Friday, December 14, 2012

I haven't cried since my boy was born, and today I cry for the parents and children in Newtown Connecticut.  I love my boy more than that word means and my heart is breaking for those affected by this horrific tragedy.

We all lost so much today.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

 We don't have autothrottles in the Ultra, so during long cruise legs it's fun to try to get the speed right up to redline manually, without going over - our plane will overspeed in cruise if we set the throttles to maximum continuous thrust.  Our maximum Mach is 0.755, so I'm about 6/10ths of a knot from setting off the overspeed alarm. 


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yeah, I don't post much.  I haven't posted much for about a year.  On that note, my champion son Nolan entered the world 365 days ago.  He gave me the best birthday present ever, and it wasn't even my birthday.

I could gush endlessly about how cool he is, and how chill he is, and how he prefers to laugh rather than cry, and how I can see the gears working in his head as he decodes the counter-intuitive way we live our lives, and how he makes my heart sing, but I think I'll mostly keep that to myself and instead say he's gold and I'm a rich, rich man.

I'll talk about aviation for a second here - I currently run a small flight department with 3 light jets, and it *might* be my career apex from a $/MTOW perspective.  I have been repeatedly offered more money and heavier equipment and yet I stay here.  Why is that?  Well, frankly because my priorities have changed.  My current job has me home almost every night, and it gives me a lot of time off.  Don't get me wrong - we have our busy periods, and when that happens, I show up and represent the Herculean work ethic.  But we also have our slow periods, and during those, I click the autopilot on at the office, and spend time with Lisa and Nolan.  Not many flying jobs give me that option, but this one does. Sure, there are sacrifices -  I make less money than I possibly could, and I could be flying a heavy jet right now instead of my current 16,500 lbs max takeoff weight.  That used to matter to me.  Also, on the downside, I have less time to spend on my blog. On the upside...

All that being said, I love flying and I will keep posting as time and circumstance permits, because it's a pretty amazing privilege I have, and I'm happy to share it.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

We flew to Atlanta this morning at OMG o'clock (if you want to work backwards, I set my alarm for 2:30 am this morning).  This is the final few seconds of an ILS approach.  I haven't been into Atlanta in a private jet in a while, and I forgot how absolutely huge it is.  It's funny, 'cause the Landmark FBO (like a gas station for private jets) is about the size of our laundry room at home.  We were there for more than 8 hours.  No big deal, we got day rooms and slept whilst our passengers did business-stuff.  We then flew to Washington Dulles.


The slightly chunky red streak is the result of 2 sparrows being in the wrong place at the wrong time, though they might argue that we were.  They did zero damage to the plane, and neither one of them got sucked into the left engine, so that's good.  They were likely texting while flying anyway, so I'm pretty sure they had it coming.  The nice airport people scraped the bird carcasses up and presumably gave them to the airport caterers - circle of life and all that.  Now we wait to head home.  Nolan will be asleep by the time I return, which is the worst part of a pretty great day.  When I think about it, it's still a whole lot better than the day the 2 sparrows had.  Sorry about that, nature.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Nothing too special here, just sliding down the ILS back into Toronto.  It was approaching dusk, so the lighting was pretty cool. 1080p makes it look better-er.

Even though I have done this at least a thousand times, I still love it.  It's also sometimes a bit of a challenge finding the freakin' airport in the field of lights that is Toronto.

Also, I'm still getting used to landing this airplane, but I lucked out on this particular one.  I think the trick is not to try to flare as I touch down - when I try to flare, it feels like the ass end of the plane is about to fall out, and we usually arrive with a little more 'thunk' than I'd prefer.  You can hear a short discussion between me and the other guy about my good luck right after the landing.  Nothing like aviation to keep a person humble :)

PS: Right at touchdown (around 3:44) you can kinda hear me say "That's bull-puckey", or words to that effect - despite my greaser of a landing,  I set the master caution lights off (red flashing lights on our panel) because I deployed the thrust reversers a half-second before the weight-on-wheels microswitches were fully engaged, which made the plane think we might have had an airborne deployment.  That'll teach me to be eager ;)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ILS into KTRI Aug 22 2012

Riding the ILS into KTRI Tri-Cities TN this morning. Vis was fine at 4 miles, and the morning ground fog made everything look a little more special. If the temperature had dropped a degree or two more, the fog would have been a solid wall, so we got kinda lucky. Notice how we are landing under a layer :)

Our itin today is here for Customs, then south, then south, then west, then home. Long day, but the weather is perfect and I love this plane, so there's that :)

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Interesting plane crash video, filmed inside the cockpit from 2 different angles. According to the original post, this took place in the Idaho wilderness.  720p and fullscreen for maximum 'whoa'. how long the ground roll was.

First of all, everyone survives. That being said, the pilot got a bloody nose so avoid watching beyond 3 minutes if that disturbs you.  No screaming or anything, so at least there's that.  Crash at 2:44, watch til the end for the second camera view.

Original description: "This is unprecedented footage of a small airplane crash from inside the cockpit from two different views. Miraculously, everyone survived. The pilot will make a full recovery and the rest of us escaped with superficial injuries and feel very lucky to be alive . This trip was much anticipated and due to our excitement we had our Gopro cameras filming at various times. After flying up into the mountains for a hike in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness we were planning on flying to a small mountain town for dinner. Due to warming temperatures we had a hard time gaining altitude. After taking off we hit an air pocket that made us rapidly loose altitude, pushing us down into the trees."

I'm not sure if I agree with the 'air pocket made us crash' explanation - I think they were hot n' heavy and ended up flying into an area of rising terrain beyond the climb capabilities of the airplane.   I'm sure the pilot wishes he had made 2 trips instead of attempting all the pax in 1 load...

I posted this on AvCanada, and got some interesting comments:

"Given the weather of the day from the nearest station: ... &year=2012

Elevation is 6,370 ft.

No pressure provided, going with 29.92.

Density Alt for 20° C would be 8,500 feet. If it was the hottest point of the day, 9,500ft"

 At 00:13 you can see the mixture is full rich for 6300 feet I wonder if he had it leaned for the takeoff. Over trees without shoulder harnesses is also slightly less than ideal. Even with hindsight being what it is.....he had SO MANY options for aborting that takeoff.

In the hills/mountains (in the summer especially) you need to keep some money in the bank (excess altitude, airspeed, or aircraft performance), and this guy had none.


 Nope, not a downdraft. The air was too stable... hence the reason why they weren't able to pick up a thermal somewhere in that field.

It was at or above its absolute altitude for the weight and DA, flying along in ground effect or just slightly higher. Vy and Vx are the same at absolute altitude and the only speed you can remain airborne out of ground effect. Sees trees, pulls up, loses speed.... it becomes a mathematical certainty that you are going down.

There probably was no stall horn on this aircraft or the pilot was smart enough to realize that pulling further back wouldn't do anything... which is probably why they lived.


Oh, the pilot in question had previously crashed a plane a couple of years before.  I'm sure that's not relevant.  Here's the accident synopsis on that one:

NTSB Narrative Summary Released at Completion of Accident
The pilot reported that he intended to fly his airplane on a cross-country flight over high mountainous terrain. After takeoff, the pilot climbed to 9,500 feet mean sea level (msl) in order to fly over mountains. He subsequently descended to 8,500 feet msl, and then he attempted to climb back to 9,500 feet to clear additional mountains. This second climbing effort diminished his fuel reserve, so the pilot opted to divert to a 7,160-foot msl uncontrolled airport short of his destination. While flying over the airport to evaluate its runway's condition, the pilot noted that the runway was covered with snow. The pilot opined that because of the airplane's low fuel state, it was prudent for him to land. The pilot made a soft-field landing on the runway. During rollout, the airplane's wheels penetrated the snow-covered surface, the airplane nosed over, and both wings and the empennage broke.
NTSB Probable Cause Narrative
The pilot's encounter with soft, snow-covered terrain while executing a precautionary landing.


Yeah, the pilot nearly ran out of fuel attempting to outclimb mountains that were between point A and point B.  Last time I checked, mountains don't move around much, I wonder why that was a surprise to him.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I took last week off work, and really enjoyed spending time with Nolan. He's 9 months old already!

This was him on Friday, as we were trekking down a trail in his baby buggy. If you click on the pic and look closely, you can see his single tooth. We went for long walks every day and were frequently stopped by people who wanted to tell me how cute he is. "He looks just like his old man" was my stock response, yet for some reason I was usually greeted with a blank stare. Go figure :p

 He's a really easy kid, very smart and in good spirits all the time. I credit Lisa for those particular qualities. For real though - he cries maybe a couple of minutes a day, maybe, and that's only during the interval between when he realizes he's hungry to when he gets fed. He crawls now, and is working on pulling himself up to a standing position. I imagine he'll be driving soon.

 Oh, the bracelet is Baltic amber or so the people at the baby store would have us believe - according to them, it's been used for hundreds of years to help kids through the teething process. I don't believe that wearing a bracelet will do jack for his teeth, but I am totally okay with the hedging of bets when it comes to sleeping through the night ;) I don't have a fancy camera btw - that pic is from my iPhone. The kid just naturally looks Photoshopped :)


Sunday, July 15, 2012

*Update* Original video was removed from public viewing, here's another youtube of it. This fellow handles an off-airport landing pretty well. I really wasn't sure how this was going to end up. Watch til the end for the extra-clenched bum. Here's what the pilot said about it: "Complacency has no place in soaring. I was trained better than to have lingered on the lee-side of a ridge over rough terrain. The dramatic outlanding was due to my actions exclusively. While tight turns over roofs, brushing treetops and dodging street signs are not desired flight maneuvers, they do make for interesting viewing. An almost perfect (for a power pilot and plane but not a sailplane) landing until an unnoticed mailbox catches the right wing of the sailplane about 8 inches from the tip. The original is 16 minutes of Full High Definition Video and shows every second of the events leading to this out-landing/ crash. It has been closely reviewed and much learning has taken place. My instructor, safety officer, FAA and NTSB were all outstanding professionals in helping grow skills from this experience. More videos on this are coming. See if you can spot how the differences between a power pilot's training and a glider pilot's training could have contributed to this outcome."

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Fine, here's an aviation-related post as well. I actually watched this happen today. It was foggy at our departure airport and this Citation III was hooked up to a ground power unit (GPU, essentially a portable gas-powered generator to provide electricity to the plane when the engines aren't running). The Captain was relatively fresh on the plane and as a result he wasn't authorized to take off in the low visibility. I am, so I asked the Captain if we could steal the GPU so I could push some electrons through our plane and get her all set up before departure. He said sure, so I asked a ramp guy to drive it over to our plane - the GPU is pulled by an aircraft tug. I walked over to our plane and turned around to see the ramp guy pull the tug away, but without actually disconnecting the power cable (connects the GPU to the plane) from the Citation III. The cable is really thick and heavy btw. The cable pulled taut, then tore out from the belly of the plane, whipped through the air and took a chunk out of the flap. They are gonna have to replace the entire flap, and that's about a 50,000 dollar repair. No idea if there is any internal damage to the plane where the GPU receptacle was yanked from the belly, but clearly there's something amiss there too. The ramp guy shrugged and said "Guess I'm going home early today". Turns out that the ramp people at this airport get 3 'ramp rashes' per year before their jobs are in jeopardy. PS: If you look closely in the close-up pic, you can see the carbon fiber used in the flap. When I went to the Captain to offer my condolences, he was actually pretty okay with it - "We had a nightmare 14-hour day planned today, and now I get to go home instead!". Stuff happens, it's just a little more spectacular (and costly) when it happens to a corporate jet.
Kanga-donkey-monkey-roo! This is what happens when daddy doesn't get enough sleep for 6 months.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

This made me pee a little bit. How do they find volunteers for this? The view at around 3 minutes 10 seconds is pretty amazing though.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Hey Lisa, let's buy this Nuk I found off the internet and give it to Nolan. How disturbing could it possibly be?"
I never thought I'd feel love like this. My life for him.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Halifax for lunch, playing with a tilt-shift app on the iPhone. Kinda cool how it makes things look like toys. Then again, this plane is the best new toy ever :)

Wanna geek out and learn how to fly her?

Let's start with the brains of the beast, the Flight Management System.

Try that link. If it doesn't work, Google "GNS-XLS prnav manual" (no quotes). The first link will take you to a .pdf of the latest revision of our manual.

I'll figure out how to upload a bunch of the other aircraft system manuals soon, and we can do a groundschool together! I'm still learning it, so I'm really hoping one of you can teach it to me :)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

See if you can spot the poor decision making.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

This is a fairly intense video. First of all - everyone lives, so that's nice.

This is a skydiving flight, normal right up until the pilot accidentally stalls the aircraft while slowing to let the jumpers out. The aircraft then spins, and while hilarity most definitely does not ensue, at least the cheesy soundtrack helps keep the mood light.

Looks like the pilot wasn't familiar with spin recovery. For those of you who aren't, if you ever happen to be sitting up in the cockpit and your view looks like the view of the guys in the airplane, maybe do this:

1. Neutralize the controls, ie move the control column to the neutral position, wings level.

2. Apply full rudder in the opposite direction of the spin. If you are spinning to the left, stomp on the right rudder and hold your foot to the floor until rotation stops.

3. You may need to check forward on the controls a wee bit to break the stall.

4. Once rotation stops, level the wings and ease out of the resulting dive, reducing power if necessary once above stall speed. Remember to ease out of the dive rather than reefing back on the controls and risking a secondary stall or airframe overstress.

You may notice that the magic ingredient is basically opposite rudder - your ailerons aren't gonna work so hot because in order to be spinning in the first place, at least one of the wings is stalled - thus the aileron on that wing isn't going to be very effective.

One thing: Some planes don't recover from spins, so you have to focus on not allowing them to ever spin in the first place. Other planes have non-standard stall / spin recovery techniques, so please be sure of the requirements of your particular airbeast when it comes to stall / spin recovery technique. It's not that hard, but it can save your life.

While I'm rambling on about stall / spin recovery, one of the fun things we do during our recurrent simulator training sessions is that we stall the airplane at night when we are down to minimums on a circling approach. It's an easy scenario and in my world that's one of the few times when the risk of an unintentional stall / spin is higher than zero.

What that means is we set the plane up to circle around an airport when we are only a few hundred feet above the ground, and we put our landing gear down and our flaps mostly down, just like they would be when we are landing. Then we fly parallel to the runway (downwind) and set the throttles to 50% or so, then wait. After a few seconds of deceleration, the plane stalls and it's up to us to get her flying again before we contact the planet a few hundred feet below us. The simulated planet that is - we would never try out a scenario like this in a real airplane. Anyway, stall recovery is a lot more visceral when you see buildings right below you than when we are at 5,000' (the normal minimum altitude for practicing stalls / spins) and it certainly motivates me to act quickly. The sim hasn't killed me yet, but it can certainly raise the hair on the back of my neck when the operator feels like loading me up to watch me sweat.

In our Citations we recover from most stall scenarios by just adding power, but with the gear and flaps down the plane is generating a lot of drag, and it takes a few seconds for the engines to kick up enough power to overcome it, so we can still lose a few hundred feet on a complicated stall recovery. I've had the radar altimeter in the sim call out "Ten" (feet above ground) on a recovery before, which certainly adds an element of intensity to the procedure.

If you have access to a flight sim, try stalling when low to the ground and then recovering. After all, isn't that when prompt and proper stall recovery is most important. Obviously nobody sane would ever do that in real life - simulated earth is a lot more forgiving than the real thing. I feel like a dope for even writing that, but I would hate for someone to read this post and then decide to do low altitude stalls on the basis of it and then have their next of kin sue me.

Taking our new plane out for a long run on Monday and Tuesday, so that will be cool.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Our new machine!

Main external differences between the 560 and the 550 Ultra are one extra window and the wing root on the ultra is swept back a wee bit. It's an entirely new wing actually, and it goes faster. New MMO is Mach 0.755 (vs 0.705 for the 550), or 292 KIAS (vs 262 KIAS for the 550). Engines are each 3045 lbs of thrust (vs 2500 on the 550) What that means in real life is the 560 Ultra can climb up to 40,000' right after takeoff, and it cruises about 90 knots faster.

When you walk in the door, you see a single seat now, instead of a 2-seat divan.

The galley is upgraded, and has lots of extra storage for snacks and drinks.

The seats are a new design. The cabin is 20 inches longer, which adds about 7 inches of extra legroom for each passenger.

Foldout tables, wheee! There's also a flitephone in the cabin, and audio controls for a CD changer in the back.

Because there is more space, even the rear seats have enough space for their own tables.

The lavatory / rear storage area has doors instead of a curtain!

The lavatory. It works. It also has a seatbelt and if we needed to, we could legally put a passenger there. Not too likely, but it's possible.

Coat hangars in the rear lav storage area. We also have a baggage compartment in the nose of the plane, and an extended baggage compartment in the tail, which can hold skis or golf clubs etc.

Here's the cockpit. The avionics are Primus 1000, with a GNS-XLS FMS (Flight Management System), which is the brains of the plane. I'll do some posts on the avionics. We also have some extra goodies, like a passenger briefing system - I press a button and a soothing voice comes across the speaker telling the pax to get ready for takeoff / landing etc.

But how does it perform? Here's 430 knots at FL410 (also known as 41,000' above sea level). When she was heavy she went to 425 knots, and after a couple of hours she was up to 436, which was bumping right up against her Mach 0.755 speed limit. Down below 40,000' I had to pull back the throttles to avoid overspeeding her. //Giggles like a schoolgirl.

Thinking about descending down to 28,000'. A quick shot of the panel in front of me.

Lunch in the air. Yeah, I'm Canadian :p

I used a panorama app on the iphone to take these next pics. Note that the picture stitching isn't 100% - we don't really have 2 overlapping panels on the copilot's side.

We took the plane to Teterboro NJ, which is where all New York corporate jets go into. The panorama app makes the wing look bendy, and the nose look stubby. I just wanted to show how many amazing corporate jets are in Teterboro on any given day - this is only a few of them.

We are taking the plane on a big trip next week, going from Toronto to Texas, Arizona and California, so that will be a great opportunity to stretch her legs and get more acquainted with her long-range performance. More to come!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I'm sitting in Terminal 3 at Toronto Pearson right now, waiting to catch a Westjet flight to Calgary. That's where our new plane is, and I'll be flying her home tomorrow. I'll take lots of pics and videos on the return run so you can see how awesome she is.

In the meantime, here's a video from last night, when I saw my boy Nolan laugh for the first time. He really keeps things in perspective for me - I mean, I like my new plane, but I love my little boy more than life itself. And so will you once you see this clip!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Yeah, it's been a while. Wanna know why? Because I have been stupid busy, that's why. What have I been busy with?

Before I answer that, let's talk airplane history for a second. The Citation II (which I fly)was upgraded and became the Citation Bravo, which was then expanded and turned into the Citation V, which was then upgraded and turned into the Citation Ultra.

How is this relevant? Well, we have sold my beloved C550, but we will continue to operate her for the new owner, and with the proceeds (and a whack of additional cash) we bought a Citation 560 Ultra!

Here's the wiki on the Citation 560 series

Here's a link to the actual plane we bought, serial 496

The Ultra is essentially 2 generations newer than the straight Citation II which I have been flying, and the Ultra we bought is 17 years younger, so it has lots of new features, which I'll be detailing over the next while.

The most noticeable ones are: It's about 90 knots faster, meaning we will true out at 430 knots at 40,000'. The airplane climbs a lot faster as well, and the level of automation is significantly increased. The engines produce a lot more thrust at 3045 lbs each instead of 2500 lbs on the II, and though they burn 200 gallons of gas per hour instead of 150 on the II, the extra speed means we actually have a net savings on fuel burn, especially when we fly into a headwind. The plane is about 2 feet longer, meaning more leg room for the pax in the back, and there are lots of upgrades to the interior (bigger food/beverage system, CD audio system, sat phone for pax, etc) It is quieter, and it can fly further, meaning we can head west for a fair distance without it being a whole ordeal.

Cosmetically, the airplane has an extra passenger window, the washroom has a real door instead of a curtain, the seats are fully rotating and pretty luxurious, the wing has a sweepback for the first few feet, and there is no tail de-ice boot (apparently Cessna noticed that the tail never actually accumulates ice on the 550 models and realized that there's no need for the boot, so they removed it)

Our parent company is expanding, and that means more flights to more locations, some of them a fair distance away. They own a lot of stuff in Arizona and California, and with the Ultra we will be able to save a few hours on each trip, so the time saving is significant.

Oh, the plane has EFIS as well, which means we watch tv screens up front instead of looking at analogue instruments.

Basically, it's a lot more airplane, and I'm really looking forward to learning the ins and outs of Ultra flying.

The process has been a pretty intense one, as our purchase of the Ultra was contingent on the sale of our II. Synchronizing those transactions likely took years off my life, but the cheque for the II cleared yesterday, so I'm confident enough in the process that I'm allowing myself to post this. I'm so excited!

I'm gonna detail most of the process in upcoming posts, because I sure learned a lot and I think that some of it is pretty valuable experience. For now, I'm gonna crack open a beer and relax for the first time in a month. Not to sound too high on myself, I have earned it! :)

Saturday, January 07, 2012

I leave the plane out for one single night in New Jersey, and this is what happens. I keed, I keed - she's down for her ten-thousand hour inspection. She will be in pieces for about a month while the mechanics do their thing. This is a huge inspection and they will be doing stuff I haven't seen before. For example, taking the tail off. Lots more pics and vids to come.