Sunday, December 28, 2008

Here's what happened in 2008 at my job:

- We moved into a new office at the airport and also started a friendly business relationship with a much larger scheduled carrier. The carrier now does our maintenance and we rent hangar space from them, and things are working out well - they are straightforward and honest and I trust them.

- The high price of fuel kicked our butts for the first half of the year. The insane prices we had to pay for Jet-A 6 months ago effectively raised our Direct Operating Cost (D.O.C.) by $200/hour for the entire year. In other words, we spent about $40,000 more on fuel for the same amount of flying. Not fun.

- The airplane behaved and we didn't have a single major unscheduled repair. One thing I absolutely love about this job is that my boss is a pilot too and he's not afraid to spend money where it's needed, like making sure the plane is in top condition at all times. We have a deferred defect system in place that allows us to put off fixing certain items if they break - we have never used it as we have never deferred a defect - we just get it fixed before we fly again.

- We went carbon-neutral, and I posted about it here and promptly got mugged for it, so I'll just shut up about that now and quit while I'm behind.

- We behaved and passed audits from Transport Canada (operations division), The Canadian Transportation Agency, The Canadian Business Aviation Association and one from the good folks at Transport Canada (maintenance division).

- The economic recession in the last half of the year has certainly affected charter flying, and we will finish the year with about 25% less charter hours than last year. Thank goodness our primary mission is to serve our company's management personnel on company flights - that means charter revenue is nice, but it doesn't make the difference between being able to put food on the table or not. Our parent company is in sound financial shape, and their business strategy is rock-solid, and I don't anticipate our paycheques bouncing in 2009.

In my personal life:

- Lisa and I celebrated 8 years together, and got married a few months later. My parents both attended, along with relatives from Ireland and all around Canada. I will remember walking with my mom and dad down the aisle until the day I croak.

- Lisa and I moved into a nice neighborhood, into a house with a back yard. It didn't take long to figure out that we are the bad neighbors with our parties and lax attitude toward mowing the lawn and refusing to put robotic blinking-LED-enhanced reindeer on our front lawn from November 1st to January 1st, so that's fun.

- My 21-year old brother came to live with us, and is currently surfing the web upstairs as I write this. It's good practice for when we have kids, and I'm learning new words every day.

- My best friend's dad passed away, only a few years after retiring from his job as Training Captain on the Boeing 747 for Air Canada. That really sucks, and my heart goes out to my friend for his loss - my mind short-circuits at the thought. I'm halfway done a post about the average lifespan of retired pilots - contrary to what you might think, retired commercial pilots actually live longer than the general population - there's a little more to the story of course, but again, that's a subject for another upcoming post.

- I went to my high school 20th anniversary reunion and was amazed at how people change when you drop 20 years on them. I'm 37 but feel 15.

- I lost 15 pounds. I'm sure I'll find them again, I just have to retrace my steps.

Here's what I intend to do better in 2009:

1. Donate at least 10% of my take-home income or 10% of my free time to charity. I have it pretty good, and I will try to never forget that I enjoy a level of privilege that the vast majority of people do not.

2. Quit drinking energy drinks. Why am I paying $3/can to feel nervous and irritable? I can do that just by turning on Fox news and watching Neocons explain the need for more war.

3. Grow a garden in our back yard. My mother has an incredible green thumb and I'd like to see if I can at least get a green pinkie going.

4. I really have to quit giving people the finger in traffic. I don't want to end up running into someone even crazier than myself and getting on the wrong end of a baseball bat because I flipped someone off for cutting me off.

5. Knock Lisa up. Don't worry, she knows about this plan. Lisa is very organized, and she says we are having our first kid in May 2010. Doing the math, that tells me that July 2009 is going to be a productive month. Mom, if you are reading this, I'm sorry for oversharing :)

6. Fly an airplane I have never flown before. In 2008 I flew the Citation 550 and a Cessna 172, and that was it (I flew a Gulfstream IV also, but it was in the simulator, and even though the simulator was a 20 million dollar one, it's not the same as the real plane.) They are both great machines, but I want to spread my wings a little further, variety being the spice of life and all that. That doesn't mean I want to quit my job - I love my job and fully intend to stay there until I retire or get fired - it just means I will likely end up paying some outrageous amount of money to rent a plane I have never flown before.

7. I want to spend some time on this blog and gather and clean up some posts for eventual publication. I don't know about a book, maybe just a magazine article or two. But I want some sort of ink-on-paper record of some of the stories, in case the internet gets unplugged by accident.

8. I want to travel to another continent in 2009, I don't care which one. Well, maybe not Antarctica, maybe I'll save Antarctica for 2010.

9. I want a freakin' cat already. Who said all resolutions have to be onerous? :)

10. I want to show more kindness, both to my loved ones and to strangers, because that's really what life is all about.

Monday, December 01, 2008

A friend of mine by the name of 'sky's the limit' is in Afghanistan right now, writing and taking pictures. He's actually staying in a house that Osama Bin Laden owned and lived in. In STL's own words..."Talk about a theme room.... It's actually quite difficult to believe it, but I'm staring at the same ceiling he did, just used the same bathtub he did, and I can only wonder what thoughts he had while in here. I have issues with time and space sometimes, but to know he was in here at one point in history, or several actually, sure has a way of playing with one's mind."

He has made a detailed post on AvCanada, and I encourage you to read the text for an interesting take on the conditions there.

Clicking makes the pictures bigger.

This is 20 miles Northeast of Bagram

A Chinook helicopter that will shortly be transferred from the US Army to the Canadian Forces.

The business end of an Apache attack helicopter.

An A-10 tank killer departing Bagram at sunrise

A Sikorsky HH60 Pavehawk search and rescue chopper, ready to go on a night medevac.

The night medevac flight was for an Afghan National Police officer hit by an improvised explosive device.

An amazing shot out the back of a Chinook

STL, looking brave and not scared.

What's the number 1 rule of armed conflict? Don't die. I hope and pray STL will obey this rule and post more pics soon.