Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I is for International Garbage

Yeah, thats pretty much all I can come up with for I...its a little bit of a stretch as all I could think of was " International ". Theres lots of Intl things going on out at the airport, but most people are aware of most of them. International Flights, International Customs, International Arrivals, yada yada yda.

But there is actually such a thing as International Garbage.

See, when a flight arrives, everything on that flight that isn't part of the aircraft ( and will be subsequently leaving ) needs to clear customs.

The passengers get cleared, the crew gets cleared, even the aircraft itself gets cleared. Sometimes the booze and duty-free items on board the aircraft are even sealed by customs as a sort of " bonded cargo " where they have entered the country, but someone has promised that they will not be sold or consumed while visiting and will in fact leave again.

But there is an interesting grey area with the trash. The trash will indeed be staying, so it needs to be cleared right? I mean, you are importing all manner of stuff, including fresh fruit and vegetables which are a big non-no in many countries. They could be infested with foreigner-bugs after all! Just try bringing an orange through customs sometime and see how seriously they take it.

But your orange is nice and clean.

And it's not covered with a babies diaper, a pile of coffee grounds and a used sick-sac. The orange in the garbage is, so customs, while taking it seriously, don't actually want anything to do with it. So, between them and the airlines, they invented a procedure for dealing with International Garbage that looked good on paper and would convince any lawyers reading through the procedures manuals that all was being done tickety-boo.

The procedure, as I understand it, is to paint some of your dumpsters a different colour.

Ok, there's more to it than that, but its all on paper..the reality of it is....some of the dumpsters are painted a different colour.

Thats it.

They'd have you believe much more was being done, but to be blunt, no.

Some operations don't even have access to this special colour of paint and the garbage gets thrown in a regular green one.

Anyways, thats the story there. If you ever get the chance to take one of those college or trade school Airport Management courses and they start in on the International Garbage, just sit in the back row and snicker, you know the truth.

Its kind of sad sometimes to see what gets thrown in the trash after some flights. I mean, stocking the galley on a large charter airliner has its challenges. I'd compare it to stocking an RV for a long road trip. At home, you have all kinds of extra's that you dont think about, like ketchup or salt and pepper or forks. To set up for a charter, you have to bring EVERYTHING. A lot of the larger airliners that charter out tend to sit awhile between trips as well, so you can't just leave the fridge stocked, it all has to go at the end of the trip.

Enter the Lineman, who will helpfully take away this stuff ( and avoid it becoming Intl Garbage ) and see that it gets recycled ( yum! ). Or, follow your Ops Manual which spells out how International Garbage must be segregated and disposed of properly. sigh.

I remember one Global Express that came into town one night for a maintenance stop. It was actually at the end of a series of trips that had it pretty much continuously on the move for its corporate owners, shuttling around execs for a little over three months. The thing had literally been around the world a few times over, in each direction. As a result, the galley had slowly been stocked to the hilt with all the little accoutrements of a good kitchen. Spices, sauces and salad dressings from around the world. They handed us about a half dozen packed boxes full of all kinds of interesting stuff. ( Which we of course threw in the appropriate coloured dumpster...not )

Oh, and not Aviation or Ramp related, but a true story. This happened to TLW and I last year and I stumbled on this email summarizing the event for our strata council.

I is for Intruder

To whom it may concern,

On the morning of July XXth, 2010 a person claiming to be a XXXXX resident entered our unit, without our permission and refused to leave until the police were called and they were removed from our suite.

My wife and I were sleeping at approximately 0700 and were both awakened by a loud banging outside our patio door. It sounded like someone had hit our patio balcony glass several times with their hand. I got up and saw out the window a person standing on the walkway outside our ground-floor unit, with their back to the glass, partially obscured by the stone wall.

I went out on the patio to find out the reason for the disturbance at this hour and saw that it was a man in his late 20's or early 30's holding a small boy, perhaps 4 or 5 years old. I also noticed another resident across the street walking his dog, and he had made a comment to the gentleman with the child that " people are still sleeping you know ", most likely in response to having seen him banging on the glass.

I asked the man what the problem was and he said " theres something going on, you have to call the cops, theres someone in my apartment, you have to call the cops ". He appeared quite agitated and scared, along with his child. My first impression was that he was under the influence of drugs as he appeared quite nervous, sweaty and unable to stand still. I told him I would call the cops and went back inside my suite to get the phone.

As I picked up the phone, my wife, watching out the patio door yelled " He's throwing his baby over the deck! He's coming in! "

The man entered our suite with his child, through our patio door and went into our dining area and crouched down on the floor with his child. He instructed me to lock the door and call the cops. I told him at this point to leave our suite and that I was already calling the cops. He said he needed to stay here and to keep the doors locked, and that he did not want to leave.

He also told me at that point, that he was a resident of building XX, suite # XX. I spoke with the 911 dispatcher and passed that information to them as well.

While we waited for the police to arrive, my wife called our neighbour, XXXX, a member of strata council, and asked that he come over to make sure this was in fact a resident as well as to have additional assistance.

XXXX arrived and confirmed the man as a resident of XXXX and waited with us until the police arrived, approximately 10 minutes after the inital call. The entire time the man remained in our dining area, crouched on the floor with his child. He made several phone calls on our phone, at least one of which was to his father or father-in-law. As he had put his father on speaker-phone when he dialed, I heard his father ask him " what kind of trouble have you got yourself into this time ? ".

The police arrived and I let them into the building by passing them our fob over the patio railing. As soon as they entered our suite they called the man by his first name " XX ". He seemed surprised that they knew who he was, but one of the police made a comment that " oh, we know who you are, XX ". He was put into handcuffs and removed from our suite.

At this time the police took my name and details, but on my asking them if they needed a statement from me, they declined.

We will be following up with the XXX Police Service to ensure that charges of unlawful entry, trespassing, mischief, and/or break and enter have been laid against this individual. If charges have not been laid, an official complaint will be lodged with the Police Ombudsman.

I strongly urge strata to look into the status of the occupant(s) of Suite XXX in building XX and if in fact this person is a rental tenant, that steps be taken to evict this tenant.

On listening further to the police discussing the situation with the father outside our window as he was taking custody of the child, we heard that this family has had extensive problems with drugs and alchohol. The police also noted on entering the suite, that there was broken glass and evidence of some kind of altercation.

Domestic Garbage, that one.

Oh, no charges were laid against him. On following up with the cops, I was told by the investigating officer that he is a known crack-head and that he was having a paranoid episode, and " thats just the way it is when they on crack. ".

I further followed up with the Watch Commander to file a complaint or push to get a little more than a shrug of the shoulders, but no dice. He echoed the same sentiment.

There was a little more to it as well, as the officers responding in our suite actually thought that the boy was ours. While they were cuffing this guy, instructed my wife to go around behind this douchebag and get the kid. In hindsight, putting my 8 month pregnant wife in between a man and his child while he is being handcuffed inside an apartment he forced his way into while high on crack probably wasn't in her best interest. Especially since the cop had at least three of his buddies standing behind him with their thumbs in their belts that could have / should have, done that particular task.

Anyways, sorry for the lack of pictures with this post and lately in general...I haven't brought my camera to work for a while and have regretted it more than a few times.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

H is for Heavy Pad

At our FBO we have two parking areas for large aircraft. These are areas of the ramp where the surface is made of reinforced Concrete instead of asphalt. The concrete can support much heavier loads than the asphalt and is thus the place where we park the big jets.

We have a little procedure we use for parking them that we like to call " spinning " them.

I tried to type up a description, but failed. Instead, behold my outside limits of my artistic abilities.

The red line represents the path you want the aircraft to take as you marshal it into position.

So, first off, the aircaft has to be kept close to the side of the ramp as they taxi in. as most of our larger aircraft arrive at night, some crews will be a little nervous about taxiing this close to the edge of the pavement. Crews that have been here before recognize the awesomeness that is our marshalling crew and will usually take direction well. Others, just don't.

Secondly, the path once the aircraft is on the pad and you are getting ready to " spin " them, needs to take a small 45 degree turn to it's right. This can be difficult to convey with marshalling wands. Technically, there is marshalling-ology for this and the degree of turn is sometimes indicated by the arm you are using to show the direction of turn being at a 90 degree angle to your body ( normal turn ) a higher angle, towards the ground, of say 120 degrees ( sharper turn ) or pointing sharply downwards, say 160 degrees, representing a hard turn.

If you are facing the aircraft and want it to turn to it's right, you indicate the direction of turn with an outstretched Left arm and wave the Right arm from an outstretched position, towards your head.

I've also seen it where the speed of the moving arm represents the sharpness of the turn.

As both are kind of obscure and usually not in most of the " official " marshalling guides, the second method usually works best as an increase in the speed of your signal is a little more obvious in my opinion.

In any case, the little 45 degree turn allows the Main Landing Gear to move up the pad, so that when you finally make the larger turn, the wing will be centred over the pad, instead of hanging over the grass. This way, we can get ground vehicles past that side of the aircraft and we don't have under-wing slung engines running over grass and ingesting lawn clippings.

The problem is that most crews who are first-time to our ramp, once they realize we are taxiing them towards the edge of the ramp to facilitate turning them around 180 degrees or so, figure that once you start them turning, they should power up and crank it over, all the way over.

A large aircraft requires a good deal of momentum, power or sometimes both, to make a sharp turn like that. Considering they are coming in slowly ( scared of taxiing off the edge of the ramp, in the dark and uncertain of the marshallers ) once they realize our intent-to-spin, as soon as you indicate any turn, they will usually pour the coals to her and crank the nosewheel over.

It can be a challenge to get the gentle turn in first.

Technically the 45 degree turn is followed by another little straight-ahead segment as well. If they've already powered up and cranked it over, when you suddenly switch from a turning indication to a straight-ahead one, there can be some hesitation to comply. In probably 20% of the cases, they simply decide you are an idiot and continue the turn.

Thats on their first visit. We'll take the time to explain what we are doing and we usually get a little more trust the next visit.

It has to be hard for some of the flight crews though. I've seen some linecrew ( thankfully not at our FBO ) who I wouldn't trust to marshal a golf cart around a football field, let alone a 100 million dollar jet around a small ramp, in the dark, full of millionaire passengers.

H is also for Hold Entries

Not much in the way of hold entries on the ramp, but there sure are a lot in my simulator sessions at the flight school lately.

A hold is a way for Air Traffic Control ( ATC ) to park you in the sky. This might be for traffic spacing, a closed airport, runway or other problem. It can also be used by the pilot to park themself in the sky for a bit. Perhaps to change plans, figure out an aircraft issue or anything else where you'd rather stay in one place instead of blundering off in one direction and then have to turn around and come all way back depending on the new plan.

So, a hold is a maneuver that will ensure an aircraft will stay within a prescribed area assigned to it by ATC ( the Protected Airspace ). A hold is also defined by a navigation "fix". A fix being a spot that can be defined by the navigation instruments in the cockpit. Usually a radio-based navigation aid, but can also be a GPS coordinate.

Depending on the direction that you are approaching the fix, there are three different maneuvers that you are recommended to use when entering the hold.

For those people who know what a hold is, I won't make you scratch your eyes out listening to me explain hold entries.

For those that don't know what a hold is, I won't make you scratch your eyes out listening to me explain hold entries.

Suffice to say there is a little bit of mental math and a whole lot of visualization to do it properly.