sympathetic to my postings. You'd think the simple reaction would be "This sucks, so I won't read it any more."

Not so.

Some (obscene gerund) guy called my office last week and left a message on my voice mail about how I was endangering my clients lives by posting "I have a flight to Chicago on Monday", as it clearly gave specific information to terrorists who would then presumably lay in wait for us, and then do unspeakable things to us, all because I gave them our confidential flight itinerary. Never mind that I didn't mention what airport in Chicago (there are at least a dozen in the local area), what time, or even what plane I would be taking, and whether or not it was a corporate or a charter flight. Clearly I gave Osama the upper hand.

What the hell what I thinking?

Well, to be honest, I wasn't. I mostly post this blog for my mom; she's far away and it makes me feel closer to her to show her the details about my life, including my job. It never occured to me that some people might think that "I have a flight to Chicago on Monday" might hurt my company or endanger my safety.

Anyway, I listened to the voice mail and decided to remove the links on my blog that used to let my readers track my aircraft. I'm not worried about terr'ists so much as I was worried that the person who called my voice mail might be a stalker, and even though having my own internet stalker is very exciting in a way, I simply don't have the time and energy energy to deal with that particular kind of person. I mean, I don't even own a taser.

So I removed the link, and I went through my blog to remove any sort of specific reference to any sort of things that might possibly be remotely construed as possibly invading the privacy of my company or the people who I fly with.

The next day, the same guy left this comment on my blog.

"I see that the nature of your blog has changed. This is a good thing. I see that you have also removed the ability for viewers to track your aircraft. This is also a good thing. I cant imagine how any corporate pilot in these days of security and terrorism, would/could knowingly divulge the itineraries of their company on the internet.

I watched as your aircraft departed from Landmark for your trip to PWK...Scary isnt it...and your boss and chief pilot and many others in the industry were watching as well.

Sadly - the conversations that you must have had with he owner and the chief pilot would have come as a complete shock to you.

Change vocations

Nice eh? Some (obscene gerund) guy hides behind his anonymity to completely creep me out, and then tells me to abandon my career as a pilot.

But it turns out this guy isn't so anonymous.

I have a hit counter on my blog. If you scroll down to the bottom left of my blog page, all the way to the bottom, you'll see it. As of this afternoon, it's just about to turn over 10,000 hits. It also has a cool secondary use, which is that it gives me all sorts of information about who visits my blog - when you visit my blog, you get more than a piece of my soul, you get a small tracking cookie from my blog that goes into your computer. Among other details, it showed me the IP address of the person who left the comment, and through some pretty advanced computer geekery mixed with a decent WHOIS ip lookup, I was able to figure out where this guy lived, and who he is.

He works for a company just across the ramp from me, and in fact was probably watching me when I flew to Chicago last week. We have never met in real life; I'm certainly happy to keep it that way, and I can only presume he will afford me the same courtesy.

Otherwise it might get awkward.

Anyway, how do I react?

It doesn't matter that the owner of my company has a link to my blog, and when I write on it I assume that he reads every post. It doesn't matter that he had a good laugh about this whole situation. What matters is that I am a professional, and I shall not portray myself as anything but that.

I will no longer be posting anything that might possibly be construed as hurting the company I work for, like when I posted that I wasn't entirely prepared for the approach into Red Lake a few weeks ago due to sudden smoke from nearby fires. It doesn't matter that I didn't actually screw up the approach, nor does it matter that safety was not comprimised in any way whatsoever. I may have given the impression that I was a human and made mistakes, and as a professional pilot, I do not make mistakes.

I will no longer publish pics of myself pretending to be asleep, even though I thought they were pretty funny, and Lisa called them 'cute'. It doesn't matter that I have never actually slept in an airplane, whether as a passenger or as a crew member. As a professional pilot, I do not sleep.

I will only be posting about trips I have already flown, so that Osama has less of a chance to take our baby jet on a rampage. As a professional pilot, I worry about 'the terror', so my clients don't have to.

I was going to talk about Lisa, and what role she plays in my life, if any, but that won't be happening. I was going to talk about the rest of my family, but I'd hate for Osama to go after them simply because they were on my blog.

So for those of you who read my blog in order to talk about my weaknesses and failings, I'm done talking about those. I can still put in several posts a week without actually taking you into my confidence, and that's how it's going to be from now on.

It's the best thing for all of us, no?

From time to time I stay at an apartment in a different town.

It must have been a rough night for some, as this is what I saw recently on a Sunday morning.

Yeah, the couch is full-sized. You can see the cushions on the driveway beneath it.

It reminds me of the pilot house at the airport in Sioux Lookout. At one particularly wild party, the stove and fridge were thrown down the stairs and ended up in the front yard. No word on whether the repairs were covered under warranty.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Today was a paperwork day, double-checking a bunch of things to make sure that we would survive a thorough Transport Canada audit. And we would.

It was also boring enough that I won't bother wasting any more time writing about it.

Safe flights.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Here's a pic of the main lobby @ the Hilton:

This is the pool at the hotel. It sucks 'cause I screwed up the color settings, but I'm keeping the pic anyway as the sky is so beautiful. The pool has it's own little restaurant and is about 20 feet from the ocean itself.

There are lots of these hammocks in the gardens behind the hotel, between the hotel and the beaches.

A tour of my hotel suite @ the British Colonial Hilton in Nassau:

Here's a view out of one of the back balconies @ the Hilton.

This is taken later, at the executive lounge. We travel there frequently and as a result are allowed into the lounge for breakfast and for happy hour, which lasts from 5 - 10pm. The video is kind of boring, but notice that all the traffic drives on the left side of the road, like in Britain. Most of the cars have the steering wheel on the right side, too. John is one of the other pilots I fly with, and I got his permission to film him enjoying a gin and juice. He's a lot of fun. The donut store I mention in the clip was an old Dunkin' Donuts place that we watched burn down a few months ago. It went out of business and caught fire about two weeks afterward. Hell of a coincidence.

The parliament building in Nassau, visible from the executive lounge.

John, another captain I fly with, enjoying a Kalik, which is the Bahamian national beer. They are great with lime. I got his permission to post this pic, and I really like the colors in it.

At the FBO, a US Army Shorts 360 (I think), and a G-III (I think) and a DC-3 (I'm pretty sure). The airport in Nassau is very busy.

This is a tour of Executive Flight Support, the FBO we use in Nassau. The sound sucks during the outside part, 'cause there was a turboprop running it's engines and it made everything sound staticky.

Some of the scenery on departure from Nassau, heading 3 1/2 hours north back to Toronto:

I can multitask - I'm pondering the meaning of life and simultaneously working the radios:

Taken from Bruce Schneier's website,

I'm guessing it doesn't apply so much to Canada, but it's still interesting.


Secure your checked bags -- fly with a gun
If you want to keep your checked valuables from being stolen while you fly, just keep a gun in your suitcase.

Many airports won't let you effectively lock your suitcases when you fly, and the new limits on carry-on luggage thanks to moisture-terror-hysteria mean it's open season for unscrupulous TSA employees and baggage handlers who want to help themselves to expensive cameras and other valuable in checked bags.

But once you add a gun -- even a starter pistol -- to your luggage, it gets extra-locked, gains new tracking privileges, and is subject to heightened scrutiny all the way to your destination.

A "weapons" is defined as a rifle, shotgun, pistol, airgun, and STARTER PISTOL. Yes, starter pistols - those little guns that fire blanks at track and swim meets - are considered weapons...and do NOT have to be registered in any state in the United States.

I have a starter pistol for all my cases. All I have to do upon check-in is tell the airline ticket agent that I have a weapon to declare...I'm given a little card to sign, the card is put in the case, the case is given to a TSA official who takes my key and locks the case, and gives my key back to me.

That's the procedure. The case is extra-tracked...TSA does not want to lose a weapons case. This reduces the chance of the case being lost to virtually zero.

It's a great way to travel with camera gear...I've been doing this since Dec 2001 and have had no problems whatsoever.
Here are a couple of video clips I found interesting.

This is somewhat disturbing, but it's also an amazing piece of footage. The helicopter crashes into the sea. No blood or snuff or anything, but they do get pretty wet.

I know nothing about helicopters and I have no idea what was going on.

This second one isn't an accident, it's a near-miss. I bet that drycleaning a skydiver suit isn't cheap.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


I just watched a car accident, followed by another one. I was heading to the grocery store to pick up a few items and was walking to the parking lot where my car was, when I looked to the main road and saw a car on the road slow and attempt to turn into the parking lot. It stopped, and as it was turning left into the parking lot, it got rear-ended by another one who must have been travelling at a great rate of speed and completely failed to brake. Crunch! It was a pretty severe collision, with the airbags deploying on both vehicles, and lots of smoke coming out of the rear vehicle's engine compartment. Everyone inside both cars were able to get out, which they did, and two of the occupants stood by the side of the road while the other two lay down on the grass on someone's front lawn.

The road outside has two lanes in each direction, and the accident cars were blocking one lane completely, but traffic was getting through on the second lane. I called 911 and reported the accident, and while I was doing it, two cars in the unblocked lane were involved in their own rear-end collision, which was just as severe as the first accident. I guess one of the drivers was too busy watching the smoking vehicles to pay attention to his/her own driving, and Ka-pow! The second set of cars were locked together in a metallic embrace, and nobody seemed to be exiting the vehicles, so I told the 911 dispatcher that he might as well send a second ambulance, and perhaps even a third one, and to throw a firetruck in there for good measure.

A crowd quickly formed and some people tended to the victims, who all appeared alive, if not healthy.

I decided to walk to the nearby grocery store instead of taking the car, and I saw the firetrucks and ambulances speeding toward the accident scene before I had walked a full block.

EMS workers don't get nearly enough credit.

I have the weekend off, at least for now so I'm going to enjoy it. I still haven't gone home, so I haven't connected my camera to the computer to upload all the cool Bahamas pics / videos. I'll do that tomorrow afternoon when I return home.

Funny little airliner commercial

Ads on the page aren't safe for work, but the little video is, and it made me laugh.

I saw these pics in a post that a fellow named Snowgoose made on Avcanada post and wanted to share them. Sometimes I miss the north, and sometimes I really don't. I prefer the cargo that wears a business suit and loads itself onto the plane.

More stuff:

Airbus is in the process of soiling their drawers after Emirates said they might cancel their $15 Billion (with a B) order for new Airbus A-380's, because Airbus Industrie can't seem to build the airplanes within the timeframe they promised.

They are apparently having a tough time with the wiring, and the delays are allowing Boeing to made significant headway with their latest project, the 787 Dreamliner.

The Dreamliner is a lot smaller, but I love the curves on the airplane; it really looks like a bird. Check out some renderings of it in the multimedia section of the Dreamliner site.

Last but not least, here is my default homepage on Firefox:


Fark is all about news, with humorous titles and lots of good discussion. I actually pay $5 a month for the deluxe version, TotalFark, which updates with new stories every 60 seconds or so, while the free site, Fark, updates every few minutes. Totalfark is worth it - I get my news from TotalFark and I find out about stuff more quickly than I do through TV news.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I'm in Nassau, Bahamas. It was a 3 1/2 hour trip, and when I left Toronto I was wearing my fleecy vest, but when I stepped off the plane in Nassau, I had to change into shorts and sandals immediately, lest I melt.

It's a strange thing to ponder - a hundred years ago, there wasn't a single traveller alive who would have gone through such quick climate change in such a short period of time during a voyage, and now, thanks to jet travel, it's just a mundane, boring sidenote on some guy's blog.

Then again, a hundred years ago, nobody had ever seen the sky from 35,000' up and today alone, hundreds of thousands of people will be looking out their windows at the earth rotating below them, and then they'll return to reading their newspaper or napping or eating peanuts from a foil bag.

The wonder of it all!

I took a bunch of pics and some video, but I realize that I forgot to bring the usb cable to connect the camera to my PC, and it's a non-standard one, so I can't swap it with my blackberry USB cable. But when I return to Toronto, I'll have some pretty cool stuff for you.

The ride here was fine, there was a huge letter "H" on the prog chart halfway between Toronto and Nassau and apparently the big H's make the skies clear.

The only thing of note was that we brought a German Shepherd here in addition to some passengers. We took a seat out so Fido (not his real name) would have more room to stretch out. Then we put down his sheepskin blanket and he settled in and promptly went to sleep for the entire trip, only waking up at the end to hop outside and have a lazy pee, before meeting the customs officer who quickly confirmed Fido wasn't smuggling in any black-market kibbles 'n bits and let him on his way.

Today I'm going to head to the water slides at Paradise Island, then maybe have some mango juice and a nice salad at a nearby cafe. Since yesterday night, I have decided to avoid booze and red meat. More on that decision in a future post, but for now the sun is sending waves of heat at me that I can only fully enjoy while sliding down plastic tubing into huge pools of water, so I'm going to go do that.

Life is thoroughly good.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

This was from last week in Red Lake. The f/o was asleep inside the airplane, so I decided to relax outside. The nearest bench was a hundred yards away, so I reclined on the wing and read the newspaper. As long as the engines aren't running, it's a great place to spend a few minutes - the wing is cool even in the hot sun, and the curve of it offers great lumbar support :)

Thanks to IW for this pic!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

So what am I going to write about? How about the common and the vulgar, and did I mention common?

As pilots we never talk about pooping, but it still actually happens, so let's open a dialogue:

It is acceptable to be late for a flight due to intestinal concerns.

If you are about to board an aircraft and your bowels clench, then you are supposed to disembark and deal with the problem before starting a flight.

It is perfectly acceptable to divert a flight for a bathroom break. It's better than exploding, then crashing at your destination.

That is all.

Monday, September 18, 2006

KPWK airport in Chicago. Only a few miles from O'Hare and a lot less hassle.

Chicago is nice, the skies here are clear and the winds are light.

There was a bit of precipitation halfway between Toronto and Chicago, but we were above it all the way here. The only thing of note on this trip is that ATC told us to start descending before we had even reached our cruise altitude. We weren't going into O'Hare and I guess they treat the airspace around it as protected and holy, so we were told to be at 4,000' around 40 miles back from the airport we were landing in. What that meant was an additional fuel burn of a couple of hundred pounds, or about a hundred and fifty bucks.

Customs was here to greet us, he was polite and efficient. I met a couple of pilots who had also flown here from Toronto, in fact I had seen them on the ramp in Toronto just before we left this morning. We went for breakfast, and had a good chat. We compared jobs and after a thorough description of each other's duties and lifestyle, they both asked if my company was hiring.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I have the next couple of days off before a Monday trip to Chicago, so I'm thinking I'm going to burn some gas and visit Lisa. I guess it's about time I made the introduction, and I will, soon.

Kitsch took a bunch of pictures of Fox Harb'r, including this one. He's the same guy who took all the cool pics of our plane a little while ago, and he has a gift for it.

The rest of his slideshow is here, check it out:

Kitsch's Flickr Slideshow

I hung out at the resort for the afternoon. I talked with some pilots on a, Challenger 601, they were cool. Did you know the head of most major banks have their own bodyguards? I met one. He was nice, he came to the pilot's lounge and brought fish and chips to all of us. It was delicious, but even if it had been vile I would have told him it was tasty; he had obviously been trained to kill with his bare hands at a moment's notice, and the Challenger pilots were actually scared of him. I don't know how that particular workplace dynamic works, but whatever.

After the guests were done eating, some of them returned to the Challenger and it took off just ahead of us, also bound for Toronto. Good thing they were going to the same place and not, say, Vancouver, as the Fox Harb'r guest services people mistakenly loaded all my passenger's baggage into the Challenger. I thought my passengers were bringing it out to the plane with them, so I didn't miss it until my pax showed up and I asked them where their bags were. Hilarity ensued for a few moments until the guest services people figured out what had happened. No big deal, the Challenger crew was kind enough to drop off my passenger's bags to our FBO back in Toronto.

The return flight was clear and the moon was full. The stars burned bright and I saw a meteor streak across the sky, leaving a blue-green tail across the horizon before it winked out. I watched the transatlantic aircraft pass around us, tired voices with strange accents, heading eastward towards Europe and beyond.

The boss cranked The Tragically Hip on the MP3 player, and we watched the river of lights that is Toronto come into view.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The flight today was smooth, and the owners were happy. I restocked the entire commissary this morning, as some of the snacks were getting a little too close to their expiration dates and I worried that the beers might be a little skunky. So I spent $100 to make sure everything was fresh and cold, and was rewarded with the owners telling me how happy they were with the contents of QCC's bar and snack drawers. Yeah it's a little thing, but a little praise goes a long way and it made me happy that they noticed it.

Fox Harb'r is stunningly gorgeous. I'm guessing it's spelled that way so that nobody feels left out - not the people who spell it "harbor" nor the people who spell it "harbour". Clever marketing indeed :)

The runway is 4,800' long and 75' wide, with a private GPS approach to it. The weather was good so we didn't have to worry about any of that. Right on our heels was a Challenger. They are having a golf tournament at Fox Harb'r, and the Challenger brought some VIP's from Toronto.

4,800' is a decent sized runway for us, but it's pretty small for a larger airplane. Check out the Challenger landing - the pilot wanted to make sure it was a firm touchdown so he didn't float too far. He got his wish, as you can tell by the cloud of smoke from the tires on touchdown.

Here are some pics of this place, taken from just off the runway. Rooms here start at $450/night for the basic ones. Again, it must be nice to be rich.

We are right on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean.

That's the spa building. If you want a hot mud treatment or a massage or cold cucumbers on your eyelids, that's the place to go.

This is a quick tour of the men's washroom / locker room in the basement of one of the side buildings.

I spent about an hour at the resort and had a beer before hitching a ride from one of the workers to Tatamagouche, where I will be spending the night at the Train Station Inn. Fox Harb'r was all booked up, but that's fine by me. The Train Station Inn is an adventure unto itself. All the rooms are railway cars.

The Train Station Inn. The guy who owns it started it when he was 18 years old, and has added many cars to the original two he started with. He's truly passionate about trains and the office building is crammed full of memorabilia.

My caboose! Possibly the coolest idea for a hotel room ever, if you don't count the Elvis themed rooms at the Heartbreak Hotel in Memphis

Check out my guided tour here:

All in all it's been an interesting few hours so far.

More to come.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Today I'm off to Fox Harb'r, which is a really beautiful golf resort in Nova Scotia. It's owned by Ron Joyce, the billionaire who started Tim Horton's with, umm, Tim Horton. I won't be staying at the resort, I'm booked into a bed and breakfast a few miles down the road, but I'm still going to be big pimpin' - At the place I'm staying, the rooms are all in railway cars. I get my own railway car for 3 days! I'm sure much hilarity will result.

Yesterday was a repeat of the previous day; we flew 800 miles to Red Lake, waited for 8 hours, then flew 800 miles home. The only differences were that Red Lake was very smoky yesterday morning due to some nearby forest fires, and I almost dropped the ball on the approach - our sat weather said that the visibility and ceiling were fine. But when we got there, I could only see about a mile ahead due to the thick smoky layers, so I ended up having to actually pay close attention during the final phases of the flight. Smoke can be pretty sneaky; I could see through it to the ground when I was above it, but when we descended into it I had very limited visibility. It was frustrating - I could see parts of the town and I knew the runway was just ahead, but I couldn't actually locate it in the haze. It was getting close to approach minimums when the runway finally came into view, so I was able to squeak in. Aviatrix of Cockpit Conversation has a great series of posts about her experience with forest fire smoke while flying which you can read about here, and now that I have had a taste of it myself, I understand how it can be really disorienting.

3 miles final for runway 26, 1000' above the ground. We could see the town clearly until we descended into the smoke layer.

When we landed and opened the door, the air smelled like a barbequeue and half the passengers started sneezing.

The wait at Red Lake was unimaginably boring - we had a tour guide on the previous day, but yesterday the tour guide was busy, so we basically just walked around the ramp for 8 hours. We did have some folks to chat with - a couple of other jet pilots from Toronto. The particular charter we were doing for the past couple of days involved 18 people, and our plane only has 8 seats, so a larger plane, a Citation III from another company, was also used. The pilots were great guys, and I could almost forgive them for being 100 knots faster than us - it was a 2 1/2 hour trip for us, but just under 2 hours for them, and they passed us on 3 of the 4 legs.

The 4th leg was the final return leg last night. The weather in Toronto wasn't so hot, there were a pile of thunderstorms in a long line that were moving directly over Pearson airport, so air traffic was getting backed up. Because I am used to flying with the owner of the company (who is frequently early for flights), I have gotten into the habit of filing the flight plan for my next leg as soon as I land, and my flight plan was in the system for hours before we were scheduled to leave. The Citation III guys filed their flight plan just a few minutes before we were scheduled to depart. When our passengers arrived, we both went to get our Air Traffic Control clearance to return to Toronto, and the Citation III guys were told it would be a 90-minute wait for them due to "flow control", which is the air traffic control term for backed up traffic. My clearance had already been in the system for ages, so I had no such problems and we were able to take off immediately.

It was a funny, yet sad sight to taxi by the other plane, watching their passengers disembark and head back to the main terminal for an hour and a half. I did have some personal giggles though; two passengers we had brought over in the morning elected to return on the Citation III, 'cause "We want to fly the faster plane home". In this case, our baby jet was the faster plane, and we got back into Pearson an hour before the other guys made it in.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I flew 800 miles to Red Lake, Ontario today. It's in the northwestern corner of the province, about 5 hours drive from Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is also the location of a huge gold mine, and we were taking some executives there to do an inspection.

I'm back there tomorrow for the day, taking a new group of executives to check the place out. Tomorrow we are going to tour the gold mine, but today we just hung around the airport and surrounding area.

The airport is a lot more active that one might think. Check out what I saw:

I haven't seen a DC-3 in years. This one is based in Red Lake and does regular freight runs to northern reserves.

Gotta love the speed tape on the nose!

These engines have character. And grease!

I took a pic of the cargo - true northern goods - pop and chips.

More planes:

One of Bearskin Airlines' Metros. They have like 20 of them and use 'em to run passenger skeds in Northern Ontario, and I commuted on them regularly when I flew for Thunder Airlines. Metros are noisy, bumpy, hateful airplanes.

A Thunder Airlines King Air 100 dropped by on a medevac. The passenger was on a stretcher, and they loaded the stretcher onto a baggage cart to bring it out to the plane. Gotta love the north.

Some random straight Navajo. I flew the 'ho when I lived up in northern Saskatchewan, back in the day.

A Beech Travelair, owned by Perimeter Airlines based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I got my multi engine rating on a Travelair, it was a fun airplane. Perimeter uses them on bag runs, moving cancelled cheques to and from small towns to the larger centers for processing. A typical day would be - Winnipeg - Kenora - Sioux Lookout - Red Lake - sit for 12 hours in Red Lake, then - Sioux Lookout - Kenora - Winnipeg.

We headed to the local float base and I was rewarded with a great pic of a Dehavilland Norseman:

I used the super-high shutter speed on this one and caught the prop clearly as she came in for a landing at the waterbase :)

The waterbase was full of Beavers, Otters, and more.

A slightly better angle of the Beech 18 on floats. It uses the same engine as on a Beaver, the Wasp jr.

It was a beautiful day, but eventually it was time to return to Toronto.

That's what a decent-sized forest fire looks like from 37,000 feet.

The smoke stretches for miles and miles

The F/o hard at work, with the clear blue sky in the background and a cloud layer that made us feel like we were skimming across the surface of some white ocean.

I really like this pic for some reason.

Well, it's 10:30 and time for bed - I am doing the same thing over again tomorrow, bright and early. See you up in the sky.