Sunday, February 27, 2011

G is for Gear Pins

So, I've been working hard at my Multi Engine / IFR Rating.

The Lovely Wife has been working hard at a Medical Terminology course thats a pre-requisite for another course that starts in April.

I've been working my day job, TLW has been a full-time mommy for some time now and we've both been juggling study breaks, personal time and of course, night-shift with The Wee One.

It has gotten to the point where we have an online calendar that we both consult before doing anything, replete with respective study periods, class or lesson times, personal time blocks, family commitments, my work schedule and of course, a small portion of the day where we are expected to sleep...

Hectic, to say the least.

Unfortunately, blogging has taken a back seat to pretty much everything else. The only reason I'm typing this, is I should be practicing hold entries on flight sim and planning a mock IFR cross-country flight and my brain has surrendered. It was either this or play some mindless flash game on facebook.

I just saw The Social Network and have decided I need to stop giving those losers my money and/or contributing to their page-load counts.

In any case, heres an update on the last month or so and some of our happenings, aviation and otherwise.

The Wee One

TWO has had a few milestones lately. They seem to come so fast. Everything she does is usually a first of some sort or other and physiologically speaking, big things are afoot.

She just hit six months and we are easing her into "solids". I use that term loosely, and frankly, so do her bowels. A little Rice Cereal mixed with a bit of mushed-up fruit. A new fruit every three days or so, so we can spot any allergies or other issues. So far, Bananas and Strawberries, all systems nominal.

For the last couple weeks she has made the leap from rolling over onto her tummy and back by herself, to getting up on her hands and knees and rocking back and forth in a threatening manner. The threat of course, is that we will go to the kitchen to prepare her mush and come back to find she has walked into the den and started blogging.

A couple little white pointy daggers have popped out of her gums. Two on the bottom and one up top. Came as a bit of a surprise as there was little fanfare or histrionics with their arrival. A little extra drool and some funny sleep patterns of late, but thats it.

Not that the teeth will assist in any way with her current eating routine of gumming the spoon and rubbing mush into her hair and hands.

Multi-IFR Training

Ack, where to begin. This one is by far the most cerebral part of my flight training so far. An innate set of "Good Hands and Feet" ( which I am not professing to have ) will not save me on this one. Lots to learn and memorize.

I'm currently training on a Seneca II. A Twin-engine, turbocharged, non-pressurized, 7-seat aeroplane.

Quite a nice plane actually and it seems to have power to spare compared with some trainers I had a chance to look at while shopping around. 200 Horsepower a side to be precise, and with the turbochargers, all of that is available, right up to 12,000 feet before she starts gasping for air.

Avionics are very nice as well. Seems the AI and/or DG packed it in a while back on this plane and in the research of the Re and Re, they discovered that installing a partial glass cockpit, in the form of an Aspen HSI system, was cheaper, or at least a relatively inexpensive way to upgrade.

The AI is(was) the Attitude Indicator, the little blue and brown ball shaped instrument that you would use to reference the horizon when it's not visible out the front window. The instrument has a gyroscope inside it, run(usually) by a vacuum system and is a key component in the Instrument-flying instrument set. The DG is the Directional Gyro. Similarly run by vacuum and a gyro, it gives you a compass direction on a stable platform.

That is, more stable than a little piece of paper mounted on a pin and floating in a glass jar full of kerosene and bouncing around in an aeroplane and trying to give you indications of magnetic directions while being packaged inside a metal aircraft and sitting on top of all the radio equipment, electrics and spinning gyro bits....

So anyway, the Aspen system is pretty sweet. It's a "partial glass cockpit" in that a couple of key analog and/or mechanical instruments have been replaced by a small computer display screen that gives you the same info, and more, from a solid-state system.

And wow, does it ever give you more.

In some ways, its frustrating, as I'm trying to learn Instrument flying procedures and regulations, handling a larger aircraft and its extra complement of systems, learning the flight test guide and preparing for the written, but then you throw in a modern GPS system and whole slew of extra little "oh, let me show you this, this is cool, watch what it will do " bits and I find my brain tuning out the nice-to-know stuff in sheer survival mode, for favor of the you-better-damn-well-know-this stuff.

The aircraft has had some mechanical issues of late, but luckily, we are forging ahead with the IFR part of the training, so on a day when I miss out on the Multi-Engine part of the course, due to weather or other issues, we can head over to the Simulator Shack where I can sweat it out for an hour trying to learn and practice some of the stuff I have been dutifully studying for months now.

At Six Bucks a minute in the real airplane( a beer a minute ), I'm more than happy to sit in the sim at a fraction of that and practice it till I've got it semi-down.

Day Job

Work out at the airfield has been busy lately. Mostly busy as we've lost some staff over the last year that haven't been replaced due to the economy. As our company US-Owned, they are feeling the pinch a lot more down there and it is having a trickle down effect onto management up here. As always, the monkey at the top of the tree looks down and sees the smiling faces of all the little worker-monkeys making their way up. The monkey at the bottom looks up and sees nothing but @$$holes.

The fuel distributor that we sell for, has also switched over to a new metering system in our trucks. Our old system was so old it was barely computerized. It had these giant " RAM Cards " that were the size and shape of eight-track cassettes and held the days pumping data on it for download at the end of the day.

I'm sure they held upwards of a kilobyte or two of data on each one. Heady stuff for 1972, not so much today...

Now we have a new system, and it's much maligned, as all new systems are. I could rant all day about it, but I'd probably get in trouble and frankly, you always end up coming across as some progress-reluctant Luddite when ranting about the perceived shortcomings in technological change.

I've done a little work with database systems and crude programming in the past though and even to my untrained eye, I can spot the work of a hack when I see it, that's all I'm going to say.

Job Hunt

Some exciting prospects here...

a company I interviewed with over the phone last year is looking like a good potential prospect for this year. I kept in touch with a couple updated resumes over the winter and I actually just got back from making the trip out to see them and introduce myself and get the tour of their operation. It wasn't technically an "interview", but it was close and I suspect something might materialize on this front. Would mean a move to another province and another adventure. Lots to consider and lots of stuff I shouldn't be talking about until things fall more into this space...

Aside from that, with the addition of the MIFR rating to my license, it will pretty much be " complete ". That is, there is little more I can add to my license in the way of training and ratings that will help me get a job. Now, all I need to get a job is some experience. But of course to get that, I will need to get a job.....funny how that works...

I saw they are looking for more ultralight instructors down at the grass strip where I worked last summer. I'd love to do it again, but frankly, with The Wee One, I really need to find a full-time flying job...trying to fly part-time, work full time and parent full-time, just doesn't add up. Either that or find a cure for sleeping.


TLW and I recently traded in our circa 1986 "contractors model" cell phones for a pair of nifty little Iphones.


Now I see what they mean when they say smartphones. These really are little PDA's, with very functional Internet browsing, email, GPS and all kinds of other functionality. Our little calendar I mentioned earlier is based on a google calendar, but is synced up to both our phones. If either of us makes and entry on the calendars on our phones, it automatically updates the main one online and the other phone as well.

Some of the Apps available for this thing are pretty sweet too. Lots of little games and novelty ones, but lots of really useful stuff as well.

Highly recommend.

( but of course, everyone else in the world knew this four years ago, and I'm just now catching up )

Road Trip

As part of my trip out to A Different Province, I got to briefly visit some places from my youth.

My old elementary school, complete with separate Boys and Girls entrances.

My old house.

The little alleyway off on the right is actually a steep little gravel road that receives No Winter Maintenance from the snow plow. But every year, some yahoo tries to do a hill-climb in their car or truck. Our kitchen window looked out onto this alley and I'd often get to see the offender come level to the window as I did the dishes and slow to a tire-spinning crawl right in front of me... Then I got to watch their cocky grins morph into white knuckle terror as they started, slowly at first but quickly gaining speed, sliding backwards down the hill.

I remember coming home from school one day and finding a giant car-shaped hole in our wall from where one of these losers had slid into it and then slunk away.

Luckily, the house is ( was?) owned and rented out by the city. Ownership being retained by the highways department in consideration of future expansion. At least that was the story twenty years ago when I lived there..

Random Pics;

Some shots of a very interesting visitor to the field recently, a British Military ( RAF ) Vickers VC-10.

This thing has Four engines, mounted two-a-side on the tail. Very unique design and a rare catch indeed for this neck of the woods.

I was poking around a 767 the other day and was looking at the nose gear and thought I'd comment on this.

On most large aircraft, and some smaller corporate jets as well, there is bit of linkage on the nose gear that connects the steering mechanism in the plane, be they cables, hydraulic assist cylinders or otherwise, to the nose wheel assembly. When you are towing some of these aircraft, you need to "disconnect" the steering mechanism otherwise you could damage parts of it when you turn the nose wheel manually with your tug or tow bar.

On some of the larger airliners, because the assemblies are far too heavy to be simply hooked together with a little pin, they have a "bypass" pin that you insert into the appropriate orifice and you have free rein to steer away.

As Linecrew, when towing an aircraft with disconnect-able gear, you had bloody well remember to disconnect before towing and reconnect afterwards. Like all things aviation, it ultimately falls to the pilot to ensure it is in place before he (tries to ) taxi away for take off. But, just because the ultimate liability rests with him, doesn't mean your fair share of vitriol isn't coming down the pipe if you fail to do your job....

Sweet, I've been struggling to come up with something for this posts " G is for..." item and I just stumbled on it!

G is for Gear Pins

A lot of larger aircraft will also have Gear Pins that need to be inserted before the aircraft can be moved around on the ground. The purpose of a Gear Pin is to stop the gear from retracting inadvertently while being towed. Usually its just a little pin say the thickness of a finger, that is inserted into the gear retraction assembly that would physically stop it from retracting.

As Linecrew, part of the service you can offer is to put the pins in place while the pilots are dealing with passengers or putting the aircraft to bed. Particularly where the main gear require a little bit of a stoop or kneel on the dirty ramp to put the pin in place. White pilot shirts and slacks generally do not stand up to this too well. As a good linecrew, you know where the pins are stored on the aircraft ( little cubbyhole on the stairs or in a cabinet inside ) and have them in even before the crew notices. Again, still their responsibility to ensure they're actually in...

I thought this was kind of neat too. On the nose gear, there is a panel for the ground crew to operate some functions on the aircraft, from outside. One of those functions is to shut off the APU ( Auxiliary Power Unit ), and on this one, you can actually discharge the fire extinguisher bottle into the APU if it catches fire. I've seen this on some Airbus aircraft as well, actually on the fuelers panel. Which is kind of handy as in a lot of cases when you are fueling an aircraft, the crew is upstairs with the APU running and you're the only one down stairs. If a fuel-related emergency were to occur, you might not be free to run upstairs and tell them to shut off the APU ( or to evacuate, for that matter ). Shutting it down on them though would certainly get their attention.

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