Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Click on the pic to make it bigger, then be jealous of my narcotic pain meds :)

I woke up at 3am with pus coming out of my ear and in considerable pain. I have had a sore throat for the past couple of days, but it got better yesterday and I thought I had dodged whatever it was. In fact I had dodged nothing, it had simply moved elsewhere in my body to regroup and fester.

So I woke up the lovely Lisa and got her to drive me to emerg (my sense of balance was also wobbly, and I didn't want to drive), where the doctor diagnosed me with a 'wicked' ear infection.

//Sidenote: my wait in emerg was about 5 minutes before I saw the doc. I paid $0. Even the parking was free. Don't believe everything you hear about the Canadian medical system. The prescriptions were free also, due to my company's medical plan. That being said, if I had to pay for it out of my own pocket, they would have come to $27 in total - not bad, considering I'd pay 100x that amount to get rid of the pain.

At least the doc was kind enough to give me Tylenol with codeine - I had no idea that ears could hurt this bad - between the pressure and the shooting pains, I'd give it a 7-8/10 on the pain scale.

Anyway, all this sucks on a regular day, but today I also had a charter flight at 7am. We are a small flight department and there are only 2 of us available for this flight. I called another operator with whom we have a friendly relationship and begged for one of their pilots, but unfortunately all their guys and gals are out flying today. So I was screwed.

Now this particular charter was a sub-charter for another air carrier, so then I got to call their dispatch and tell them that we would be unable to do the flight.

I felt really bad for the dispatcher I called; it's 4:30am by this time and I wake him up to drop a big ball of stress on his lap - the clients are good clients of theirs, and my inability to do the flight will undoubtedly piss the clients off at the other operator.

So that's how my day started. I have nothing to sum up this story; the codeine is kicking in and my brain is choosing more and more random words to type instead of the ones I want to, so I'm going to go stare at a wall for a while - the pain meds are loaded with caffeine as well, so sleep is out of the question for a while. But at least the pain is dull, like my senses.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

So a few weeks ago a guy from the Wall Street Journal drops me an email and asks a few questions, which I answer. Today, I show up in the freakin' WSJ, section R, page 6. That is kinda cool. Unfortunately there is no link to the article as the WSJ is subscription-only. If I find one online, you know I'll be posting that one :) Anyway, I guess I should make a post.

Today was an interesting day, pilot-geek wise. Kitsch and I took a group of bankers to the east coast for a few hours, then back home. It was kind of funny though; there was another jet on this same run, but the other jet was a large corporate jet and it was taking not just a regular banker, but the president of the bank. Yup, we took a half-dozen bankers in our small jet, and their bank president flew alone in a large jet. I guess that's what I'd shoot for if I was inclined to be a corporate type - being the guy who gets the big plane alone to himself. I'd wear tiger pajamas; you are welcome for the visual :)

Another interesting part was that the weather sucked absolutely everywhere - there wasn't an alternate airport in Ontario that worked for our return flight so we had to hold an airport in the US. This bad weather took the form of a lot of cloud, and a lot of low ceilings. It wasn't thunderstorms or anything, just a lot of flying in grey nothingness and rough air. That being said, I had a really fun time on my flying leg this morning, heading to the east coast. The weather was poor except for right along our destination, so I got to have some fun on a visual approach, which is when I fly the airplane down to the runway by actually looking outside the airplane. Our destination was a coastal city and I got to land at the airport by flying along the coast, between a few islands, then down the harbor, avoiding the floating cranes then hanging a last-minute right and landing. The harbor visual in this airport is most fun evar. On our return to Toronto, Kitsch flew the instrument landing system right down to 400 feet before we saw the runway; not the technical absolute hardest IFR but not the easiest either. Normally our approach briefing is 'visual backed up by the ILS' on whatever runway we are landing at, but today we did full approach briefings, detailing exactly what we would do if we failed to find the runway in the bad weather. That was kind of cool, looking outside on approach to Toronto while Kitsch flew the airplane by using the cockpit instruments, seeing only cloud and fog but knowing that the city was just a few hundred feet below us, then seeing the runway at the last minute and making a safe arrival. I have flown hundreds if not thousand of ILS's and it still amazes me when the runway shows up, right ahead of us, glowing and blinking through the clouds and fog. The system works, which is a good thing as I bet my life on it a few days a week.

We also got to deal with icing in climb-out and arrival in both our cities today. Icing is not a good thing, and living on the shoreline of one of the great lakes, we tend to see a lot of days and nights where icing is a big deal.

Every time we fly in cloud and the temperature is below freezing, the plane will tend to accumulate icing. When ice forms on the smooth surfaces of our wings and tail, the rough ice disrupts the smooth airflow, which wrecks the ability of the wing to produce lift in a real hurry. So we have 'boots' on the outer parts of the wings, and we have electrical heat for the inboard parts of the wings and also the engine fan inlets. The 'boots' are rubber strips on the front of the wing that inflate, which causes the accumulated ice to crack and fall off. We don't want our engines to ingest large chunks of ice, so our engine intakes are heated, along with the front few feet of the wing that sits ahead of the engines. By heating those surfaces, it prevents ice from forming at all. It also uses a lot of power; our normal electrical load is around 75 amps, but with the heats on, it's closer to 350 amps. Larger jets have all their wing surfaces heated, but I guess in our jet it would take too much power away from the engines, so the boots do the job for most of the wing surface.

Anyway, in our particular jet, the anti-ice protection systems use up a lot of our available engine power, and that affects our ability to climb while our anti-icing systems are turned on. The good news is that icing usually only lasts through maybe 25,000 feet up, and we can climb higher than that. The bad news is that it takes a while to get up that high, longer when our icing systems are on. I guess it's not really a safety issue or anything - we always have more than enough available thrust to climb through the icing, but it just sets off a primitive thing in the back of my brain, a little cold tickle down my spine. I watch the ice accumulate and know that if the icing system fails, I am in real trouble. But then the system works and we keep on keepin' on, safe but wary.

The last thing that was interesting from a technical perspective today were the winds; Theoretically in a no-wind situation, it makes sense for us to climb as high as we possibly can for each flight as our fuel efficiency generally increases with altitude - we might burn 1,400 lbs per hour at 26,000 feet, 1,000 lbs per hour at 36,000 feet and 700 lbs per hour at 41,000 feet etc.

Today was a bit different. We had a low-level wind going east at a hundred miles per hour, increasing with altitude. So it was in our best interest to fly as high as we could on the way there, then relatively low on the way back. We have access to some pretty good computer software that takes the predicted upper winds and applies them to our flight paths and tells us what routes are most efficient. And in today's case, it told us that we should fly lower than normal on the way back, like at 26,000 feet instead of 36,000 feet. We would burn 400 pounds more fuel but the headwinds were considerably lighter and we would arrive around 20 minutes earlier than by climbing to a higher altitude and saving fuel but staying in the air longer. Now in the business of aviation, flight time counts for a lot; let me randomly pick a figure of $150 every 6 minutes of flight time as a reasonably close guide to our operating costs for the plane. Fuel costs roughly 50 cents per pound, so the extra 400 pounds of fuel we burned added around $200 to our cost of operating the flight. But the 18 minutes we saved took $450 off our costs of operating the flight, so we came out ahead bottom-line wise. It's just one of the things that I get to consider as Ops Manager, but I don't mind, I like the challenge.

Anyway, a few random thoughts all spun out of this one little run we did today.

More later, the lovely Lisa tells me it's bed time, and I don't want to keep her waiting. Santa's list and all that.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I'm back from vacation. It was awesome. You know what else is awesome? This safety briefing from a flight attendant. Listen and laugh.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I'm on vacation until Sunday, October 28th. I'm visiting my mom in Nanaimo BC, then visiting my dad and his family in Saskatoon. I fly next Monday, and I'll have a good story for you then - it's about how Lisa and I met, and it's actually aviation-related.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lisa, out on the town. I'm flying, which is presumably why she is looking up. This is kind of a theme.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

All pix by Kitsch, all praise to him. Click on the pix to make them big.

We were the first aircraft to depart Pearson this morning, punching a hole in the thick fog. How foggy? RVR 1400, which is somewhere around 1/4 mile visibility. I have done zillions of takeoffs in 1/2 mile visibility, that's nothing special. And I have done lots of RVR 1400 takeoffs before. In the simulator. But after 20 years of flying, this was the first one I had ever done in real life.

First we had to follow the taxiways to find the runway. It's a lot harder than it sounds, even though we are both familiar with the airport. There was no visual reference besides the green lights embedded in the taxiway, and we were worried about overshooting our intended intersecting taxiways.

Once we got on the runway, this is what it looked like. Each set of lights is 200 feet down the runway.

The airplane behaved, and our carefully briefed and discussed plan on what to do in case we lost an engine on takeoff wasn't needed. We punched through the cloud layer and welcomed the morning sun on our faces.

It was nice to see the sun come up, but I'm pretty sure I was smiling because we were heading to our destination empty, and I didn't have to wear a tie, like an animal. That, and drinking Red Bull before 8am always makes me giggly.

Watching the clouds drift by below us, as our engines turn money into forward thrust.

After a few hours, we arrived at our destination. I was stressed because the airport we were landing at was so small that it didn't have any weather published, and all the airports around it were completely fogged in. But when we got there, we got lucky and our airport was nice and clear. And pretty.

Once we arrived, it was time to change into our shirts and ties, like animals. And wait for our passengers. We were a bit early, and I passed the time by making gang signs. I think I look like Tupac. Or like I have palsy, whatever. Heh, Lisa just saw this pic as I was posting it and said "Oh honey, are you okay?" Not entirely the desired effect, but I'll take it.

Kitsch tried desperately to ignore my thuggin', choosing to fixate on his Blackberry.

Then our pax showed up, and we the did same thing in reverse, winding up back at home in time for me to have a delicious supper with the lovely Lisa, and to blog this.

Fly safe!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

When the King Air Captain asked for our catering, I knew we were screwed.


As a favor to an Ops Mgr friend of mine, I was pinch-hitting (or perhaps, pinch-Captaining?) on a jet operated by another company, technically competitors of ours. Again, what?

//We were totally covered at my company - all our other pilots were in the air, so I knew I wasn't going to be needed by my employers. I had gotten approval from my boss, the owner, and the fee for my services was going straight to my company rather than in my pocket. Like I said, I was doing this as a favor to my Ops Mgr pal rather than any attempt to line my own pockets//

Anyway, we were going to fly a politician to a meeting a couple of hours away. Most likely you have heard of this person.

Before we fired up, I got a call on the Crackberry; it was a member of the politician's security detail. We were briefed by him on what to expect; the car containing the politician would be coming through the gate at such and such a time, and we should have one of the engines running by the time the cabin door closed behind the politician etc. It was all very exciting and glamorous.

There were several members of the politician's entourage already at the airport; after we loaded their boxed lunches aboard the plane we made small-talk with them, letting them know the weather was fine for the flight, and that we were happy to have them with us and if there was anything we could do to make their trip more enjoyable, just speak the words and it would be done. I guess it didn't hurt that the politician's entourage consisted of young, attractive women, but we would have done all this anyway, in the interests of good charter relations.

About 5 minutes before the time we were told to expect the politician, I got another call on the crackberry; the security officer said they were on time and to expect them momentarily. Then he asked what kind of turboprop a 550 was. I explained that it was a light jet. There was a long pause; finally he said he'd see us soon.

We took the initiative and loaded the entourage on board the aircraft in anticipation of our imminent departure.

We waited. And waited. 5 minutes became 10, which turned into 15, which turned into 20. The ladies started to fidget, as did the flight crew.

Then we saw a government King Air taxi up to the FBO and shut down.

My F/o, knowing more than I about such things, said "That's not good"

The King Air Captain walked over to us and motioned at me to open the storm window. I did, and he said "Can I have the lunches please". I looked at him, and said "Ahh crap. I can see where this is going". He looked back and me and smiled. "Oh, nobody told you? There's been a change of plans. We are doing the trip now"

We meekly complied, and told the ladies that they had to disembark and board the turboprop right next to us.

5 minutes later, the politician arrived, boarded the turboprop and departed. We taxiied back to the hangar and sulked.

So what happened? Well, the F/o and I had showered that day so it wasn't us.

In fact, what happened was that the politician didn't know that a jet had been chartered for this flight, and wasn't pleased with the optics of the situation. Suppose someone took a pic of the politician boarding the jet and it found it's way into the newspapers. Instantly, the politician is seen as an unapproachable rich elitist. But if the politician is seen boarding a propeller airplane, he/she is still seen as a man/woman of the people, and their public image remains down-to-earth and warm and fuzzy.

So the politician made a phone call. As it turns out, a turboprop owned by this politician's government happened to be in the air about 20 minutes away, heading to another city with another person on board. Our politician pulled rank, and the King Air immediately diverted to our airport with their hapless occupant, who was dumped on the ramp and told to find an alternate method of transportation for the day.

Now here's the funny part - at least it's funny to me. The company I was flying for still billed the politician for the canceled trip in the jet, and the politician's branch of government paid. The company had turned down other charters to do this one, and it was only fair. And because I had showed up to do the flight, and had wasted half the day, I got paid also. Well, my company did but you get the point.

So in order for the politician to avoid any possibility of looking like a rich bigshot, they paid for 2 aircraft, and probably paid for whatever aircraft eventually flew the underling to the meeting he/she was heading for when the King Air was re-tasked while enroute. At least they saved money by using our catering :)

I definitely chose the wrong career. Would you vote for me? Sully for President! :D

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I'm back. I took a month off because I was feeling pressure from readers of this site to write about stuff I didn't want to write about, and it was starting to feel like a job. I miss this, and it feels like fun again, so here goes nothing...

All photos courtesy of Kitsch, click on them to make them bigger.

We returned from waaaay out west the other day, flying empty back home.

Wearing a tie is the worst part of this job, and it's nice to be able to dress casually on occasion. The food ain't bad either :)

Arizona is like the surface of the moon in places.

Speaking of extra-terrestrial bodies, we flew over a giant crater caused by a prehistoric asteroid. It stained the earth red with asteroid blood. Who are you going to believe, some geologist or uncle Sully?

It was a 5 hour flight back home, and Kitsch and I made ourselves useful during the time spent in cruise :)

//note to any particularly anal people: the last 2 pics are staged, somewhat :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

See if you can spot the poor decision-making in this clip.

Or this one.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This poor fellow gets ejected into the rotor blade of a helicopter. It ends better than you'd expect.

Pilot Ejected Into Helicopters Blades - Watch more free videos

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On the road again today; here are some random notes.

Today we went to the Smithsonian Museum of Air and Space in Washington. It's free, and it's totally awesome. We saw the Enola Gay, the Gossamer Albatross, a SR-71, some lunar landers, a space shuttle, the original Lear Jet, and a whole lot more. Pilot geek heaven, I tells ya. I'll post some pics and videos when I get back home, hopefully tomorrow.

At the Landmark FBO in Washington Dulles, they have shiatsu massage chairs, much like the ones that are in shopping malls and cost $2 for each 5 minutes of bliss. I spent 20 minutes in one just now, and only got up because I was worried I might not be able to walk any more.

About an hour ago, I saw one of the guys who is running for President of the United States here. He was sitting alone, working on his laptop and making phone calls on his bluetooth headset. After about an hour, his Challenger 604 (a heavy corporate jet) showed up, and he departed for parts unknown. I thought it was interesting that he didn't have anyone else with him at the FBO, he was all by his lonesome. Then again, he's running at like 1% in the polls, so perhaps the powers that be figure he's not popular enough to worry about being hassled by members of the general public.

I didn't bother talking to him as we share very different political points of view, and I doubt I'd be able to convert him to my way of thinking. It was kind of freaky though - once in a while I'd look at him and he'd look right back at me like he knew me - I am guessing that politicians perfect that look early on so they can establish a quick rapport with members of the general public.

We are currently waiting for our passengers to arrive so we can head off to another destination and overnight there. Our destination airport is relatively close, a small airport that I have never been to. The kicker here is that there are 2 airports right next to each other, both with the same freakin' name and we will be paying special attention to make sure we don't land at the wrong one by mistake. Normally it wouldn't be an issue as we'd set up for the intstrument approach for the airport we want, but as it turns out, both airports are served by the same approach, which is offset to both airports. At least the weather here is perfect.

Tomorrow it's back home (in theory) which I am looking forward to. The lovely Lisa and I are moving to a new place in October and there is a lot of planning to do beforehand. We have accumulated a lot of stuff in the past couple of years, and this move is going to be the biggest one yet. Back before this job, I moved a lot - 9 times in 3 years actually, and everything I owned would fit into my Honda. Not any more, which is both a blessing and a curse. I guess it means that I feel secure enough in my job that I think I won't be moving across the country any time soon, but it also means that moving day is going to involve lots of heavy furniture, lots of sweating and lots of cursing.

On that note, if anyone wants to help us move at the end of September, drop me a line :) I'll provide the beer if you provide the muscle. Anyone? Anyone? Hmm, I think I hear a coyote howling in the distance, so I'm going to sign off and wait for our passengers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Early this morning, waaaay too early, we flew east for the day. I didn't bring my camera's data cable so I can't upload the cool pics I took until I get home.

So I'll briefly talk about a tiny little niche of aviation politics, which has to do with crewing other operator's aircraft.

We aren't the only people who operate this type of plane out of Toronto Pearson, and from time to time we get phone calls from other operators asking if we can provide a flight crew member for an upcoming trip they have, filling in for a sick pilot or a pilot on vacation or whatnot.

It's a delicate little dance all-around. Some background info:

A hypothetical standard daily rate for a Citation 550 Captain might be around $500/day plus expenses (meals, hotels, etc).
A hypothetical daily rate for a Citation 550 First Officer might be in the neighborhood $350/day plus expenses.

It sounds like a lot, but keep in mind that a Captain making, say, 70k/year with full benefits and on-duty 5 days a week costs the company roughly $350/day. If the company keeps the money, it isn't much more than the actual daily cost of employing the pilot. But we don't have access to the pilot for that day, either.

That's part of the rub - when it comes down to it, the other aircraft operators around here are our competitors. We don't do a whole lot of charter - the majority of our flights are in-house ones, but we are available for charter and we make more money on a 2-hour charter than we would by donating a Captain to another operator and charging them $500/day.

It's a tough call - do we help another operator out so they can do a charter and make lots of money, or do we decline to help them and hope that they can't do the trip at all, and perhaps the client will call us instead so we can make the big charter bucks? Keep in mind that our guys get sick and go on vacation from time to time also. It isn't entirely prudent to declare open war on our competitors because we go on vacation and get sick also, and we might need their help crewing our aircraft in the future. That, and some of the operators here are friends of mine, guys I hang out after work. I try to keep it in perspective the best I can; we are all brothers and sisters in aviation, just trying to do the job as best we can so we can make a living and go home to our families at the end of the day.

Oh, and one more thing to add into the mix - who gets the money? Normally I think the company should, and here's why: If I send a pilot out to fly for a competitor for the day, I can't use that pilot if a trip comes up for us, and I can't use them in the office for that day either. We pay for the pilot's training and it's because of our training dollars that they are qualified on the airplane.

But what if the pilot wants to fly for the competition on their guaranteed days off? What if they want to fly for the competition for a day while they happen to be on vacation?

Or conversely, suppose our plane is down for maintenance for a week. Can I demand that our pilots fly for the competition during that time and have our company keep the money so we can make a few bucks?

It's tough calls all-around, and I have not come up with a perfect system that addresses all of that. I just wanted to let you in on some of the stuff that we deal with on a fairly regular basis.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I saw this funky little fighter plane on my recent travels. It has a single engine and according to the ramp guy, was made in Poland. It's privately owned, and I guess primarily used for fun. The owner bought 2 of them and a few more non-working ones for spare parts.

//update. I wiki'd it and it turns out it's called an Iskra. Still in use in Poland as a military trainer.//

Here's a short little video of my walkaround.

Meanwhile, the clouds were being cool so I took a few pics. I really need a better camera. And talent. Talent would be cool.

Special Bonus footage:

Our little office, circa 2 weeks ago, guest-starring Kitsch and Hewhocannotbenamed. We have moved since then, but that's a subject for future posts. No word on whether Kitsch ever found his pants...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

For my birthday, Lisa took us to see "Evil Dead : The Musical". We got tickets in the 'Splatter Zone'. It did not disappoint. In fact, it was the best small-theater performance I have ever seen. The songs were great, the dialogue was truly hilarious, the actors were funny and raunchy raunchy, and the fake blood was copious.

We were offered plastic ponchos, but declined them.

We took these pics after we had towelled off our heads and faces. I had huge chunks of fake gore on my head, running into my eyes. It tasted like sugar.

At least we didn't get pulled over on the way home; that would have been exciting :)

An aviation-related post coming right up...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Okay, I'm back. The past month has been pretty crazy, but I have managed to recharge my blogging batteries a wee bit and I think I'm good to go for a while before my next big hiatus.

Lisa is fine, thanks for your emails of support around that. She's up and walking and the bruises are healing, so pretty soon the only evidence of Summer 2007 is going to be three little pink scars. Not bad, considering.

On the aviation front, we have moved our offices from the Landmark FBO at Pearson to a nearby hangar complex where the owner has given us a nice office and hangar space for the aircraft, along with access to lower fuel prices. In return we have made our aircraft available to the hangar owner should it be required, and I think it will work out pretty well for both parties.

Anyway, that's me playing catch-up, it's time for a "real" post. It isn't aviation-related, but here's an awesome thing that happened to us recently. And by "awesome" I mean "This makes us look really bad. In fact, we are going to Hell."

I have changed a few minor details in this story but its essential truth remains.

A few weeks ago, Lisa had gone to a wedding - a friend's sister had gotten hitched, and they had invited Lisa. I had flown that weekend and missed the party - quel suprise I know - but she told me all about it. Basically the whole thing sucked pretty hard. Give you an example? Well, stuff like the bride wore a tube-top, was stumbling drunk and angry. The venue, a part-time bingo hall, had zero decorations, there was no food, and the groomsmen wore fake, printed-on tuxedos. Now I know I'm coming across like a snob, and I want to make it clear that this wasn't about money - they spent a big chunk on alcohol, cowboy hats and cheese doodles - it was about taste, and essentially there was none. Oh, did I mention the best man hit on Lisa and then barfed on the back of her dress after she turned away in disgust? I should mention that.

//Now I want to add a bit of relevant info - Lisa and I are saving for a downpayment on a house, so we have been really taking a hard look at our expenses, and looking for ways to reduce them and save every nickel we can. Fast forward back to the story//

The couple had registered at a large hardware store chain (can you tell this was a hick wedding?), and Lisa had bought them a small gift from their registry. She had planned on giving it to the surly, drunken couple at the wedding, but as none of her other friends had brought gifts she decided to avoid embarrassing them and give the gift after the wedding.

She told me the story, and the more I thought about it, the less I wanted her to spend her hard-earned money on this couple. So I asked her if it would be acceptable to return the gift and instead put the money into our house fund. She was initially horrified, so I asked what she had gotten in return for showing up at the wedding. No food, and the bar was a cash bar. There was no entertainment either, unless you count the guy who repeatedly played "Every Rose Has its Thorn" on his truck stereo in the parking lot or the numerous fights, also in the parking lot. Lisa had shelled out for a gift, and on top of that had to pay again to have her clothes dry cleaned, so I felt that she had already paid her dues.

I convinced her to return the gift. She eventually agreed, so I put it in the trunk of her car for the next time we were passing by one of the large chain hardware stores.

Now last weekend, we were preparing for a house party and were foraging for supplies. We were driving and saw a grocery store and decided to stop in for some fruit and veggies and pop and whatnot. As I was parking, I saw one of these large hardware stores was right next to the grocery store.

I told Lisa I'd catch up with her at the grocery store, and I went to the trunk, pulled out the gift (and receipt) and stomped off to the hardware store.

I went up to the nice CSR girl and told her I'd like to return the gift in exchange for cash. She said sure, and started to go through the refund process. Right at the end she said that I couldn't have cash, that because the gift had been paid for on a credit card they could only refund the money to the card. I happened to have Lisa's VISA on me from earlier that morning (long story), so I gave it to the CSR girl and had her ring it through.

Now it's kind of interesting - on the return receipt, the wedding gift registry number was printed in large letters right at the top. The CSR girl took a look at it, and paused for a few seconds. Then she looked at the name on the credit card. Then she looked at me, long and hard. I figured she was wondering why the name on the card was Lisa and I clearly wasn't a Lisa. "My parents wanted a girl" I joked. She didn't crack a smile, and turned away for a second to answer a ringing phone.

I saw Lisa walk through the main doors of the hardware store, and start to walk over to me, bags of groceries in her hands. She froze, then did a 180 and walked out very quickly for a woman with a good number of stitches in various moving parts.

The CSR girl gave me back Lisa's VISA and said "The money has been refunded. Is there anything else you'd like to return?" She was snarling, almost openly hostile.

I said no, got Lisa's VISA back and quickly walked out, feeling the CSR girl's eyes bore into the back of my hairless skull.

I met Lisa in the parking lot and said "What the hell was that?"

"I didn't know she worked here. That was the bride."

I told you it was awesome.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 22, 2007

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

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

Japan Airlines 747 catching the sun

Shanghai 767-300, flying a thousand feet above.

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

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

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

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

Mostly dormant volcano over Alaska

Volcano over Kamchatka, Russia

Middleton reef, South Pacific

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

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

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

Vancouver at ten thousand feet, looking east

Petropovlosk, looking south.

Sandy Bay, Australia

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


Tiannamin Square, looking north toward the Forbidden City.

The Algarve


Tel Aviv

Monday, July 16, 2007

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

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

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

Friday, July 13, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pretty damn cool Cat II ILS approach into London Heathrow.

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

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

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

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

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

Clouds are fine when they behave.

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

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