Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Seat belts, loose articles, doors and seats.

  Went up today for an hour or so to polish off some instrument time I had to complete before the paperwork for the licence could be submitted.

  Three airports within 15 nm of each other were calling for either winds light and variable, all the way up to 23G34. Winds aloft were 25-30 kts, and there was a forecast for some moderate mechanical turbulence...  and they got it right.

  Had a tough time holding any sort of reasonably consistent altitude, was anywhere from -200 to +500 feet most of the time. 

  Constantly pulling power, diving, adding power, and fighting with the heading due to being tossed around so much.   

  I don't really have any issues with turbulence, even with the hood on, it doesn't make me queasy in the least. It does however piss me off in the altitude excursion department.

  Coming in final to land, was a little high due to being tossed up by the thermal activity on downwind, so turned base without much altitude loss at all. Dropped most of my power and 10 degrees of flaps on base, nothing...slight climb....  ok....full flaps, slipping turn down onto a 1-mile final. 800 feet and climbing! dammit, I cant get down..... Full flaps, full slip, power off.... for a minute or two it looked like a go-around was in the works as the runway steadily slipped further down in my field of view. You want it to stay in the same spot as you establish a glide. I should have been dropping like a stone, 40 degrees of flaps, no power, and a good chunk of my airplane facing side-on into the wind as I slipped it down sideways towards the ground in a slight dive.  But the hot air rising off the fields and all the new spring vegetation, basking in our newly-established spring sunshine, had other plans for us. 

  I laughed and noted that we might be stuck up here. Finally, the winds shifted a bit and we passed through the thermals coming off the freshly tilled fields, and she started to sink. Ended up making my normal touchdown spot for this runway, but it sure didn't look like that was going to happen when I started the approach.

  As much as I am looking forward to spending this summer in the Canadian "bush", I've had my interested piqued by two other blogs I stumbled upon, extolling the virtues of African Bush Flying.

  The Lovely Wife and I even discussed it, and we both are unequivocally IN if there is a way to make this happen.  We spent a couple years overseas previously, and this is one of the reasons that I/we have pursued this career for me, is the hopes that it would take us overseas again. Not just to visit a foreign country, but to live it. 

  By foreign, I don't mean a week in an all-inclusive in Punta Cana, with one side trip outside the resort gates to buy some sandals from one of those guys by the beach. I mean shopping in the grocery stores, establishing a phone account and getting internet hooked up, getting an apartment, a drivers licence and learning the local language, that kind of foreign.

  We'll see how this summer goes and what kind of doors are open for me next year here, but prospects around Canada don't look that great now.... It seems like its always been a hard market to crack over here. New pilots are expected to work for year(S!) on the ramp, the dock, the office, before they are allowed near even the most basic of aircraft. 

  I've worked a couple years on the ramp, while I got my training taken care of, and this year I will count as my Dock year, but I sure hope there is a full time flying gig waiting for me, somewhere in the world, by next spring.

  Struck me today while I was flying though..... I do LOVE it. It was easy during the training part to get frustrated with practising the same thing ad nauseum, and then to botch it and beat yourself up for it.

  I should have remembered this happening after completing the Private Pilots Licence, that overwhelming sense of relief and the fun-factor coming back like a house on fire.

  Even something that I dont particulary care for all that much, the instrument flying, I could have done all day without getting bored.

Getting closer to D-Day... May 5th, I fly out at 0700 for Nearest-Big-City--Ville. found out that the Greyhound Bus that I take from there to South Northtown doesn't leave till 10PM the day I arrive. So I have about 8 hours to find my way from the airport out to the bus station, with my pack in tow. I think I can handle that.... Suspect I'll end up in a bus depot, sprawled out on the floor, reading, for oh....7 and half hours..... I've been to Big-City-Ville before. Its not that big, and there isn't much to do. Even though its been 15-20C every day out here on the West Coast, this particular prairie town is still celebrating the odd foray into double digit temperatures. If it was here I was laying over, it would be outside on the grass... I think it'll be the bus depot floor out there...

  So, after the 8 hour layover in the bus depot, its a three hour bus ride to the next town. I get in late at night and the bus doenst leave till the next morning, so it'll be a hotel stay that night.

  Except. I found out that the day I am scheduled to be there ( the morning I wake up after spending the night ) THE. BUS. DOESN'T. RUN. It runs every day, except Wednesdays.... I will be there Wednesday AM.

  I tried to change my flight, but with all the extra fee's, I would end up paying more to change it than biting the bullet and staying two nights in a hotel.

  Spoke with the owner the other day and he mentioned he might be able to set me up with a ride from the last town, just call him before I leave.

    Oh well, I wanted an adventure....here it comes.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Three Good Things

  One of the things I'm really looking forward to this summer, is not driving. My daily commute right now is in the order of 30-45 minutes each way, depending on traffic. Not too bad considering I know people who do an hour or more each way, in much worse traffic then me. I actually cover a fair bit of distance in those minutes, and that's what keeps me sane. If it was bumper-to-bumper bridge lineups or freeway crawling, It would be much harder to handle. As it is, I fly along pretty good, and rarely in peak hours.

  Problem is... I fly along.... I tend to speed a little. I also tend to get irritated at drivers who exhibit poor driving skills. Badly timed lane changes, overly-aggressive driving, tailgating, cell phone yakking and parade marshals who sit in the passing lane and keep pace with a car in the slow lane and clog up the freeway like an artery full of KFC.

  These things don't help my mental health.  All the stress and tension I generate being so wrapped up in what others are doing, as well as my own poor judgement sometimes when it comes to speed.

  I've tried to relax a little more....I've tried turning off the radio. I've tried reciting emergency checklists to distract myself, I've even tried classical music. None of these really helped much or for very long. Soon enough I was back to yelling at my fellow drivers and racking up speeding tickets.

  But I found made a new little game that seems to be working a little bit, for now anyways. 

  I call it Three Good Things.

  The objective, is to do Three Good Things on the drive to or from work. A good thing could be slowing down to allow someone who I think is going to be changing lanes soon ( they just haven't figured it out themselves just yet.. ) room to get in, so they don't panic when they finally realize their lane is ending. Or just setting the cruise control at a socially acceptable pace and driving one or more legs at a slower than usual speed.

  Its actually harder than it seems, and I've been having some fun with it, actually trying to find three good things to do in a drive. Its a start anyways...at least I've acknowledged the issue. 

  I remember living and driving in a small town previously. I had an extra ignition key for my car cut, just so I could leave it in the ignition. That way I never had to worry about toting around my keys...the door to the house was never locked and the car always had the key in it and the doors unlocked. Perfect!  Got easy too, if one of my friends needed to borrow my car while I was away.

  Driving down the street in a small town you never drove with your hands at ten and two, always one hand on the top of the steering wheel, at 12 o clock. that way when some passed you that you knew and they waved at you, it was quick and easy to simply raise your fingers, leaving your palm on the wheel. And believe me, there was a lot of waving. In a Town of around 6000, it seemed like every second car was someone you knew. Jill from Safeway, Fred from the bank, John who works at the insurance place.

  So yeah, looking forward to small town life again soon.
Oh.. I ate at MacDonald's tonight... I know.. I know! But the Lovely wife went to bed early and I was off late, so I didn't want to bang around and wake her up, so it had to be fast food... That's my excuse.

  Anyways, I just noticed the bag, see above.

  Kind of made me snicker. I know it means something else in sign language but to me.... that little girl is ROCKIN OUT!

Oh, and I saw an Aerostar today, a small twin engine piston aircraft and learned that they have hydraulic nosewheel steering. That surprised me that a small plane like that would need any type of nose wheel steering power-assist at all.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Taking Pictures


  The Lovely Wife and I were discussing which of our two digital cameras I should take with me for the summer. 

  I wanted, of course, to take the new one, a 10MP Sony Cybershot with a billion gig card and a nice fancy case. 

  The Lovely Wife wants me to take our coupla-year old Samsung 5 MP samsung digicam.

  We ended up flipping for it and I lost. But I convinced myself today that I won. See, ever sine we got the new camera, I realized I haven't taken very many photos at all. I mean, we take it with us whenever we're going somewhere photo-worthy, like a birthday, or an hike or something, but as its in a big bag and it has a lens on it, so you can really slip it into a pocket, we never really have it handy.

  Particularly at my job, I cant lug the big one around at all. In fact, its kind of frowned on to take photos of some people or their planes. Most people at the airport do it to some degree, but when a celebrity comes in, its a fairly big no-no to be snapping photos, even if your just wishing they would get out of the way so you can take a picture of the cool plane they arrived in.

  Now that I'm getting ready to leave as well, I realized how few pictures I have of stuff that a lot of people I know, wish they had the chance to take pictures of. I kind of take it for granted I guess, seeing as how I'm there every day, but now I'm starting to think I'm going to miss it as soon as I'm gone.  So I'm glad I got the small camera, I'm going to try and keep it with me and fill this up with a few more photos and less drivel.

  Seeing as how I spent the day working, let me take you through a few things I did / saw / took pictures of today;
Add Image

This is the fuel panel from an Airbus A300.

    On the top left is the pre-selector. The top number is how many thousands of pounds of fuel I want to pre-select as the total amount to have on board ( total uplift ). The bottom number is how many thousands of pounds are on-board.

  The crew, or their dispatch folks will tell me, " bring it up to 52 ". Which means they want me to put make the total amount of fuel on board 52,000 Lbs. So I would select 52.0 On the pre-selector, and then the computer would automatically shut down the loading once that number is reached. These particular ones don't work very well I find, so I don't actually use them, I shut it down manually once I see I've reached the total. It can take a half hour to forty-five minutes to fuel this thing, trust me, I've got nothing else to do.

  The row of blue lights across the top, are the high-level shut-off indicators. They tell me the tank is full and the computer will ( should ) stop taking fuel into that tank. The auto-shutoff part has failed before, so when I see a blue light, I manually shut a tank down, just to be sure.

  The orange lights further over to the right, are the overflow indicators.  This is a big plane, from where I am standing, under the belly of the thing, I may not be able to visually see the area where the fuel vent/overflow valves would jettison extra fuel. So these lights will tell me....so will all the ramp guys running around yelling and frantically pointing at the other wing....that and the fire trucks.... 

  The big red switches on the right side are for testing the high-level shutoffs, switching from External power supply to Battery power supply ( if the ramp guys haven't plugged in the plane, I can get power from the battery to run the valves and stuff ) and for shutting down the APU in an emergency. I assume if there was a major fuel spill, we could shut down the APU right away and kill the power to the plane, without running upstairs to tell the crew.

  The green lights in the middle tell me digitally how much fuel is in each tank. This particular plane has 5 tanks, two in each wing and one in the centre. 

  The switches down below, guarded by the red flaps, control the valves to each tank. I can set the system on Auto and leave the switches as they are. In this case, the computer will allocate fuel to each tank as it sees fit and I don't have to do anything but set the total pre-selected uplift amount. Yeah right, in a perfect world.

  I can also flip those guards up and run the switches manually, flipping them to either open or closed positions based on where I want the fuel to go. This customer also has set limits below the high-level shutoff amount where they do not want me filling past. Once you go to manual mode on any of the tanks, you have to do all of the rest manually as well. I like manual better anyways, gives me something to do.

  This aircraft has the trim tank disabled as well, that's why the red hatching around the switch.

  The customer also has very strict rules about the fuel imbalance they will accept. If I put more than 150 lbs more in one tank the the other side, they have to transfer fuel over before they will allow it to go. So I juggle the valves while I load and make sure all the tanks end up as close as possible by the time my total is reached. Again, gives me something to do.

  Once I've loaded the amount that dispatch ordered for this flight, based on their weather planning, winds aloft forecast, estimated cargo / passenger loads, temperature, route and possible delays, then I go in and see the crew before I disconnect from the plane. Pretty good chance the captain will ask for another thousand or even couple of thousand pounds more fuel...just in case. ( I call it granny fuel... a lot of time ,they are ordering additional fuel even before they review the details of their flight or the weather, in which case I know they are just being "grannies " ) Sometimes the crew has discovered an unserviceable part of their aircraft as well, and it will affect the fuel burn or the broken bits means they need more runway to stop and therefore have to plan to a further alternate than dispatch calculated for.

  Easily 6 out of 10 times, I load more fuel after the initial planned load.

  Here's the side view of the loading hoses on one of the truck. The big hose with the two black handles on the far left is the Single Point hose. High pressure, high volume, fast, clean. Like.

  On the right hand side, are the two over-wing nozzles. Still pretty fast if you pull the trigger all the way, but a lot dirtier, with fuel being sprayed in , there is always a little drip here and there or a little splash back if I'm pumping too fast. Not like so much.

  Problem with the overwing too, is that it doesn't shut off like your car when it gets to the top of the tank.  I don't know exactly how the car one works, but I think it has to do with the pressure feedback received at the hose end. The tanks we're filling quite often have no filler " neck " or tube, and instead we're simply pointing the nozzle directly into a large open tank. I think the shut-off doo-hickey needs a tube that will feed-back pressure once its full. So, when someone invariably orders " full fuel ", its up to the fueller to peer down the dark tank opening, around the large filling nozzle, and try to watch it closely and shut off pumping before it overflows. 

  Some planes are worse than others and give you little or no warning. Full means, fill-er-till-you-spill-er.  But a lot of it is by feel...the sound of the fuel going in will change as the tanks fills, their might be a bubbling near the top, and some just let you see the level rise.

haha, so much for less drivel..... oh well. 



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Payin the Bills

  So I'm starting this new job pretty soon. But I'll also be leaving my old one.

  For the past two years, I have worked as a Line Service Specialist. AKA Fueller Guy.

  I work at a large international airport, as a line crew member. Most people call us fuellers as that's what they mainly see us doing, but we do other things as well.

  I work at an FBO. a Fixed Base Operator, sort of a gas station / private terminal for planes. 

  The big commercial airliners use the main terminal buildings and pay the airport authority for the use of a gate and some check-in counters for their guests and their planes. It works out well as they need jetways, lots of room, and some serious people-moving / sitting / waiting / shopping / eating facilities.

  For all the other planes, the little 3-4 seaters, the private jets, and even some smaller charter outfits, they need somewhere a little more their speed.

 Enter the FBO.

  We can provide a place to park your plane, ground crew to handle marshaling, loading/ unloading / ground power / vehicle parking / hangarage / catering and a lot of other stuff as well.

  As a Line Crew Member, I will do just about all of the above tasks. When your dispatcher calls in, I might talk to him on the phone and take down the arrival / passenger details. When the pilots radio in ( they're GOOD pilots, they radio in to give us an in-range / 10 minutes-out call...), I might talk to them on the radio, call a couple cabs for their passengers and get things ready for their arrival. I'll set up a spot for them up front and get all my gear ready. 

  When they pull onto the ramp, I'll marshall them into position, chock their tires and roll out a carpet for them and their guests to step down onto.

  Once their guests have been escorted into the building and their luggage attended to, I'll check with the pilots and see if they require fuel or anything else. I'll tow their aircraft into the hangar if requested, fuel it if needed and get rid of any trash.  I'll also pretend it doesn't bug me a little when they throw out their old coffee onto my nice clean ramp. Or dump the ice-bin out onto the ramp in the winter, meaning I'll have to sweep up those cubes later or else deal with them until.....February.

  And, I'll do a lot of fuelling as well.

   Its been a great job so far, working with airplanes all day long, outdoors. Something new to learn every day. Getting to poke around airside of a big airport and be able to do things that a lot of people could never get to do. Getting up close and personal with a lot of big aircraft and meeting / talking to their crews.

  I'll be taking the summer off from this job to work my dockhand /pilot job, but I hope to be back at it in the fall. 

  The photo above is the fuel panel of a Boeing 727. There are three tanks, one in each wing and one in the centre.  Each tank has its own valve, operated by a rocker-protected switch and its own gauge, indicating contents. 

  Most fuel tanks have a high-level shutoff as well that will automaticlaly close the valve once the tank is full. 

  They also have vents that will spew fuel out at a very impressive rate. Usually there is means to test the high-lever shutoff before you begin fuelling to try and avoid the spewing part.  Sometimes those vents are over where you would normally stand as a fueller. Until you spewed fuel one day...then you would not stand in that particular spot anymore.

  The fuel hose you can see hooked up there, is a single-point refuelling system. its designed to supply fuel under high pressure, at a single refuelling point and fill all available tanks through some sort of fuel manifold.

  The other type of fuelling, is Over-Wing, and thats like you get at a gas station, we open your fuel tank and spray the fuel in from the top. Most planes have more than one tank though, so we have to fill each one seperately. This can take a while if the tanks are large. Thats why most larger planes, designed for quick turnarounds at airports, will accomodate single-point refuelling, just because its faster.

  That and it makes me love you. I'm not a big fan of standing over a hose spraying a fine mist of hydrocarbons and anti-icing additive into the air that I have been known to breathe from time to time...



  Got the WORD today.... the Ice is out. ( or going out... )

  I took a job this summer, my " first " job in aviation since completing the licence. Like I said before, mostly dockhand, sometime pilot, always student.

  I accepted the position in February ( pending completion of my licence ), and completed my licence just recently. The only thing left was waiting on hearing exactly when the ice would be out in the Northern Town I'll be moving to.

  Back in deepest, darkest February, my employer said to get in touch mid-April and they should be able to firm up a start date, as it does all depend on when they get ice-free conditions on the lakes. I emailed on April 15th and didn't get a reply..... three of four days later, I called, as I was starting to panic. I guess I keep waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me on this first job....not enough bookings for this year, don't need you, sorry. My nephew finished his CPL, sorry kid, he's family, I gotta give him a job. 

  I got a phone call the other day. Ice is going out, conditions are looking good, be here on May 6th.

  Yes. Things are falling into place....

  Booked my flight today to South Northtown. Well, that's what I'm going to call it on here, for the time being.

  So, the 2.5 hour flight to Nearest Big Cityville is around 200 bucks with taxes, and the 45 minute flight with Siddown'n'shaddap airlines is another 400 bucks. ( both of these are 1-way flights ). 

  This summer is going to be hard enough on my bank account, I can't really afford to travel in such " style ".  Therefore, it'll be the flight to Big Cityville with our favorite national airline, Air Freshmint, and then the ' Hound for the rest of the way.

  Only problem is..... the 'Hound will only take me as far as Small Cityville, which is still 300 miles from South Northtown. A regional feeder bus line will then take me the rest of the way, but there is a layover in Small Cityville to catch the connecting bus the next morning.

  However, even if I splurged and got a hotel for the night on the layover, I'm still ahead of the game by 200 bucks. I'll probably spend that on the resulting meds from the Deep Vein Thrombosis I am anticipating from this trip, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.

  Reminds me of a trip I made home once from a small town overseas;

1.0 Hours Bus trip to small city train station
3.5 Hours Train trip to nearest big city
0.75 Hours  Intercity Rail connection from Train station to Airport
4.5 Hours Waiting time at airport
1.5 Hours   Regional flight to major Intl Airport
0.5 Hours Waiting time at Intl Airport
10.5 Hours Flight to Big US City
6.0 Hours Waiting time for connecting flight ( first flight cancelled )
1.0 Hours Flight to hometown city
1.25 Hours Customs, baggage claim
0.75 Hours Car Ride home.
0.00001 Hrs Front door to collapsing in bed.

31.25 Hours straight travel time. No layover, no sleep, no fun.

  I digress.... So the trip will start day one, really early, like 0430 wakeup to make the 0730 flight. Big Cityville by mid-morning and the connecting bus station by early afternoon. Bus to Small Cityville, arriving that evening, 10pm, and hotel for the night. Next morning 10ish to the connecting bus station and by 2pm I'll be in South Northtown.

  Not bad.... and I shouldn't arrive too beat up considering the motel 6 in between.

  Spent the last couple days shopping for stuff I am going to need for this summer....or rather, stuff I think I'm going to need for this summer.

  As I've never done this before, nor know anyone who has.... I am kind of guessing on a few things.

  Here's the major items that I have picked up lately;

Sleeping bag 

   Wife promptly claimed the nice new one I bought and then informed me that we have one in storage. sigh...the old one is better anyway, its been broken in, I wont have to work so hard getting that old mildewy smell into it. 

Fishing Rod

  I have a nice rod, sans reel, and a rod holder tube, along with a fishing tackle box. Problem is, the tube is really cumbersome. It'll be hard taking it on the trip out there and lugging it around will be difficult out there. So I went and got one of those little collapsible ones. Its kind of cheesy, but it should do the job. Its only for the summer anyway. It'll be nice to be able to throw it in my daypack, leave it there and not worry about it.  

Small Cooler

  My employer recommended this, for packing lunches in. I got one that's big enough to sort of sit on as well, but small enough to throw around with one hand. I never bother with the ice packs for these things, I usually just throw a 1-litre bottle of water in the freezer the night before and keep that in the cooler. Drinking water for the day, Ice cold to boot, and keeps the cooler cool as well.

  I was contemplating taking the tackle box, but its kind of bulky. I went through it and found about four pounds of lead weights and all kinds of ocean-fishing gear that will probably be of little use to me in the lakes.  I pulled out all the lures, swivels, split-shot and small weights and will pack those in a little container, inside my daypack as well.

Rain Gear

  I bought a set of Canadian Army Surplus Rain Pants. Fantastic, and already broken in ( read: slightly dirty ). Nothing attracts more attention ( read: extra work ) than a clean rain suit. Got a rain jacket as well from the same place, new, but only 10 bucks. Its heavy rubber as well, not some over-blown windbreaker made of tent material. The thing that sold me on it was the small hood. I hate a big hood that hangs in your face and restricts your vision. I don't mind my face being wet, as long as I can move around freely, and keep the rain from running down my neck.

  I already have a good pair of full-size steel toe work boots, as well as a set of steel toe rubber boots. A pair of running shoes and a pair of sandals, that ought to do me for the summer I hope.

 I read somewhere that a good bush pilot should wear big honkin boots, the better to blame any ham-footed rudder work or poor landings on. " Damn boots! ". 

  I already have a leatherman, de rigeur apparently, I can understand why. 

   Bought a nice filleting knife for my fishing kit. Cleaning fish is 1000 times easier with a good fresh knife. An old rusty saw or your poor old leatherman just makes it harder. A nice filleting knife with some good give to the blade and sharper than a razor, makes it look easy. I've found it better to just chuck em the minute they get any type of hard use ( like cutting on a rock instead of over wood and scraping the blade, or cutting wiener sticks or some other silliness ). Better to buy three cheap-o's that hold a razor sharp blade for a few weeks, than one good one that you cant bear to throw out and keep on hacking away with all summer.

  I'm contemplating hitch-hiking the last leg of the trip. I'll have an entire day to wait for the connecting bus, if I get no luck, I could always trundle back to the bus station.

  I did a lot of hitchhiking in my teens and early twenties... its a great way to see the country and meet the people that live in its obscure corners....tempting...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Digging in the dirt.

 I thought I'd try and prove I had interests outside Aviation with this post. However, I realized that by starting it out this way, it was then about aviation, or my attempt to avoid looking obsessed with it. I can't win. 

  I am obsessed, so the struggle would be futile anyhow.

  So, I like digging in the dirt. Me and a good friend of mine have always been fascinated with the history of the Gold Rushes in this part of the country. The ghost towns and mines that are still hiding out in the bush, as well as the quiet, hidden little community of active Prospectors that are still searching for the Mother Lode. ( They find it with regularity as well, I might add, but the first rule of Project Prospector is that you don't talk about Projec..... well, you get the idea. ).

  We use to go every year, but the last few years I haven't gone.... other priorities have gotten in the way. We'd go out in the bush and look for gold basically.  Its kind of like a fishing trip, you get an excuse to go out in a beautiful, peaceful setting and don't look like a tool, as you have some other "excuse" to be out there.

  Anyhow, we've had some great adventures in the past and frankly, its the trips where something or multiple somethings have gone wrong, that made them the best. Trucks stuck, recovery vehicles stuck even worse. Getting rained out, snowed in, lost, sunburnt, inebriated, hungry, broke, chased, bitten, scraped, splattered and frozen.

  But my co-hort (  " partner " has been completely subverted, I cant even bring myself to say it! ) still went the last two seasons, and has actually managed to find some gold this time. That's mostly as he stumbled across a guy who owned and was working an active gold mine. Go figure that THATS where the gold would be, on a mine. He met this guy and was helping him out around the mine and was allowed to poke around the property and do a little freelance panwork on an active proven claim. 

  For the most part, a truck is a pretty good idea. a 4x4 truck is nice-to-have but not need to have. In my view, a 4x4 tends to lead you into places that you probably shouldn't be in the first place. 2 wheel drive makes you think twice and frankly, its the second thought that is usually right. A couple years, neither of us had trucks and we took a car instead. 

  But what a car. The oldsmo-thriller is still living, it is hiding on my brothers property, most likely covered in mildew and dirt, with an interior full of fuzzy mold....

  Oh, side note.... if you're like me and like to drink coffee in your car with cloth seats. and you take sugar in your coffee, and maybe little bits of it has spilled from time to time. And then you store the car in a moist, warm environment for a year or so...... you will find every single drop of coffee you ever spilled in that car clearly indicated by a nice fuzzy little patch of mold. 

  It was amazing, almost like some weird CSI blood-spatter analysis. Right around the armrest and center console,  a polka-dot explosion of putridity. Kind of cool, in a gross way.

  So anyway, we took the car/truck hybrid a couple of times and it held its own on most logging roads. Obviously not an off-road machine, but if you look at the chassis and suspension of one of these, theres not a lot of difference between it and a truck anyways. Bit softer suspension, less load-carrying ability and a slightly lower ground clearance. 

  In the spring, ( when you've been cooped up all winter and dying to get out there....and don't wait a sufficient amount of time for the roads to dry out sufficiently ) you get run-off water overloading the ditches on the sides of the logging roads. The roads are usually elevated slightly for drainage and every so often a culvert or drain is run under the road so the water on the upslope side is allowed to run downhill without going over the road. Water can be amazingly destructive in small amounts and in very little time. So these culverts sometimes get blocked in the spring. Ice or debris gets jammed up in them and suddenly the water overflows the uphill ditch an needs to get across the road.

  Quite often, you will come to a road in the springtime, where every single culvert has washed out. Its been blocked, the water has overflowed at that spot ( the culvert is almost always located in a natural low spot ) and the water goes over the road, washing it out to a depth of a few feet and in most cases, the water " digs " out the buried culvert and washes it down the hill. The road is slightly softer where they buried the culvert as well, so that helps in its demise as well...

  So you'll be plodding along up one of these logging roads, bushes brushing against both sides of your vehicle, and then you'll have to navigate these ditches running across the road. Depending on how deep they go, it may be a showstopper, or you may be able to pick your way through by driving carefully across , angling towards higher ground to avoid becoming high-centred.

  Some of these logging roads are immense, you've driven for fours hours into the bush ( ok, your top speed is 30 Kmh, so you haven't crossed any time zones.. ) and then you come to a section of washouts. Maybe you pick your way ever so slowly and carefully across the first dozen or so, spending an hour creeping across, brushing the frame and axles across high spots. But you've come so far, the lake, creek, fabled el dorado, is only ten more kilometres and its getting dark! 
  Come around a corner and theres an impassable washout. Cliff on the uphill side, Cliff on the downhill side and a 6 foot deep 10 foot across washout in the middle of the road.


  So you think....hmmm, if I creep through here, my front bumper is going to touch the bottom and forward motion will stop. Additionally, the heavy engine-end of my vehicle is going to be down in a hole, with the light, drive-wheel end up on a dirt. gravel surface with no traction to pull it out. Not good.
  Maybe if I gave it a little gas and managed to sort of bounce the front end through there, then the momentum would get me across. After all, the last 30 washouts weren't too bad, surely, after this bad one, we can make it.

 And you do! YES!

  but the next 3 are the same, and getting slightly worse.

  And then the road ends, hopelessly washed out, a stream has actually taken out the bridge and theres no chance.

  It gets better. 

  These roads are so narrow, there are usually only a few spots where yo can turn around. A wide bit somewhere or a bit of a hill you can get one end of your vehicle up one to make enough room for a turn.

  So... now....gotta back out, through 4 washouts that were barely passable going forwards, now you have to do them backwards.

  But hey, now your vehicle is technically a front wheel drive right? Don't they get better traction??

  First washout, hopelessly stuck. Actually managed to get the car stuck so that all four wheels were hanging in midair, with the car bridging the washout, resting on the frame/bumpers.

  But there was a stream nearby and we spent a fun day camping there till we were able to excavate the entire road to the point where we could jack and pull it out. 

  Always had a big chain come-along and a few lengths of chain to take out into the woods and wrap around a big tree, hopefully within reach of the care, and brute-force it out inch by inch.

  So yeah, lots of fun.

  We devised a rating system as well for these adventures, it went sort of like this;


  An Episode is an event, wholly contained within a limited time span or geographic proximity.

eg. Wow, that car was stuck. What an Episode that was getting it out.


  An Escapade is a grouping of three or more Episodes that share a common theme or group of individual. An Episode in itself may not be that noteworthy, however, as part of an Episode, it is more than the sum of its parts (or missing parts.. )

eg. Wow, was that car stuck. But when the chain snapped and shattered the back window, boy was it cold that night. Didn't help when the bear woke us up in the morning poking his head through the window either! 


  An Adventure is a grouping of two or more Escapades in a common journey, time-span or goeographic location.

  Adventures can be very expensive and quite often leave scars.



Monday, April 20, 2009

The Sim

  Off to the Sim tomorrow.

  You know, Flightsafety, down in Houston. Yeah, pretty cool. Probably going to do a few touch and go's with the 747 and maybe see what an airbus can do.

  Yeah right. But I do have 5 hours of instrument training that I need in order to complete my licence. I actually need 8 hours or so, but I can do a total of 10 in a simulator. Or, Flight Training Device ( FTD ). I did 5 hours already at the school where I did all of my training, unfortunately, there is a certification issue with the particular model/year/percentage of mildew on its circuits, that Transport Canada has decided they can only do up to 5 hours towards a higher licence...sigh.

  So, I'm going to another flight school across the way to do a few sessions in their sim tomorrow ( more bells, shinier whistles, apparently ) and knock off this last requirement for my licence application.

  The remaining three hours or so of instrument training I will do in the airplane, which is where I'd rather do it anyway. Thing is, the airplane costs around 170 / Hr for instructor and airplane, the sim runs around 80 bucks.  

I''ll probably book a night flight this week, go up and do it all in one shot, a nice little night cross-country trip, haven't been up at night for awhile.

  Most of the instrument work I do is pretty basic radio-navigation stuff. VOR tracking, NDB tracking, and not much else. As I'm not doing an instrument rating at this point ( no instrument approaches to a lake ), approaches, holds and other IFR-relevant stuff doesn't really do much for me. 

  Don't get me wrong, any training is good training, but at this point, I have to focus on the relevant stuff for me, which is what I'm going to be getting this summer. The IFR will come later. I learned this one while studying towards my CPL written as well as a couple other exams I took.... there is a LOT of technical stuff in this business to learn, sometimes, you really need to focus on the NEED-to know and get to the rest when you have time. ( or brain-cells left to devote to info that you don't immediately need! ). As much as I like to learn, by the time I really NEED to know all the stuff I learned about trans-sonic boundary layer and shock wave separation, I will have re-tasked those brain-cells to hold stuff like "don't stand up in the canoe".

  My sister is in town tomorrow, so I'm going to go out nice and early and meet her downtown for breakfast. I had a couple beers today at a birthday party(mine) / BBQ  and so I ended up napping when I got home. Now, I cant sleep and have the faint remnants of a drank-to-little-to-get-drunk-just-enough-to-get-the-side-effects headache.

  I want to try and post lots of pictures on here, hopefully that will actually make me TAKE more pictures. I always think I have bazillions of pics, till I go looking for ones to share. My ration of cool-pictures to worthless-scenery and non-impressive-airplane-porn is really really low.

  I also get stalled out every once in a while, I really want to sit down and write a blog post, but then cant think of anything to write about.  I get caught in a trap thinking it needs to be current and relevant, when I could probably re-hash some old stories and you wouldn't know the difference... So, to remind myself, I'm going to try and write up an entry for;

My long XC trip last year
My Prospecting Trips 
Some car-stories
Episodic Classification System

  Ok, aspirin is kicking again, lets try sleeping again, got to get up in 5 hours.

Friday, April 17, 2009

  Last summer, I took a float rating. In fact, I took a float rating and some additional training as well. I think I have about 50 hours total on floats. Its not much, but its about 43 hours more than the average fresh-licence holder has when they're first entering the job market.

  Considering those hours were all paid for, its a substantial investment. Float hours are equivalent in cost to Twin-time. ( Multi-engine aircraft ).

  A lot of my friends and other pilots I have met going down this path have opted to " specialize " in airline type flying. That is, they went out and got a Multi-Engine rating, along with an Instrument Flight Rules rating added to their licence. Most had these ratings done within the framework of their CPL ( in those " extra " or  " time-building " hours " ). 

  Don't get me wrong, I'd be a liar if I didn't say I'd be thrilled to get trained to fly a 747 and go gallivanting around the globe in a big piece of iron like that.

   But.... the idea of flying in the wilderness and actually " flying " an aircraft as opposed to managing systems and other crew members appeals a little more to me right now. 

  I'm sure later on, when my back has given out from humping fuel drums into and out of the plane and I'm sick of the smell of moose blood and fish guts, I'll change my outlook on the " bush " somewhat.

   I have to say though, if I was offered, and accepted an airline seat right now, I'd feel like I cheated myself out of the good part of an aviation adventure...all the sights, sounds and experiences that lead up to being qualified to fly a jet seem to me to be more fun than the end result itself. 

  Again, I'll probably pull this up a few years from now and have a laugh myself... How can I possibly know what I want, like or dislike when I haven't tried ANY of it yet??

  But, you gotta start somewhere I guess....

  There are quite a few paths in this business it seems, and most of the people I talk to seem to end up on a path quite a bit different than the one they thought they would be on...

 Right now, I'm just waiting to hear back from the lodge and when they expect the Ice to be out and work to start on setting up the camps for the season.

  The Lovely Wife and I have had a lot of time to digest this upcoming summer, so I think we're pretty ready for it.  A lot of our friends are just now realizing that I will be gone all summer and have started to ask her if she's OK with it.  I think someone even took her aside and asked her if our marriage was ok...ha ha

  I gotta say, there is NO WAY possible to have even contemplated this without her full support. She is making just as many sacrifices as me, but she doesnt get the thrill that I get when I go full rich and mags to start... So in a lot of ways, she is the one doing the hard part. 

  We've picked up a little laptop computer for me to use to web-chat with her back home whenever I can. Our cell plan allows unlimited text and voice calling as well. We've both got in the habit of texting throughout the day as well, so it will be nice if we can maintain that type of daily involvement in each others day.

  No idea of the Internet situation where I am going, I know the town has it, just don't know if my employer has it on site.
  The living situation out there, will be myself and two other pilot/dockhands sharing a living space. I am assuming its either a trailer or small house / basement. I was told there will be cooking facilities for us and that we are on our own for groceries.  

   I actually talked with a fellow who had worked there previously, and he said that most of the guests, having brought all their own groceries out to the cabins for the week-long stay, end up leaving tons of food behind. This apparently gets rounded up when the cabins are being prepped for the next batch of guests, and brought back to base to be donated to the dockhands

  So hopefully, my food expenses will be relatively low. Either that or start looking for the 1001 Ways to Cook Walleye recipe book....

  My employer out here has already graciously agreed to grant me a Leave Of Absence for the summer, as I do plan to be back home and looking for work in October.

  Definitely looking forward to getting started though...... 


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lets start at the start.

   So, I decided to start a blog.

  How incredibly trendy.

  Actually, been meaning to do it for awhile. Now, it seems I will be spending the summer away from my wife, family and friends, so I thought it might be a half-decent way of keeping folks abreast of my daily doings ( without the sometimes .... ok, I admit it....most of the time ) seemingly insurmountable effort involved in reaching out to my geographically scattered family on an individual basis.

  That being said, I fully intend on keeping up with everyone, but I suspect this summer will hold more than a few adventures for me, and I'd just bore you all to tears telling stories about it after. This way, you can pre-empt me and simply say...I've read the blog.... and I'll know instantly that most of the good stories have been told already.

  Most of this blog will be public as well, for friends, co-workers, colleagues and curious bystanders to read as well. So.... there will be a certain anonymity that I am going to try and maintain. I will not mention my name, nor my employers name or location. Those who know me, even peripherally, will probably be able to put it together within a short while as to who and where...but the curious bystanders, while I think I will enjoy sharing my experiences with them, I'd like to reserve the right to be anonymous to them for now anyways. 

  Today also marked a major milestone for me.  Today, I passed my Commercial Pilots Flight Test. 

  Pending a little bit of paperwork and Transport Canada's imperious wave over the envelope of offerings I send to them, I am now a Commercial Pilot.

  I've been working towards this day for the last 2.5 years. Hmm. I should correct that. I happen to be in a code-sharing agreement with The Lovely Wife ( TLW )  and she bore more than a little of the sacrifices, financial and otherwise, that were made to get here. So, We've been working on this for 2.5 years.

  October of 2006, we sat down and started talking about life, dreams and directions. We had both just finished a 2-year sojourn into self-employment that had failed to give us the lifestyle and income we had hoped it would. 

  By the end of that month, I had signed up at a local Flight Training Unit ( FTU ) and started down the road towards my Private Pilots Licence. It's something I had always wanted to do, even since I was a little kid. But somehow, it always seemed out of reach. Digging into it a little more, beneath the romanticized cliches and movie-stereotypes, there actually lurks a relatively blue-collar profession that can be done by most people. Not that its easy, but it's within reach for more people than it might seem at first glance.

  So, by December, and 10 hours of dual instruction later, I solo'd a little Cessna 152, very similar to the one depicted above...ok REALLLY similar to that one.... And I was off, albeit a little slowly..

  The Private Pilots License ( PPL ) took me just over a year to accomplish. I did it all in the mighty C152, a two-seater basic trainer aircraft. I did it part-time, evenings, weekends, that kind of thing, which tended to drag the process out a little bit. At the time, movement within the industry was fairly brisk, and I switched instructors twice, as my instructors moved on to bigger and better things. It took me just over 80 hours to complete the PPL.

  After the PPL was issued, I now had the privilege of carrying passengers. Immediately following getting the license, I had a fairly lengthy list of people to whom I had promised rides once I had my ticket.  Between the PPL and the Commercial Pilots Licence ( CPL ) there is a little bit of "extra" flight time that is not devoted to any particular discipline of aviation. Its not instrument-practice, its not practising specific maneuvers, nor anything else in particular. Its commonly referred to as " Time Building ".

  Just a quick note for anyone else working towards their commercial..and this is my experience only, your results may vary... I figured I had at least 50 hours or so of time building to do. So, I took friends and family up for rides and trips, heck I would take anyone who wanted to go, I even took a few random airport-guys and other pilots in training that I had just met up on spontaneous trips. Now that I have completed the licence, I found that the " time-building " portion was ....not wasted....but definitely not as productive as it could have been.

  Don't get me wrong, I got into this because I love flying. Anytime I'm in an aircraft, or planning a flight, or even just talking about, the part of my brain dedicated to things-I-like is lit up like a Christmas tree. So no trip was truly wasted. However, as part of a training syllabus, and working on a limited budget ( flight training / aircraft rental is NOT cheap. ), that time could have been planned out a little better.

  But, it was part of the experience as a whole, I have no regrets, only lessons learned.

  So, in short, my advice to a new pilot with a fresh PPL and a nice chunk of " time building " awaiting him; save it for last. dive straight into your night/IFR/Multi/CPL course, whichever you are doing, get the licence done, all the ratings finished, then have a look at whats left for minimum time. Another 50 hours? sweet! have some fun!

  But, if you have delays, or your training is interrupted, or you just plain need more time to get up to standards on a certain part of your flying, you will be happy to have those "extra" hours in the bank to use towards training. I finished the whole shebang a little over 20 hours later than I had hoped. Not too bad, but I could have used a few of the dollars I spent sightseeing on training instead and it would have been a little bit more practical. 

Like I said, no regrets, just some learning that occurred after the fact.

  One thing I did do with my time building time, that was practical, was to take some lessons from a local Float Plane outfit. I did the basic "float" rating, and then spent some time taking additional instruction from their experienced instructors on how to really operate a float plane. The rating just barely covers the basics in the 7 hours mandated by Transport Canada ( TC ).

  I like to look at flying as many different " specialties ". There are quite a few people who simply want to fly airliners, there are others who want to be fire-bombers, others that want to fly helicopters, or balloons, or low-level survey planes, crop dusters, etc, etc.  I want to fly float planes. I want to fly people who are as happy to be on the plane as I am to be flying them, taking them places they want to go, in the way they WANT to go there.  I want to fly in the environment I love, the bush. I want to walk around my plane and hear the gravel crunch under my feet, hear the wind in the trees, a coyote loping across my runway...hey! get off MY runway! ...sorry, I kind of drifted off there. But you get the idea. 

  So, I took some additional float training in my "time building"*, as this was the " specialty " I had chosen. I have float hours in my logbook now, not a lot, but more than the bare minimum.  Float planes are not cheap to rent, so it was an investment in training that I hoped would give me a little bit of an edge when it came time to be job searching for that first job.

* Sorry to keep on " quoting " the term Time Building, but its a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I don't like the term, as to me it kind of implies flying without purpose and without any learning going on, simply burning fuel to make an entry in a logbook. That's not how it works out, there is ALWAYS something learned on every flight and to imply otherwise makes me cringe a little.

  So, back to the training.... a couple months back, back when we were still very much in the grip of winter, here in the Great White North, I started to look for a job. Most float flying operations revolve around a summer fishing season, where tourists book a holiday in the back-country, and are flown out to the cabins in float planes.  

  As the winter is when these operations plan and prepare for their busy, busy summers, I wanted to be sending out resumes when they were looking for people, not in the summer when they were too busy running their show to bother with some low-time / no-time pilot bugging them for a job. My dilemma was...I didn't have a CPL licence yet....what to do.... 

  I imagine that from an employers point of view, there must be a ton of resumes crossing your desk every year. Most of them from guys as green as me. Not much experience in how things really work, not much experience in telling you what you want to hear, and possibly, telling you things you don't want to hear, inadvertently.

  So you get a resume from some guy, who doesn't even have a licence? ha ha. garbage can.

  But, I swallowed my pride and did it anyway. At the very least, I figured, it would give me a reason to send out a followup email once the licence was in hand. 

  I sent out almost 200 resumes by email, attached to a fairly generic "cover-page" email outlining my situation and a couple extra points tailored o the specific operation. 

  I got about 20 responses total. 15 of them were, thanks but no thanks, good luck, too early, you don't have enough experience, we're full up, good-bye.

  Out of the other 5, 2 of them were for dockhand jobs at outfits that no longer had their own planes and sub-contracted the transport end of their operation over to an air service. Thus my exposure to the world of float flying would be to watch them come and go while I tended to bags, lawn mowers, beer cases and coolers. Sorry, I explained, I really am trying to break into a flying job, and I need to be a little closer to the cockpit than that, but thanks anyway.

  The other three were of a little more interest, and all resulted in a phone interview;

#1  offered my a job as an all-round type guy for a lodge waaaaay up north...like no more tree's north. their season was incredibly small, less than three months total, including set-up and wind-up operations. I would be assisting the pilot in dock/loading/grunt jobs revolving around the operation of their turbine otter aircraft.  No flight time possible, but it would be good experience in how a lodge operation works and their would be some opportunity to learn about the other parts of operating an aircraft, other than wiggling the controlly bits.

#2 kind-of, sort-of offered my a dispatcher position for a good-sized float operation. Their would not be any flying involved, but a lot of learning about the admin side of things. Their was the implied promise as well that the following season, I would be considered for a dockhand or pilot position as they only hire from within for these coveted spots. The offer wasnt explicitly offered, but I got the feeling that if I expressed genuine interest in it and followed up with them a little more aggressively, I could have had it.
#3 Was an offer of pilot/dockhand for an outfit with a couple of planes, one of which is a DeHavilland Otter ( Piston Engine ).  The amount of actual flight time would not be great, and would most likely come in the form of dead legs and freight runs on the smaller planes, but there would be some flying. Mostly however, there would be learning. The employer stressed that the main benefit to me of this job would be that they would take the time to teach me how things operate in the real world.

  You can probably read the bias already, and know that I took #3. 

  The pay would not be great, but lodging would be included. 

  Being away from The Lovely Wife for an entire summer was going to be difficult, for both of us. We had talked about this possibility when we made the choice to specialize in floats. It was on the table as an unpleasant but very possible side effect of the first couple years of cutting my teeth in this business, that the work would be seasonal, it would be far away, it would involve me living in camp and it would not be able to support both of us cutting roots to try and survive in a small town for a summer.

  So, back to today... Licence is ready ( thankfully, well before the operation starts up ) and I'm getting ready to start out.

   That's the back story. 

  From here out, I'm going to try and update this as often as possible. You have a little idea of where I'm coming from and where I'm going...

  Now, just to clarify, most of the stuff you will read on here is the view of a VERY inexperienced pilot. I have yet to fly an aircraft for hire and I have only the very basic, minimum training as prescribed by law to be able to operate an aircraft. I have A LOT to learn. But I'm loving the learning so far and it seems like this about to take on a whole new dimension as far as quantity and quality as well.

  You should consider most of what I write on here to be tailored to be read by someone who has very little aviation knowledge Those pilots with any sort of experience will I'm sure find some entertainment in my naive notions and greenhorn ideas.... If I've truly entertained you by my inexperience, drop a tip in my jar, maybe a comment as to how you would do things differently or what your experience was. 

Its only fair, right? I've given you a chuckle.. you kind of owe me.