Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Ok, so first of all, Happy Holidays to everyone!

It's been a fairly busy couple of weeks. Lots of visiting with relatives, dinners out, dinners in, saw a movie, worked a horrific amount of overtime and enjoyed the christmas non-bustle that is my job at this time of year.

As far as dinners went, I managed ( with my moms help ) to cook my first Turkey. As in first Turkey ever. Had a couple of good tips from some friends ( Who DOESNT have a good turkey tip?? ) and it turned out pretty damn good.

I'll pass on the three things that I think contributed to its success;

1.) A half-a-stick of provencal butter tucked under each wing, with the wing skewered up onto the body to hold it in place while it melted. Not sure of the placement of the butter really did all that much, considering how fast it melted, but the every-30-minutes basting of the provencal butter did good things, directly proportional to the yumminess.

2.) Got a fresh bird from the local butcher, instead of frozen from the supermarket. Also did quite a small bird ( 10 Lbs ), so both may have factored into its turn-out.

3.) On the butchers reccomendation, used a Sausage Stuffing. He provided the ground sausage meat, to which we added bread, celery, seasoning and onions. We cooked the stuffing both inside the bird and outside as well, since we had so much, and both turned out really, really good.

The Lovely Wife also rendered the carcass into a fantastic turkey soup, mmm mm good!

If anyone lives in Vancouver, I highly recommend the good folks over at Farm Town Meats in New Westminster. Lots of good marinated meats and extremely helpful staff and owner.

Also went and saw the movie 2012. Definitely wanted to see that on the big screen, before it left the theatres.

I didn't realize it, but they had actually filmed a couple of scenes at our FBO last spring. I noticed one of our tugs as well as a shot inside one of our hangars. I wasn't expecting it, so it was kind of neat to see.

We actually get quite a lot of filming, hangar, ramp and aircraft exterior shots are very commonly done at our place.

The Lovely Wife used to work at a film production outfit and I picked up a good tip from her. This is my Christmas gift to anyone reading along;

As a production crew is generally a large group of sub-contractors brought together, a lot of the people don't know each other. Each contractor has their role and they frequently work the same projects as others, but there is always new faces and people you don't know, wandering around, looking like they belong there.

Film projects also work crazy hours on a regular basis. All the work in setting up a location, can mean that they are very loathe to shut it down after 8, 10, 12 hours if they haven't completed the shot yet.

Enter the caterer.

Catering company is hired to feed all the contractors, actors and production crew, so that no one is running off to get Mickey D's, or taking ill-timed lunch breaks.

Generally Craft Services ( Catering ) will have a snack tent/trailer set up for anyone to grab a quick bite of something, and then a proper lunch wagon / tent / trailer set up to feed everyone full meals at mealtimes. All of this is free for all the members of the crew. There is no cash register, and the caterer gets paid a set amount for being there.

Add the random-contractor factor to the caterer-gets-paid-no-matter-who-gets-fed and you have the perfect recipe for FREE FOOD!

Next time you see a movie set ( lots of big trailers, random tents, orange cones, people with hi-vis vests and headsets ), make yourself look like you belong there, and bon appetit!

I highly recommend an orange safety vest, walkie talkie, strange costume or even an overly-engrossing blackberry to round out your disguise of being one-of-the-guys as you dig in to the free nosh.

I've also started my post-Christmas countdown clock to writing the INRAT ( Instrument rating written exam ). Now that the holidays are over, I'd like to get my studying done on or before the closing ceremonies of the winter Olympics.

I would have liked to have a full 60 days of part-time, evening and weekend study time to get ready, but with the Olympics approaching, I may not get as much time as I'd like. I'm going to try anyways, but I might end up pushing things back a little if the Olympics are half as crazy at work as we are expecting.

I've had a few months to read through a few good books to give me a good overview of IFR flying, and am now moving into studying the regulations parts of it in a little more of an organized fashion.

First stop is to get to know the CAP GEN. The CAP GEN is a little booklet, technically the Canada Air Pilot Instrument Procedures General Pages.

NavCanada publishes all of the charts in Canada for Aviation. The Canada Air Pilot ( CAP ) series is the books of approach plates for each region. Theres seven regions in total in Canada, and the CAP1, CAP2, etc, will have all of the instrument approach procedures for all airports within that region that have a published instrument approach.

On top of the 7 CAP's, there is also the CAP GEN, which is the basic IFR flying rules. Its a tiny little thing, about 40 pages total. It kinds of looks more like a little brochure or pamphlet, rather then the definitive set of current instrument flying procedures for an entire country, buth there it is.

Everyone I've talked to and all the books I've read so far, have all said the same thing.

Know the CAP GEN cold, forwards and backwards.

40 pages eh? How hard could it be?

Except, its basically excerpts from the Canadian Air Regulations ( CARs ) and is written in slightly simplified legalese.

You can take any given sentence in this book and you notice right away the very conspicuous use of legalese. Lots of AND, OR, UNLESS, SUBJECT TO, SHALL, WILL, SUBSECTION X, kind of stuff.

First section I am working on is dealing with Landing, Takeoff and Approach Minima. Very appropriately too, we've had some very intense fog over the last week or so. I'm getting to know a lot about RVR, Cat II and Low Visibility procedures, and thats just looking out the window...

A couple more things from my job, this is some of the airplane-moving equipment that we use. These two machines are made by a company called Lektro. There is a smaller one, we call " The Small One " and a larger, lower one, we usually call " The Lowboy ".

These machines are used to move aircraft around by lifting the nosewheel off the ground and crsdling it in the front " bucket ". This is MUCH easier than attaching a tow-bar and towing / pushing the aircraft.

As the nose-wheel is off the ground, the steering is done by the steering wheels of the Lektro itself. When you attach a tow bar to the nosewheel, there are two sets of steering wheels in play, both the tugs steering, as well as the aircrafts nosewheel.

Imagine hooking two Little Red Wagons together by attaching the handle of one to the back of the other. Pulling them forward is nice and easy.

Now push them backwards.... too many steering points. Thats what towing with a tow bar is like.

I'm only now getting comfortable using the tow bar, but luckily, we don't have to use it very often.

Some aicraft, by their design, or low clearance underneath, are not suited to " scooping " with the Lektro.

The one thing you have to be careful with though is the turning limits that the nose wheel is rated for. Most aircraft are not designed to have the nosewheel turn more than 30-45 degrees. Many aircraft can be damaged pretty severely if you try to turn it past its limits, which the Lektro will allow you to do very easily.

Some aircraft have detachable " scissors " on the nose wheel as well. The scissors connect the bottom section of the gear to the steering apparatus above the oleo ( shock absorber ). With the scissors connected, you turn the wheel and the whole steering assembly turns, including any control rods/cables/wizards inside the airplane. With the scissors connected, you have specific turning limits, if you disconnect them though, it lets the wheel rotate freely around the oleo and will often give you 360 degrees of turning capability, ie free castoring.

With the Lowboy, and a free castoring nose wheel, you can actually scoop the front wheel of the aircraft from underneath that aircraft itself and " push " it forward instead of towing. handy for tight squeezes into the hanger. The lowboy is also designed to allow us to drive under aircraft and their wings while in the hangar. Usually the driver ends up being the highest point on the vehicle. resulting in a little bit of wing-limbo while maneuvering around inside a packed hangar.

This is a shot of the software we use for keeping track of aircraft inbound to us. It will actually show us all flights in the air in North America and New Zealand, that are on IFR flight plans and in radar contact. ( Why it shows us NZ is a mystery to me... )

We usually set it to filter out all flights except those destined for Vancouver. This way, we can keep track of the progress of aircraft that have told us are coming, and we can also spot those that might be headed our way and haven't got around to telling us yet. We can also use it to track a specific aircraft, if we know the registration, and it will tell us where in the world it is located, in flight or last-known landing. This can be usefull if an aircraft hasnt arrived as scheduled, we can find out where it went, in case they changed plans and didnt tell us, or the aircraft never even left its origin and the flight was cancelled.

It will show us the Aircraft Registration, Altitude, Speed, Origin and Destination on the screen, and we can look up other details through the menus as well.

Often someone will recognize a registration that we have seen before and we will be prepared for their arrival, even if they haven't called in. Other times, we see aircraft that no one has seen, or are scheduled and we know to keep our eyes and ears peeled as they taxi in, in case they decide to pull onto our ramp.

Scheduled airline flights will show the airline code and flight number instead of a registration.

This is one of our fixed-GPU's. A Ground Power Unit that we can roll out to an aircraft and plug in, providing DC power. We also have portable ones, powered by a diesel generator.

Some aircraft were designed, or have acquired weak battery / electrical systems where starting their engines with battery power alone is taxing. We plug in the GPU and the initial start is done under power provided by a Hydro Dam somewhere out in the Kootenays. Once the first engine is running, they will often get us to disconnect the GPU as the running engine can supply enough power to start the other engine, or there is a system for using the bleed air off the running engine to spin up the fan on the other engine for the start.

When we do a GPU start, one of the guys will stand by the GPU at the connection point to the aircraft, the other marshaller will stand in front, in eye contact with the pilot.

the pilot will signal when he is ready to start each engine, and the marhsller will indicate back, with hand signals, that the area behind is clear and they are OK to go ahead with engine start.

Once one or both the engines are started, there will be another signal by the pilot, indicating we can disconnect the GPU.

TRhe marshaller will give another signal to the guy in the back, to shut off the power on the GPU and then disconnect it from the aircraft. If you disconnect the GPU before turning it off, you could, in theory, create a spark or power spike. The marshaller up front will then make sure the pilot doesnt try to leave, until the guy in the back has been able to fold up the GPU cord, and pull it out of the way. Once the GPU is clear, the pilot is usually given the all-clear so they can leave as soon as they are ready.

I've seen it happen twice in the last three years, where the pilot starts up the engines, forgets he has the GPU connected and tried to leave. Luckily, the marshaller up front knows the hand signal for indicating this to the pilot. Its basically the same as the one for the signal to connect / disconnect power, except theres a lot more laughing.

Not so funny however, is when the marshaller in the back, is working in very close proximity to a running jet engine and the pilot decides to go without getting an all-clear from the marshaller.

A lot of stuff is happening in the cockpit on start-up, and occasionally you will see a pilot who gets so engrossed, head-down, that they aren't aware of whats going on around them. I've seen aircraft creeping slowly ahead, with the pilots off the brakes and heads down, with the marshaller waving frantically at the tops of their craniums. Or, cockpit distractions done, head pops up, thumb comes up / landing light flashes, signalling they are ready to go and the aircraft is rolling, even before the marshaller has had a chance to look around and confirm to them that the area is clear and they can start moving.

Near where I work, there is a gate that lets the seaplanes cross the road and go down the ramp into the water.

If you're ever in Vancouver, check out Harbour Air's terminal, near the South Terminal and their famous Pub, The Flying Beaver.

I was working at Vancouver Airport, right across the street from this pub, when they built it. It was packed from opening day and to this day seems to be very successful. I drive a lot of visiting pilots and aircrew from our place to their hotel in our courtesy van and it seems like the reputation for this place has traveled pretty far. We get crews from all over the world and many of them have visited it before.

Unfortunately, a lot of them are in town for very short stays, one night or less, and they often lament the fact that they've been there three or four times but never had the chance to enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two due to impending flying... Trust me though, on a nice summer day, there is no better patio to be on with a cold one in hand, than The Beav!

Seaplanes coming and going, and the river, the airport. Its all about location, and this one has it made.

I think this guy realized that trying to hold the mattresses down on the roof with the classic arm out the window was futile. I'm not too sure about his alternative...but it looks like its working.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Night Flying Video

Ok, I was going through some old pictures and videos to see if I had anything of interest to post, and I found an old one when I was doing my night rating last year.

It was a solo flight, and I managed to balance the camera on the glareshield ( Dash ) and tried to get a video of a Touch and Go, at CYPK, Pitt Meadows airport.

Quality is not so good, and its not very exciting. until the very last..

I put the coals to her to take care of the " Go " part of a touch and go, and the camera fell onto the floor.

It was funny, but at the time, it actually alarmed me for a second and I learned something that day. Had it fell on the floor on my side of the plane, and jammed under the rudder pedals, or the strap snagged on the yoke and then the mixture knob, things could have been different. A little far fetched, but never the less.

The distraction alone, of seeing the camera go flying, was enough to remind me that fooling around in an airplane, even a little..., can have consequences.

I'm considering selling the footage to Fox News, " DEATH PLANE FOOTAGE!!! ".

Might pay for the multi-ifr I am presently coveting.

Oh, I was showing another fueler how to operate the panel on a large aircraft the other day, and we noticed that the switch to turn the power ON/OFF to the panel is labelled " ARM/DISARM.

We were laughing about their choice of words and not simply using ON/OFF.

I'm going to start using ARM/DISARM in my daily vocabulary.

Honey, would you mind disarming the bathroom lights before you come to bed?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cold Weather and Jet sounds

Ok, so we had a discussion at work the other day about the sound of jets taking off in the cold weather we've been having.

I've purposefully NOT googled it.

It's pretty amazing these days the amount of information that the internet has to offer, good and bad. I mean, you can pretty much answer ANY question with enough searching on the internet. It's kind of like spending a day downtown on a street corner and posing your question to every person you see. You'll get a lot of answers, some right, some wrong. But, the answer is there if you keep asking.

So, the question is, why do large transport-category jets make a different sound in cold weather than they do in warm?

By cold, I mean just below 0 Celsius.

Other parts of Canada live in this regime for the entire winter, so people there might only notice that difference in the spring and fall when the temp moves above and below zero, but for the rest of the winter it is the "normal" sound to them. To us, its very noticeable.

Its kind of a hissing / whispering noise.

A couple of the theories thrown out there were;

1.) The air, being denser, propagates the sound waves better. The molecules are closer together and thus transmit the sound wave with more efficiency.

2.) The temperature difference between the propelled air behind a jet and the still air it is being propelled through is greater, thus a greater / different sound.

3.) Any temperature below zero means there is some amount of frozen water in the air and the sound waves travel and/or are reflected differently around this solid obstacle.

Some of the discussion points were;

The sound of a jet is due to the difference in speeds of the propelled air meeting the still air behind the engine. The colder air, being denser, changes the dynamic of this meeting of air.

The temperature is only say 10 degrees or less different between that of a day when we don't hear the hissing noise, so it must have something to do with the fact that it is below zero, and not just the temperature differential. We don't hear a difference when the temp changes from say 30 to 10, only when it goes below zero.

If freezing point is a factor, it must have something to do with Ice, either frozen water in the air through which the sound wave is travelling or the sound wave propagation properties of air & water vapour at below-zero temps.

Water vapour, being a gas, can't " freeze ", without sublimating onto sometthing and becoming a solid. So if the day is crystal clear ( as is often the case in cold weather, where there is little in the way of water vapour in the cold air ), then how could " Ice Crystals " affect the sound wave propagation or refraction, if you cant see them in the air?

The question intrigues me, but so does the process of finding the answer.

I mean, if I don't google it, and I ask everyone I know, their brain engages and they start asking other questions. Curiosity gets peaked and they start asking other people for their input and suggestions. Someone offers a theory you hadn't considered and, in some cases, learning occurs. Someone offers a theory that sounds logical, but is in fact, not true. Someone else walks away thinking the problem is solved, but now has an incorrect "solution" in their head, possibly affecting how they view another problem.

But, if I simply go home, google the heck out of it and find the answer, than nothing happens. I might ( or might not ) get the correct answer, my curiosity is slated, and no one's brain engages, mine included.

What will happen in 20 years when the internet has weeded out all the chaff and you never need to ask anyone a question? Everything you want to know is simply answered if you want to know it.

I know, its a weird question.

Maybe I'll just google it.

Oh, the pictures were sent to me a couple of years ago after a severe hail-storm in Edmonton.

This was in the summer.

What you are seeing is not snow, its large quantities of hail. It built up to the point where it clogged sewer drains, flooded roads and actually created " ice floes " in the flooded streets.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Brush with greatness

Ok, so I finally met someone famous.

I walked out the door of the FBO and there. he. was.

Right there, looking at me.

I couldn't believe it...was it really him?

It can't be.

He looks..much...shorter ...for some reason.

Maybe its not him.

Stop staring.

Jesus, you know what, it is him.

Yup. ran into Captain Sully last night.

No, not the goose-eating-river-landing Sully, THE Captain Sully.

I've been following his blog for the past two years or so, and he finally made his way out to the west coast. Ostensibly to visit his mom, but I suspect he had heard of the fantastic-ness that is our FBO and just had to see for himself what all the buzz was about.

Joking aside, it actually did feel like a celebrity encounter. I have several small Tupperware containers filled with respect for the guy, gained from reading along with his blog, as well as his moderation efforts and postings on a certain Canadian Aviation Interweb Forum / Cage Match Death Ring Bloodsport site.

Imagine my horror as I filled his plane and managed to draw the short straw and get El Vesuvius, the hose with the leaky nozzle, and splattered Jet-A all around the fill port.

Couldn't take any pictures, of course, you're not supposed to harass the celebrities.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Noxious Weed

Took a trip up north of here the other day, with my mom, up to my brothers place.

He lives in little cabin near a tiny little town ( the pop. less than 100 kind of tiny ).

The company he works for books adventure tourism trips down to Belize and they are based in the weirdest of places, far back in the mountains. It works out really well for all involved though, as most of their business is done either on site down in Belize, or over the phone / internet. The quality of life is drastically improved for all involved up here, by living / working where they do.

The office is in the basement of a small cabin set on a 90 acre property just outside this tiny little town. The upstairs of the cabin is an apartment, where my brother lives.

Sharing the apartment with him are two enormous malamutes. They were rescue dogs and are named Happy ( Hapi ) and Hero ( Hiro ). The assumption is that they were originally owned by a Korean family, but the names translate quite well.

When the property was bought, the original owner had made some cool little improvements as well. One thing was a natural hot-tub / wading pond. Cut into the ground and drained by a pipe to the nearby stream, the pond was made of large rocks set into a hole dug into the ground, making benches to sit on.

You could easily fit a dozen soakers in this pool, but I can't imagine it would be easy to heat the water or keep it clean. Neat idea though.

Their was even an airstrip built on the property as well. Being out of use and maintenance for the last few years though has taken its toll. Theres a few goods ruts running along the "runway " and even cutting across it in a few places. The runway has also been narrowed down to little more than a ATV track, as they're the only ones really using it and the brush is starting to take over elsewhere.

The drive up was spectacular. We've finally had a few days of sunshine here on the Wet Coast, and it looks like we might get a few more too. Very Nice.

I got to take my new wheels out for a shakedown cruise and am happy to report that it did just fine on the highway. The mileage boost was impressive and its quite comfortable even for a few hours at a time, despite it being quite small.

I also got to pay a visit to my old car, which I sold to my brother, almost seven years ago. I have fond memories of this car and was surprised to see it in fairly gfood shape. I knew it had been sitting up on his property, unused for at least a year, maybe even two, so was expecting to see a moss and mold covered hulk lurking in the bushes, but its actually looking pretty much like how I remember it.

It was a good car...but is a bit ( ok, more than a bit ) of a pig on gas. I was considering buying a 1000$ beater to get me through the next year, unfortunately, the gas consumption on this thing would have more than cost the difference between a car loan and this thing.

The only real difference in the car that I can see is a nice dent one of the local kids decided to kick into the back door. I'm surpirsed that it hasnt been picked up by a local though, this would be a perfect war-wagon for a teenager who doenst have to drive / commute long distances. As a parent, I would totally buy my teen something like this. Very safe, ( every car around you is your crumple-zone ) comfortable, and they're not going to be paying it for years when they inevitably wreck the thing in the first two years.

It was a great visit, we spent lots of time just chatting, walking around on the logging roads surrounding the property and just hanging out.

Temperatures definitely a little more winter like up here, I think we even pulled double digits below zero overnight. Scary stuff for a left coaster.

Lots of evidnece of the fight against the Pine Beetle up here. The owners are trying all kinds of things to try and keep their trees from being infected by these things. There were little packets of some kind of bait/poison tacked to a lot of the trees and other trees which had been infected were cut down and had the bark removed to try and quarantine them.

On this freshly cut tree, apparently the Bluish ring about two inches into the tree is a tell-tale sign of this tree's death by pine beetle. I was told that its not the beetle which usually kills the tree, its a single or various infections that get into the now-exposed interior of the tree and eventually kill it.

I don't know too much about the pine beetle thing, but I do remember reading a good article on it, blaming both the environmentalists and the logging groups on using the pine beetle for their own advantage and hamstringing efforts at the fight against it.

The Environmentalists claiming that the logging interests were blowing the whole thing out of proportion in order to get access to stands of lumber that were off limits to them in the past but wereclaiming them to be now " infected " and should be harvested quickly before they were dead and useless to everyone.

The Logging interests claimed the Enviro's were slowing down the fight by this tactic and were hurting them by allowing the beetle to spread and damage timber lots that were due to be logged eventually, but would be long-dead by the time they were ready.

It kind of reminds me of Global Warming. On one side you have the Drama of the mainstream media, and on the other, you get the immediate reaction of a huge chunk of people who will write off anything the media says as histrionics.

One day the sky will fall and we'll be too busy out in the backyard with our TV's turned off.

On the drive up, we noticed that they had significantly improved the old mining museuem. It used to look like something out of a springsteen steel-town video, with broken windows and rust streaked siding. Now, it looks like a brand new mine. I've heard stories about some of the local pollution that the area has suffered around it though, as a result of the gold and copper mining methods of yesteryear.

One story I read, was that the old tailings pond, full of arsenic and mercury was wiped out, along with the company town one night on a flash flood. All that pollution went straight out into the sound.

Back in the day, gold mining was particularly toxic, with the extensive use of mercury to extract gold. The way I remember it, Mercury is one of the only metals that will amalgamate with gold. So, Gold that was mixed with other heavy materials, black sand, quartz, etc, would be ground up as fine as possible and then dumped into a large quantity of mercury. The Mercury would amalgamate with the gold, essentially dissolving it into the mercury. The other materials would not amalgamate and be left behind.

The mercury is then cooked off, leaving only pure gold behind. Not sure of this method is still in use, but you can imagine the dangers of cooking mercury.. let alone the residual mercury left behind in the waste material after the gold has been amalgamated.

Old miners used to use this on a small scale even, the mercury and gold amalgam would be poured into a hollowed out potato, bound with foil/wire and then cooked in a campfire, leaving your gold in the middle of the potato.

Got called into work early the other day, to help out with fueling a special visitor. It ended up not needing my truck, as the first truck was able to fill its requested fuel order, but we're due to see them a few more times before long, so I'm hoping to get the nod again to go and poke around up close to this thing. Its Canada's newest addition, the C-17 Globemaster. More accurately, its the CC-177.

Canada adds a "C" to the original designations and usually modifies the numerical value as well.

The "C" in this case means, Cargo. Lots of Cargo.

An "F-18" becomes a " CF-188 " in Canada.

C = Canada
F = Fighter
188 = 18 + something else to make it unique to us, and not just a copy of the US designation.

A Bell 412 becomes a CH-146 for us;

C = Canada
H = Helicpoter
146 = any value but 412.

Airplane geek stuff over, you can unglaze.

Oooh, forgot to mention the takeoff roll....

We watched it leave, empty, other than a substantial fuel load, and I think they put on a bit of a show. This thing was airborne in, by our calculations, less than 2000'. If anyone is familiar with YVR, it left on 26L and was airborne by Bravo.


Pretty impressive for an aircraft of its size!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

November already

Wow, November already.

I've had a fairly busy last couple of months. A few notable stories to share.

Three weeks ago, I was in a car accident. I was turning off my street and onto a busier street and managed to misjudge my turn so badly that I ended up sticking well out into the outside lane.

The outside lane happened to be full of same-direction traffic and with my luck, I happened to encroach onto the path of a tractor trailer.

Luckily, I guess, my encroachment into his lane was in the form of the front end of my car turning underneath his trailer as he went by. I managed to catch a glimpse of the side of his trailer a few inches from my driver side window and instantly realized that this put the hood of my little car underneath the trailer... The back wheels impacted me quite smartly on my drivers side front wheel, fender and hood. He was probably going about 50 km/h and the impact threw the front end of my car out from under the trailer. Unfortunately, this spun the rear end of my car around enough that I impacted him again with the back of my car on the side/back of the trailer. I was propelled off the road, over the curb ( neatly taking out all my tires as I went over the curb ), over the sidewalk and well up onto the grass and into some bushes.

I was fine, aside from being a little bit stunned at what had just happened.

I got out of the car quickly to wave to the truck driver, who had stopped, along with a lot of other people, to make sure he knew he hadn't killed me. Or, more accurately, that I hadn't killed myself, as it was completely my fault. The people that stopped were just as surprised as I was that I was OK. It must have looked pretty dramatic from outside, I know it did from inside.

It was pretty much a big crash, a jolt and then everything spinning around in my windshield, accompanied by the sound of broken glass flying around.

Pretty stupid on my part. I had turned out of this street a thousand times since I moved here two years ago.

We exchanged details and I called the police to report it. There was little question my car had sustained more than the 1500.00 limit for mandatory reporting to the police. As no one was hurt, they were a little while showing up. I felt bad for the truck driver who was on the job and was being inconvenienced pretty badly by my mistake. I got his details and told him he might as well go, since it was clearly my fault and its not like there was anything to dispute.

The police arrived and it took less than five minutes to give him enough info for his paperwork. He explained how the process would work, with them towing my car away and the insurance company picking it up from them. All I had to do was leave my keys in the car, take any personal items I needed and that would be it.

Felt more than a little weird making such a mess of glass, busted car bits, and then just walking away from the whole thing, leaving my car up in the bushes for someone else to look after the whole thing.

Walked home and called the insurance company.

They had a rental car delivered to me within the hour, the claim all set up and explained how they would do an examination of the damage and let me know if it would be fixed or written off.

I have to say, the whole ordeal was pretty painless.

They did end up writing the car off, and I was fortunate enough to get enough money out of them to pay off what we still owed on it.

My insurance doesn't even really go up, as I have enough safe driving years that they give you one freebie out here without taking a hit on your rates.

Did a fair bit of shopping around for a new car and finally settled on a 1999 VW Jetta. Its not new-new like my little Mazda-3 that is being stripped of all its remaining useful bits somewhere, but its small, easy on gas and in good enough shape that I don't have to stress about it starting in the morning or body panels rusting off and littering up our parking spot. ( unlike some vehicles that have graced our spot.... )

So, theres that.

I've been studying IFR rules and procedures in my spare time, and I'm kind of hoping to write the INRAT ( the written exam for the Instrument Rating ) sometime before spring. Most likely February, but I haven't really committed to it yet. I'm interested in it, and its always challenging learning something new, but I keep coming back to the fact that since I can't really afford the flying part of the rating yet, that this is all just academic.

There's a lot to learn though, so its better than playing video games or watching TV.

Union Contract negotiations at my fueling gig are well underway and things are moving very slowly. Not a good sign, and I don't even want to think about the "S" word. The longer it drags on and the more disillusioned my coworkers are getting with the process though, the more people are starting to talk about it. It went from a absolute last resort, but no-one really thinking of it as a serious option, to now being one of the few remaining bits of leverage we have.

I interviewed at a freight forwarding outfit the other day. I've been looking for some part-time work that might help me save up some cash / relieve some debt pressure.

I forgot how much I enjoyed freight forwarding and am almost afraid of getting this job. Its hard to logically justify a career path that has so little going for it in the economic department ( flying ) when a perfectly good career is available to me in forwarding. I worked as a freight forwarder for over ten years and, without being too arrogant, I'm pretty good at it. I've been courted by a dozen or so different companies over the years, wanting me to come work for them and I've made enough contacts in the industry that getting forwarding work wouldn't be too hard.

The hard part is getting a part-time forwarding job. The company I interviewed for was interested in the idea of hiring a part-time person, but the local manager still has to sell it to his boss, so we'll see.

Part of me thinks, maybe I should go back into forwarding full-time and do the fueling thing on a part time basis instead of the other way around. It makes a lot of sense financially, but I'm nervous about it. I'd hate to put myself in a position where the money becomes the anchor tying me into something that I don't really want to do for a long time.

The Lovely Wife and I have, however, started working towards a new goal.

We've talked about it before, but we've started making some concrete efforts towards it now.


Everyone thinks we're crazy.

We've got some big challenges with making it happen though. First and foremost, we need to reduce our financial obligations here to the point where our debt is serviceable on the amount of income we can expect over there.

Second, we both need to find jobs over there.

We've decided on a years timeframe to try and meet some financial goals. This will probably necessitate us both working full and part time jobs.

That being said, if the right opportunity came along in the meantime, I think we could make it happen in short notice as well.

I spoke with a fellow at work the other day, he lives / vacations in Kenya one or twice a year and seems very connected with the local flying scene over there. The other day he asked me to forward him a copy of my resume, as it looks like he is preparing to make another trip over in the next few weeks. Its funny how these things can fall into place once people know you are interested. Fingers crossed.

One of the local helicopter outfits at the field had their annual Christmas party for customers, friends and suppliers. They fly in a serious amount of Lobster and boil it up right outside the hangar in these great big pots.

They also spend a few hours shuttling everyone up for a ride in their A-Star Helicopters.

I snuck over there and managed to cadge myself a ride.

That. Was. Cool.

My second trip in a helicopter, and I like it and all, but I'm not sure flying one would be my thing. Yet...who knows?

We do a lot of sports-charters, primarily NHL teams, at our FBO. The teams come in and we marshall them into a parking spot, chock the wheels, get the air-stairs truck up to the door, open up the cargo holds and offload the players bags and all their team gear.

If the team is just coming in for the day and then going back home the next day, they usually have a carry-on bag each and nothing in the hold as far as personal luggage. If they are on a one, two or even three-week road trip however, they'll each have a great big suitcase as well.

The personal bags are stored up front usually, in Pit#1,2 and/or 3.

On a side note, aircraft with bulk-loadable downstairs cargo holds, have the cargo areas divided up into " pits ". A pit is basically a section in the hold, noted by a cargo net divider and usually a painted line on the wall. This allows us to load a certain amount of volume/weight into each " pit " and record those numbers for the flight crew to work out their weight and balance.

With these flights, it usually isn't much of a concern as personal luggage is almost always much bulkier than heavy. That is, the pit will be full of bags long before the actual weight is much of a factor.

The pits are numbered starting from the front of the plane, towards the back. The front hold usually has 2-3 pits and the rear, depending on the plane, could have as many as five or six.

Once the plane is shut down and the doors are open, we will marshall the buses into position at the bottom of the stairs to receive the players and occasionally, a media contingent.

Our procedure is to have a couple of guys up front in the forward hold retrieving the personal bags and placing them on the ground for the players to collect and put on the bus as they board. I've seen other FBO's handle the bags off the plane and then also load them onto the buses, but the players and team management never seem to mind our method and it speeds things up considerably.

With only having to have two guys up front handling personal bags, the rest of us can be at the rear hold getting the belt loaded into position, marshaling the equipment truck up to the back of the loader and getting the cargo nets in the rear hold taken down in preparation for offloading.

Each team in the NHL has a Equipment Manager, some of them have a couple of them. When a visiting team is in town, the home-team equipment manager will look after collecting their gear from the plane and taking it to the rink and getting it settled into their dressing room. This saves everyone from having to set up rental trucks each time they visit somewhere else and dragging their equipment crew around with them.

Once the truck is in place, the equipment manager and one of our guys will be in the back of his truck helping to stack the gear as it comes down the belt and two more guys will be up in the rear hold.

One guy gently moving the customers property from the location where it was so lovingly and carefully placed by the on-load crew on the other end and getting it in the general vicinity of the door opening and the other person will ever-so-carefully and with as much grace as a person can muster moving 150 lb crates and giant hockey bags from a crouched position with an APU screaming over your head, place them on the belt loader.

The whole thing is usually very quick. Most often, its late at night and the players want to get to the hotel ASAP to get some rest before the next days game. The equipment guy has a ton of work to do now that the gear is in town, and most of us are on the tail end of our shifts or well into overtime and looking forward to getting home as well.

Luckily, we've got a really good crew and since most of us have done hundreds of these charters, with the exact same thing happening every time, its a pretty well oiled machine.

Occasionally things still go sideways though.

Last week we had a team going out that ran into some trouble. They were using the same plane that U2 used on their tour, and the charter outfit hasn't got around to repainting it yet. After all the gear was loaded, doors closed, stairs and chocks pulled, we were all standing there waiting to marshal them out when the engines shut down quite unexpectedly.

First they called for ground power and the stairs. We got the GPU ( Ground Power Unit - airplane electrical power generator, portable ) in position only to have it waved off.

Our air stairs developed sudden electrical issues of it's own and we had to jump start it with the pickup truck ( while the windows of the plane are full of curious faces wondering what the hell is going on with their plane and now what the heck are these jokers doing with the jumper cables?? ).

Turns out they had a mechanical issue with a fuel valve in one of the engines and had to get one of their maintenance crews to come over from their nearby hangar and do some swearing and poking at bits underneath the engine cover.

It worked, as they were on the way within an hour and a half of the engines shutting down. Not much of an issue really, but its the kind of thing that might keep you there all night, waiting.....

We handle a lot of music groups as well, sometimes just the performers on a smaller private jet, other times entire production teams in chartered airliners.

The music charters are a lot less well oiled.

We've got our routine down pat, and the teams and management of the sports charters know this and leave everything to us. Every runs smoothly and there is rarely any confusion or delays. Unfortunately, the music groups are usually a lot less experienced in this type of operation. You tend to get a lot of people strutting around barking orders and requesting things that are unnecessary, irrelevant, unsafe, nonexistent, unavailable and more often than not...ridiculous.

We do our best to accommodate them , as they are the customer, but it usually leads to us veering well off course from the routine and causing problems.

The van gets sent for a bucket of M&M's for the talent and is now not available when the crew call for a pickup from the hotel.

The producer asks for a separate set of air stairs for the rear door of the plane so that the talent can board first, using the front stairs and not have to " endure " the roadies, groupies and media walking past them to their seats in the back. Now we have to rent an extra set of stairs, assign two guys to marshal and operate them.

The list goes on and on, and I don't want to get anyone in trouble, so I'll leave it at that. Have got to see more than a few famous performers, but frankly, I could do without all the headaches....

We also had a C-130 Hercules from the Tunisian Air Force come into town. They make the trip out here once a year, apparently picking up / dropping off helicopters for maintenance at one of the larger local helicopter outfits here. They loaded three whole Bell 205 Helicopter ( disassembled of course ) into the back of this thing and then took them back to Tunisia.

The Hercules isn't the fastest aircraft around, so its a long trip, you can be sure! The crew were busy down at the Walmart and Costco though, so they must have had a little bit of room left over the hold for some extra personal gear...

I won't get into who/when/how details on this one, but I'll post two pictures and leave the rest up to your imagination....

Wingtip ( with evidence of repairs... )

Hangar Wall ( with evidence of .....something... )

Sitting around in the line crew room the other day, we had a funny call on the radio from an aircraft we didn't recognize. We only caught the tail end of the call, but it sounded like a " Fairchild " was coming in and would be on the ground in ten minutes, coming to our ramp. This had us all scratching our head as we weren't expecting anything and frankly, none of us could figure out what type of aircraft this would be. They were gone off our frequency by the time we answered the call, as is sometimes the case, so we were left wondering.

Visiting aircraft are strongly encouraged to call us on our Unicom frequency prior to arrival. This lets us make sure we have a parking spot cleared and ready for them, staff ready to marshall, offload and be available to them for whatever services they require. Occasionally, we get aircraft crews that don't think this call is necessary and we end up scrambling to do our jobs, mostly because we planned our manpower to assist those aircraft that DID call.

Sometimes, however, crews plan to call us when " in-range ", but end up being too busy dealing with terminal arrival and tower congestion and/or busy airspace, non-standard approaches or other distractions that preclude them being able to quickly call us on the second radio with an in-range call.

We finally got a clue as to who the mystery guest was when, over the buildings that block our view of the north runway, there appeared a giant plume of black smoke.

This picture doesn't do it justice, but wow, this thing leaves quite the " carbon footprint "

I'm pretty sure we mis-heard the " Fairchild " part of its call, as I don't think the CP-140 Aurora is a Fairchild product.

They have visited us in the past, a giant, noisy, smoky beast. Four older turboprop engines that belch a trail of black smoke wherever they go. These aircraft are used out here for long range coastal patrol and occasionally Search and Rescue as well. One of my coworkers used to work for the CF and was a crew member on one of these things, some interesting missions these guys go on!

This one just did a stop-and-go though, landing on the north runway and then taxiing over to the south runway and taking off.

We had very limited ramp space that day, in particular for something of this size so we were more than a little nervous as he taxied towards our end of the field, luckily, turning away to take off before he got to us...

Oh, and my dog visited me the other day at work and tried his hand at working as a CSR at our front desk.

He didn't do very well, he kept barking at the pilots. I'm afraid his performance review isn't going to go well.

Sorry for not posting in so long... I've been more than a bit lazy.

My mom keeps a blog as well and we got to talking about blogging the other day. I really enjoy writing, so it is very good practice, if nothing else. One thing she suggested, that I might try for awhile, is to make deadlines and be sure to post at least X number of times a week, even if they are just short blurbs.

I'm going to try that for awhile, see how that works out.

I really come to appreciate the stamina and reliability of those bloggers who manage to post every day. One blog I've been following for the last three years, is Cockpit Conversation, and her posting schedule is very, very impressive.

It's definitely an aviation blog, but if you're so inclined and haven't been there yet, I highly recommend it.

I'm picking up my mom on Wednesday and we're going to drive up to Pemberton to hang out at my brothers place for a day or so. He works for an adventure tourism outfit that operates out of a cabin. They used to be based in the city, but found they could improve the quality of life dramatically for all the partners / employee's by tele-commuting the entire office to somewhere a lot more livable than the big city. I think this is a great idea!

This will also be a bit of a shakedown cruise for the new wheels. The Sea to Sky highway has also been upgraded for the upcoming Olympics ( more on this later...remind me... ) and has some spectacular scenery enroute. I'll do my best to get some photos for a good post on my return. Promise.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Airplane Porn

Had some interesting visitors over the last couple weeks so I wanted to post some pictures I took.

A couple saturdays ago, I spotted a strange flight number and aircraft type on the computer program we use to track aircraft in the air. Theres a couple free-ware programs out there like Flightaware , which are OK, but we use a commercial, pay-for-use one which lets us look at pretty much all of north america's flights, or filter them to see only ones arriving to or departing from our airport. We can also search by model of aircraft, for example, to see all Boeing 747's currently in flight. It also lets us search for an aircraft's tail numbner and even find the last known airport where that aircraft landed at. Helpfull if we are expecting an aircraft and its delayed, we can find out where it is and at least get a rough idea of how much lead time we have before it arrives.

In any case, the strange flight I spotted, turned out to be a huge Russian Cargo plane, an Antonov 124.

We went out and watched him land, of course thats when my batteries packed it in on my camera. Nice.

I have my cell-phone camera as backup, but its not the greatest...

It being Saturday, and deathly quiet on our side of the field, I jumped in the truck and drove over to where they parked, to have a look.

This thing is huge!

Check out the fuel panel on this bad boy, I count at least 7 Tanks, and it looks like three valves per tank? Not really sure, as everything is written in Cyrillic.

While I was walking around taking pictures, I noticed the crew hovering around inside near the door. They had the ladder down and the fueler was actually inside with them, but no truck nearby.

I figured it couldnt hurt to ask, so I asked the Russian looking guy if I could come on board.

He scowled at me a bit, and then said yes. Sweet!

He did tell me as I climbed the ladder, " No Picture. ". He wore his impressive looking scowl the entire time I was inside.

Check out the twin-dual nose gears!

There was a ladder at the front end of the cargo deck that gives access to the upper deck. I had to ask, but I already knew the answer, when I asked if I could go upstairs. " No, Nyet. "

I scooped a couple pictures off Airliners as I was curious as well, what the upstairs looked like.

If you look along the walls of the cargo hold, there is a seriously impressive amount of spare parts and tooling for this thing as well. I imagine there is at least one and possibly even more, Mechanical Engineers that travel along with this thing as well to keep everything running smoothly. That would be quite the job flying one of these. I imagine they get to pretty much travel the entire world. I dont know if it was just the stereotypical Russian surly demeanor of the crew, or if this job might be a little more miserable than it would appear to an enthusiast...

The hold inside this thing is gigantic. There is the main deck cargo hold that holds oversize cargo, but there is also a passenger deck running along the topside of the hold as well. The Cockpit is at the forward end ( obviously ) of the upper deck.

From the number of chairs in the cockpit, this beast takes a flight crew of at least six. Captain, First Officer and I would surmise, a Flight Engineer, Second Officer, Navigator, Radio Operator?

Behind the cockpit it opens up to the passenger seating area.

Behind the passenger seating area is also a small compartment that has a couple of crew bunks as well as a full galley!

Behind that even, running the rest of the length of the fuselage is a maintenance space.

This particular plane had originated from Texas and was on its way to Alaska. The hold contained 5 Patriot Missile systems mounted on giant trucks. Apparently, some representatives from the manufacturer were upstairs as well, travelling along with the cargo.

I imagine that the charter itself must have been by the contractor who was selling this equipment to the US Military, as they have no shortage of heavy-lift aircraft of their own. While the Russian built AN-124 is the second largest civilian cargo aircraft, the US Military has at least one heavy lifter that I know of that rivals this one, in the C-5 Galaxy. The Russians also have the AN-225, which is even bigger than this one, but I think there is only one or two of them around.

The reason the fueler was inside and no truck in sight, was that there was some sort of problem with the payment arrangements. These things are usually planned pretty well in advance, with fuel contracts and fuel releases being sent to the fueling company days or weeks in advance of the aircraft arrival. I have heard however, of these guys carrying around large sums of US Dollars in cash, for those places where credit arrangements are harder to secure.... Good luck asking Sergei Scowlinski for a credit card imprint....

Eventually the fuel truck showed up and they took their fuel and left.

I was a little surprised that this aircraft didn't have the legs to go from Texas all the way to Alaska, without stopping for fuel. The cargo was bulky, but it didn't look overly heavy that they would have had to restrict how much fuel they took on at origin. Perhaps the trucks were heavier than they looked. I wondered if it was a cabotage issue, where a Russian registered aircraft couldn't fly from point-to-point within the USA, without stopping at an international point in between, but I don't know if that really applies to a private charter like this.

The job hunt continues, but I'm kind of holding off the I'll-Take-ANYTHING mode for the winter I think.

Finances dictate that I make some money and pay off some of the debt we've incurred both in my training and this summers little adventure, before we go gallavanting off anywhere.

I estimate we've spent about 35,000 on my flight training to date. Knowing that most of the jobs I am applying for pay in the neighborhood of...minimum wage.... the numbers are hard to stomach. I can see how so many people that start out down this road only to end up giving up and going back to their old careers or simply finding new ones.

The company I work for now is also about the enter into contract negotiations with our union. More money might be in the future...or not. We're very much overdue for an adjustment in our pay scale, but the economy certainly doesn't help our bargaining position.

A certain high-profile international sporting event looming on the horizon doesn't hurt though. Most of the local public service unions and other large unions groups have pushed for and settled some decent contracts in the last year. Everyone wants everything settled and smooth before the world shows up here. No one wants any last-minute shenanigans to mar the event.

The hunt for some part-time work continues. I'm hoping to be able to make a few bucks and be able to get back up in the air at least once a month or so. I really do miss the flying.

I picked up a few hours here and there with a local outfit that details and grooms corporate aircraft. The pay is kind of crap, but its very near my regular job and I can usually put in a few hours and then punch in at work. Its pretty convenient and the thrill of poking around inside Challengers, Globals and other high-end business jets is still a novelty. Their work is kind of sporadic though, so its pocket money more than anything.

Big thanks to Chad and Ryan for giving me some leads on job opportunities, even if they're long shots. This is the biggest reason I'm hanging onto the FBO job is all the people I meet who are on similar paths as me, or even a few years ahead. You just never know when someone you know will have their boss ask them if they know any pilots looking for work...

We had a pretty low-key Thanksgiving out here, or I did anyways. With my afternoon shift at the FBO, I tend not to be available for family events in the evenings and on the weekends. I'd like to change that a little if I can, but the afternoon shift is also the one with the most overtime, as the sports Charters usually arrive late at night. The evening guys are the ones who get asked to stay late and handle them. I'm, also still fairly low on the totem pole, so my shift-preference doesn't count for all that much. There is talk of going to a shift-bid system ion the new contract, which could bode well for me. There are a few guys with less seniority than me who hold shifts that I find a little more desirable in terms of time with my Lovely Wife and our respective families.