Monday, September 28, 2009

This was taken during a STOL contest at the May Day Flyin in Valdez, Alaska. STOL is pilot-geek for Short Takeoff Or Landing, so the aim is to get airborne in the shortest distance after applying power, or stopping in the shortest distance after touching down.

The aircraft featured are generally used to get in and out of small unimproved places in the bush, like sand bars or teeny clearings.

Take a close look at the little yellow plane at 1:30 into the video for a gentle little prop strike right at the start of his takeoff roll. I'm amused / horrified that the pilot chose to continue the takeoff despite kissing the runway, but maybe I'm getting cowardly in my old age.

The video ends in pretty much the way I expected it to.

Ps: We just got back from the lawyer's office where we signed the final paperwork on our new (to us) house. We take possession in only 2 more sleeps!

Friday, September 25, 2009

This is the jet I flew westward the other day while Kitsch was taking our jet eastward. Just to be clear, I'm NOT cheating on my regular plane; I may hang out with other airplanes from time to time for business purposes, but our jet will always have my heart.

Apologies for the seizure-inducing flashing on the EFIS instruments - the refresh rate of the video cam is some harmonic of the refresh rate on the EFIS screens, thus the flashes. In real life the images are totally smooth.

Oh, and in non-aviation-related stuff, we move into our new (to us) house in 5 days! I'm nearly barfing with excitement! Predictably a flight just came up for that day, but Kitsch has generously agreed to cover it while Lisa and I (and her parents, bless them) move all our heavy, sharp furniture from our old place to our new one. I got the certified cheque for our closing costs done up this morning and I think I worried the bank teller a little bit when I stared at it and giggled for a solid minute. I explained why and she visibly brightened - I think she was worried from the way I was acting that I was about to blow it all on crack. No way, my drug of choice at the moment is called 'house' and it sure is a hell of a rush.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I got a shout-out on the radio from a controller yesterday! Unfortunately I wasn't in the airplane at the time, but Kitsch passed it on to me via phone last night, so thanks for that :)

I was actually headed west in a different aircraft yesterday, and that's the subject of today's post.

Suppose another operator (who we are pals with) needs a crew member on a jet that Kitsch and I are qualified to fly, but only for for a few days per month. Also suppose "In these harsh economic times blah blah" our flight department could use an extra few thousand bucks a month for vodka and bingo cards and whatnot.

A flashbulb went off in my head: For a monthly fee, Kitsch and I can make ourselves available to fly that particular jet for a set number of days per month. It lets Kitsch and I fly a different airplane from time to time, the other operator gets crew coverage for the few days a month they need it, and the company I work for gets to offset part of our operating cost with the monthly fee we charge the other operator for our pilot services.

See, it's a stroke of genius! Really, it's win-win and it only bites us if both jets need to fly on the same day. That never happens. Well, practically never. Well, what I mean by 'practically never' is 'It happened yesterday'.

Fortunately we had a few days heads-up on the scheduling conflict, so we made a few phone calls and arranged for an outside pilot to come in and save the day for us. The outside pilot is already checked out on our jet, so Kitsch took the outside pilot eastward in our jet, while I went westward in the other jet with the other operator.

Anyway, long story short, that's why I missed my Air Traffic Controller shout-out yesterday - I wasn't in the jet I normally fly. Kitsch assured me that I would have felt like a rock star had I been on board, so that's cool.

I still had an interesting trip yesterday though - the FBO we used at our destination is owned by Wal-Mart, and every employee there is actually a Wal-Mart employee. I asked the line guys to do the Wal-Mart song, but they were strangely shy. I'll have more on that when I upload the vids to Youtube later today :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Lisa allowed me to record this, it's her take on being hitched to a pilot.

Friday, September 18, 2009

We got up crazy early last week and headed west, taking some people to do some things, likely involving money. That part is normal, but after we landed I saw an airplane type I had never seen before, so I got the video camera out. I bet Aviatrix would have more info on some of the unique features I observed on the aircraft. Strange little bird! I mean the plane, not Aviatrix ;)

Go full-screen and click on the red HD button in the video player for hi-def yumminess.

The aircraft certainly has a 'unique' look (I'm being kind) but looks aren't everything and as it turns out this airplane has some pretty good performance figures, considering what it was designed to do.

A quick online search shows the aircraft is a PAC 750XL. It was initially designed for skydiving - the website says it can take off in less than a thousand feet, climb to 13,000', chuck the jumpers out and land, all in 16 minutes. Actually, the performance figures on the plane are pretty impressive - it only weights 3,100 lbs and can carry a load of 4,400 lbs, more than twice the empty weight. Not many aircraft have that capability. For comparison, even though we have a high-gross-weight takeoff kit installed on our jet, our baby jet's empty weight is 8840 lbs, leaving us a useful load of about 6,000 lbs. On a regular Citation II the useful load is more like 4,800 lbs with about a 8700 lb empty weight.

Anyhoo, Google also tells me that UTS Geophysics is owned by a Canadian company called Aeroquest International Ltd. I wonder why it came over from New Zealand and where it's going? That must have been a series of pretty interesting flights.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I started flying when I was 16, and have held a flying license for 22 years now. If I was to retire at 60, that means I have another 22 years to go. I mean, I would like to retire tomorrow, but I think 60 is a little more realistic. Actually, the Canadian courts recently found that an Air Canada Captain's civil rights had been violated when he was forced to retire at 60, and it looks like the age will be bumped up to at least 65. While I respect a person's decision to continue to work as long as they can/want to, there are some pretty serious consequences to that decision.

If I retire at 60, I will likely live to be 77 or so, at least according to the latest data. However, if I retire at 65 I will likely live to be only 68 or so, which would put a serious crimp on my plan to sit on the beaches in Jamaica for twenty years, drinking pina coladas and tending to my hemp farms.

Dr. Ephrem Cheng did an actuarial study of life span vs. age at retirement, based on pension cheques sent to employees of Boeing Aerospace. Yeah I understand that only a small chunk of the employees were actually pilots, but that also tells me the stats likely hold true for everyone, not just flying guys. I swiped one of the tables from the study to show you:

See what I mean? For people who retired at the age of 50, their average life span is 86; whereas for people retired at the age of 65, their average life span is only 66.8! If you do the math according to the actuarial tables, you lose about 2 years of life expectancy for every year you work after age 55.

The Boeing experience is that employees retiring at age of 65 receive pension checks for only 18 months, on average, prior to death. Similarly, the Lockheed experience is that employees retiring at age of 65 receive pension checks for only 17 months, on average, prior to death. Dr. David T. Chai indicated that the Bell Labs experience is similar to those of Boeing and Lockheed based on the casual observation from the Newsletters of Bell Lab retirees. A retiree from Ford Motor told Dr. Paul Tien-Lin Ho that the experience from Ford Motor is also similar to those in Boeing and Lockheed.

I understand that there are many varied and complex reasons for this: People who retire early tend to be more wealthy with more access to high-end healthcare, while people who retire later tend to do so either because they need the money (which could be stressful) or they just need to work all the time (which is also hard on the body).

In my case, I'm hoping that careful investment coupled with Lisa eventually taking over the world (she has a particularly keen business sense) will give us the financial ability to depart the working world while we (mostly me, as I'm 13 years old than her) are still young enough to enjoy retirement.

Alright, I'm off to go check my RRSP balance and plan for July 2031 :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Someone asked me yesterday what the worst part of my job is. Honestly I'd have to go with "wearing a tie". Maybe it was my free-spirit upbringing, but when I wear a tie it feels like I'm being insincere or perhaps even fraudulent. It's not a huge deal in that we mostly don't dress up - for company flights we wear golf shirts and dress pants, but for charters we do the full meal deal with the pilot shirt and epaulets and Captain's bars and whatnot. I guess the theory is that our passengers will assume we are competent and professional if we wear a fabric stripe down the front of our shirts and have a few stripes on our shoulders. Funny how appearances mean so much.

Click the red "HD" button for large-screen video goodness.

It got me thinking though. I'm gonna ask Lisa what the best and worst part of my job is from her perspective and I'll post a little interview with her shortly; I'm interested to hear her take on what it's like to be married to a pilot-type-guy.

For those of you who are dealing with the heartbreak, stigma and shame of having a pilot in your family, what differences do you notice in your family life compared to your non-aviating friends?

Friday, September 04, 2009

To the jackass(es) who were shining laser pointers into the cockpit of arriving traffic into Pearson one night last week, you should probably see a doctor to confirm whether or not you are mentally retarded. My money is on "yup".

It should be obvious that it's illegal in Canada to shine lights at aircraft in an attempt to make them crash and everybody on board die, but the max penalty is a surprisingly lenient 5 years in prison and/or $100,000 in fines.

That hasn't prevented morons from doing it though, and unfortunately the incidents are on the rise: In 2006 there were 3 reported incidents, in 2007 there were 25 and in 2008 there were nearly 60 incidents reported.

Sadly only one person so far has been convicted of this offence - some doorknob in Calgary in 2008, who sat on his apartment balcony and lased a Westjet 737 cockpit on takeoff and then lased the police helicopter sent to investigate. He later said he was sorry, was fined a thousand bucks and had his pointer confiscated.

Seriously, that scares the hell out of me - not only the worst-case scenario of losing control of the aircraft during landing and crashing, but also the thought of more extended suffering - having permanent retinal damage and losing my pilot medical and going blind and being helpless.

I see precious little difference between pointing a laser at an aircraft cockpit and pointing a stinger missile at an aircraft cockpit, and I hope that the seriousness of the situation is fully impressed upon whomever gets caught for this pointless and dangerous 'hobby'.