Sunday, August 14, 2011

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Went out the other day on a flight to Fort Liard, and ended up holding for most of the day in the community.

It was hot, like 30 degrees hot, and I had dressed for a relatively cool morning and still in bug-protection mode. ( pants and at best, a long sleeve shirt wit the sleeves rolled up )

I did get the opportunity to hang out a little bit with the husband of a husband-and-wife team that manned the Fort Liard Community Aerodrome Radio Station. They had an interesting story of getting on during a hirinjg blitz for the 2010 Olympics and after it was over, their pick of a few interesting spots in the North. ( My suspicion is that if you are the type of person who finds places like these in the north interesting, you probably get your pick of the litter. I tend to agree, but I'm sure the vast majority most likely feels otherwise...

It was a nice little airport setup, with all the basic airport-things you need. A little building, a parking lot, some radio gear, maybe a nav-aid and some runway lighting. A bathroom, a few chairs and magazines in a waiting room, a run-up pad and a hangar.

From left to right, the instruments and radio gear are;

A Wind Direction indicator
A Wind Speed Indicator
Dual Altimeters ( For giving out Altimeter settings )

The wind direction/intensity indocators are the two big black dials on the far left. I always thought that the wind information they gave you was averaged out, but apparently not in a place like this, as I asked him after watching him give out an advisory to a helicopter. Maybe thats an ATIS thing?

The CARs operators get a fair bit of downtime while on shift and manning their posts, so these places are usually pretty clean and this one was no exception. Its the unattended ones that tend to be a little on the grotty side...

I got the grand tour and was surprised to find this bad boy lurking in the closet.

This is the NDB, the electronic guts of the airports only functioning nav-aid.

a Non-Directional Beacon is typically a fairly low-power AM transmitter, usually located at the airport or a short distance away and I've always been told is the most common up here, mostly due to the low-maintenance and low-cost to setup. Imagine my surprise when I found the W.O.P.R in the closet, pumping out random 1974 computer noises and a vicious amount of BTU's that their poor little window-mounted air conditioner couldn't even pretend to keep up with.

In my mind, I had always imagined a little box, about the size of a portable radio!

We live in interesting times in the field of Air Navigation. The use of GPS as a primary aid is quickly catching on. Costs for certified installations are dropping and the number of approaches available to those who choose to invest in the hardware and the training, get the comfort of an approach more accurate by a factor of ten than what you can do with this one.

In fact, I probably shouldn't say this out loud, but I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of aircraft and pilots, flying around with un-certified GPS setups in their aircraft, to an airport with an NDB, are using the GPS to tell them where the beacon is as opposed to the ADF ( radio reception gear for the NDB ) and maybe sparing a glance over at the poor little ADF needle bobbing and weaving around from time time as a back-up.

After hanging out at the airport for a few hours, I decided to brave the heat and go for a little stroll around the village. I managed to find a route that followed mostly the shady side of the street and made my way down to the river to have a peek. Its a nice little town, lots of old-school log cabin type structures, right in the middle of the village, and right alongside modern stucco-sided ranchers.

One woman had a food-stand type of mobile trailer set up on her front lawn. It wasn't open, but looked like the "mobile" part of the setup had long since stopped being an option and she had hunkered down to sell burgers and fries off her front lawn. Great idea, but good luck trying to float something like this with the zoning folks down south!

Thanks are due to my Mother, who gave me the tip of reducing file size to try and get photos posted on here. I went from an avewrage of a meg or two per picture and a good five or ten minute wait on the upload, to a couple hundred kilobytes and a 10 second upload time!

Back in business.

Its kind of too bad, I really looked forward to doing a bit more posting this summer, but a couple things have conspired against me.

One was the photo issue. I love posting pics, even just to look back at myself. The upload time made posting a bit of a drag and I stopped altogether for awhile.

The other issue is that now that I am flying passengers around, and living and working in such a small community, I'm a lot more aware of how posting details that could identify my customers or my employer, might not be such a good idea in the general business sense. Or not, I might just be a little paranoid or self conscious...

Anyhow, to try an catch up, here are a few pics and a few littler adventures of late;

Went fishing a few weeks ago. Had a weekend off and nothing to do, so I threw my fishing stuff in the car, packed a little cooler with lunch and drinks and hit the road. I'd seen a decent lake a couple hours drive away and a river that connected to it that was purported to have a set of waterfalls on it.

Fishing was pretty goo, a lot more fishing jumping then biting it seemed. The dragon-fly's were out in abundance and were doing their clumsy mating flying down close to the surface of the river and I suspect thats what the fish were feeding on. When they mate, they are joined together but still manage to fly around, just not with very much precision. I imagine from below the waters surface a pair of conjoined dragonflys buzzing the rivers surface and/or occasionally getting stuck in the water, is a decent target.

The little spot where I was fishing had one other fisherman when I got there. He told me he had seen a bear across the river an hour earlier. A half hour or so after I showed up, we could hear it walking/ crashing its way through the bush on the other side of the river. I eventually did see him a little later on, as he came free of the trees and found a spot in the tall grass along the river to lie down in.

Also happened to turn my head and see a family of mink? weasels? crossing the river about forty feet behind me. They were pretty quiet, so I only noticed them by fluke.

After fishing for a few hours with moderate success ( 4 little Northern Pike and 1 decent sized Walleye ), I popped in to see the falls on my way back to town.

The falls were pretty spectacular to see. I think there are three sets of falls on two seperate rivers all close by up here and all worth a look.

Was a little nervous about wandering around the footpaths, as there were bear warning signs up and no one around but me. In my fishing tackle box I have a little bell that you can clip to the tip of your rod in case you are throwing out a baited hook and then sitting back waiting for the fish to bite. It also doubles as a good little bear-bell, clipped to my pants pocket and ringing away with each stride. Grizzly bears in the area can be readily identified by the presence of such bells in their spoor.

If you look closely at the top of the falls on the right hand side of the picture, there is a little rock just before the falls themselves.

Closer inspection reveals that it is a little inukshuk-type structire built by some pretty brave/stupid people.

The countdown is officially on, as I will be leaving to go home to the West Coast for the winter in less than two weeks. I've got a good little stockpile of pictures, so perhaps I'll get the motivation to post some more on here once I'm back in the land of unlimited high-speed internet.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Looks Okay.

Got up for my first revenue flight with passengers today for my new employer. I took a fellow up to a little northern community called Lutsel k'e as the
regional Dene organization is having it's annual general meeting. It's
held in a different community in the region every year and this year
it was Lutsel k'e's turn.

I am actually typing this on my Iphone sitting in the little terminal building as I am "holding" here for a couple hours while I await my passenger to finish up at the meeting and then bring him back to town.

Flight up was good, exactly an hour and a half. There was a little
bit of low cloud and rain on my departure and it started to look iffy,
but quickly cleared up and it was high cloud for the rest of the trip.

The direct route would have taken me out over the lake, a good 20 or
30 miles from shore but given the limited visibility and low ceilings
in the rain, I opted to stick to the shoreline so I would have a good
visual reference to the ground as I ducked under the first little bit
of clag.

On arrival near CYLK, I heard a medevac call on the radio from an Air
Tindi plane as he tried to get ahold of the local Community Aerodrome
Radio Service (CARS station). I thought they'd be open based on the
airport entry in the CFS, but he got no answer that I could hear.

( The CFS is the Canada Flight Supplement, a small book about the size of a brick and approximately the same weight. The pages are the super-thin newsprint variety that you might find in say, a bible. Published anew every 56 days, it lists the details of every Aerodrome in Canada. I've always thought it to be more than a bit silly in this day and age to being wasting so much paper, but hey, two expired CFS's make a great set of chocks for your planes tires, so its not like they cant be recycled.... )

Sometimes while flying, you only get to hear one side of the
conversation as an airborne transmitting radio has much greater range
than a ground station, since our radios are VHF and limited to line of

I got within 20 miles and made my own call to the CARS station and got silence from them as well, guess no ones home...

The Tindi aircraft called me up directly and gave me their ETA as only a
minute or two before mine, so I let him know I'd wait for him to land
before I started into the airport zone. He was using a Medevac call sign,
so he had priority over me as far as I was concerned. He was doing a
straight-in approach to the runway I expected to be the active based
on the winds reported at the field before I left. I stayed about four
miles away from the airport on the "dead" side and waited till I saw
him on the runway before I turned in to start my own straight in
approach for runway 08.

For an airport with no ground station (since they were apparently
closed), an arriving aircraft will usually cross overhead the field to
have a look at the windsock and determine the runway is clear and
which runway is more into wind for the landing. Since the Tindi pilot
had established that for me, and given me a wind report once he
landed, I simply followed him in instead of crossing goer and circling
back around for the landing. Its always appreciated to pass it on to anyone else coming in as it saves a lot of unnecessary maneuvering at low altitude and airspeed.

Taxiied in and conveniently there was two sets of concrete pads.

Most airports of this size that I have been to, only have one pad, so
that was a bonus. Since most of he airports up here are gravel runways
and taxiways, they usually have at least one concrete pad that we can
park with our props over top of so that on start up we don't pick up
little rocks and beat little dents into our props. You still have to
have a look at the pad before start up as you will often have to sweep
the area just under and ahead of your prop as there is usually a couple
little rocks hanging around.

Once we landed and my passenger went off to town I went into the
little terminal building, called back to head office to report my
arrival and had a little of my lunch I brought.

The Tindi medavacs patient showed up along with a nurse from the
health station. After she was done loading up she drove up to where I
was standing and let me know that if I was sentenced to hang out for
the whole day here, I was more than welcome to come down to the health
centre and watch TV.

Apparently, that's what all the pilots who hold
here do. Very nice of her to offer, but I brought my fishing rod and
was still thinking of walking down to the lake. After she left and I
started typing this out on my phone, I realized I had already killed
an hour and decided it might be better if I stuck around. My passenger
mentioned he would try and get done sooner rather than later and it
might even be less than a two hour hold.

Another Tindi plane, this time a dash-7 came in and I briefly worried
that he wouldn't have room to get around me. Once the medevac plane had
left, I ended up being parked in the middle of the ramp. He had lots
of room though and only stopped long enough to shut down two engines
on one side and let two people off and then they blasted off.

The CARS guy had shown up just before the dash-7, which I imagine is
the "sched", and as soon as they taxied onto the runway and he had let
them know that there was "no reported traffic ", I heard the radio
click off and off he went, back to town till the next scheduled flight
I bet... Haha. Actually, he ended up coming back fifteen minutes after I typed that and was there for the rest of the time, including my departure.

My coworker pointed out as well that this airport is in the Northern Domestic Airspace, and as such, its runway designation is in degrees True, as opposed to Magnetic.

The runway sign indicated that this is Runway 078T instead of the traditional 08. I also just realized, usually these signs depict BOTH runways, as in a runway designated as 08 ( magnetic heading somewhere between 075 and 085, I can't remember how they round up or down, so forgive me if this is wrong. ) will also be runway 26, as the opposite end of the runway can be used as a "different" runway if departing the other way. So these signs, usually say " 08 - 26 " or " 07 - 25 ", but this ine only indicates ONE runway, even though I know for a fact the other end is a perfectly useable and legal runway. Odd.

Lining up to land here, your magnetic compass would indicate a direction of about 053 degrees.

Back at base I had another flight of similar length waiting for me, but it ended up getting pushed over to tomorrow morning as the winds at my destination were starting to get a little hectic and there was little real urgency for the flight to happen that day.

We had about a 15 knot headwind on the way up here, and going home I snuck up a little higher and ended up picking up 25 knots directly on the tail to get home a lot faster than the trip up.

In good form as well, I traded fuel for speed on the way up so that I wasn't lingering too long in the headwind scenario and on the way back I throttled it back a little to get back the fuel I burnt on the way up and let the wind do more of the work.

Air Tindi was pretty busy today too it seems. I heard two Tindi palnes talking on their way to a Lodge outside of yellowknife, before they took their conversation " company" ( over to a private company frequency ). Got back to base and looking at the news, it would appear one of those planes was most likely carrying the

I noticed this instrument right outside the terminal building as well. I've seen them in other places, but never hada chance to take a picture. I THINK it's used for measung the height of a cloud layer for their weather reports, but I'm not 100% on that. It kind of looks like an old sextant.

I got to fly this leg the other day, even though you might say we had a " passenger ". This fellow is known as a "hummer" as sometimes in commercial air cargo they will get a little sticker that says " HUMR "....that stands for Human Remains.

They always indicate somewhere on the box which side is the Head, as it is fairly important that it always be kept "head-up if there is any incline in loading / unloading or transport. I am told this is to keep the embalming fluids from pooling in the head.... In this case, we received the box with only two notations on it, one on each end and they both said " legs "...sigh..... We opened up a corner to see if there was any other way to tell, but everything is well wrapped up, and I was NOT opening things any further.

I took a few photos with my phone today, hoping the lower resolution pics would translate to faster upload times, but no dice. Its still pretty darn slow....

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I will call you Betty, and Betty, you can call me Captain.

Finally got my PPC Ride today.

We've been trying to book it for a little over two weeks and its been frustrating for everyone, my employer included. Its a fairly short season already and to be limited to freight runs and tagging along for empty legs has me feeling a little less than useful at some points.

But that's all out of the way as of this morning, I passed my PPC ride and can now fly the C337, aka The Push/Pull as pilot-in-command for both passengers and freight runs. admittedly, the work that they have for this plane is somewhat less than the Caravan, however, with my training and flight test out of the way on the C337, its on to the Caravan training now.

It's kind of funny in some respects, as the C208 Caravan only requires that I be trained to a PCC standard and no PPC ride is required to act as PIC with passengers under Day VFR.

Funny, because in my mind, the Caravan is a more complicated aircraft, is larger, and being on amphibious floats, has a couple more features that require some training on.

I'll back it up a little for the non-aviation folks reading along.

A PPC is a Pilot Proficiency Check. Its a Flight Test ( A " Ride ", abbreviated slang for CheckRide ), conducted by either a Transport Canada Inspector or an Authorized Check Pilot. In larger companies, you may have one of your own pilots conducting the Ride as an ACP, but for most people ( I think ), you'll consult the list of available ACP's in your area and work your way through the list till you find one who is available and qualified for the particular ride you are after. Quite often, the person will be an employee of one of your competitors.

I don't know if it happens or not ,but I suspect, that one might be a little hesitant to look at ACP's in your immediate locale, as they will be your competitor and the perception of bias would be hard to avoid... I'm sure 99% of them are objective and fair, but I can't help but think the perception might be enough..

A PPC is sort of like a license for a particular aircraft, but not quite a type rating. If you hold a valid PPC, say, for the Space Shuttle, you could, in theory, go over to the other Space Shuttle operators in your neighborhood and get a job with them. The fact that you have passed aircraft-specific training and a flight test, allows them to greatly abbreviate your training program and save a bucket load of money.

So... side-note here but worth mentioning, it would appear that some pilots, hell-bent on career progression, would abuse this process and have Company A train them, get their PPC and promptly quit to go work for Company B, now that Company B will actually deign to return their calls hiring them will save them thousands ( I'm not even joking here.. ) of dollars in training.

If you read AvCanada, you would come to the conclusion that this is the rule rather than the exception that I suspect it is. Perhaps I'm an optimist, but I tend to take things from that site more than a sprinkling or too of salt...

Because of the above, some companies have started demanding new-hires undertake a " bond " to ensure they stick around long enough to make training them worthwhile, or even have them cough up cash up front upon being hired and having it repaid to them slowly over the length of their indentured servitude.

In any case, that's a PPC, a notation on your license that says you can carry passengers, for hire, in a specific ( usually multi-engine ) aircraft, for hire.

A PCC, on the other hand is a Pilot Competency Check. Semantics you might think, but substantially less stringent training protocols and the flight test is usually at the end of your training where instead of sending you off to a date with a transport Canada Inspector for a flight test, the chief pilot fills out a piece of paper and says, ok, you're good to go. No Flight test, per se, although I'm sure most do a test of sorts. But mostly, training you to competency and then signing you off.

A PCC is non-transferable in the way a PPC is. If you walk over to a competitor, they still have to do all the same training to issue you a company-specific PCC, there is little advantage to hiring someone with a PCC. ( Other than the fact that they probably have some experience )

Most single engine aircraft do not not require a PPC, only a PCC, to fly under Day VFR conditions with passengers.

Enter the C208 Caravan. Legally, a single-engine plane. Although much larger than the little multi-engined C337. Turbine to boot as well, which is actually quite nice to operate. I guess easier too as well in most respects, but like engine heating/cooling for piston engined aircraft, a turbine has its own gotcha's that need to be monitored and handled as well.

In my mind, a much larger, more complicated aircraft. But legally, I've already done the hard part on the little C337. In theory, the training for the PCC on the Caravan, should be easier, if you read into it the apparent spirit of the regulations, having assigned it the less stringent regimen of PCC training instead of PPC.

My employer says I have it wrong, the Caravan is a much easier plane with much more docile handling attributes, is simple to operate and " just a big 172 ". I agree with him in some respects, my flying experiences on it so for, about a half dozen hours, have been pretty surprisingly easy. Hard to get over the size of the thing though, up a dozen feet in the air on the amphibious floats.

Even in the cockpit, the thing is big. Your own seat with plenty of legroom, no shoulder rubbing with your copilot and your own heating, ventilation, controls, instruments and even your own door, haha.

Amphibious, because it has floats that have a set of retractable landing gear hidden up inside them, allowing you to retract the wheels and land it on water as a float plane, or extend them and land on a runway. This part I like. Lots of water around here and very few runways, the floats definitely give you a few more options in the event of.

Anyhow, back to my story...

So we finally nail down an ACP to do my ride, it was booked a few days ago for early this monring in another town, about an hour and a bit flight away.

Two days of refreshing my head with the book stuff and I think there was a flight as well that I went along on for the empty leg home to keep fresh on flying the thing.

Up early this morning and I made myself eat breakfast, even though I often skip breakfast, particularly feeling a little nervous as I did this morning.

Not that the flight test was a " jeopardy event ", with failure bringing and immediate end to my employment, but the time, expense and delay in getting this test arranged was fairly substantial for my employer. To go home, do some remedial training, rebook and go back to do another one would be...uneconomical at best and a complete waste of time at worst, given the short length of the busy season up here.

Gather up all my current charts, maps and supplements. Check the plane out from head to toe and fuel it up and top off the oil. Double check I have all my training records, license, medical, lucky troll doll and am wearing clean underwear.

Check, check and roger that.

I did up and printed off a copy of our Operational Flight Plan ( OFP ) as it has navigation details, weight and balance information, fuel calculations, time enroute and a few other details. I'm hoping that if I am asked to do a Navigation Exercise, like planning a simulated trip with a simulated cargo/passenger load, I can forstall the drudgery of going through all the calculation minutiae by showing the examiner how we can simply and easily do it all with a spreadsheet, instead of a #2 pencil, a wizwheel a bunch of charts, graphs and performance calculations.

I know this sounds lazy, but here's the deal.

I know my aircraft can perform suitably well, tolerably even, with as little as 2000 feet of runway, fully loaded and a warm day.


If I get sent somewhere that has 5000 feet of hard-surfaced runways to pick up one guy and the temperature isnt anything crazy... I probably will not get out the performance charts and graph it all out.

If the runway was 1500 feet, sure, you bet.

If it was 30 degrees out, yeah, absolutely.

Same goes for the navigation log. If I'm doing the same trip over and over to the same place, I know how long it takes. I know how much fuel I expect to burn. I know the track distance between a few major landmarks, and if my GPS went T/U, I could pull off a groundspeed check without too much trouble.

Block fuel burns and standard power settings eliminate the need for a lot of the foo-far-ah as well. I can calculate them in my head, revise as is necessary.

It was all a moot point however, as the examiner wasn't interested in much of that stuff at all.

The ground portion was an oral exam on the aircraft itself and our companies operations manual and company-specific policies and procedures. I knew the majority of the aircraft stuff off the top of my head, but looked up two items in the book ( I'm allowed to do that ) that I had even the slightest doubt about.

A couple quick calculations to show I actually knew how to use the performance charts and we were off for the air portion.

Again, this was mostly demonstrating proficiency with this specific aircraft. Little time was wasted on testing me on things that frankly, I have already been tested on, several times.

I made a couple errors, notably;

In my steep turns, I gained a bit of airspeed on the first one and my altitude control was sloppy in the second. I eyeballed a power increase for the first steep turn purely out of habit. I've had no trouble with steep turns, even up to 360 degrees around with little or no power increase and losing negligible airspeed, with this airplane.

On the altitude, I was a bit flustered by what looked like a fatal 10 mph airspeed increase on the first one that I sloppily dove into the second one, starting out 50 feet higher than I should been.

Then the Single-engine overshoot, that is, a simulated approach to landing, conducted at altitude, the examiner calls for an overshoot or go-around at a couple hundred feet above your simulated runway altitude and then fails an engine mid-overshoot, close to the ground. I managed to get the engine failure and feathering drill down in a timely fashion, but let my airspeed increase away from best-rate and ended up leveling off at a pretty low altitude while I got the engine feathered and then noticed I wasn't climbing due to wasting airspeed on forward motion instead of using it to climb my wounded bird away from the simulated trees. I got it done within limits, barely.

A couple other small items and the examiner commented that the ride was well done and I had passed.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable I felt with the ride and the lack of busy-work, that, as I mentioned before, I have already been tested on and could do again if required, but were not all that applicable to an aircraft-specific proficiency check.

All of this being done during the " Debrief " session after the flight of course. Or as my Chief Pilot who sat in on the debrief called it " the ass-reaming ".

I flew us home and that was that. Glad that's out of the way, looking forward to heading out on my own for a few trips now.

We have a " Court Party " trip tomorrow, where we fly an entire courtroom, judge, prosecutor, crown defender, sheriff and court stenographer out to a remote community to conduct a few trials in the local community hall.

In the afternoon, we get started on a large project freight-haul where have a dozen or more loads staged in our yard for transport to another remote community. A good chunk of the load is steel plates that are stupid-heavy and a full load will look comical, being just a single inch-thick layer on the floor of the plane. The plane will look completely empty at maximum gross weight. These will be in the caravan so hopefully I'll get some stick time towards my PCC training over the next week as well.

Sorry I am not able to post much for pictures these days. My internet connection is limited to tethering my PC to my iphone and piggybacking on the 3G signal. Fine for internet browsing, but uploading and downloading things are incredibly slow and frequently crash or time-out.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Fathers Day

Fathers day today, first one for me as a new Dad. A little melancholy as I'm away from my baby girl and my Lovely Wife. My wife made a great little video for me with TWO wearing an I (Heart) Daddy shirt and we had a nice little chat this morning.

Also a little melancholy as my own Father passed away a few years ago and I'm sure he'd find my present situation entertaining as well. I was actually born not too far from where I am presently employed, up here in Canada's north. During the couple years before and after my birth, he made the trip up here to find work. He was most definitely of the "enlightened" generation, to put it delicately and I always thought it a strange place to go to find work back in the sixties and seventies. He ended up mostly driving a cab, but made at least one foray back here a few years after my birth to do it again and make some income. I guess cab driving paid fairly well back then, who knows.

It was always an interesting conversation point when I was a kid, as to where I was born. Even though we moved away when I was only a few months old, I used to use my birthplace as a bit of a badge of uniqueness. Not so unique now, EVERYONE here is born where I was born...haha.

Was a day off for me as well, as it seems most sundays are around here. More because we dont have a lot of work on sundays than anything else.

First I thought I might go hit up the driving range and hit a bucket of balls. I realized its probably been almost two years since I swung a club. Not that I was any good to begin with, but I'm not going to get any better by not golfing.

I enjoy golfing in much the same way as I do fishing. Its a reasonable excuse to get outside and enjoy the outdoors for a long period of time. If I simply walked back and forth in a park for three hours, people might think it a little odd, same as if I sat on a riverbank and stared at the water for three hours. Luckily, all I have to do is swing a club at a little tiny ball and then go looking for it in the bushes for three hours and people think thats entirely acceptable.

I did in fact, change my mind and went fishing instead. There are a ton of places around here to go fishing, but everyone keeps telling me to go to the same spot. Every time I've been to that spot as well, theres always four or five other people there as well. I've tried a few other spots, with limited success, but have always found good results at "the spot". Not a bad location either, just off the end of the runway. Got to watch the water tankers and bird dogs take off and land a couple times too. Oddly, downwind as well....( the plane in the picture is back-tracking and about to turn downwind for the takeoff. )

Apologies for the crap quality, its an iphone picture, at full zoom, but I was trying to get a shot with the windsock as well.

I'll always remember one of my instructors telling me how she remembered which direction the windsock was indicating. That was, The Tail of the sock, is where you want your tail to be. So the direction it is "pointing", where the pointy end is, is where you want your tail to be pointed. Sounds silly, but it stuck.

Actually, thats kind of funny too, I've met quite a few people over the years who misunderstand the whole taking-off-into-the-wind thing. Non-pilots of course and not an indication of their intelligence, but just kind of a funny assumption that your average person has about how an aircraft and a wing works.

For the non-pilots, we take off into wind as the wing of an aircraft does not give a hoot about the ground beneath it. To the wing, the ground does not exist. It exists only in its own medium, the air. The wing creates lift due to the airflow over it. How it gets that airflow, it also doesnt GARA where it comes from. You could design a giant hand to launch it, a-la paper airplane, you could lead it around by another aircraft that had an enormous fan mounted on it to blow air over its wings, or you could strap a couple engines to it and propel a large mass of air backwards creating a newtonian reaction of forward thrust. All of which are perfectly acceptable, only one of which is actually used, so far. ( there are other ways, like throwing kerosene into a tube with a little fan in it that spins at insane speeds and then light it on fire, but thats another story )

In any case, if an airplane is sitting stationary on the ground and a 10 mph wind is blowing on it ( from the front ), the wing thinks its moving through the air at 10 mph...becuase it is. Its not moving over the ground at 10mph, but remember, the wing doesn't care about the ground, its all about the air.

So, if your wing needs 100mph to generate enough lift to get the rest of the airplane off the ground, then you only need to generate 90 mph of forward motion with the engine(s) if you have a 10mph headwind. The opposite is true for a tailwind, you will need to go 110 mph (on the ground )to get that same 100mph relative airflow over the wing.

This all changes once you are actually in the air, but thats another story too.

In any case, I watched, curious, as the giant aircraft took off, with a tailwind. I think they were on a training flight as they returned pretty quickly, so who knows, maybe there was an operational reason.

It could also be that the tail wind was of little concern to them versus other concerns. Occasionally you might take off downwind as there are obstacles on the into wind end of the runway. Or noise-sensitive areas, or traffic considerations, or any number of other reasons that might necessitate a decision to take off downwind. Particularly if the wind was a minor wind to begin with. Not judging, just noted with curiosity at the time.

I remember too at one point when I first started flying, and noting that the winds aloft can be routinely 40 Kmh at even low altitudes, why do those little fluffy clouds not get ripped apart by the howling windstorm going on up there?? Why do they float along and rarely seem disturbed by all this commotion?

It was explained to me once and it always stuck with me. If you are floating down a river in a Canoe, just hanging out and having a cold beverage, letting the current whip you downstream at 10 mph, its not too crazy. If you look at the shore, its really cruising by, but if you ( irresponsibly, shame on you ) throw your cold beverage can in the river, it will float alongside you peaceful as can be. Like the wing, it GARA what the ground ( shore ) is doing ,while it is in its own medium, doing its own thing. Its all relative.

Did some emergency procedure and single-engine maneuvering training in the push/pull yesterday as well. With one engine out, its actually quite a nice little plane to handle.

Unlike the conventional twin, there is no yaw or controllability issue, only a loss of power. In fact, it can be tricky to determine which engine has done the failing...

In a conventional twin, its usually fairly obvious, the nose is pulling hard to one side and you have to actively work at it to keep it straight with the rudder. The lack of activity on one foot/rudder pedal tells you that is is the side generating zero-thrust. Dead Foot = Dead Engine.

You can check the engine instruments in a conventional twin and they will give you some indication, but they can be a little too subtle. Since the engine is still turning,( because the propeller is spinning in the relative airflow ), the oil pressure might still be up ( ish ) and the engine is still fulfilling its duties as an air pump, so the manifold pressure will not change very much, the alternator might still be generating some electricity, the vacuum pump might still be pumping vacuum. But the prop isn't generating thrust, its actually generating drag, using that relative air to turn the engine. And turning that dead engine is a lot of work. Work that your good engine is now doing and you'd rather dedicate to other tasks, like keeping you in the air.

On the push/pull, since there is no adverse yaw ( that pulling-to-one-side ), the best indicators are the fuel flow gauge and the propeller RPM. The fuel flow gauge is the better of the two as a failed engine eats no fuel, so one engine will register zero fuel flow. ( I know, I'm glossing over partial-power-loss, bear with me )The RPM gauge will still indicate something as the propeller is still spinning, but it should be less than the operating engine. In our training, it was about 300 RPM lower, which isn't much and requires a concerted "look" at the gauge, a glance could easily miss the difference.

That wrapped up my training flights on this aircraft as well, next stop is PPC ride and then I can fly passengers for hire. All I have to do is pass...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Flying in the North

I wanted to call this, "flying in the arctic ", but then I started thinking it might be a bit pretentious. We didn't really go all THAT far north and frankly, there were still trees around, so I'm not sure it really counts as The Arctic.

It was however, my first time flying into the Northern Domestic Airspace.

Canada of course, is separated into several different types of Airspace and Air Traffic Control Areas. Blanket "Airspace" separations are the Southern Domestic and Northern Domestic varieties. Control Areas are Southern, Northern and Arctic.

The Airspace delineations are primarily due to the different type of navigation required in each. In the Southern, you use Magnetic Tracks and in the North, due to the proximity to the Magnetic north Pole, you use only True Tracks. The Control Area delineations are a little different, but have more to do with how IFR traffic is handled and who handles it. Arctic and Northern control areas see a lot of trans-polar long-haul flights that use our airspace due to great-circle routing between the USA and Europe/Asia.

In the picture above, the airplane is sitting on a small pad of concrete at an otherwise gravel/dirt runway and airport ramp. These are important, as it allows us to start up the engine and/or run it up, without sucking up rocks and beating our poor props to death. Once the aircraft is moving, most of the rocks that get sucked up, go back wards, but while stationary, they tend to take chunks out of the props. The pad should be swept off with a broom if there are rocks on it, but generally they are relatively clean.

In any case, our mission was to take a couple of Power Co. employees up to two different communities so they could do some testing of the local power distribution systems. Specifically, they had a special video camera that sensed heat and they had to take some film of every pole-mounted transformer in these communities. Apparently, when these things develop issues, they give off heat, so they can fix them before they pop. In the words of one of the technicians, " any electrical system having problems, will let you know by giving off heat. "

First leg was about 250 statute miles north and took us over/near the Yellowknife control zone. I talked to them on the radio and let them know we were there as a courtesy and was glad I did. There were several aircraft up in the area doing training flights and one of them was pretty close to us. I think it was a king-air and they were doing IFR training. Most likely, head-down and at high speed.

They weren't in the control zone, so had stopped talking to the tower and tower passed us their callsign and suggested we advise on 126.7 our position. We did, with no response, but stayed with Tower and they kept an eye on things and eventually let us know it looked like they were leaving the area and we could relax. Thats not really what he said, but thats what he meant.

Onto our first community and we held for about an hour and a half in the little airport building. Its actually pretty impressive, considering this town probably has a little over a hundred occupants.

Not much to do here, other than chat, read old fashion magazines littered around the terminal and go poke around and look at an old airplane that was derelict out in the back patch.

I thought it remarkable that this airplane was sitting there for so long and didn't look like it had been too badly vandalized or otherwise abused. I surmised it might have been because of this ancient sticker in the back window, threatening EVEN DEATH for such malfeasance.

Story was that the airplane had an accident here 12 or 15 years ago and had sat here ever since. Either the owner was offered an insurance pay-out to write it off and he accepted, or it had no insurance and the costs to fix it were not worth it.

If the insurance company did pay out on it, then they too decided it wasn't worth doing anything about either and there it sits. Considering what even small aircraft components are worth in their parts values, I'm surprised the insurance company didn't mount some kind of salvage operation. Even if it was to go in there and disassemble the thing, strip it for the most valuable parts and leave the rest.

The techs had a cab pre-arranged to take them into town, which was about three miles from the airport. We overheard the cab driver quoting them 50 bucks a head for the ride, so we decided it wasn't worth tagging along into town.

View from the airport, looking over the bay towards town.

They were only gone for about an hour and half and we loaded back up and blasted off for our next destination. This leg was a bit longer, at almost 350 statute miles.

Had to go around once at the next one as the strip is a little on the short-ish side ( 2000 feet ) and the approach was fudged a little, with a missed touchdown mark and too much speed. Next one was better and we held there for a little over an hour and half as well as the techs did their thing in town.

After that, we had to make a quick hop over to a nearby town ( 90 miles ) to fuel up before we made the final leg back home ( 190 miles ).

At the fuel stop, we fueled up quickly, with one eye kept on an approaching thunderstorm. Just after we finished, the Chief Pilot who was with me, got called into the terminal building and I let the guys know that if this delay was more than 5 minutes, that we would most likely be delayed, waiting for the storm to pass. He was out in less than a minute and we blasted off, leaving the approaching storm behind.

We actually were dodging thunderstorms for most of the second half of the trip, but they were easy to spot and we gave them a wide berth.

Back at base and its put the airplane to bed and do the paperwork for the flight. Almost 6 hours of flying!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On The Road Again

Well, I finally arrived in my new summer home. I left Vancouver on Monday morning at 0700 and arrived in the north around suppertime on Tuesday.

The first day actually started a few days ago with packing, sorting, cleaning and taking care of all manner of tasks before flying the coop for the summer.

This morning came early with my little girl deciding to get up a full hour before her usual rousing time. Perhaps she was as nervous as me. Unfortunately drinking a bottle of milk worked for her, but not me.

I switched cars with the wife and packed most of my stuff last night, to save ten trips to the parkade at 0600. I usually drive the nicer of our two cars, as I spend considerably more time on the road with my daily commute. For this trip , I took the "other" car. I want to call it our Beater, but it is actually the same year as the "good" car and was almost given to us by a relative, so don't want to risk offending anyone....

The 500 of the 1000 kilometres I drove today were very nice. Other than some fuzziness out the windshield due to what I suspect were my " allergies " acting up on departing my wife and daughter this morning, things were very pleasant. Some early clouds at 0700 leaving home turned to sunshine by 1000.

Just before Jasper, the Check Engine light came on in the car.


Quick pit stop to check things out and everything that could be checked was normal. Engine wasn’t running hot or anything, all fluids were good and no performance change in the engine. I’m chalking it up to some weird better-get-a-dealer-to-do-an-oil-change timer that needed resetting or a sensor issue. The car lived all of its life down on the coast, so maybe it didn’t like the altitudes I was driving at…who knows. We got the car from a relative for 500 bucks, so it was pretty much a gift. If it had to end its days behind some garage in Blue River while I carried on the trip on the greyhound, so be it.

I also noticed the windshield wipers were pretty badly worn so I picked up a new one in Jasper. Yup, ONE new one. I’m that cheap.

Google maps had me turning off the yellow head highway just before Hinton, but I was considering stopping for the night and figured Hinton would have a little more to choose from in the way of cheap motels then the alternatives up the road. I disobeyed Mssrs. Brin and Page and carried on into Hinton. After fuelling up the car and my belly, I noticed I had a wifi signal in the parking lot of the gas station so took a few minutes to check out the interweb. I was actually getting a little road-weary and was hoping to download an audio-book to keep me entertained for a few hours. I checked the app store and it was mostly Christian audio books and a few old classics, like Tom Sawyer and Sherlock Holmes. The wifi signal wasn’t that great and they were fairly large files, so I skipped it. While rechecking the route on google, it now had me going an altogether different route now that I had gone 20 miles past the original turnoff it had commanded.

The new route had a few more sizable towns and frankly looked a little more direct. Interesting. I also noted that I wasn’t nearly as far into the trip as I thought. I figured Hinton would be at least half-way, but no such luck. If I stopped there, after twelve hours of driving, the next day would be at minimum 14 hours more. There was plenty of daylight left, so I pressed on for Whitecourt.

Whitecourt had me in a cheap motel, The Ritz. I was a little skeptical as there was a pub attached to the Motel, but luckily Monday night wasn’t party time in Whitecourt, so I got a quiet night.

I did have a few concerns about finding a room on the way up. I’ve been through Alberta before and have come across towns that are booked solid with oil workers. Every motel is booked up by 2 pm and any rooms available are double what you would expect to pay.

While I was checking in at the Ritz, another fellow was also checking in and the clerk read him out a 400 dollar-plus bill. My turn came and I asked if there were any rooms available, he replied “ yes, fill this out please :, handing me a check in slip and quickly moving on to the next customer waiting in line before I could ask the rate. I filled out the slip waiting for the other shoe to drop and me having to hand it back over and go sleep in the car. 75 Bucks. Sweet!

Next morning it was greasy spoon breakfast and back on the road. From Jasper on, the highways got progressively smaller and smaller.

At Peace River, I called up to my new employer and checked in so they would know when to expect me in town. A last minute stop to pick up a few things and then the final stretch.

From Peace River north, the highway got quite a bit smaller, but also a lot straighter as well. In fact, there wasn’t much for turns from that point on till the NWT border. Those turns that were there were the same diameter and radius. If you looked at them from an aerial view, I’m pretty sure they made up the two 90 degree corners on a full-section of land, where the highway had to bend around developed farmland.

At the NWT border, I was awaiting the giant sign to take some pictures of my first foray North of 60 since I was a baby. Pulling into the little pull out, I noticed two cars pulling in behind me. As I rooted around in my bag for my camera and a drink, I caught a glimpse of the two guys getting out of the cars and noticed they looked young, white and excited. In the back of my mind I thought, I bet these guys are doing the same thing up here as me.

Sure enough, they were two recent flight college grads moving up North to take ramp jobs with two large air carriers up here. We chatted for awhile and took each others pictures under the big sign. They mentioned they were going to be looking for a place to stay in the town where I was headed, but I was still a little unsure about my accommodations to offer a place to crash. Plus, showing up to my new employers with guests in tow, probably wouldn’t have made the best first impression.

I stopped at a waterfall for a quick peek and they passed me by. I decided if I saw them in town, I’d get a phone number from them and give them a quick call after checking in, to see if it was OK to offer them a place to crash. I didn’t see them again and ended up visiting for awhile anyways, so it was a moot point. I felt bad turning down an opportunity to help these guys out, you never know when connections like these can come in handy…

I gave my new Co. a call when I got into town and was directed out to the hangar at the airport to come and meet everybody. Very nice people, and a nice little setup. I got the tour of the operation and of my new home for the summer.

Voila. Casa Mia.

Its actually quite a nice little setup. I have a great big double bed, a couch and a kitchen table. A microwave, and Oven, a Stove and a fridge/freezer. I was worried that the fridge/freezer would be beer-fridge sized and necessitating buying food in tiny little batches, but it is actually quite ample.
Everything had been cleaned out for me and stocked with all the basics, dishes, linens, cutlery, towels, bedding, toaster, pots and pans.

They took me out for dinner that first night, so I forwent grocery shopping till the next day. Day after that was actually a hockey-game night, so I went over to a coworkers place to watch the game and ended up eating there as well. The night after that, it was over to the bosses place for dinner. So, havent actually done much in the way of cooking. In fact, I think the only supper I’ve actually cooked so far was a soup and sandwich affair.

Didn’t realize it, but we actually have 24 hour daylight up here right now. I kind of thought you had to be a little further north to get this, but I was wrong. Technically, the sun sets, but its more of a twilight, with the sun just below the horizon for an hour or two from like 0130 till 0330. During that time it just looks like a really long sunset, turning to a sunrise. It threw me for a little loop the first few nights, as I’d wake up in the middle of the night and check my watch, thinking it was 6 or 7 by the light, and it turned out to be 3 or 4 in the morning. Hasn’t bothered me so far, but everyone keeps saying that it will. We’ll see.

This is about as dark as it gets.

First few days were a flurry of studying company and aircraft documents and writing all the exams to satisfy my training. In between, I went out with them on a few runs and got to get acquainted with the aircraft. Day one had me “flying” the kingair on a little two hour-return flight and later that afternoon the Caravan.

As I’m not formally trained (yet) on these aircraft, it’s not really “flying” in the legal, loggable, sense or even training, but it was quite a nice surprise to get a couple takeoffs and landings along with the usual straight-and-level orientation flying.

A couple days later it was wrapping up my ground training on the aircraft I will be doing my ride on and the one I will be doing most of my flying in, the Cessna 337 Skymaster.

Behold, “Snoopy”.

The skymaster or 337, is a little bit of an odd aircraft. Its one of very few push-pull configuration twin-engine aircraft in existence that I know of. In fact, there is a special class of Instrument Rating that you get that is pretty much specific to this aircraft only.

You can get a Group 3 IFR, which covers all single-engine airplanes and a Group 1 which covers all ( conventional ) twin-engine airplanes and a Group 2 for this bad boy, specific to this aircraft only. Technically its good for all “ Centre Line Thrust Multi Engine Aircraft “. Of which, I only know of this one.

Technically, the Group 2 also allows me to fly any Group 3 aircraft as well.

In order to carry passengers for hire, I also have to do a Transport Canada flight test or “ ride “ to get what is called a PPC, a Pilot Proficiency Check. Coincidentally, the PPC will also act as an IFR flight test, renewing an existing rating or giving me initial qualification, provided all other requirements are met. I have all the other requirements done, so hopefully over the next few weeks, I will have a fresh instrument rating on my license. There is still the possibility that they will only be doing a VFR PPC for me, as that is 99% of the flying I will be doing, but they said they will try and arrange for me to do an IFR one if they feel I have a reasonable chance of success at challenging it.

So, after finishing off the ground stuff on this aircraft, it was flight training time. Me and the Chief Pilot went out for an hour of my mandated flight training and did a little instrument work, some steep turns, stalls clean and dirty and then back to the airport for some circuits. I got some good feedback from the Chief, who had bucket loads of experience flying up here and in taking in new guys like myself for their first jobs. It’s a different world out here than the one you get introduced to in the flight school universe.

The Caravan and King air flights were also my first time flying a turbine powered aircraft. The Caravan being a single engine and the King air having two turbine engines hanging off the wings.

A few major differences, but the basics are still the same. Set Engine power output, match prop RPM to give you the desired performance. Monitor key temperatures and pressures and don’t exceed key limits.

The KingAir is a pretty sweet machine. Lots of technology and a lot faster than anything I’ve flown before. Very responsive as well and quite a treat to handle.

Got to go to a local fishing lodge as well to run in supplies for them. This is very familiar to me…drums of fuel, groceries and propane.

We were also told that on one run we would picking up two girls who were coming out of the camp. Since they hadn’t even had their first guest yet and these workers were just up there doing all the season-opening chores of opening up a lodge, it’s a bit unusual to be bringing people out.

The story we got when we were loading back up to leave, was that one of them had a family member in the hospital and the other simply didn’t want to stay for the rest of the season without her friend. I wasn’t buying the hospital story for a minute. I think the truth was that they had no idea what they had gotten themselves into and were bailing.

Back at base we phoned a cab for them to go back into town. Getting into the cab one of the girls asked us, “ where’s a good place to stay for the night in town, where we can drink? “.

Hmm. Yeah, or go to the hospital to visit your dying great-uncle.

Friday, June 3, 2011

North of 60

Sorry I haven't posted lately, small issue with interweb connectivity. Issue being I don't have any yet.

I have packed up and moved north for the summer and arrived at my new summer abode a few days ago..

I'm now living in a trailer out behind the Hangar of a small charter airline in the north . Trailer sounds bad, but it's not, it's actually quite cozy and fully equipped.

I'm surrounded, literally, by some of the coolest airplanes still flying today. Without giving it away, most of these aircraft are recent television personalities.

I'm also knee deep in company training and exams. I finished my multi engine rating a few weeks before heading out on the road and also completed allof the legal requirements for my IFR rating as well. The only thing I need to complete my IFR is a flight test, which will be satisfied by a PPC ride in the aircraft I am slated to do most of my flying this summer in. It remains to be seen how much flying that will be, but the people I am working for are fantastic and have been very up front and honest with me about the whole thing. I am also getting trained on two other aircraft which are substantially larger than anything I've flown to date and both are turbine machines as well.

I'd love to post more details, but I'm typing this on my iPhone and it's not easy. Hopefully I have a decent connection within the next few days or so.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tick Tock Tick Tock

Wow, I certainly am feeling the hours and minutes as they pass between between my toes these days.

Two weeks now till I get in the car and point it North.

Yesterday morning was D-Day down at Transport Canada as I went in at 0900 and sat down to the first of two exams, back to back.

The first one I've been studying for over the last five months in between work, raising a newborn and surfing the internet, reading pilot-blogs. The second one, not quite as much. The first exam is for my Instrument Rating, the INRAT exam. I printed off a copy of the study and reference guide from Transports website and have worked my way down the list of recommended reading material and exam topics.

If TC wrote a written exam for driving a car, for example, the study guide might say something like " Steering Pinion Torque Sensing " and after dutifully studying steering design for thirty-some odd hours including the full engineering history, design and practical operation, you would get one of the two following questions:

If turning to the right, the control wheel should be rotated in which direction?

A.) Clockwise
B.) Counter-Clockwise
C.) Both
D.) Up

And you would sigh about all that brain space dedicated to the knowledge of the brothers Rack and their French competitors, the Pinion freres and their ground breaking work in the field of vehicle steering.

Or, you get one of these;

If the Over-Limit stops on the starboard side of the steering Rack are engaged, what is maximum pressure allowed in the hydraulic fluid bypass orifice before the hydraulic pump reverts to the standby mode?

A.) 6
B.) 42
C.) Clockwise
D.) Up

And it all becomes worthwhile....

Anyhow, I passed the INRAT with a respectable score. I felt I got a fair mix of questions type one and two as above and my " knowing " of the answers before seeing the choices was pretty accurately matched by my final score. Sometimes with multiple choice exams, you know you were guessing on lets say, 25% of the questions, you had no real clue as the correct answer, yet you got an 85% mark.... I got 4 questions wrong in the end and two of them, I knew were wording issues that could have been interpreted two different ways ( and of course those answers were represented among the available choices.. ).

The other two, were part of a larger series of say a half dozen related questions, and I'm not sure which ones I got wrong. They don't tell you specific questions you got wrong, only give you a generic area of knowledge that you need to study on. Its so awesome when the back of the exam sheets says you need remedial study on " The Atmosphere. " or " Aerodynamics, Flight ".


Anyhow.... The other exam, was the IATRA. I think it used to stand for Intermediate aircraft Type Rating or something along those lines. Apparently it doesn't stand for anything anymore, but they kept the acronym as it was catchy. I concur.

I looked at the study guide for this one about the same time I started the course about five months ago and noted that it had a lot of similarities to the INRAT and those areas where it differed were actually very similar to the Flight Dispatcher exams I wrote a couple years ago. I planned on writing this one at some point, just not at the same time, or under the gun time-wise. I didn't look at the study guide again, to avoid getting distressed about being woefully unprepared, as I simply didn't have the time to study for it, so it was a moot point.

Even so, I scored fairly well on it at the end of the day. I did however notice a differential in the ratio of Questions-Known to Questions-Guessed and the multiple choice format gave me a few extra points for being able to successfully pick a letter out of four possible choices.

So, those hurdles are down, and they were weighing fairly heavily on me. Pooch either of those exams and I would be re-writing them on the day before I am scheduled to leave. Do the unthinkable and fail them a second time and I'd be kissing this job goodbye, as there would be a 30-day wait till a third try would be allowed.

Back in the Simulator today to brush up on a couple of things, the last sim session I will probably do. As my instructor pointed out to me, hopefully the last sim session that I have to pay for, hopefully, in my career. If there were any more for me in the future, they would/should be paid for by the employer.

I'm glad to be rid of that thing now too. In the beginning, I loved it for the savings versus trying to learn some of the IFR stuff in the aircraft with that insane meter spinning like crazy... But, I've had a hell of a time controlling the sim during the engine-failure-under-IFR portion. During these sessions, one of the simulated engines on the simulated multi-engine plane is failed during a flight where all reference is by instruments only ( ie in cloud ). In the real aircraft the nose yaws noticeably over to one side, but is controlled by the rudder and bank angle with pretty authoritative result. There is also all kinds of feedback in the controls and the aircraft itself to guide you through it as well.

In the sim, she simply pulls hard over and tries to roll over on her back. I get stuck trying to wrestle it back under some semblance of control and usually end up doing a poor job of the engine feather part because I know that feathering the prop probably wont change the outcome of the flight if its done while inverted.

This is a picture of a coal-fired power plant out in the prairies. I found it neat that it created its own little fog/cloud bank over the discharge pond/slough where the hot water is ejected after the steam turns the power turbine. If you look closely too, you can clearly see the the piles of coal where they get stockpiled and then hauled to the plant by truck.

More drama with the last push to get things wrapped up before the end of the month, but the list of Must-Have-Done things is shrinking quickly, while the list of hmm-that-might-be-a-good-idea continues to grow.

I have two more IFR Cross-country flights to do, booked in for next weekend. One of them has to be 100nm in length and the other is just a training flight to a couple local airports to do a few different types of approaches and sample some of the airspace around here.

One big shopping day has to get done at some point. I've been growing a list of stuff I need for the new neighbourhood, mostly decent outdoor clothing and a few household items for the summer abode.

I need to cancel my car insurance once i arrive up North, as my employer is giving me the use of a small truck for the summer.

I need to pack up my computer and make sure I have a wireless receiver installed so I have internet access while up there. The XBox will probably stay home for this trip as I don't have a decent enough TV to play it on anyways and there is no way I'm showing up at my new job with a TV in the back seat of my car.

I need to get our good car tuned-up, cleaned up and oil-changed before the end of the month so it can be passed over to TLW. It is overdue for both the tune-up and the oil change, hasn't been vacuumed in a shameful amount of time and has recently developed a little rattle in the exhaust system at certain RPM's. I suspect a hangar is busted and needs a little work before it develops into something worse.

I need to get all my tax paperwork in order and either take it with me to finish electronically up there, or find time to do it here. I have a small amount of self-employment income, expenses and training expenses for my foray into freelance ultralight-instructing last summer and now we have a Dependant to add into the mix of income tax excitement.

There's lots more stuff to get done, and more seems to get added to the list everyday...strangely though, the amount of time I have left to get it accomplished seems to keep shrinking...almost daily it seems!

I'm throwing in some pictures I took during my trip up North-ish back in February to my self-invited interview for the other job. Mostly because I have no relevant pictures to add and I feel bad about that.

This was kind of funny. We had a fairly high-end car parked in one of our hangars while it awaited sale at an auction. This is pretty common, only the proletariat park their cars in "garages", the true elite hangar their rides.

Anyhow, I was assisting a flight crew off their aircraft and over to their hotel with one of our vans and while we waited for the last crew member to finish up on the plane, some of the others expressed an interest in the car they could see through the widow, so I gave them the 50-cent tour. One of them actually showed me a neat feature of this Rolls-Royce SomeThingOrOther. When the driver opens one of the rear doors for his or her passenger, their is a little button on the inside of the door-jamb that you press. Presto! out pops an umbrella, stored neatly in the doorframe. Sweet.

They asked whose it was and I replied jokingly that it probably belonged to a (ex) drug dealer as it was currently up for auction sale. We then peeked in the trunk and it was completely empty, except for a small brick-sized packed wrapped up in duct-tape and bubble-wrap in the middle of the trunk floor. Looking like a brick of contraband like you might have seen on Miami Vice... If you are that old that you know what Miami Vice is. Or that young that you know what gets wrapped in duct tape and bubble wrap in the truck of a (ex)drug dealers Rolls.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Big things are afoot....

Wow, a lot has happened over the last three weeks or so.

Pretty much every single " plan " that I had in store for this summer and ALL of my tenuous job leads or options, have changed or disappeared altogether.

TLW and I went out East to visit my mum and had a great time. I promise a post about this at some point in the future, but I'm a little short on free time at the moment... The Wee One had ZERO issues on the plane, in fact she passed out the moment the engines lit up on all four flights. Even the longest leg of almost 6 hours was no problem for her. Seatmates all around were pleased by this development, as were we.

Northern fueling / flying job disappeared into the fog of the employer simply never getting back to some point I wrote it off, and of course the next day they email to tell me they are posting the job opening and for me not to worry, I was still in the running. Phone call about two weeks later tells me, sorry, you are now, in fact, out of the running.

Skydive pilot job out east that they seemed quite eager to have me fly for them, also disappears with the owner telling me he will call me when he is in town so we can have an interview face-to-face. His trip dates come, no call. I email to remind him we were going to get together before he leaves town...leave-town date comes and goes without a reply and I still haven't heard back. No phone number for him as the drop-zone is closed for the season and he is still on the road...

Kinda got me thinking about meat-bombing, so I obsess on it for a few weeks and apply to pretty much ever drop zone in the country. Got a few replies, but nothing that looked liked it had any legs.

I learn that amongst skydiving types, a " Whuffo " is a derogatory term for a non-skydiving person, whose stereotypical question is along the lines of " Whuffo you wan jump outta dat a'plane? "

Then TLW wakes me up one morning.

" There is a phone call for you, some guy from the Northwest Territories, wake up. "

A brief phone interview ensues. I got the company name at the start of the call, while I was still waking up, and by the time I realized what was going on, I had forgotten it. It was now too far into the call to ask for it without sounding half-asleep, stupid, or both. Luckily, they have a very unique aircraft type and I CSI'd them and their website after the call.

Two days later, there is an arranged conference call with the CP and the guy who originally called me. The job is offered, accepted and start date set.

June 1st I'm outta here!!

I am going to try and keep things as confidential as I can, at least for awhile. If you know, or figure out, who I am working for, please keep it to yourself.

I'm packing up the car and heading north ( over 2000 kms north ) at the end of this month and have definite plans to be there for the summer and am hoping it turns into more.

TLW and TWO, will be staying down here, until we know if this will be a permanent or seasonal position, which I most likely will not know till late summer. It was hard last time I went away, more for TLW then it was for me as I simply had too little time to feel sorry for myself or my situation. This time, she's the one with the distractions and the preoccupation, and I'm the one who will be challenged.

I am playing ostrich with this one and trying not to talk or think too much about how much I am going to miss my girls.

But things are moving forward again and we both are EXTREMELY excited by this turn of events. Who knows if it will turn out to be a good thing or not, at least things are happening.

So, watch this space... The next couple of weeks will be an insane rush of finishing off the IFR training and getting ride-ready so I can do a PPC ride to complete my IFR. I need to write both the INRAT and IATRA exams in 5 days. Both to get it out of the way and also to ensure I have a chance to re-write if it comes to that, as there is a 14-day waiting period between a failed exam and the next rewrite.

I've been studying for 4 months, so I am hoping for a positive result.

So, if you've suffered through the last year or so of banality, spotty posting schedules and pathetic whining, stick around, things are about to get fun again...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

J is also for Just trying....

Totally off-topic, but a blog that I follow posted a story about a Paramedic down in California who was attacked after a baseball game in LA. He was wearing the "wrong" jersey apparently and is now in intensive care in an LA hospital.

There is a million sad stories like this playing out around the world, every minute of every day, even as we speak. Think about your situation, sitting on your computer reading this....can you compare or even convincingly empathize with someone in the intensive care waiting room, waiting for news of your father and his senseless injury or death?

You can't solve the worlds problems, but you can't turn away from them all either.

To donate, or to hear the full story, please click below.

If you can't donate, I bet you can tell this story or pass the link to at least two people in the next 24 hours....

It could be as easy as posting two paragraphs on your blog or cut-and-pasting the above onto your facebook status...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

J is for Job....

( I know, shameless, but if TLW can play dress-up with her, why can't I ? )

Ok, I'll admit it, I am pretty much stumped for a ramp-related entry that would fall under the letter J.

A couple of other bloggers who I follow have both posted recently on the subject of jobs, or lack thereof, and since I am furiously job-hunting as well, I thought I could stretch it into something. Since the whole point of doing the A-Z thing was really nothing more than a way to kick myself in the ass and actually churn out an entry or two now and then, I figure it fits the spirit, if not the letter of the law.

I'm a big fan of following blogs. I feel a little bit like I'm watching some sort of reality-show, but the realest kind. There's little in the way of editing and it all happens in relative real-time. In following along with someone, you build an idea of the " character " with tidbits of information picked up in their entries over a couple of years. As well as glimpses into their personality that they probably didn't even intend to impart, but as the "viewer" you get to see, regardless if they meant for you to see it or not.

In a reality show, they'd edit out the bits that didn't fit the character they are trying to portray, you only see exactly what they want you to see. In a blog, the blogger probably tries to do the same, but given the nature of your average bloggers post-production editing skills, you probably get a lot more.

There is also the aspect of the interaction, in a blog, you can ask a question after the "episode", in the comments section. You'll usually get a response as well, adding a whole nother layer to the experience.

Its actually easy to forget that these are REAL people, leading real lives.

Another Happy Customer - this one bought a MASSIVE gift basket as a thank-you gift for the FBO crew. Some seriously high end chocolates and all manner of exotic treats. Very classy!

Anyhow.... Both Dagny and Aviatrix, two aviation-blogging-action-figures whose entire seasons I have followed over the last four years or so, have both lamented on their dogged, but unsuccessful-to-date job searches. I might as well join in...

To really and truly complete the illusion that this is somehow related to working at an airport, I'm going to stretch the J is for Jobs connection by commenting on the fact that there usually are a lot of pilots hidden in the mix of baggage handlers, tug operators and other airport workers.

At the FBO where I work, I've personally seen two guys go from bag smasher to Multi-Turbine FO's in a little less than four years. One of them flies on a KingAir 350 doing the medevac thing and the other is sitting in the right seat of a Citation XLS. Albeit, the Jet-guy ( Citation XLS ) had a few years of instructing time to add to his credentials... I suspect that the KingAir-guy has probably surpassed him now, as they fly the living snot out of that machine...

I came across another blog the other day as well, worth checking out. Back story appears to be; local BC boy gets pilots license, smashes bags in YYZ for awhile, moves to Newfoundland to work as a dispatcher, buys camera, starts blog. Funnily enough, as the blog is not on blogger, I can't follow it with my usual methods, and it had me linking to my facebook page if I wanted to "follow". I did that, I like to get new entries from blogs I follow as-they-are-posted instead of catching up on them en masse, or worse, forgetting all about them.. Then I noticed on the facebook link that he is friends with two people I know from the airport out here...both pilots and ex bag-smashers as well.... haha.

Anyhow, when you finish flight school and you have little else to offer an employer than your meagre Transport Canada Minimum required hours, pretty much ANYTHING to do with an airport environment or an aircraft could be considered an additional skill. I'm kind of getting to the point though that I feel like I'm spending a little too-much time hanging out at the airport again and not getting on with getting on. I suppose you can chalk that up to basically taking a year-off to hatch our new family addition, but it starts to feel a little depressing watching people who were a year ahead of you at one point in a career progression be three years ahead of you now...

So, Plan A was to find gainful aviation employment for this summer. Originally, we were going to limit my searches to permanent, year-round, worth-moving-for opportunities. Didn't matter where and would most likely be somewhere of less than desirable locale... This plan sort-of hinged on my completing the MIFR well before spring. That isn't going to happen now. In fact, I would count myself lucky to have a Multi-Engine rating before I get my first sun-burn this year, at the rate things are going.

Between my schedule with work, The Wee One and The Lovely Wife's study schedules it was already going to be a stretch. Throw in an aircraft that has been down for maintenance for over a month now, and a solid month of absolute crap weather before that...well, you get the idea.

I've beat the hell out of the simulator in that time, skipping ahead to the IFR portion of the course while we waited for the Multi-Engine Aeroplane to rejoin the living. Good use of the time I suppose, but in light of some of the prospects for this summer, it might be a bit of a waste of time at this point.

Anyhow, Plan A started to look iffy at best, so we decided to open up the possibility of ANYTHING. Another season away working a seasonal position, a ground job that had prospects, ANYTHING.

So, I've been dutifully sending out emails and cover letters to all the contacts in my prospects list. Over the last two years, I've maintained the list, adding actual peoples names as they've replied and told me to PFO ( Please F%^&^ Off ) and a shorter list of people who have replied with even a hint of interest in my resume in the past.

Oh - side note. I looked up PFO to see if there was an actual abbreviation that had been bastardized or if it really existed in it's commonly understood form.

Turns out, PFO does actually mean Please F&*k Off and is common use, apparently even in some HR departments.

One other notable use of the acronym PFO was in British Emergency rooms, usedto classify a type of injury common on weekend evenings... Pissed, Fell Over. I'm not even making this up.

So anyhow, not too much in the way of results on the job front, but here's where I am;

Plan A.2

Ground job in a Northern Place. Company owns at least a half dozen aircraft and phone-interviewed me last year( I didn't get it last year ). I stayed in touch with a couple emails over the winter and a self-invited visit/interview to their facility in February. They've advertised the position, but emailed me before-hand to let me know I am still in the running, but they have to advertise the spot before they hold formal interviews and/or hire someone. I hold my chances at this one to be a little better than 50/50. I suspect I would be worth a lot more to them in the long-run with a MIFR and my lack thereof for this spring might hurt my chances. I do however have experience with the ground position duties and am qualified for their entry-level aircraft. In theory, as long as I got a MIFR in the first two years of working for them, I wouldn't ever be under-qualified for internal movement, assuming normal progression. If FO Freddie runs off to Air Canada without notice, and I'm the only one around but lacking a MIFR...well, it would be like having your headphones on and not hearing the " Does anyone on board have a pilots license? " call on the P.A....

Plan B.1

I emailed the owner of a sky-diving outfit ( known as a Drop-Zone, or DZ ) in a far-flung corner of the country. The owner would like to have a sit-down interview in late April when he passes through where I am now. Basically, if I was to live near the DZ, it sounds like there would be a fair bit of work for me. It looks like a lot of fun, and I didn't see any pictures of moose carcasses on their website. I would however, have to relocate to said far-flung corner and the financial considerations of trying to subsist on what would essentially be a part-time job are not exactly adding up. It wouldn't take much to make up the difference though, so I'm not giving up on this just yet, perhaps I can do some freelance moose-carcass transporting at night, who knows.

Plan C.1

I sent a bazillion resumes out to owners and chief pilots of flying services associated with fishing lodge and outpost operations. My reply-rate when I had a total of Zero experience in this market segment was about 6 replies to 200 resumes. Those 6 replies included those who took the time to tell me to not bother them with my useless resume. This time, with the possibility of another season away from home, doubly difficult now to even consider with a certain soon-to-be-walking-and-talking individual in our little household, my 200 resumes got me about two dozen replies. A solid half dozen of those expressed sincere interest, but no offers of a job. I knew float-season hiring had already come and gone, but at that time, going away was off the table.

The sincere replies mostly consisted of " we have our pilots hired for this year, but, as always, someone inevitably flakes out once the season is underway and you are top of the list to get a call if/when they do ".

Plan D.1

Keep plugging away at the MIFR and accept the fact that I might not get any flying work this summer. I make pretty good money at my present job and I do get to work near airplanes. Another year of equity in the condo ( which is getting smaller by the day, due to you-know-who's newfound mobility ), another year of family close-by while our little girl is still little. And of course, another year behind....

It might even work out well to not complete the IFR part right away, most of the simulator stuff we do at the flight school for 150 bucks an hour can be practised at home on my computer for roughly , oh, nothing per hour, and done ad nauseum. It sure would be nice to go into a flight test actually feeling comfortable with the material..

Plan E.1

Screw it. I'm going fishing.