Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Click on the court summons to make it larger.

So Lisa and her friends were driving to Ottawa to see her brother. They got as far as Kingston before getting lost and turning onto a sideroad, where they soon met an undercover police car. The officer claims that he clocked them going 138km/h in an 80km/h zone.

It gets Ontario, being charged with speeding more than 50km/h over the limit means the following:

1. Immediate 7-day driver's license suspension - you have to give it to the officer on the spot.
2. Immediate 7-day seizure and impoundment of the vehicle (we pay the towing and impound fees - in Lisa's case around $325)
3. If convicted, minimum $2,000 fine (max is $10,000) and 6 demerit points (which could triple her insurance from $130 to $400/month)
4. If convicted, probable suspension of her driver's license for 30 days, and possible suspension for up to 2 years.
5. Lisa had to take the train back to Oakville ($45) once her car got impounded, then she has to take it to Kingston in a week ($93) to get the car back. (My mom is coming to visit this weekend, and I'm not going to take a whole day out of that visit to drive Lisa to Kingston)
6. Sully gets to give Lisa a ride to/from work every day, which means Sully has to wake up a half-hour early every morning. Not a real big deal, but still...
7. Lisa immediately gets a letter from the DOT saying she gets her license taken away for 10 years if she gets another big speeding ticket in the next 10 years.

In short, you do NOT want to get convicted of speeding more than 50km/h over the limit in Ontario.

As an aside, another consequence of having your driver's license taken away is that you no longer have ID to get into the bar; that night, Lisa tried to go to the pub with her friends and was denied entry because she didn't have a driver's license to show the bouncer. I'm sure there's something in there about karma or something, but I'm not sure what conclusion to draw.

And how was your weekend?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I'm in New York right now, on a company trip. The flight was routine, so I'll quickly segue to something more interesting.

This is a video clip my friend Jennifer made of a trip she did to Toronto Buttonville, flying a medevac in the MU-2. She's been a Captain on the MU-2 for some years now, and has it mastered. This is no small feat, considering the level of difficulty of the MU-2. For example, I can take my hands off my C-550 during flight and the plane will be rock-solid in its flight path. Hell, I could probably land my Citation II with my eyes closed and my hand only on the trim wheel, paying attention only to the rad-alt callouts. On the MU-2, my record for flying it with no hands before having to take control again was 6 seconds. When I did my first flight in the MU-2, my eyes were the size of dinner plates. 18 months later, when I did my final flight in the MU-2, my eyes were the size of dinner plates. Anyway, my point is that the MU-2 is a hella challenging airplane to fly, and she makes it look easy.

You may notice that this plane really hauls ass, even on approach.

I love the part around 1:20 when the plane touches down and she puts the props in Beta / Reverse, causing the "whoompf" noise. And then you get a small taste of the amazing wall of noise that the MU-2 puts out while taxiing.

If you wind up needing medical attention in northern Ontario somewhere, you might end up hitching a ride down south in one of these magnificent machines. If you see a friendly captain with blonde hair sitting up front, be sure to tell her you've seen her on youtube ;)

Monday, February 04, 2008

I got an interesting letter in the mail today from Transport Canada. In it was an advisory circular, entitled "Protecting the health & safety of employees on board aircraft in epidemic situations involving airborne communicable diseases".

Basically, it's what to do when the bird flu mutates and becomes communicable from human to human, which is probably going to happen sooner rather than later. When it does, millions of people will become infected and a pretty good chunk of those will die. Anyway, Transport Canada has decided that it's a likely enough scenario that they need to come up with a plan to fight it. After all, airplanes carrying sick pasengers will make any epidemic a pandemic within a few hours.

It says lots of basic stuff like the flight crew should use respiratory protection devices, which I'm assuming might be some variant on a surgical mask or an oxygen mask. It reminds us to use basic hygiene, which is certainly appreciated in a multi-crew cockpit whether or not an epidemic exists.

But here's the funny part:

"Air operators should also prevent obviously ill passengers from boarding their aircraft when they show signs such as persistent coughing, impaired breathing, persistent diarrhea, persistent vomiting, skin rash, abnormal bleeding and reduced mental clarity."

Just imagine.

Some of the stuff would be pretty obvious, like persistent vomiting or hideous disfiguring skin rash. I have flown lots of passengers with reduced mental clarity, but that has mostly been due to the bar stock we carry, and they got better after drinking lots of water and having a nap. Abnormal bleeding? I can't think of more than one scenario in which bleeding is normal, and I'm sure as hell not going to investigate that one either - it's not polite to do that to any of our paying passengers, let alone half of them. How on earth are we to know if a passenger about to board our aircraft has persistent diarrhea? I'm really not looking forward to that particular encounter...

You know what? It's just not worth it - in fact, remind me to call in sick that day :)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Crossing 600 miles of water to get to Bahamas.

I like that pic. I don't know how it's going to look on the blog, but at home it looks like I can actually look up and see into space.

These shots were taken a short while ago in a Citation Bravo, which is the newfangled version of the Citation II I fly - the airframe is the same, but the engines have 10% more thrust, the landing gear is trailing link (makes for softer landings) and the cockpit instruments are a lot more modern.

We took this plane to Bahamas. To be honest, I am less excited about that area than I used to be - there are only so many days I can walk along the beach with a pina colada before I start to pine for my couch at home. It's weird, but true.

Anyway, where were we?

Right, Bahamas.

I'm posting these pics as I'm looking outside my window at a massive snowstorm which is hammering the Toronto area. You know, the part where I previously said I was sick of Bahamas? I take it back. I'm ready for another trip, Mr. Charter client sir.

Okay, I'm getting off track. I actually had something interesting to post today, so now that I have alienated 90% of you, it's time to talk about pilot-geek stuff and chase away the remaining 10% :D

On the way back, the headwinds were such that in order to have enough fuel for the return leg, we had to climb to 43,000' above sea level, where the fuel burns are lowest. I'm not generally a huge fan of high-altitude flight (my personal feel-good altitude is 33,000'), mostly because we get exposed to a lot of solar radiation, which isn't particularly good for us. But there's another reason too, one which I will attempt to explain.

The higher we go, the more we tuck ourselves into 'coffin corner'

Here's a picture illustration of what I mean, taken at 38,000', climbing to 39,000'.

The part we care about at the moment is the airspeed indicator, which is at the top left of the pic. We are indicating 184 knots, and climbing at 500 feet per minute. Now see the little red bar at the top of the airspeed indicator, starting somewhere at around 218 or 219 knots? That's our never-exceed-speed indicator, showing the fastest we are allowed to go before we start to lose some structural strength in the airframe. To oversimplify - if we go too far over our redline, the wings come off.

Now there is another bar on the airspeed indicator that we can't see yet - it's a white one which appears at the low end of the indicator. It shows us the stall speed of the aircraft at that particular altitude. At 38,000', it's not yet an issue.

Now let's climb up a little higher.

See what happened to that little red bar on the airspeed indicator? We only climbed 3,000', but now the red bar is showing that our never-exceed speed is only about 202 knots. You still can't see it, but the white bar showing our stall speed has climbed also.

Let's push our luck and climb to 42,000' now. The altitude that we are currently flying at is indicated on the right side of the display, in green. The altitude at the top of the right side in red is what we have told the plane to climb to.

Now the red never-exceed-speed bar is showing somewhere around 198 knots, and we see the first appearance of the white dont-go-below-this-or-you-will-stall bar, which is showing around 137 knots or so.

I found it interesting that in these pics, we have only climbed 3,000'

We still have 60 knots to play with in between these two ranges, so it's not a huge issue for us, but consider this: At sea level, our never-exceed speed would be around 275 knots, and our stall speed would be around 85 knots, which gives us a 190 knot speed range that we can safely operate the airplane in.

This same effect applies to all aircraft - it was said that the US military spy planes such as the U2 or the SR71, who climb to altitudes above 60,000', would only have a 5 - 15 knot window in between the never-exceed speed and the stall speed, so it was vital to handle the aircraft extremely gently to avoid an upset.

Why does this happen? Well, I'm not going to go into it in much depth - Aviatrix at Cockpit Conversation can explain it a lot better than I can, but the short version is that the air is less dense at altitude, which causes all sorts of funky things to happen to airplanes.

That's it for my pilot-geek stuff today, I just thought it was interesting to see the effect of lower air density in real life.