Friday, December 24, 2010

Not mine, but seasonally appropriate.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Twas the night before Christmas, and out on the ramp,
Not an airplane was stirring, not even a Champ.

The aircraft were fastened to tiedowns with care,
In hopes that come morning, they all would be there.

The fuel trucks were nestled, all snug in their spots,
With gusts from two-forty at 39 knots.

I slumped at the fuel desk, now finally caught up,
And settled down comfortably, resting my butt.

When the radio lit up with noise and with chatter,
I turned up the scanner to see what was the matter.

A voice clearly heard over static and snow,
Called for clearance to land at the airport below.

He barked his transmission so lively and quick,
I'd have sworn that the call sign he used was "St. Nick".

I ran to the panel to turn up the lights,
The better to welcome this magical flight.

He called his position, no room for denial,
"St. Nicholas One, turnin' left onto final."

And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a Rutan-built sleigh, with eight Rotax Reindeer!

With vectors to final, down the glideslope he came,
As he passed all fixes, he called them by name:

"Now Ringo! Now Tolga! Now Trini and Bacun!
On Comet! On Cupid!" What pills was he takin'?

While controllers were sittin', and scratchin' their head,
They phoned to my office, and I heard it with dread,
The message they left was both urgent and dour:

"When Santa pulls in, have him please call the tower."

He landed like silk, with the sled runners sparking,
Then I heard "Left at Charlie," and "Taxi to parking."

He slowed to a taxi, turned off of three-oh
And stopped on the ramp with a "Ho, ho-ho-ho..."

He stepped out of the sleigh, but before he could talk,
I ran out to meet him with my best set of chocks.

His red helmet and goggles were covered with frost
And his beard was all blackened from Reindeer exhaust.

His breath smelled like peppermint, gone slightly stale,
And he puffed on a pipe, but he didn't inhale.

His cheeks were all rosy and jiggled like jelly,
His boots were as black as a cropduster's belly.

He was chubby and plump, in his suit of bright red,
And he asked me to "fill it, with hundred low-lead."

He came dashing in from the snow-covered pump,
I knew he was anxious for drainin' the sump.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work,
And I filled up the sleigh, but I spilled like a jerk.

He came out of the restroom, and sighed in relief,
Then he picked up a phone for a Flight Service brief.

And I thought as he silently scribed in his log,
These reindeer could land in an eighth-mile fog.

He completed his pre-flight, from the front to the rear,
Then he put on his headset, and I heard him yell, "Clear!"

And laying a finger on his push-to-talk,
He called up the tower for clearance and squawk.

"Take taxiway Charlie, the southbound direction,
Turn right three-two-zero at pilot's discretion"

He sped down the runway, the best of the best,
"Your traffic's a Grumman, inbound from the west."

Then I heard him proclaim, as he climbed through the night,

"Merry Christmas to all! I have traffic in sight."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

E is for Emergency

E is for Emergency(ies)

And we do get the odd one from time to time out here. Most of the time they are a non-event. A cockpit indication that may or may not mean something is or isn't going to do what you want it to do when you need it to do what it is supposed to do when you ask it to do it.

We have a prettty clear view over to the fire hall on the other side of the field, so when they roll the crash trucks, all the flashing lights usually catches someones eye. The call on the radio on our end is usually that " someones getting a parade ". I like to grab one of the handheld Icom radios and tune into Tower frequency and listen in. The ARFF ( Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting ) trucks will usually position themselves at the arrival, mid-point and departure end of the runway where the parade-recipient is landing and once they are down they will go onto the runway and follow the aircraft.

If it's a real emergency, the aircraft usually stops on the runway. If its an emergency of the faulty-instrument-bulb variety, then they will follow the plane to the gate and then go back to the firehall.

When it's the real deal, the fire trucks will relay to tower a discrete frequency for the aircraft to speak with them directly on, so they can coordinate shutting down engines, putting out brake fires, evacuating or de-planing passengers and what not.

In this particular case, it was a rejected take-off caused by birds being ingested into one of the engines causing the engine to fail quite spectacularly. There was a loud series of bangs and a couple big puffs of smoke. Then they sent out FodZilla, our airport's resident street sweeper truck, to clean up the mess on the runway. If you look closely, you can see the big FodZilla sticker on the side of the truck.

FYI - FOD is an abbreviation for either Foreign Object Debris or Foreign Object Damage, depending on whether you found the offending Foreign Object before or after it hit or was ingested by an aircraft.

E is for Eating

A favorite pastime of mine...and something I routinely get to do in the airport environment. We tend to get a fair bit of left-over catering off arriving aircraft. Especially the larger aircraft that transport sports teams. If there are 40 people on board, there are 40 Chicken and 40 Fish meals, along with snacks, drinks, desserts. If you are chartering a transport category aircraft for only 40 people, the catering bill is the least of your concern. The crew already tucked one away in their luggage for the hotel room and since you helped them get their gear out of the cargo area, tidy up the cabin and run them to the hotel, you'll usually get a stack of the meals, a tray or two of cheese, meats, desserts and whatever else they have for your troubles.

One of my neighbours just completed his flight-attendant training and they happened to do the on-aircraft portion of their class at our FBO. I ran into him a few times and took the opportunity to " train " him myself on the important aspects of line-crew / flightcrew relations and upkeep thereof. Give the food the the lineguys before the catering trucks show up and pitch it all in the garbage and you'll never carry your bags down the air-stairs yourself again.

E is for Engine Start

When we're marshalling out an aircraft, one of the more important things we're doing is helping to make sure engine start is done safely. The part most people see is all the arm-waving when the planes are moving to or fro their parking spot, but for the most part, the pilots know where they are going. The marshaller is really just there to watch out behind the plane, where the pilot can't see and assist in tight quarters to make sure they don't run into anything. I've talked to some guys who are quite convinced they are running the show when they get a hold of a couple lighted wands, but I know better. We are an added layer of safety, like chocks on an air-brake equipped truck.

Once the passengers and crew are aboard, the marshaller takes up position in front of the nose of the aircraft, in eye contact with the captain, who sits(usually) in the left seat. When they work their way through the checklist to the part where they want to light up an engine ,they will hold up one finger or two, depending on which engine they want to start. The marshaller will signal in return by pointing to the concerned engine with the wand and waving the other wand vertically, over his head in a circular motion.

Engines are numbered 1 through whatever, usually just 2, but in theory, as many as 8, starting from the captains left, or the aircrafts left wing.

The marshallers main job during engine start is to make sure there is no one passing behind the aircraft and that the general area is clear. if it isn't safe to do so, the marshaller will hold the wands up, crossed in an X, indicating to hold off on starting. Unfortunately, this whole dance is so routine, that it can be hard to get the pilot to stop. They are expecting you to indicate all-clear, you have the last 100 times. More than once I've requested a stop, had eye contact with the pilot while indicating not-clear, and have them carry on and start up anyways.

The other function during engine start is fire-watch. A lot of fuel is moved around during start and not all of it gets burned. Some aircraft actually leave a little puddle of unburned fuel on startup or shutdown. The marshaller needs to be ready to signal the pilot in case there is any type of fire. Its one marshalling signal that a lot of marshallers don't actually know as they probably learned it once and then never used it again.... I suspect if you used the proper signal they wouldn't know what the hell you were trying to say. The look on your face though would probably give it away. I think I would resort to basic (frantic) hand gestures if I got any sort of confused look from a pilot if I ever had to use that particular marshalling signal.

Someone just mentioned to me the other day that the mechanics that were on trial for the crash of the concorde in Paris were found guilty of manslaughter recently.

Basically, an American Airlines aircraft that departed before Concorde, left a part of some kind of the runway. That part, once run over by Concorde, proceeded to be deflected upwards at highspeed, puncturing the wing and fuel tank just before take off. Leading to a large in-flight fire, crash and the death of all aboard and the end of the Concorde altogether.

I would like to think of France as being a civilized country and I sincerely hope that if there was negligence on the part of the mechanics, that it was gross negligence in order to find them guilty. I'd hate to think there was simply pressure to scapegoat someone. Particularly given the clientele that usually rode around on Concorde. The cynic in me wonders of those particular passengers and surviving families might have a bit more sway than usual... I'm all for being accountable, especially when your job demands it by its nature, but it seems easy to take it too far sometimes.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

D is for Diesel

This is a little out of order, as this happened a few months ago, but I just found the pictures, so bear with me.

Over the summer, I went for a fun little flight with a friend of mine from work, Bruce. Bruce recently went to one of the local flight schools to renew his Private Pilots License and in the process, got himself checked out in the schools shiny new Diesel Powered 172.

Most 172's run on AvGas ( 100 Octane, Low Lead - 100LL or AvGas ), but this one has a diesel engine in it and it actually runs on Jet-A, Jet fuel. Jet Fuel and diesel and very similar, in fact I think the only difference is diesel has some added lubricants in the fuel, where Jet-A is quite a bit "drier". You can run Jet fuel in a diesel powered vehicle ( don't get me started, but you can run almost anything in a diesel!! ) but its not recommended for repeated or prolonged use. I suspect diesel fuel will run just fine in a jet engine as well, except for the small problem of it voiding manufacturers warranties and requiring six-figure engine rebuilds to satisfy re-certification....details...

It is also a very new airplane, and has what is known as a FADEC system. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but I think its Full Authority Digital Engine Control. Essentially, its fuel injected and a computer runs not only the engine and fuel mixtures, but also the propeller RPM to coordinate different power settings as well. I think it does a few other wizard-y things as well.

One of the neat little tricks it does is a push-button run-up. Get yourself set up in the run-up bay and hold down the run-up button and it goes through all the checks on the engine and gauges for you, giving you a green light when its done. cool.

Except that it does the run-up at full power....yikes.

It has a constant speed prop, but with the FADEC system, you'd never know it. You simply set percentage of power required on the throttle and the wizards match engine and prop power output for you.

We took off out of Boundary Bay and flew up the coast to Powell River, an airport Bruce hadn't been to before, but I had been into a couple of times.

A fun trip and a chance to fly with someone I hadn't flown with before. ( I reciprocated a few weeks later and posted the details of a trip to Qualicum in one of the ultralights, in case he looks familiar ).

We didn't do much at Powell River, mostly hung around the airport watching this guy do long-line practice with a helicopter.

It was kind of funny actually, he called up on the radio after we announced our arrival intentions about 10 minutes out, but neither of us caught that he was a helicopter. Once we got into the circuit, he checked in again and said he'd be " over the threshold of XX runway ", which confused us..till we spotted him and it all became clear.

On the way back, we came across a new Diamond TwinStar in flight and they asked us over the radio if we had a camera on board. I replied that we did, and we proceeded to take a few nice air-to-air shots of it for them.

This is the same Twinstar I later took a look at for doing my MIFR in. Shiny.

A local Hostel and Machine shop in Gibsons also had burned down the previous day, got a picture as we flew over, but it didn't really turn out.

D is also for DI's

A DI is a Daily Inspection. Done on all our Fuel Trucks by the Day Shift folks. I used to work Day Shift and used to do the DI's as well. When you get your commercial drivers license, one of the big things that you have to do and show an examiner that you can do, is a pre-trip inspection. A DI is essentially just a pre-trip, but since our trucks are in continuous use all day, we basically just do one big "pre-trip" at the beginning of the day. I remember in the driving test they give you a set amount of time, twenty minutes I think, and they warn you five minutes before time runs out. Not that all the requisite items aren't being checked, but the Test pre-trip and a real-life pre-trip are two very different animals. On the test, you're under the truck with the coveralls on and inspecting frame rails for cracking. In real life, its a flashlight on bended knee.

D is for D

My Airport pass is a "D" pass, it allows me into the airside restricted area, and it also allows me to operate a vehicle on an active taxiway, runway or apron. It requires a security check, a radio operators license and a driving test with the airport authority. Another type of pass is a D/A, which allows vehicle operation airside, but only on the ramps and vehicle corridors and service roads, no driving anywhere that requires a clearance.

D is for Ducks

We've got a lot of them at our airport. A major river delta along a migratory path, go figure. The airport authority has a few guys in trucks whose job it is to drive around all day and scare of the ducks, geese, hawks, eagles and other wildlife. They've got all sorts of noisemakers, sirens, firecrackers and lights to keep the birds away from the runways. I had one pop by the FBO one night when I was working graveyards and he showed me all the gear they give him.

There was a pistol in the console of the truck and a shotgun in a rack as well. I thought they used them to fire off the firecrackers, but they were the real deal and he said they do use them. Particularly if the bird is nesting airside, they tend to get the short straw as there is little reasonable way to keep them from coming back I guess.

D is also for Dirty Diapers.

Not many of them on the ramp, but I've got a few!!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

C is for Circadian Rhythms

Ok, before I get into the flimsily disguised motivational trick I'm trying to use to actually post an entry, a quick update on happenings.

This is for the odd person who reads to keep up with happenings in our little family as opposed to the incredibly boring and trivial aviation stuff I try to stick to with this blog.

So, we had a baby girl about two months ago and she's doing great! The sleep schedules and feeding-changing-burping-wailing cycles are getting rhythmic and less and less daunting by the day. Your daily schedule starts to be more and more predictable, but still a handful to say the least.

The last month or so we've developed a pretty good night time schedule that gaurantees both of us a solid 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Unfortunately, as of late, Our Little Girl ( OLG ) has developed a penchant for sleeping ON us instead of near us, or in a crib / basket / desk drawer / cardboard box like she used to be satisfied with.

On the one hand, there is nothing better than looking down at her little face snuggled into your chest sleeping peacefully. On the other hand, there is nothing more frustrating than having a big chunk of "free" time, while she is sleeping and being completely immobilized and unable to accomplish anything more usefull and productive than gazing at her.

We've had lots of suggestions from friends and family and have been reading some great books about different methods of sleep training, but its a slow process of trial and error.

She's eating about 70/30 Formula to Pumped Breast Milk, and we sometimes wonder how the heck breast-feeding moms can keep up with the demand! Bottle washing / sterilizing and mixing formula is a new little routine around here.

Diapers aren't nearly as bad as I thought they would be pre-OLG. I had heard stories of hundreds of dollars a month to keep up, but its not nearly so bad.

Still waiting for her to smile on a regular basis. We've had a few, but it's hard to realistically not blame them on gas.... most of them have been random just-waking-up or falling asleep moments as opposed to our efforts to make her smile.

Her little SIN card showed up the other day too, a few days after her birth certificate. It's official now, her sovereignty has been recognized by the state.

I did some shopping around at the local flight schools to find one to do my multi engine rating and IFR rating at this winter. Commonly done together, this rating is usually referred to as a MIFR or multi-eye-eff-arr. This would allow me to fly an aircraft with more than one engine and also to fly one on instruments alone. Done together, as the IFR part has to be done for the type of aircraft you want to fly under instrument rules. You can do a Single-Engine IFR ( called a Group 3 ), but its not nearly as useful as the multi-engine variety ( Group 1 ). Most outfits that fly their aircraft under IFR rules, use multi engine aircraft.

A few non-aviation folks I've talked to about this have asked such things as " so, then you can fly a 747? " or " are you hoping to get on with Air Canada, I hear they are hiring ? ".

Short answer is no.

My bare commercial license with a MIFR rating attached to it, hopefully by spring, will simply allow me to expand my job search a little bit. A few more bullets in the gun so to speak.

One outfit that I spoke to, and asked me to stay in touch with them, flies both single and multi-engine aircraft. The single engine aircraft are flown under VFR, the multi ones are IFR machines. While I would technically be qualified to fly the singles, and that would be the entry-level position I would hope for, my value to them is drastically reduced as that would be the limit of my usefullness. The IFR rating, while not immediately usefull in that scenario, would give me a little more value as a longer(ish) term employee to them.

To simplify as well, for those who tuned in for the first non-aviation bit and are still hanging around, VFR and IFR are the different sets of "rules" that airplanes fly under.

VFR is Visual Flight Rules. No going into clouds, keeping the ground in sight at all times, occasionally talking to Air Traffic Control and always using the see-and-avoid principle of other-airplane-and-large-immovable-object avoidance. The primary instrument that the pilot uses while flying under VFR is the windshield coupled to a calibrated set of mk I eyeballs.

IFR is Instrument Flight Rules. Going into clouds is OK and the windshield as a navigational and operating instrument is only used during certain phases of flight. Most notably landing and taking off. While you've heard of airliners that " land themselves ", this is not very common. More often than not, once the gadgets, gizmo's and little wizards have guided you electronically through the sky to your destination, once it's there( the landing runway ), filling the windshield, you would visually land your plane just as a VFR airplane would.

For those of you that know better, please play along, I'm trying to simplify this and leave out all the subject to, unless otherwise authorized by the minister, except in cases of subsection 4(b)1-3 type of stuff.

In any case, the MIFR is back on the radar for a couple of reasons. First of all, my original " plan " of flying floats for a few years to " build time " in order to get considered for year-round work, is, upon closer inspection not a very good option for us. Most of the guys I met who are doing that, get 2-300 hours a year, if they are lucky. For that they need to uproot every summer and live apart from loved ones. For every one of those hours they get, they also spent 2-3 hours fixing outboard motors, building docks, repairing cabins, guiding fisherman, cutting up ungulates and doing whatever else was required. The flying I like, the ungulate-cutting I can take or leave.

So, I did my due diligence and made the rounds of the more reputable outfits in town that provided this type of training.


One outfit I went to had a nice little twin-engine trainer, a little rough around the edges, like most training aircraft, and a helpful staff and instructor. They took the time to walk me through their course, show me the plane and in general, try and sell me on choosing their operation. Its hard not to be cynical during this process as this is their business and you are a customer. Similar to the car salesman telling you how fantastic you look behind the wheel of whatever model they are trying to sell you, you get lots of " oh, you knew that? Well, you should be able to breeze through this course! ". This outfit also had a recent change of ownership and kudos to them ,very customer service focused and professional. Unfortunately, they share a Simulator with another, very busy, school and only have one instructor who does the MIFR training. The single instructor bit isn't too big a deal, but I worried about sim access. Since so much of the IFR course can be done in the sim, I didn't want to be stuck fighting for slots while being at the bottom of the pecking order behind another schools own students.

School #2

Another one, had a very modern multi-engine trainer. So modern in fact, that it made my spidey senses tingle... While everyone else in the area is using 20 ( and up ) year old aircraft to do flight training in, these guys are using brand new aircraft. Their rates are competitive with everyone else as well, so its hard not to be cynical about their business model. I did however go in and talk to them and while the CFI was very nice, and a bit of an internet / forum / blogosphere celebrity, I decided to take a pass. Most of their students seem to be overseas and foreign students, in itself not an issue at all, but I just felt a little out of place. The CFI wasn't in when I popped over and the young instructor who I spoke to didnt seem too interested in selling me on their offerings. The extent of his pitch was that I " could go sit in the plane...if I wanted to. " I did, of course, and enjoyed a nice chat with the CFI a bit later, but in the end decided that while shiny, fancy and modern, I probably would be better served training on the type of aircraft I am more likely to be considered to fly in....20 years and older.....

Some days it seems like by the time I get to plunk myself down in a "modern" airplane, they won't be very modern anymore...


#3 was where I did my original flight training on, both my private license and my commercial license.

I enjoyed my PPL course there, but again, felt out of place during the latter half of my time there. Too many barely-20-somethings with giant mirrored sunglasses and frankly, a lot of people on staff who had no idea who I was after flying there 2 or 3 times a week for two years. A good outfit, and a great reputation locally, but a few too many times standing in front of the counter waiting for the young instructors to finish their personal conversations while my booking slot on the aircraft dwindled away....


#4 was a place I had heard a few good reviews about on AvCanada, in particular about their CFI. I went over there expecting to spend 20 minutes to a half hour getting the schpiel, brochure and sit-in-the-airplane tour, but ended up with an hour and a half with the main MIFR instructor and a free half hour playing around in the sim.

I have to admit, my attitudes towards flight training have changed quite a bit since the first dollar I plunked down. In the beginning, I was pretty much in awe of everything they had to say and, frankly, a bit naive about the whole thing. Now, I definitely feel its more of a business transaction. I need X service, have determined the market is charging X dollars and I want a competitive rate, but will pay more for the parts of the service I have decided are worth more to me in particular. Well maintained aircraft that are available when I need them, instructors who are good at their jobs and willing to work around my schedule to some degree and a general sense of continued appreciation for my business.

Their facility was fantastic. Clean and professional looking, nicely organized and well kept. The airplanes were plentiful, well equipped and well maintained. Fresh paint and new interiors are nice, but a seat-back pocket with no 3 month old sick-sacks, 43 pens rolling around on the floor and a complete absence of oil-soaked paper towels tells me more about how the employees and owner treat the equipment and their customers.

The owner took the time to get to know me a little and I was sold when I watched him running around greeting everyone who walked in the door while simultaneously cleaning the office and making fresh coffee. You could tell he truly has his heart in his business. It's always possible that he's a raging tyrant away from the customers eyes and that explains the meticulous appearance of the operation, but his staff seemed a little too happy to be there as well.

Its kind of funny though, they share a very similar name with another flight training outfit at the same airport, but this other outfit is bizarre. I'm not even making this up, but on their website, under the corporate officers of the company, they list one female member of the board with a corporate title of " model / actress ". I swear there is even a picture of her draped over a sports car wearing a fur coat. yeah.

So, I picked up my books and spent the next two weeks doing all the pre-reading for the course.

The Multi rating is first, so a couple of texts on multi engine handling and theory, the course syllabus itself, as well as the airplane's flight manual ( AFM ) or Pilots Operating Handbook( POH ).

On reading through the multi-engine texts, I got a little chuckle. The aforementioned " modern " aircraft offered to me at the other school was mentioned a few times. In at least three separate cases the book would go into detail on semi-complicated procedures such as constant-speed prop control, prop feathering or engine mixture leaning and then at the end of the chapter they'd mention, " except for the ACME Super-Duper Model A, where you only need to press a button. ". I almost wonder if its too fancy for its own good, particularly as a training aircraft.

More posts to come on the multi-course, I've done some simulator sessions as well as a flight in the aircraft itself as of this writing, but I'm hoping to put together its own post on that later.

Oh, Right. Ramp workers Alphabet.

C is for Circadian Rythmn

Like with a newborn, better get used to modification. Large airports are generally 24/7/365 operations. Someone has to work the graveyard shift....guess who, junior boy?

C is for Chocks, Cones and Carpets.

At the FBO, every arriving aircraft has at least two of its landing gear wheels " chocked ", so that the pilot can release his parking brake ( or not set them in the first place ) allowing us to tow the airplane off to its hangar spot or ramp parking space later. We can still tow it with the brakes on, but the black rubber marks makes our ramp look bad.

Wingtips, nose and tail also get a safety cone. A lot of the time you have limo's, golf carts, fuel trucks, tugs and other vehicles operating in close proximity to the aircraft. The cones are pretty cheap insurance against multi million dollar fender benders.

I like to make sure the left wingtip gets its cone first. The baggage compartment on most business jets is on the left rear and the passenger door on the left front. First out the passenger door is usually the FO, who bee-lines for the baggage compartment to get the bags coming out before the passengers even step off the aircraft. More often than not, the passengers will follow and collect their bags as they come out. They could just go inside and we will bring them in, or even take them straight to their cab / limo, but the new-money folks always try to walk around to the back to get their bags. Indubitably, they cut the corner at the wing as they come around and I've seen more than one snag a static wick on their way. Small pointy, stick looking things that project off the wingtips and trailing edges of the wing and horizontal stabilizers to dissipate static while airborne. Can make a nasty cut or puncture if walked into and can be expensive to replace.

These are typical of the chocks we use. These particular chocks are tied to a truck and there is a little story behind that. A few months ago, HQ came out with a new directive that all fueling trucks must be chocked when the driver is out of the cab, particularly when fueling an aircraft. Now... all of the trucks we use have Air-Brakes. Air Brakes were designed specifically for large trucks as a fail-safe system to prevent them from rolling away. The way they work is that a metal spring actually activates the brake piston, instead of hydraulic pressure supplied by a pump, supplied by power from a running engine. This way, even if the engine is not running, the brakes will have " power " from the metal spring. In fact, you need the high-pressure air supplied by a running engine ( via a compressor ) to actually release the brakes and keep them released. If the engine dies, or any part of the air line is ruptured, brakes come on...and stay on.

So, to put chocks under the tires, is a little over the top, some might say. There is a slight chance that you would forget to set the brake in the first place, and get out of the truck with the engine running and the chocks would in fact save the day.

In any case... much debate from everyone about this extra precaution... Some pointed out that if there was an emergency ( fire ), you might want to drive away without the delay of pulling the chocks. It only took a couple days before a few of us did that unintentionally and found you can drive right over them without even noticing. The only way you can tell you did it, was that everyone within view of you is giggling and pointing at you.

Then the other argument came up that if there was an emergency and you drove away , leaving the chocks behind, that they would be a tripping hazard for the responders. I personally thought this was the silliest thing I'd heard yet. I think if a fire-fighter is prepared to come running up to a giant, thin-gauge aluminum structure, filled with jet fuel and people, they aren't going to be scared of my little chocks getting in their way.

Thats why these chocks are tied to the truck. You drive away from these bad boys and not only do the people in the immediate vicinity get to laugh at you, but so does everyone you come across allll the way back to base, watching them bounce along behind you.

I also mentioned in the discussions was my personal philosophy on the issue. So long as the companies cheques keep clearing my bank account, they can ask me to do all manner of silly things. In fact, since I get compensated per hour of my time, they are more than welcome to give me more and more tasks, silly or otherwise. In light of the above compensation-by-the-hour, I also have to admit a soft spot for a company willing to pay ME money to do tasks which cost IT real money, but add a layer of safety for ME.

C is for Cold.

Both the Viral and Climatic types. I'm currently enjoying neither.

We've had a couple " snow events " as we call them out here on the Wet Coast. The rest of Canada of course, calls these types of events "winter", but its not normal for us. ( Read: haha - suckers. )

I'm still stubbornly refusing to get winter tires on my car. I don't even have all-seasons, just summer tires. Since I learned to drive in the frozen wastelands of Edmonton, I figure my summer-tire equipped car coupled with above-(lotus land)-average winter driving skills, puts me pretty much on level footing with the rest of this city and their newly acquired studded tires for their Mercedes Benz SUV. Except I usually get home at the end of my shift and they've abandoned their SUV's en masse along the freeway. Seeing them sitting there, hopelessly immobilized by an inch of snow is more than funny.

C is for Canadair

Managed to snap a few pics of this guy taxiing away from the customs ramp. He just landed here to clear customs and then took off for points unknown. I believe this is a Canadair 215 water bomber.

It originally came with big old radial engines, but has since been converted to turbo-props. They now make this plane factory-stock with turbines and I believe the newer model is a Canadair 415. I think I remember someone telling me that they call this a " Duck ".

C is for Chicken

Entirely non-ramp related, but this guy knows how to play it.

C is also for Cloud Bases.

Depressingly low lately. TLW keeps scratching her head when I tell her my flight lesson was cancelled because of weather. I have to explain that although I am training towards flying in cloud, I'm not there yet. Nor is a lot of the training apt to be in cloud either. Our freezing level out here is very typically 2-3000 feet AGL / ASL out here in the winter and so are the cloud bases. From what I understand, flying our non-ice equipped training aircraft into a large collection of just-freezing or about-to-freeze water droplets isn't conducive to continued flight...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Odds and Ends

I was going through my bag the other day, and found my little digicam languishing at the bottom, amongst a pile of paystubs, plastic safeway lunch bags and all the other stuff that just sort of piles up in my little work-backpack. Every once in a while I go through it and am just amazed at some of the stuff I have been faithfully carrying to and from work for WEEKS.

Anyways, found a few pics on the camera that I hadn't posted before, so thought I'd clear them out. Here goes;

Kaman Helicopter

This is one of the goofiest looking machines I have come across, but apparently its quite the performer.

I like the eyes in the front window too, nice touch.

This part just blew me away though. Out on the trailing edge of each blade was what looked like an aileron to me. I pondered it for awhile and then saw the pilot and asked him about it.

Most Helicopters, ( Read: all of them, except for this one. ) control the pitch angle of their blades by means of "twisting" them from the base outward. Imagine the blade spinning around the hub and in/on the hub is a cam of sorts that lifts ( increases the angle of attack ) the blade as it goes through that section of the spinning disk. So, you want to increase lift on the left side of the disk, the mechanism ( because I don't know its proper name ) lifts each blade as it passes through the left side, and lets it back down again once its passing through centre. Net effect is the left side creates more lift and the disk tilts. Neat.

You can do the same for the front side and back side of the disk as well, tilting the plane of rotation fore and aft as well. The helicopter tends to follow the spinning disk as well, it doesn't have a lot of other options.

Helicopters represent a sort of arcane, dark art to me, so I am both intrigued and intimidated by them at the same time, similar to higher math. Why the square root of some things can be so remarkably and beautifully elegant as the solution to a problem boggles my mind, much the same way as voodoo and yogic levitation.

In any case, back to the little aileron out there on the spinning blade. When the pilot(wizard) so wishes, he can, by deflecting the aileron into the airflow as the blade is spinning, cause an opposite reaction to the long skinny blade. It twists. So the cam system must still be at work, causing the aileron to rapidly deflect and un-deflect depending on which side of the disk you wish to have more angle of attack, but it is the same effect as the system everyone else uses. But totally different.

I like how the big jets kick up some a fantastic trail of moisture roaring off a wet runway. Seeing the jet blast is pretty impressive, being able to actually take a decnt picture would be even more impressive...c'est la view.

Of course, with the 727's, you don't need a wet runway, you can just watch the black smoke pouring out the back. Or, as someone put it on Avcanada the other day " a trail of David Suzuki tear's "

This thing came in a few times over the summer, I can't remember the name of it though... t-something trojan? Not sure...

Rumour had it that it is owned by he owner of Harbour Air and is a toy. It certainly parked on their ramp while it visited, who knows... I like the "guns" they added as well.

Apparently, as told to me last year, the Wright Cyclone engine is actually the very same engine as the PZL-ASz-62IR, 1000HP engine that a few DHC3 Otters have been converted to, including the one operated by the fishing lodge I worked for last summer.

The story was that under some backroom post-world war two deal, the Wright company ( yes, Orville and Wilbur ) sold the rights to PZL in Poland for the production of this engine and it has been produced with great success and in fantastic numbers since.

The other story I heard was that the Poles made a fantastic version of it, slightly improved from Wrights original design, but once they were under Soviet control, the soviets began production of their own PZL 1000HP engine with much less success, but even greater numbers. Apparently, if you get on with blue paint instead of Polish Grey, you have a Russian made Polish engine. Theres a joke in there somewhere I'm sure.

Oh, here is a picture of one of the Ultralights I was flying while working part-time as an instructor out at the ultralight field.

And here she is as of Tuesday afternoon.

Luckily, it sounds like no one was seriously hurt, a few cuts and bruises apparently and the plane is a write-off.

The story I heard was that the carbon-fibre prop de-laminated on them just after take-off and some or all of it departed the aircraft without further ado. They tried to make the field but clipped the power lines on approach. The Chief Instructor and a student were on board at the time. I haven't been out to the field for a while now so I haven't yet had a chance to talk to them and hear it from the horses mouth.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

B is for Bush Planes

Not much for Bush Planes in my daily life these days, but hey, you never know!

One of the qualities of a good bush plane is it's STOL capability. STOL is short for Short Take Off and Landing.

Hmm, considering they abbreviated the three-letter OFF as the O in STOL, why wouldn't they include the three-letter AND and make it STOAL?

In my ultralight flying this summer, I gained a lot more respect and a little more knowledge about Short Field techniques. Our field is technically 1200 feet long. Given the obstacles on both approaches, the usable runway is actually closer to 800 feet. Seeing as how the aircraft we use need only 300 or so feet for takeoff or landing, its not that bad. When you are used to 800 feet long by 20 feet wide, coming in to land at one of the local airports where you have 5000 feet by 100 feet of pavement stretching out before you, it almost seems silly.

For those not familiar, Short Field technique calls for landing the aircraft on a pre-determined spot ( close to the beginning of the "short" field to make use of all available runway ) and coming to a stop as quickly as possible, while remaining under control. Bonus points if the aircraft is usable again after you are done.

Mainly, it means making sure you you use the manufacturers recommended settings for flap and approach speed to come in at as slow a speed as is possible. Depending on whether or not you are also dealing with an obstacle on the approach path, you might also be coming in at a steeper-than-usual glide path, necessitating a more aggressive and hopefully well timed, flare.

With the slower speed on a short-field landing, you shouldn't have to deal with a lot of "float", the mains should touch down positively on the spot you aimed for. Dump the flaps to put some weight back on the wheels and get on the brakes.

Except we operate on grass and one of the planes I fly doesn't even have brakes..haha.

Grass is nice because its natural friction does a good job of slowing down the aircraft quite well. All three of our planes can be landed without using any brakes on the rollout, but thats on a perfect day.

D however, is for Digress, and thats a few days down the road.

B is for Brakes

At the FBO, after we've greeted the arriving pilots and passengers and made sure their immediate needs are attended to, we'll always ask the flight crew to make sure the brakes are left OFF before they leave. This is because they are usually directed up to the front of the building when they come in, so they can feel like rock-stars. Eventually, we will have to tow them off to some forlorn corner of the ramp to sit till their allotted " on-line " time before departure.

It's quite difficult to tow an aircraft whose parking brake is set on. Not impossible, but difficult. Most of out tugs have the capability of pulling a small to medium sized corporate jet with locked-up tires, across the ramp. Not from personal experience, but I do know that they leave quite a tell-tale rubber track from dragging the tires.

Personally, I like it when we hook up the tug and physically check that they are released even before the flight crew has left the premises. Even if you ask them to make sure the brakes are off, sometimes you go to tow it away an hour later and find out their partner went back and re-set them, or they weren't off in the first place. Sucks even worse when its three in the morning and you need to clear the ramp for the morning arrivals and you're having the crew woken up at the hotel to come down and release the brakes so you can tow it away...this I do know from personal experience.

Some companies even have a little sign they put up in the cockpit window that says " BRAKES OFF ". This is like.

Arriving aircraft usually have pretty warm brakes. I've never seen any glowing, but I'm told the airliners will sport glowing disks on occasion pulling onto the ramp.

I also noticed that aircraft brakes differ from car brakes, in that there might be 10 separate slave cylinders and disc brake pads per tire. On a car, you have one hydraulic slave cylinder and one set of pads to squeeze against the spinning disc.

I'm going to speculate that its a redundancy thing, no single cylinder to fail. Or perhaps a cooling issue, where its easier to cool ten small pads instead of one large one.

B is for Block Passes

Ramp access is pretty tightly controlled at major airports. All employee's requiring airside access need to get vetted by Transport Canada, the local RCMP and your friendly airport authority as well. This generally consists of a police check in each of the jurisdictions you've lived in for the previous five years, a criminal records check, a credit check, a fingerprinting and I believe they also run your name through the CSIS computer as well. There was CSIS form in the packet of stuff I filled out for my pass, but it's been awhile... Once this comes back clean, you get whats called a RAIC pass, also referred to as a Red Pass. RAIC is Restricted Area Identification Card. There is your photo on the front and both a magnetic swipe strip and a embedded chip on the back of the card with some biometrics for some of the gates ( retina and fingerprint ). The RAIC can also be upgraded with a "D/A", a driving permit for driving vehicles on the ramp and a " D " which is the all-access driving permit, allowing access to the taxiways, runways and all the other controlled areas where you might have to talk to Ground Control on the radio. Useful for towing planes around and driving the fuel truck out to some of the remote stands and oddball corners of the airport. I just recently upgraded to a "D" :)

It's kind of funny, because a pilots license and an aircraft parked airside will also get you through the gates. Like a lot of things in aviation, once you can prove you have the money to afford to fly/own/rent/train then everyone just assumes you're OK. Lots of airports I have been to have pilots "lounges" with fridges stocked with pop and snacks and a mayonnaise jar stuffed with bills and coins for you to place payment in. I guess if you can afford to fly in there, you're not going to pinch the 42 bucks in the jar or help yourself to a free coke. Kind of an economic profiling thing going on....

Some people need airside access at the FBO and don't have RAIC's. Limo drivers and maintenance personnel are good examples. These folks can come to us and as long as they convince us they have a valid reason for needing to be out there, and surrender some information, ID and a credit card, they can be issued whats called a " Block Pass ". This is a "Visitors" pass that allows them and/or their vehicle, temporary, escorted, access to the ramp. Technically the Block Passes are still property of the airport authority and woe betide us if we fail to get them back from these people before they leave! Hence the surrendering of the credit cards....

B is also for Bush Planes

I don't get to see a lot of bush planes these days, but I do see a few. We have a few residents Turbo-Beavers, Dehavilland DHC-2 Beavers that have been upgraded and modernized to be powered by a turbine instead of a radial engine.

Last summer, the turbine aircraft were few and far between, everything was piston. Now, piston aircraft are fairly scarce, reserved only for the smallest " piss-cutters " and radial engines are even scarcer around here.

Side-note - everyone I've ever talked to here and even Ontario, has referred to the smallest of aircraft generically as " piss-cutters ". I googled the term to see the origin and it didn't really have anything that was in relation to a vehicle, aeronautical or otherwise. Mostly in relation to Marine's hats?! I've heard this term my whole life, I'm quite surprised by this.

Aside from the odd DHC2T ( T for turbo ) we see the venerable DHC3T Otter and DHC6 Twin Otters of Harbour Air and the now amalgamated West Coast Air around a bit. Not on our ramp usually, but occasionally we are called over to their maintenance hangar to do a fueling for the mechanics.

You can always tell when its a mechanic calling for fuel instead of a pilot, they always ask for fuel in Pounds, not Litres or Gallons. Usually they only call when they need to do a leak-test on the tank or fuel system, and the maintenance manual will specify ( in Pounds ) how much fuel needs to be in the system for the test. Since a Litre of Jet Fuel is almost 2 Lbs by weight, this can cause problems if misunderstood. 600 Lbs, mis-fueled as 600 Litres may not even fit in some of these machines....

One of operators on the field has even acquired a spiffy, brand-new Quest Kodiak ( similar to this one pictured below )

I've had a look at the Kodiak, its a neat plane, but the fueling system makes me skeptical about the plane in general. It's got two over-wing fueling ports on top of the wing. Over wing fueling on a high-wing aircraft sucks. It means dragging out the ladder and climbing up, dragging your fuel hose with you. The ladder has to be positioned carefully as when you add the fuel, the added weight will cause the aircraft to settle, hopefully not onto the top of your ill-placed ladder.

Some planes, like the Beechcraft King Air 350, have auxiliary fuel tanks that have to be filled from on top of the inboard portion of the wing, BUT, further back than you can reach from your ladder at the front of the wing. So, everytime this plane takes full fuel, some fueler has to climb on top of the wing, dragging the hose across the leading edge, potentially damaging the de-ice boots or the wing skin itself. Take a close look at the de-ice boots on any well-used 350 or 1900 and you will see patches where they have been repaired....guess where? Yup, adjacent to the fueling ports. Surprise!

I look at it like this. A plane is fueled pretty much every time it goes flying. The designers will boast about the durability of their product. 50,000 hours on a commercial aircraft is not at all unusual.


If their engineers have clumsy old me, or my rookie co-worker who just started yesterday, dragging fuel hoses up onto wings, walking over sensitive bits with their heavy boots, dripping fuel onto windshields, dropping the fuel nozzle onto even more sensitive bits, just to access their ill-conceived location for a fueling port.....what other ELEMENTARY logic has escaped them?? Sorry, I get to ranting on this one...

In any case... It looks like a good plane and it's neat to see a new generation of bush planes. We'll see where they are in the fifty or sixty years Beavers and Otters have been operating and then compare notes...

Here's one of my favorites, a Beech 18.

B is for Boats

Totally non-FBO related, but I did ship a few of these boats by Air Freight back in my previous life. They were for the German Police ( special forces ? ) GSG-9 and were sent down by truck to Seattle and then flown on a 747 freighter over to germany.

Loaded through the flip-up nose section of the aircraft.

And secured on the main deck. Note how the upper deck floor reduces the height on the main deck in the forward section. Kind of a drawback on this plane. If your cargo is long, it goes in through the nose, if it's tall, it goes in the side cargo door near the back. If it's long and tall....sorry. Doesn't go at all.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A is for Alphabetical

Ok, so I haven't really posted much on here for over two months. This blog is on the verge of drying up and blowing away.

Yes, I have the birth of my daughter to excuse me for my lack of time, but things are slowly gravitating back towards some sort of normalcy and I'd like to try and keep this thing going. Its good fun and I like to write. Writing is a brain-engaged activity that makes me feel like I'm doing opposed to playing video games or trying to study for the INRAT exam in fifteen minute chunks.

I got a great idea from Flygirl over at Always Looking Above, to do a series of posts alphabetically...A is for blah blah, B is get the idea. She's a pilot-in-training nee flight attendant and her blog is a good read, I recommend it. Hopefully if I plug her and she sees a couple people clicking through from my link, she won't be too sore at me for totally ripping off her idea.

So, since my 350 hours doesn't really qualify me to post an alphabetical series on flying... I'm going to focus on my current job, Fuel Guy, Ramp Rat, Line Crew...but you can just call me Maverick.

Okay, so here's what I came up with for A;

A is for Asphalt.

Can't have a ramp without a whole lot of Asphalt. On our ramp we have mostly asphalt, coated with a sealant material to keep fuel from penetrating into it. We also have a couple of " Heavy Pads ", areas of the ramp made from re-inforced concrete to support larger aircraft. Considering we routinely handle aircraft in the 200,000 Lbs range, these are pretty important. All of that weight is concentrated in a few dozen square feet that the landing gear impress upon the ground. The asphalt can take the load, but not on a regular basis. Eventually, you'd end up with some serious dips, ruts, holes or worse.

This is a C-130, sitting on a Heavy Pad, the darker ground is the softer asphalt.

This landing gear does a little bit better in the weight-per-square-foot category. Bonus points if you can tell me what type of aircraft this is :)

A is for Arrivals

This is our Flight Tracker software. I've mentioned this before, but its what we use to track aircraft in flight. More and more aircraft though, are requesting to have their flight information hidden from view. Almost all are corporate aircraft and it just isn't as glamourous to be rich and successfull in these times I guess. Especially after the big fiasco with the automakers showing up in Washington DC in their corporate jets to beg for government handout money... Now every time a company announces lay-offs, all it takes is someone to run a story about the " fat-cats " in the jets while Joe Lunchbox takes a pink slip, to sell a few papers. This bothers me, but I'm thankful that it only bothers me because its lazy, reactionary journalism, not the jet-riding-around part.

A is for Aerodrome

I love how in Canada we call it an aerodrome. I can't help it, all I see is old WWI bi-planes and flying scarves.

Welcome to the world Eva!

Haven't really had a lot of time for posting updates lately. Mostly because our little baby girl was born last month!

This is Eva Mackenzie

The labour was tough, from start to finish it was 48 hours, ending with an emergency C-section.

It was all worth it in the end, she's perfect!

We're now living our life in 2-3 hour chunks, between feeding, sleeping, burping, rocking and changing. Day / Night has lost its delineation and sleeping time is where you find it. 2 hour naps 3 or 4 times a day seems almost decadent now, it was a little tougher for the first few weeks, but things are improving as we get used to her and her routines.

They are definitely her routines at this point, she is the one calling the shots for now. I sheepishly brought up with her the possibility of perhaps setting some standard day/night routines and she promptly slapped my coffee out of my hand, knocked my hat off, pushed me down and took ten dollars from my wallet.

We also had been given a great gift by our friends Lindsay and Jason, a session with a baby photographer. The photos on this page are courtesy Charlotte Gamache Photography

Friday, July 9, 2010


Wow, ok, so summer has arrived on the West Coast.

Last week or so has seen us in the middle of an entrenched high pressure ridge that shows little signs of abating. I saw my first cloud today in over a week.

It was kind of funny actually, I was outside on the ramp with another fellow who has recently earned his Private Pilots License and as we looked at a bank of high cloud approaching in a seemingly organized fashion, he said " ok, so what type of front is that? ". I opined that I thought it was a warm front type of cloud formation, high, advancing cirrus that tapered down to what appeared to be some alto stratus type clouds. I keep an eye on the weather, so I hedged my bets with a " but, as there is little in the way of active systems in our area due to the high pressure, it may also just be orographic cloud from the mountains on the island. "

I like to know what is driving the weather on a daily basis. I check the weather religiously, flying or not. Not so much to try and predict or plan around my predictions of what will occur, but more to understand and learn from what I am seeing. If I know a warm front is approaching, when I look up and see the actual weather, then I know, " A-ha, my Met instructor was right! ".

Turned out I was right, but the system was far to the north of us, but the first band of clouds associated with the warm front managed to reach us this far south. It actually gave us a much needed respite from the searing heat of the last three days.

Out on the ramp, there is no shade. There is only black tarmac, the unrelenting sun, heavy boots, dark coloured uniforms that cover everything but your forearms to protect you from exposure to fuel, hats, ear defenders, sunglasses, utility belts, radios and mikes, heavy rubber fueling gloves and lately, a nice slippery sheen of sunscreen. It gets a little warm at times.

In any case, I wanted to post a quick blog update as I have been more than a little remiss lately. I think this is probably the longest I have let the blog lapse.

I'd like to have readers who keep coming back, to engage with them and hear their feedback on my daily life. I'd like to meet new people who share the same interests as me and have interesting stories of their own to tell. I'd like to keep friends and family updated on my life, without enriching the pockets of FaceBook founders through their prostitution of me and my life's little details. Alas, this kind of necessitates some effort on my part.

Anyways, in a nutshell, the last couple of moths have seen the following in the way of news that I would have liked to share, but didnt...

My wife's pregnancy is progressing nicely. We are down to the last two months now. In fact, only seven weeks to go till D-Day. This is no longer a distant, abstract event. This is happening! We've been very fortunate that her pregnancy has been pretty easy so far. A little nausea, treatable and treated. The usual mobility and fatigue challenges. But for the most part very manageable to date, knock on wood.

I finished my Ultralight Instructor Rating a few weeks ago and have begun instructing at the local ultralight field. I've done a few lessons and a mock flight test so far. I am finding instructing a lot more enjoyable and challenging than I first thought. I feel a very strong pressure to keep packing my head full of all kinds of information, "just-in-case" a student asks me " what type of front is that? " or " what makes the airplane turn? ". But at the same time, I feel very comfortable in the instructing role. I had lots of great advice from really good instructors during my training, all I really have to do is turn around and share those little nuggets with others.

I actually did that the other day with the mock flight test. I pretty much copied the flight test I did for the same rating. I have to remember to mention to the examiner that I did this, in case he pulls this student for the actual flight test. He may need to vary his routine just a little or the jig is up.

I went on a nice little cross-country trip the other day, up to Lillooet. This was a fun trip and had a few twists, so it is worthy of a post of its own, but it was nice to get out of the local patch and take an Ultralight on a long(ish) trip. It took us about 4.5 hours total, round trip.

I was helping put some aircraft into a hangar the other day and the hangar tenants Chief Pilot was there while we were working. We were joking around with him a little because their company, which owns several jets, helicopters and other large and expensive aircraft, also owns a Cessna 182 that he has been flying A LOT lately. Turns out, he is the only one in their company approved to fly it. Insurance maybe, or company-approved training that hasn't been done for the rest of the pilots, who knows. He mock-complained about the situation and one of my co-workers pointed at me and said " well, he needs the hours, let him fly it ". I was mortified, but he turned and asked me how many hours I had. " Around 300 " I told him. He raised an eyebrow and said I should talk to the owner.

I'll do it, but I suspect my lack of an IFR rating is going to preclude my being of any real use to them. It was kind of neat to see this job paying off a little though ,in the network-prospecting sort of respect though.

Anyways, I'll try and post a little more, but who knows, maybe I wont... Lots of things going on, all of them good!

Going to be a daddy soon, getting to fly on a daily basis and not paying for it, loving my job(s) and feeling a little more optimistic about future job prospects.

Ah well, watch my next post be tomorrow night about the tornado that I.did.not.see.coming that flattens my home....

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Qualicum Trip

Got to go out on a little adventure today.

I had been talking to one of the guys at work about going flying one day and it came together this morning.

Bruce has his PPL and just recently went out to one of the local flight schools and got checked out in one of their new Turbo-Diesel Cessna 172's. In doing the check out he also renewed currency on his pilots license, since it had been 5 years or so since he last flew.

I need a total of 20 hours ultralight time in order to apply for my Ultralight Instructor rating so we thought it might be fun to take a little cross country trip.

Bruce was much like myself when I did my PPL. Most of my cross countries were pretty local really. We had got to talking at work about how much fun it is flying into new and unfamiliar airports and the whole planning process in putting together a flight to somewhere you have never been.

I'm trying to at least take the written and do a " flight test " for my rating prior to the end of the month. I'm feeling a little hard-pressed though as time and weather are slowly starting to come together to not make it happen.

We had planned on going out yesterday, but we didn't get the weather for our primary destination, nor for our back-up alternate. Theres only a few directions you can fly in out here when the ceilings start to come down.

Our original plan was to go to a little strip up near Merritt, called Quilchena. Apparently there is a neat old Hotel / Restaurant right across the street from the strip and MoGas ( Automobile Gas ) is available from a gas station that neighbors the field. There are pictures at our little flight school building of planes being pulled across the road by hand and right up to the pumps to fill up.

Since the trip up through the mountains requires us to be able to fly through at least one high mountain pass, we would have needed a minimum ceiling of about 7500 Feet Above Sea Level ( ASL ) for a safe trip. And that only gets us through the pass, it doesn't give us much for options to climb out of the valley as the mountain tops would still be shrouded in cloud.

When we got to the field yesterday we didnt even have close to that, in fact ,while we stood there discussing our back up plan, the rain started and within a half hour, our options had dwindled down to the highway to drive ourselves home on.

Back again this morning to try again and while it started iffy, it quickly cleared up quite nicely.

In fact, according to the weather map, there was just the barest hint of a High pressure area, right where our alternate was. It was only there on one of the GFA weather charts as well, the forecast chart prior to our period and after had the High pressure area downgraded to just another curve in the isobars around the Low.

One of the guys who hangars his plane out at the field accepted our invite to tag along and Bruce and I took the Foxbat, while he flew alone in his beautiful little Piper Vagabond.

Basically a clipped-wing Piper Cub. He has upgraded the engine to ( I believe ) a 100 HP Lycoming engine, as well as a few other bells and whistles. A left side door for the pilot and a widened fuselage to accommodate two people in the front instead of tandem seating. He even has a small wind-driven generator hanging off the bottom that charges his battery and gives him Electrical power, something the original Cub lacked.

Off we went, up over the city and through the Downtown Harbour control Zone. I did a little practice with groundspeed checks and using the old whiz-wheel as its part of my upcoming flight test and something I havent done for awhile.

Bruce got some stick-time while I fiddled with a navlog and my trusty E6B.

Give us a smile Bruce!

Through the Harbour and now its up over Bowen Island and along the coastline, north-west bound for the Sechelt area.

Past Sechelt and over a little 8 mile stretch of water between Buccaneer Bay and the bottom tip of Texada Island.

A little detour to check out a small, unpublished dirt strip that sits on Texada. Nice enough lengthwise, but I'm not too sure about the surface condition, would definitely be an emergency-only option till I had a chance to talk to someone who had landed there before, or better yet, walk the runway myself.

The forecast clouds over the island weather stations turned out to be pretty localized and we had clear skies over the Strait of Georgia to climb up and get some altitude for the 10-mile stretch between Lasqueti Island and Qualicum Beach.

I had flown over Qualicum once before on a sight-seeing trip with my brother Jason, up from Victoria. I was freshly annointed with my PPL at that point and when we went to land at Qualicum ( it wasn't our destination, more just to check it out ), the gusty crosswinds had me end up doing a low approach only. It was my brothers first flight with me and I was already scaring myself trying to make a steady approach, no sense scaring him with a not-so-steady landing.

We taxied in and grabbed a couple spots on the grass, just off the main apron. An airport worker came out and very politely told us we wouldn't be able to park there, and directed us instead to another spot down the way. Another gentleman was with him with a clipboard that he was writing in. I thought to myself..." Oh, he must be recording our registration marks for a landing fee or maybe a parking fee... thats funny, I dont remember seeing any fee's in the CFS... ".

We parked over on the grass where they wanted us to and it turned out that the other gentleman was a Transport Canada Inspector doing a ramp check! He went through the whole thing with the pilot of the Piper that flew up with us and Bruce and I watched and listened from a polite distance.

I was a little nervous, figuring it would be my turn next, but once he was done with the Piper's pilot, he wished us all a good day and left. It was actually quite a friendly little encounter and not nearly as sinister as my imagination had it being. I've talked to lots of pilots who have flown for twenty plus years and never been ramp-checked, it was a first for all of us.

Over to the restaurant for a nice lunch out on the patio in the sun and then back from whence we came.

Coming back through downtown Vancouver, got to take a look at the floatplane base of the now-amalgamated West Coast Air / Harbour Air, as well as the Green Roof of the new convention centre.

BC place has also had the inflatable roof deflated, to make way for the new retractable roof they are putting on.