Friday, June 29, 2007

This pic was taken in Hungary a couple of weeks ago. Pretty boring eh? Not so fast...these clouds have nothing to do with anything, except that the clouds are rare, special noctilucent clouds that form really high up in the northern hemisphere during Summer. How high? Well, normally clouds don't get up much higher than 30,000 feet or so. Thunderstorms can get up to 50 or 60,000 feet if they are really bad-ass. The noctilucent clouds in this picture are at 250,000 feet above sea level, or around 85 km straight up. Amazing.

Anyway, on to my 'real' post for today...

Past passed.

I got my Private license in 1988, when I was 17. I passed it even though I set up for a downwind landing on a forced approach, and would have landed with a honkin' tailwind. The guy said that he would have failed me but because I did a decent job on everything else, he would settle for spanking me (figuratively) and sending me on my way.

I passed my Commercial license in 1990. I passed it even though my flight test examiner fell asleep during the ride, only waking up when I nudged his shoulder and told him we needed to exit the hold and land eventually or else we would run out of fuel. The debriefing was very brief indeed and he sent me on my way.

I got my Multi-engine rating in 1990. That one was uneventful.

I passed my Initial IFR rating in 1990. I passed it even though I flew in cloud during the flight test and the examiner said that he should have failed me for it. I'm still unclear on why I should have failed, but I wasn't going to argue the point with him as he gave me the rating anyway.

I got my float rating in 1997. I passed it even though I didn't even want to fly floats (the boss made me do a float rating) and never ended up doing a single float flight after that. Then again, doing a float rating isn't really a test, but I wanted to include it here anyway for the purpose of completeness.

I passed my Airline Transport License exams in 2000. I passed them even though I didn't know the correct sequence of events to land a 737 on a short, soft field. I also screwed up the weight and balance questions, but those ones weren't really my fault. The exam I wrote used lines on charts to determine various parameters, and the lines on my exam booklet were really blurry due to having been photocopied a few bazillion times. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I got my first type rating (on the MU-2) as a First Officer in 2004. I passed it even though the flight test examiner fought with the Captain during the ride (coincidentally, the captain was also the spouse of the flight text examiner) and they ended up screaming at each other for the last half hour. I was really, really nervous at first, but that actually relaxed me a little; they were so over-the-top that I just pretended it was all fake, and I was just going through the motions with no real consequence if I failed. The only note on my debriefing was "You got better as the ride went along". I don't think I told them why that was :)

I got my first type rating (on the Citation 550) as jet Captain in 2005. I passed it even though I hadn't flown for 9 months previous and I wasn't sure if I was actually up to doing a Captain's ride on a jet, or if I was too rusty. Fortunately for me the instructors at FlightSafety were great; they really helped me to learn the important stuff and were enthusiastic about it even when I asked stupid question after stupid question. I went into that flight test feeling like a freakin' lion or something, full of confidence and ready for the world to hear me roar. The examiner's only note was that I didn't know what a compressor stall was, so he told me to learn it and then signed the piece of paper that allowed me to earn my living at this company.

Each one of those events brought me great stress beforehand, ending up with sweet relief and a good night's sleep after I passed the various checks.

I'm betting that you are probably a pilot too. Which one of your licenses or ratings was the biggest source of stress? Which one was the biggest accomplishment? Or is that the same thing?
This is kind of intense. It's a video of an airliner making an emergency landing after an engine caught fire. The twist is that the video was shot by a passenger inside the plane.

The voice you hear over and over again is a recording, saying "Brace brace, head down, stay down"

According to the person who posted the video, this was Flight 3337 from Washington to Dallas made an emergency landing at Dulles airport. No mention is made of the actual airline.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I'm back after a week of slack. I won't do that again. I have a few minor stories to tell, so let's get at it.

This is a beautiful P-51 Mustang. I took this in Winnipeg last week; I only had the chance to take 1 pic before a line guy ran up to me and told me that no picture taking was allowed on the ramp for privacy reasons. I boggled him by asking if I was allowed to take a pic of my own plane; after a lot of internal debate, he told me I was allowed to take a pic of my own plane as long as I had permission. From myself, I guess.

A couple of weeks ago I got to sit in the back of one of our jets. I took a video of the landing. Turn the sound down, 'cause the audio is obnoxious. I mostly like the landing rollout - it seems like we are doing a thousand miles per hour on touchdown.

Now last but definitely not least, I took this short video last weekend in Toronto. At the Pride 2007 parade, which is the second-largest gay pride celebration in the world. Lisa and I had never been, so we checked it out. It wasn't nearly as over-the-top as I had expected; I was sort of hoping to go and see something that shocked me but to no avail.

Until this, the gay pilot float.

This is a good pic which I shamelessly stolen from Miss Hell, a friend of mine. In my defense, she uploaded it to facebook and said that I was in the float, so I figure she had it coming ;)

Hey, it ain't that bad...I have seen worse paint jobs on real airplanes, and I bet you have too.

I know a few gay pilots, and each one of them has told me that discrimination because of their sexual orientation hasn't been much of an issue in the aviation community. The idealistic part of me says that that it's because we are enlightened enough to know that who a person loves is their own business, not anyone else's. Or maybe the actual answer is a little more pragmatic; the average single pilot sees a gay pilot and says "Awesome, now when I wear my epaulets to the bar tonight, that's one less guy who will be competing for the babes".

Yeah, I'm being silly.

There is a lot going on at work right now, and I find it really frustrating that I can't relay it on my blog - Toronto Pearson is actually a really small community and unfortunately some of the people who read this blog work for competing companies, so I have to keep my mouth shut. It's not a real big deal; I started this blog to tell my mom (link goes to her yoga studio) about my life in Ontario, and when I encounter good stuff that I can't talk about here, I just drop her an email or a phone call to let her know the latest gossip and scandal at the north end of Pearson. If you work there, she has probably heard about you ;)

Tomorrow we are heading east, to a land where they have a different word for just about everything. I'll bring the camera and try to get some shots for you, dear reader.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

This was taken a week ago in the UK. Click on it to make it bigger. It shows a RV-7A landing with a failure of the nosegear, which resulted in the airplane flipping over. The people were okay. I think the timing of the shot is particularly amazing.

I got the shot from

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lots of stuff is going on right now, but unfortunately it has a lot to do with the business side of the company I work for, and I can't really blog about it. Lots of meetings though. Who knew that trying to take over the world would require so much paperwork and interdepartmental coordination?

I learned something new today. A hundred thousand dollars is also known as a 'honey' or 'hunny'. Earlier today, I heard a client say "I dropped three hunny without blinking", in this case meaning that he spent that much in the casino the previous weekend. And I thought damn, it must be nice to have such an intimate association with large sums that you make up pet names for them.

I say this as I contemplate dropping a couple of dollar-inos on some ice cream for Lisa and myself. Today was a scorcher; actually it will be too hot to sleep until around 4am, so maybe I'll hold off on the trip to the 7-11 until later.

That was my day; I left my camera at the airport and that's why I haven't posted pics lately. I'll attempt to do that tomorrow, if I get a break between meetings.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

After 4 years of University the love of my life, Lisa, graduated recently. She immediately got a job in the finance department of my parent company, making more than I ever made in aviation before this job. She had worked there last year, and they must have liked the fact that she's one of those driven people I read about and see on tv, the type of person that isn't happy unless they are active and productive. In a lot of ways we are very different people ;)

I'll tell you the story of our meeting one day soon. And the story of my drive from Stony Rapids, SK to Goderich, ON. But not today. Today we are driving up north to visit some friends we haven't seen in a long time.

Anyhoo, these are pics taken when she convocated. Here she is with her parents.

I'm not sure what the big deal is; when I was a teenager I'm sure I convocated at least 6 times a day and I didn't get to go on stage for any of it. Hmm, I should get a more modern dictionary than the one from 1490 I have sitting by my computer desk. I feel like I'm missing out on a lot of newfangled words.

Oh, where am I? I wasn't there, I was flying. Yeah, I know. I don't know if there is a smiley-face icon for the act of missing roughly 50% of the important moments in my loved one's lives, but if there was I'd post it here.

I rode in the back of our jet for the first time a couple of days ago, so tomorrow's post will be all about that.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I have avoided making this post for quite sometime now, because I don't want to face the basic questions that I need to ask myself.

Jet engines run on kerosene, which is basically the stuff that powers your old Coleman camping lantern. It provides a high energy output for a relatively small mass, and there are currently no approved substitutes for jet fuel.

Airlines in the US burned 19.6 Billion (with a B) gallons of the stuff in 2006. A good estimate for the amount of carbon dioxide emitted is 19.6 lbs of CO2 for every gallon of gas burned.

In our little baby jet, we average a burn of around 160 gallons per hour, so we add around 3,100 lbs of CO2 into the atmosphere for each and every hour we have the engines turning.

Our exhaust is generally exhausted at high altitudes, so it goes into the upper atmosphere a lot more easily than auto emissions. Each hour I fly, my jet basically injects CO2 directly into the neck of mother nature.

How can I justify the ecological toll that my job is taking? It's not so bad for me, but when Lisa and I have kids, I want to leave them a world that is at least remotely functional, with fresh air and drinkable water, not a volcanic planet with green clouds that rain sulphuric acid upon the few fragments of life that remain.

It scares me, and it's one of the reasons I drive a hybrid car. I know it sounds like ordering a double Big Mac with an extra-large diet Coke, and that's what I'm struggling with.

I love my job, but it directly contributes to the poor health of the planet. When I was flying medevacs I guess it would have been easier for me; we were doing trips to save a life. But I don't do any of those trips and more, I mostly fly people to meetings and to vacation spots. How important are those trips?

Factoring into this is that I enjoy a good standard of living right now, and this is the first time I have taken home more than a thousand bucks every two weeks. I am not trained to do anything else, but I am working on that part - my parent company deals with alternative energy sources and I am putting together a plan that will net me a second qualification besides aviation, a plan that will train me for a decent job if my aviation career ever stops. But that's going to be a while. So what about the interim?

How can I justify being part of an industry that adds massive amounts of greenhouse gasses directly to the upper atmosphere and contributes to global warming?

Is my personal comfort and level of economic privilege more important than that of my future-born? How do I do the math on it? Like if I quit my job and go on welfare but avoid putting another million pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere will my kids have a better life? How about someone else's kids in another country?

Will I be able to look my kids in the eye and honestly say that I did everything I could to make their world a better place, one that they will be happy to inherit?

Did I do anything I could? At all?

What makes it so hard is that I love flying. I love love love it, and I intrinsically feel like I was meant to do it. But I wonder if Hannibal Lecter thought the same thing when he first looked at a person as a food source.

What do you think? Am I out to lunch here, along with Hannibal?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I'm having a lazy weekend, so it's video time in between 'real' posts :)

This is one I haven't seen before; the ending isn't as bad as you'd initially assume, but it's bad in a different way.

Here's a unique take on the soft field landing. I didn't know it was possible to tail-strike a 152, but I learn something new every day.

Here's another good one. I can't tell if the tail strikes or not.

This one reminds me of the Honduras ones I posted last week. In this case, it's Culebra, a small island off the east coast of Puerto Rico.

I found this interesting. It's a balked landing where the ac touches down during the go-around.

One final one, a landing at Hong Kong's old Kai Tak airport that they salvage at the last second. Sort of. Nothing to see here folks, move along...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I made some friends just before we departed Deer Lake.

Blackflies AND snow - it just ain't fair!

Enroute, lots of heavy jets passed beneath us. They have about 100 knots on us, and were soon out of sight.

We dodged some pretty serious thunderstorms around Montreal and landed uneventfully back home. The pictures don't do them justice - we were at FL390 (wrongway) and were just barely above the smaller ones. The bigger ones towered past us up to 50,000' - we went around those.

Once home, my landlord dropped by with some presents. He flies long-haul for a major air carrier and was in Beijing yesterday, where he picked these up.


Now we are off to a Skinny Puppy concert. Skinny Puppy? Who the hell are they? My most favoritest band when I was a young pup. Heck, 2 of my tattoos are Skinny Puppy artwork. Yeah, I have 'issues' :)
As we were flying to our destination here in Newfoundland, we saw vast areas all around our destination that have snow on the ground. It was +24 when we left Toronto, and my passengers were all wearing golf shirts, so it was funny watching them try to divide up our spare windbreaker and jacket between the 4 of them.

The airport here is quite beautiful, so that was cool. Too bad the FBO people didn't stick around to let us in the building; we arrived 10 minutes before they officially closed, but the place was abandoned so we trudged across the ramp to the main passenger terminal to get our rental cars. It kind of sucks; everything else went perfectly, but I know what my passengers will remember most is having to walk across the big ramp with their heavy bags.

I tried to watch the hockey game last night, but the tv in my room didn't work and the local pub was closed, so I ended up playing the nickel slot machines in the lobby. I put in a dollar and won six bucks on my first press of the button. I figure this is the best I'll ever do at gambling, so I immediately cashed out and went back to my room to ponder what I'll invest my newfound fortune in.

It turns out that my motel room didn't have internet access either, so I hooked up to the front desk clerk's PC to upload this. Just a quick tour of my motel room. It ain't the best, but what do you expect for a lousy $120/night ;)

I applaud them in their quest to educate people on the dangers of using too much soap. If you look closely, you can see the bar that they provided me. Fortunately I'm not too dirty physically, just mentally.

We head back today, so I'd better get to the airport and make sure the plane is ready to go. I'll bring my camera with me and hopefully there will be something to see.

Monday, June 04, 2007

We head 090 degrees for a thousand miles today, making a tour of the east coast. It's a wet one, with low ceilings and visibilities forecast at every place we go.

Tonight, I stay at the scenic **** Lake Motel. They rate themselves a conservative 3 stars, and now offer air conditioning and telephones in every room! I looked at the nearby tourist attractions and was rewarded with an insectarium only one kilometer away, so tonight I'll have to take some pictures of blackflies as big as dogs.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Today I went for coffee with a person I used to work with when I flew medevacs on the MU-2. We talked about the cool people we had met through the job, and about the various stresses associated with medevac flying. And I heard a story I hadn't known about until today.

For me, the biggest single stress of medevac flying was living on the pager and having to drop everything and be at the airport within 20 minutes of being paged, ready to fly a 15-hour day. I frequently said the pager was killing me.

I was exaggerating, and I was lucky.

One of the people who worked at the company at the same time as me was a flight paramedic. We had never worked together, but I knew her by name. About a year after I left the company, she was sitting at home, waiting for the pager to go off.

It went off, and startled her. She had a heart attack and died right there. As her partner was performing CPR on her, the company dispatch called their home phone, demanding to know why she hadn't answered her page. "Poor timing" doesn't begin to cover it. She was in her mid-twenties, and deserved better than that end. The company spent 10k on her funeral, flying her parents in via chartered aircraft and buying thousands of dollars worth of flowers.

There were other contributing factors to her death; she was a bit overweight, was a smoker and had been taking diet pills containing ephedrine, a stimulant now banned in Canada. But my gut tells me the pager pulled the trigger.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

I'm in Teterboro, New Jersey today. It's the corporate jet airport that services New York, and is a lot less busy than La Guardia or New York's JFK airports. Our clients can hop into a limo and be in downtown Manhattan in 25 minutes, which is definitely more convenient than the major airports, even though they are geographically closer to Manhattan than we are.

We arrived at 10am and checked into our hotel rooms to get our mandatory crew rest before our 9pm departure back to Pearson tonight.

I had a long nap which was delicious, especially as I didn't sleep very well last night. Sometimes the brain refuses to shut down and relax, and last night was one of those. I had a recent kick in the ass that I'll be dwelling on for the next day or two. It isn't a shot to the engine room or anything - I'm not losing my job, and I'm not losing Lisa, but damn, do I ever hate stress that I can't do anything about.

Now I'm contemplating which restaurant to have supper at, and watching the cumulonimbus clouds start to form in the heat of the afternoon. Our route home is dotted with them, but we aren't departing for a few hours yet, so I'm hoping they fade away as the sun traces the arc toward the west, and nightfall. If the cumulonimbus clouds (CB's, we call 'em) get big enough they will form thunderstorms, which I am NOT a fan of. If they get really big, then they can also spit out all manner of nasty things, like hail, tornadoes, poisoned winged monkeys with swords that shoot lightning, etc. Well, I'm not so sure about the last part, but take it from me that a mature CB cell contains everything bad.

The radar images show areas of precipitation; the red parts within the areas are the most intense, and they would be no fun at all to fly through. Fortunately with a jet we usually have the option to climb above them or fly around them. Unfortunately, for a trip this short (it's only an hour home to Toronto from Teterboro) we can't get up as high as we could on a longer trip before Air Traffic Control makes us descend.

It'll be interesting to see the radar images around 9pm when we depart. If I have time, I'll add the updated one to this post. If I have time ;)

Fortunately for us we also have on-board radar as well as my beloved tablet PC that has a satellite link to all the radar stations across the US and Canada, so even if there are some CB's out there when we depart, we'll be able to weave through them with relative ease.

It blows my mind that people flew in this weather for decades with no radar at all. I am not that trusting.