Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Ok, so first of all, Happy Holidays to everyone!

It's been a fairly busy couple of weeks. Lots of visiting with relatives, dinners out, dinners in, saw a movie, worked a horrific amount of overtime and enjoyed the christmas non-bustle that is my job at this time of year.

As far as dinners went, I managed ( with my moms help ) to cook my first Turkey. As in first Turkey ever. Had a couple of good tips from some friends ( Who DOESNT have a good turkey tip?? ) and it turned out pretty damn good.

I'll pass on the three things that I think contributed to its success;

1.) A half-a-stick of provencal butter tucked under each wing, with the wing skewered up onto the body to hold it in place while it melted. Not sure of the placement of the butter really did all that much, considering how fast it melted, but the every-30-minutes basting of the provencal butter did good things, directly proportional to the yumminess.

2.) Got a fresh bird from the local butcher, instead of frozen from the supermarket. Also did quite a small bird ( 10 Lbs ), so both may have factored into its turn-out.

3.) On the butchers reccomendation, used a Sausage Stuffing. He provided the ground sausage meat, to which we added bread, celery, seasoning and onions. We cooked the stuffing both inside the bird and outside as well, since we had so much, and both turned out really, really good.

The Lovely Wife also rendered the carcass into a fantastic turkey soup, mmm mm good!

If anyone lives in Vancouver, I highly recommend the good folks over at Farm Town Meats in New Westminster. Lots of good marinated meats and extremely helpful staff and owner.

Also went and saw the movie 2012. Definitely wanted to see that on the big screen, before it left the theatres.

I didn't realize it, but they had actually filmed a couple of scenes at our FBO last spring. I noticed one of our tugs as well as a shot inside one of our hangars. I wasn't expecting it, so it was kind of neat to see.

We actually get quite a lot of filming, hangar, ramp and aircraft exterior shots are very commonly done at our place.

The Lovely Wife used to work at a film production outfit and I picked up a good tip from her. This is my Christmas gift to anyone reading along;

As a production crew is generally a large group of sub-contractors brought together, a lot of the people don't know each other. Each contractor has their role and they frequently work the same projects as others, but there is always new faces and people you don't know, wandering around, looking like they belong there.

Film projects also work crazy hours on a regular basis. All the work in setting up a location, can mean that they are very loathe to shut it down after 8, 10, 12 hours if they haven't completed the shot yet.

Enter the caterer.

Catering company is hired to feed all the contractors, actors and production crew, so that no one is running off to get Mickey D's, or taking ill-timed lunch breaks.

Generally Craft Services ( Catering ) will have a snack tent/trailer set up for anyone to grab a quick bite of something, and then a proper lunch wagon / tent / trailer set up to feed everyone full meals at mealtimes. All of this is free for all the members of the crew. There is no cash register, and the caterer gets paid a set amount for being there.

Add the random-contractor factor to the caterer-gets-paid-no-matter-who-gets-fed and you have the perfect recipe for FREE FOOD!

Next time you see a movie set ( lots of big trailers, random tents, orange cones, people with hi-vis vests and headsets ), make yourself look like you belong there, and bon appetit!

I highly recommend an orange safety vest, walkie talkie, strange costume or even an overly-engrossing blackberry to round out your disguise of being one-of-the-guys as you dig in to the free nosh.

I've also started my post-Christmas countdown clock to writing the INRAT ( Instrument rating written exam ). Now that the holidays are over, I'd like to get my studying done on or before the closing ceremonies of the winter Olympics.

I would have liked to have a full 60 days of part-time, evening and weekend study time to get ready, but with the Olympics approaching, I may not get as much time as I'd like. I'm going to try anyways, but I might end up pushing things back a little if the Olympics are half as crazy at work as we are expecting.

I've had a few months to read through a few good books to give me a good overview of IFR flying, and am now moving into studying the regulations parts of it in a little more of an organized fashion.

First stop is to get to know the CAP GEN. The CAP GEN is a little booklet, technically the Canada Air Pilot Instrument Procedures General Pages.

NavCanada publishes all of the charts in Canada for Aviation. The Canada Air Pilot ( CAP ) series is the books of approach plates for each region. Theres seven regions in total in Canada, and the CAP1, CAP2, etc, will have all of the instrument approach procedures for all airports within that region that have a published instrument approach.

On top of the 7 CAP's, there is also the CAP GEN, which is the basic IFR flying rules. Its a tiny little thing, about 40 pages total. It kinds of looks more like a little brochure or pamphlet, rather then the definitive set of current instrument flying procedures for an entire country, buth there it is.

Everyone I've talked to and all the books I've read so far, have all said the same thing.

Know the CAP GEN cold, forwards and backwards.

40 pages eh? How hard could it be?

Except, its basically excerpts from the Canadian Air Regulations ( CARs ) and is written in slightly simplified legalese.

You can take any given sentence in this book and you notice right away the very conspicuous use of legalese. Lots of AND, OR, UNLESS, SUBJECT TO, SHALL, WILL, SUBSECTION X, kind of stuff.

First section I am working on is dealing with Landing, Takeoff and Approach Minima. Very appropriately too, we've had some very intense fog over the last week or so. I'm getting to know a lot about RVR, Cat II and Low Visibility procedures, and thats just looking out the window...

A couple more things from my job, this is some of the airplane-moving equipment that we use. These two machines are made by a company called Lektro. There is a smaller one, we call " The Small One " and a larger, lower one, we usually call " The Lowboy ".

These machines are used to move aircraft around by lifting the nosewheel off the ground and crsdling it in the front " bucket ". This is MUCH easier than attaching a tow-bar and towing / pushing the aircraft.

As the nose-wheel is off the ground, the steering is done by the steering wheels of the Lektro itself. When you attach a tow bar to the nosewheel, there are two sets of steering wheels in play, both the tugs steering, as well as the aircrafts nosewheel.

Imagine hooking two Little Red Wagons together by attaching the handle of one to the back of the other. Pulling them forward is nice and easy.

Now push them backwards.... too many steering points. Thats what towing with a tow bar is like.

I'm only now getting comfortable using the tow bar, but luckily, we don't have to use it very often.

Some aicraft, by their design, or low clearance underneath, are not suited to " scooping " with the Lektro.

The one thing you have to be careful with though is the turning limits that the nose wheel is rated for. Most aircraft are not designed to have the nosewheel turn more than 30-45 degrees. Many aircraft can be damaged pretty severely if you try to turn it past its limits, which the Lektro will allow you to do very easily.

Some aircraft have detachable " scissors " on the nose wheel as well. The scissors connect the bottom section of the gear to the steering apparatus above the oleo ( shock absorber ). With the scissors connected, you turn the wheel and the whole steering assembly turns, including any control rods/cables/wizards inside the airplane. With the scissors connected, you have specific turning limits, if you disconnect them though, it lets the wheel rotate freely around the oleo and will often give you 360 degrees of turning capability, ie free castoring.

With the Lowboy, and a free castoring nose wheel, you can actually scoop the front wheel of the aircraft from underneath that aircraft itself and " push " it forward instead of towing. handy for tight squeezes into the hanger. The lowboy is also designed to allow us to drive under aircraft and their wings while in the hangar. Usually the driver ends up being the highest point on the vehicle. resulting in a little bit of wing-limbo while maneuvering around inside a packed hangar.

This is a shot of the software we use for keeping track of aircraft inbound to us. It will actually show us all flights in the air in North America and New Zealand, that are on IFR flight plans and in radar contact. ( Why it shows us NZ is a mystery to me... )

We usually set it to filter out all flights except those destined for Vancouver. This way, we can keep track of the progress of aircraft that have told us are coming, and we can also spot those that might be headed our way and haven't got around to telling us yet. We can also use it to track a specific aircraft, if we know the registration, and it will tell us where in the world it is located, in flight or last-known landing. This can be usefull if an aircraft hasnt arrived as scheduled, we can find out where it went, in case they changed plans and didnt tell us, or the aircraft never even left its origin and the flight was cancelled.

It will show us the Aircraft Registration, Altitude, Speed, Origin and Destination on the screen, and we can look up other details through the menus as well.

Often someone will recognize a registration that we have seen before and we will be prepared for their arrival, even if they haven't called in. Other times, we see aircraft that no one has seen, or are scheduled and we know to keep our eyes and ears peeled as they taxi in, in case they decide to pull onto our ramp.

Scheduled airline flights will show the airline code and flight number instead of a registration.

This is one of our fixed-GPU's. A Ground Power Unit that we can roll out to an aircraft and plug in, providing DC power. We also have portable ones, powered by a diesel generator.

Some aircraft were designed, or have acquired weak battery / electrical systems where starting their engines with battery power alone is taxing. We plug in the GPU and the initial start is done under power provided by a Hydro Dam somewhere out in the Kootenays. Once the first engine is running, they will often get us to disconnect the GPU as the running engine can supply enough power to start the other engine, or there is a system for using the bleed air off the running engine to spin up the fan on the other engine for the start.

When we do a GPU start, one of the guys will stand by the GPU at the connection point to the aircraft, the other marshaller will stand in front, in eye contact with the pilot.

the pilot will signal when he is ready to start each engine, and the marhsller will indicate back, with hand signals, that the area behind is clear and they are OK to go ahead with engine start.

Once one or both the engines are started, there will be another signal by the pilot, indicating we can disconnect the GPU.

TRhe marshaller will give another signal to the guy in the back, to shut off the power on the GPU and then disconnect it from the aircraft. If you disconnect the GPU before turning it off, you could, in theory, create a spark or power spike. The marshaller up front will then make sure the pilot doesnt try to leave, until the guy in the back has been able to fold up the GPU cord, and pull it out of the way. Once the GPU is clear, the pilot is usually given the all-clear so they can leave as soon as they are ready.

I've seen it happen twice in the last three years, where the pilot starts up the engines, forgets he has the GPU connected and tried to leave. Luckily, the marshaller up front knows the hand signal for indicating this to the pilot. Its basically the same as the one for the signal to connect / disconnect power, except theres a lot more laughing.

Not so funny however, is when the marshaller in the back, is working in very close proximity to a running jet engine and the pilot decides to go without getting an all-clear from the marshaller.

A lot of stuff is happening in the cockpit on start-up, and occasionally you will see a pilot who gets so engrossed, head-down, that they aren't aware of whats going on around them. I've seen aircraft creeping slowly ahead, with the pilots off the brakes and heads down, with the marshaller waving frantically at the tops of their craniums. Or, cockpit distractions done, head pops up, thumb comes up / landing light flashes, signalling they are ready to go and the aircraft is rolling, even before the marshaller has had a chance to look around and confirm to them that the area is clear and they can start moving.

Near where I work, there is a gate that lets the seaplanes cross the road and go down the ramp into the water.

If you're ever in Vancouver, check out Harbour Air's terminal, near the South Terminal and their famous Pub, The Flying Beaver.

I was working at Vancouver Airport, right across the street from this pub, when they built it. It was packed from opening day and to this day seems to be very successful. I drive a lot of visiting pilots and aircrew from our place to their hotel in our courtesy van and it seems like the reputation for this place has traveled pretty far. We get crews from all over the world and many of them have visited it before.

Unfortunately, a lot of them are in town for very short stays, one night or less, and they often lament the fact that they've been there three or four times but never had the chance to enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two due to impending flying... Trust me though, on a nice summer day, there is no better patio to be on with a cold one in hand, than The Beav!

Seaplanes coming and going, and the river, the airport. Its all about location, and this one has it made.

I think this guy realized that trying to hold the mattresses down on the roof with the classic arm out the window was futile. I'm not too sure about his alternative...but it looks like its working.


  1. Congrats on the turkey!

    And Happy new year to you and the lovely wife. :)

  2. Thanks Dagny, and to you as well.

    PS - I can't access your blog tells me it is invite-only. I'd love an invite if you are giving them out!

  3. oh yes, well I had a minor panic, all is well now..LOL.

    See, I was looking at my site meter, and saw yyb on there, and of course then wondered if it was one of my instructors (which I think it was! ack, they said a few things the other day which lead me to believe"you fly really well, great hands and feet"..that kind of know, the kind I wanted to hear a few months ago...LMAO .

    So after a quick edit I un-panicked myself, and opened it back up. So yeah, you should be good to get back in now. :D