Monday, June 29, 2009

Life isn't all about aviation. I have other interests that are far more dangerous...

Those are my special homemade hot apple bacon turnovers. It's just basically hot fresh apple pie filling with a strip of bacon stretched over turnover pastry with hot icing drizzled on. Add a large double-double coffee and some fruit salad and you're good to go.

Now these are the full-meat version: Pastry-wrapped bbq-bacon-wrapped bbq'd ribs.

I boil pork back ribs for just over an hour in some nice broth, then bbq at 550c for 15 minutes, turning once. After they are done, I use big scissors to chop the ribs into single-rib sections, discarding the occasional middle rib to make sure the meat portions are generous. I add a slice of smoked gouda cheese along the rib, (that idea was courtesy of Andy, who I link to on the left side of the page) then wrap it in a strip of bacon that I have also bbq'd. Sidenote: I put the bacon on the bbq top rack so the bacon fat falls onto the ribs while they are cooking. I then slather it with this President's Choice brand habanero bbq sauce that comes in a big brown glass bottle. That stuff is sex. Anyway, time to throw some croissant dough around it, then bake about 8 minutes or until the croissant is brown.

Another shot of my pretties:

Aight, on to the poutine lasagna.

Taken during the assembly:

I did 2 different versions of this, with the following layers, from top to bottom.

#1. Thrice Blessed Poutine Lasagna of St. Germain De La Heartattack

Spicy Fries
Cheddar Cheese curd, Parmesan Cheese
Ground beef cooked in beef gravy
Lasagna Noodles (deep fried in bacon fat)
beef gravy (yes, an entire layer)
Spicy French Fries
Maple Back Bacon
Cheddar Cheese curd
Lasagna Noodles (deep fried in sausage fat)
Barbequed Chicken Breasts, sliced
Spicy French Fries
Sausage and Cheddar cheese, chopped into smallish cubes
Spicy Farmer Sausage, diced
Lasagna Noodles (deep fried in chicken fat)

Arrange it in layers, bake at 450 for 15 minutes, then broil until cheese on top is golden brown. It weighed about 9 lbs.

Watching it cook. It took forever, what with me opening the oven door all the time :)

The finished product. Lisa and I put our initials on it in french fries, but they seemed to have fused into the general cheesy-gravy-meaty-fryey goodness.

What a delightful choice of wine!

I don't have pics of the other one but it was a variation on the original with the addition of prosciutto ham layers along with hungarian sausage meat. Lisa and I had a dinner party a few weeks ago and invited about 20 folks over for a feast - I made 4 lbs of meat per person, so it was pretty great. I made burgers that were half ground beef, half ground bacon and half cheese along with some pretty insane 'normal' bbq'd ribs. And don't even get me started about the desserts Lisa made, sweet Jebus.

We don't do this often, in case you were worried my heart was going to explode. Now you know my guilty secret!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Been flying lots, but will have time to post tomorrow. I just got back from flying and saw that Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson have both passed. I will always have fond memories of Farrah's swimsuit poster, and of learning how to moonwalk like Michael and of staying up to watch the world premiere of the Thriller video on Friday Night Videos when I was a kid. The world is a little less interesting today :(

I'm gonna pour a half beer on the curb for the two of them, then drink the rest of it and go to bed.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My original post today asked about the possibility of hitching a ride to pick up our plane, and offering to pay for some of the gas of whatever airplane took us there. I quickly got a really informative email from a nice fellow who politely explained that what I was asking for was illegal in the USA. I consulted the FAA regs and it turns out that I can't offer to pay gas for a ride - in Canada the rules are different, and I'll do up a blog post tomorrow detailing the differences.

I have deleted the original post as it no longer applies (I think we'll just snag a rental car and drive the 7 hours), but I'll revisit this tomorrow as it's an issue that I find interesting.

Monday, June 15, 2009

In Canada as of July 1st, if we want to do charter flights we need TCAS 1 at a minimum. If we want to fly above 29,000' (and jets generally do, for fuel efficiency) then we need to get TCAS 2. Private flights are unaffected.

Those of you in the USA are probably going "What? Is the FAA really going to make all charter aircraft install incredibly expensive equipment?" Nope. This rule is Canadian-only, which I find really surprising - usually Transport Canada follows the FAA's, but apparently in this case they wanted to lead the charge toward mandatory expensive equipment additions during the recession.

Oh, you are also probably saying "Sully, I'm not currently wearing Raybans and epaulets while fondling my 4-lb pilot watch, so perhaps I'm not familiar with the term TCAS".

Basically, it displays other aircraft and tells us if we are going to occupy the same space at the same time as them. Pilot-geek-wise, TCAS = Traffic Collision Avoidance System. There's another acronym called ACAS in which 'Traffic' becomes 'Airborne', but they mean the same thing.

The difference between TCAS 1 and TCAS 2 is fairly important. TCAS 1 will tell you if it predicts a collision with another airplane, but it's up to you to take a course of action to avoid it. TCAS 2 will tell you about a predicted conflict, AND tell you what it wants you to do to avoid it. You see when a plane with TCAS 2 talks to another plane with TCAS 2 and they determine that a conflict exists, the units in each airplane will actually talk to each other to coordinate an escape plan, so that both planes don't climb or descend at the same time and still hit each other. One unit will tell their plane to climb and the other unit will tell the other plane to descend, which is pretty sensible. With TCAS 1, the units don't talk to each other, but they will show the relative bearing and altitude of the offending airplane so the pilot can decide whether a climb or descent is most appropriate.

In the simulator, when we train with TCAS 2 they tell us to trust the equipment over anything else - if you are flying along and you get a TCAS warning to descend but the Air Traffic Controller is telling you to climb, then descend. A nasty accident in Russia a few years back resulted from a TCAS alert that the crew disregarded in deference to Air Traffic Control orders - the TCAS told them to climb but ATC told them to descend, so they descended, right into another aircraft, killing all 69 people on both aircraft.

Now when I bring that up, I don't want to give you the impression that mid-air collisions are common in aviation because they really aren't. The sky is a big place and usually the "see-and-avoid" system works great for VFR flight and the "Air Traffic Controller probably doesn't want to see me die today" system works acceptably for IFR flight. But someone in Transport Canada decided that it was an issue anyway, so here we are.

Long story made longer - we do enough charters in Canada (being based at Toronto Pearson and all) that we will bite the bullet and install TCAS in our plane. In fact, my beloved baby jet is getting some expensive electronic boxes added as I type these words, and we are hopeful she'll be done by Friday. But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Let's go back a few months, when I started looking around at different systems and costs. I went over our charter records for the past few years and saw that we have done precisely 1 long charter within Canada and the other hundred were either to the USA or to locations in Canada that are close enough (Ottawa, Montreal) that flying above 29,000' isn't really an issue. Also, we are really close to the US border and once we cross into US airspace we can climb as high as we want, so it has zero effect on US charters, which again make up 99% of our charter revenue stream.

I noted with horror that TCAS 2 costs about $110,000 MORE than TCAS 1, and saw that it would take us many years of Canadian charters to recoup the extra 110k in costs that TCAS 2 would come with. As a point of reference, 110k is about 10% of the cost of the plane (in today's market), and the resale value added is minimal because the equipment isn't mandatory in the US. It's just not worth it for our operation and this airplane - if we get a chance to do a charter to Vancouver or something then we'll just have to fly at 29,000' and grit our teeth through the increased fuel burn, but we'll still make a few bucks on the trip, so it'd still be worth it.

I also researched different systems in the hopes that someone makes a TCAS 1 system that's upgradeable to TCAS 2 down the road. One company does, the Honeywell CAS 66/67 system, but you end up paying about 45k more if you get the CAS 66 and eventually upgrade it to the 67 than if you just buy the complete 67 package - I guess it isn't THAT upgradeable after all.

Anyway, now comes the interesting part (about time! you say). I sent out lots of requests for install quotes for both a TCAS 1 and TCAS 2 system. I sent requests all through Canada as well as the US, and of course hit up all the local avionics installation places around Toronto.

All the quotes I got could fill a book, but I'll just share a few.

Here are some TCAS 2 quotes for the Honeywell CAS 67 system, installed:

From a local Toronto business - 183k
When Kitsch called the same business they gave him a quote for 178k, so I guess his phone voice is a lot sexier than mine.
From another local Toronto business - 138k
From a third Toronto supplier - 312k
From a place in Illinois - 154k (144k if we bring them 3 or more airplanes)
From a place in Florida - 144k

Yes, the 'third toronto supplier' actually wanted 140k more to install the exact same system as their competitors. If you don't believe me, PM me and I'll happily email you pdfs of the quotes so you can disbelieve your own eyes. I don't know how one can offer any service in the sky with prices like that, but maybe that's just me.

Now for TCAS 1, the Skywatch HP System in TCAS 1 mode:

Local Toronto business - 65k
Another Toronto Business - 88k
Third Toronto Supplier - wouldn't quote it as it wasn't enough profit for them
From a place in Florida - 43k
From a place in Pennsylvania - 28k

So we went with the place in Pennsylvania - we flew the plane down last week and she's already mostly finished the installation. If the installation goes well (and as an atheist I'm still praying it does) , I'll make sure to publish the name of the place in case you feel like dropping some serious coin on some magic boxes. Anyway, once we get the plane back I'll take a little video so you can see the system in action - coming into Toronto Pearson should give it a good workout as there are about a dozen planes in the neighborhood at all times. Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe ignorance was bliss when we couldn't see all the shiny metal tubes hurtling toward us at hundreds of miles an hour...