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.