Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Makes me feel better about some of mine…

..if this is what Air Canada can tout as a “Hard Landing”

Seriously, a hard landing is one where your headset falls off. When engines fall off, we are in crash territory.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Help needed

Especially from my sizable percentage of “lurker” readers

Can you let me know via either the comments or by email (localflighteast {at} gmail.com) if you are getting “503” error messages when accessing old posts?

In return I’ll try to break my writer’s block and shove some new content on here

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


Despite it being a Sunday I’m up, showered and have forced down the inevitable oatmeal and orange juice that forms my standard pre-flight meal

I’m nothing if not punctual, so when S texts me to let me know he’s arrived. All I need to do is put on some shoes and grab my pre packed bag and head downstairs.

As I wander out of the building I see S sitting in his car.

Reading a book

A picture book about flying!

“REALLY!” I laugh

“No, honestly it has got everything we need to know, Here’s taking off and landing and look! It even has night flying!” S informs me.

I’m laughing too hard to comment at this point.

It turns out that contained inside this picture book is something almost as funny.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you here: the ultimate passenger briefing as authored by S and reproduced with his permission

Passenger Briefing                                                              Effective April 21st, 2014
This document does not supersede any instructions given by the Pilot in Command. The PIC is to be obeyed at all times, even if he seems nuts.

Legal Disclaimer
Transport Canada requires all passengers to be briefed before flight. By agreeing to proceed with this flight, you agree to follow all instructions, guidelines, disclaimers and other crap in this document. You also agree to absolve the Pilot In Command (PIC) of any liability in case of injury, death, public humiliation, or mental trauma that may result.

Aircraft Introduction & Safety Equipment

The aircraft you will be flying in today is a single engine Piper that was built before the pilot was born. The fact it still has not crashed despite its advanced age is to be taken as an indicator of the safety and reliability of the machine.
·         Pre-flight
o    Do not eat or drink too much before the flight. Do use the bathroom before we leave. You are also asked to surrender any knives, firearms, explosives, hazardous materials, sharp objects and thermonuclear devices of any kind.
·         Propeller
o    This is the big spinning fan blades at the front of the airplane. Do not approach. Always assume the engine will suddenly start for no reason and chop off whatever is in its way. Failure to do so results in a huge mess and lengthy clean-up.
·         Doors & Seatbelts
o    This aircraft has door latches and seatbelts that are not the same as in cars. Please ask for instructions. The seatbelts are to be kept tight and secured at all times after engine start. Do not unfasten your seatbelt while the engine is running. Do not attempt to exit the aircraft in flight. The cabin door is on the front passenger side. There is a latch both in front of the armrest, and at the top of the door. Enter and exit the aircraft by stepping on the wing from behind. Do not step on the flap if it’s not fully retracted (flush with the wing).
·         Controls
o    Do not touch any knobs, switches, toggles, levers, buttons, handles, pedals, or any other controls in the airplane unless you have been invited to do so. In particular, please keep your feet clear of the rudder pedals on the floor.
·         Communication
o    Your headset and intercom will allow you to talk to the PIC. Feel free to chat and make comments. If you see another aircraft, please point it out. However, if the PIC raises his hand, it means he needs you to shut up so he can hear and talk on the radio. He is not trying to give you a high-five.
·         Turbulence
o    Turbulence in a small aircraft will be more than you experience in an airliner. This is normal. Do not be alarmed. If you do get nauseous, alert the PIC. There are several things we can do to alleviate nausea and sick-bags are available. At any point, if you decide you have had enough, let the PIC know.
·         Landing
o    During the landing, you will feel a stronger impact that on an airliner. In a cross wind, you may find that you land “tilted”, and the wheel on one side touches down before the other. You may also hear the stall horn on landing. All of the above is normal. As long as nothing broke off, the landing is to be considered “Good”. If the aircraft is no more bent that at the beginning of the flight, the landing is to be considered “Excellent”.
·         Emergencies
o    At any time, feel free to pray to the deity of your choice, even in the absence of an emergency. In case of emergency, “Don’t Panic”. The PIC will let you know when it is time to panic. The PIC will brief you on what to do based on the specific emergency. In the event of a crash, exit through the cabin door, turn right, and dismount the aircraft from what remains of the wing. In the event the cabin door cannot be opened, a small baggage door can be accessed from the luggage compartment. Fat people (such as the pilot) are screwed. The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) is located in the tail of the aircraft and the switch is on the left hand side beside the pilot. Activate it in the event of a crash to help rescuers locate your corpse before complete decomposition. There are no parachutes in the airplane; but feel free to bring whatever religious paraphernalia you deem necessary for the safety of the flight or to gain entrance to a desirable after-life.

Post-Flight Information Disclosure

All passengers are required to keep their mouths shut regarding any mistakes the pilot may have made. However, you are encouraged to make blatant lies about how great the pilot is in the areas of flying abilities, manners, charm, and personal hygiene.

Monday, 23 March 2015

First and last

I attended my first fly in today, to an airport I’d never been to before, Collinwood (CNY3). Cute little place with the obligatory Greasy Spoon Restaurant serving up fine pilot fuel.

I wasn’t flying myself, that task was taken care of by S (the guy I flew around lake Scugog). My role was that of first officer and navigator.

This isn’t as glamourous as it sounds. As far as I can tell the role of the first officer is to ensure that she has received a text from the pilot that morning that he is awake and out of bed, if not she is to call said pilot.

As far as navigating goes, her job is to intently start at the IPad as the little plane follows the magenta line. To be fair it’s not as if the pilot is doing any flying either, he just pushes the buttons and the plane, in turn, also obediently follows the aforementioned magenta line! Oh the joys of a GPS and autopilot.*

So my first fly in, and don’t let the title fool you, I don’t want it to be my last either.

The last refers to the fact that we had a little bit of a headwind.

 Actually we had a lot of a headwind. 

At one point we were 110 KIAS and about 56 Knots ground speed! Couple that with the fact that some of the guys are flying shiny Cirrus’s  (Cirri?) and well lets just say they’d ordered and eaten before we had even landed!

* this is totally flippant and completely unfair on S who did a much better job of hand flying than the single axis autopilot did, we were playing with shiny toys really!

Friday, 20 March 2015


My blogging frequency has dropped off a little recently but that isn’t because I don’t have stuff to write about. For some reason I seem to be suffering from the proverbial writers block at the moment.

Here’s some of the stuff that’s been going on that I keep meaning to blog about but just haven’t found the inspiration to

·         I took part in an event at Oshawa Airport for Women Of Aviation Week. I took some of the students from the school I work at as well as volunteering at the event itself. It was a privilege to be a part of it.

·         I’m attending meetings at both Buttonville and Oshawa Flying club and socialising with piloty people in general.

·         I’ve discovered that my eyesight isn’t deteriorating like I thought it was, I’ve been wearing my left contact lenses in both eyes. I realised this once I noticed that I had one less box of lefts than rights – d’oh!

·         I spent a distinctly unfun 7 hours in the Emergency room with RTH at 2:00am in the morning, for reasons we still haven’t gotten an answer to.

·         Volunteered to help out at a couple more aviation related events aimed at getting young people involved.

Hopefully at least jotting down this stuff will remind me to go back and blog about it in the future.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Telling it as it is

Flying with another pilot, especially one who has a lot more flying experience than you, can be a little intimidating.

I mean I’m under no illusions here, I’m an inexperienced pilot. I know this. But I’m safe, I even have a little blue booklet that says so! Even so it can be hard knowing that the person in the other seat could probably have done a better job of the whole thing than you.

Luckily S is a good person to fly with, for many reasons, including the fact that his background means that we at least share some common cultural experiences and references.

In short we have a similar sense of humour and neither of us are easily offended.

Which is just as well because one thing I’m acutely aware of is the fact that two pilots are not always better than one. There are well documented cases of pilots either assuming that the other one has the situation in hand, or squabbling over what needs to be done in an emergency. Neither situations are terribly conducive to safe flying.

The recommendation is that you brief thoroughly about what the expectations are beforehand.  
Hmmm, good advice in general but how do you handle that when you’re the one flying but you’re the inexperienced one?

Well if you are lucky like me and have a flying companion who “gets” you, my side of the conversation goes a little like this:

“Ok, here’s the deal. I’m PIC for this flight, you keep your hands of the controls unless I specifically ask you to. If you see something that’s a safety issue then you tell me. If it’s anything else then we can discuss it, but if I tell you to shut up then you do! Feel free to point out traffic though.”

Said with a smile of course!

S promised not to scream too loudly!

As it turned out we made a pretty good team. S got to enjoy the view for once and I was comfortable with the fact that he seemed more interested in snapping photos than critiquing my flying.
We even had time to chat about the plane in particular and flying in general (and maybe make a few comments about the quality of the radiowork going on around us!)

I’m generally quite critical of my own flying and I don’t think that S had too much to say afterwards that I wasn’t already aware of.

I’d happily fly with him again, but you’ll have to ask him if the same goes both ways!

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Ice ice, baby!

Now that spring is threatening to break through, the ice is finally breaking up in the inner harbour. At one point it was easily thick enough to walk on, as was demonstrated by the person that RTH and I observed last week, happily standing in the exclusion zone at the end of 26 snapping photos.

Somewhat bemused we observed them walk out across the inner harbour, getting closer and closer to the threshold. Finally we agreed that we had a duty to do something, RTH called up the Tower on his cellphone (we were home at the time, looking out of the lounge window) and said something along the lines of “Ermm, I don’t know if you are aware but you have a pedestrian in the exclusion zone”

Anyways now the ice is breaking up and it’s pretty. S took some photos.

They are pretty cool

And finally this one, no ice but I just love overflying the traffic jams and thumbing my nose at the stuck drivers!  

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Muppet with a Go-Pro

Is the title of the photograph below.

Taken by my pilot passenger S.

Yeah it’s not the most beautiful picture of me in the entire world, but it shows one important thing.

No, not that no one looks good wearing a video camera welded to their head.

It shows me smiling.

I was having fun.

Please remember that even now, I get nervous before I get in that plane.

But once I’m up there, I’m all smiles.

I sent the photo to Bob (with the aforementioned caption) because I wanted him to see it.

Together we invested so much effort and time in getting me my licence. And now I’m loving every moment of it.

Friday, 13 March 2015

What it's all about

A day off work, relatively decent weather and a last minute decision to see if a plane was available all added up to a pretty sweet day!

I dropped an email to flying friend to see if they wanted to tag along and planned a nice little local jaunt around Lake Scugog. A flight, incidentally I’ve attempted a couple of times, but been thwarted on the weather front every time.

For once all the pieces seem to align. Flight services confirmed my take on the weather; clear, bright but with reasonable winds from the east. Those winds being the only minor spanner in the works, a little stronger than I’d like but they were straight down the runway, even if it was my old nemesis 08!
I’ve got a few blog posts to come about today but it was just amazing really. A totally uneventful but fun flight, no real purpose in mind other than to fly and enjoy the view.

Courtesy of my passenger S, I’ve got some awesome photos to share and the video is being Youtubed as we speak.

Looking back, this is what it was all about. The reward for sticking with my PPL training, for the early morning treks to the airport, the late night study sessions, the angst of whether I’d ever feel ready.

A spontaneous flight with a friend, enjoying the view, shooting the breeze and appreciating the sheer majesty of what we do.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Why we don’t fly

I had a plane booking and a willing victim passenger. The sun was shining despite the temperature being a tad on the cool side.

It should have been a great day for flying. Made even better by the fact that I’m legitimately skiving off work to get the flight in.*

I’d started having second thoughts the night before when the TAF was calling for winds of 15 gusting 25 but irritatingly at 240 degrees.

Those winds are strong BUT if they WERE straight down the runway they’d probably be doable to a degree. Challenging but not impossible. Right on the border line.

Already I’m tending towards the NOT side of the decision tree.

Fast forward to the morning

While I’m gathering up the various items you need to fly a plane legally. RTH has pulled up the TAF, “Ermm do you really thing you need to do that he asks”

I inquire as to the latest numbers

Once I hear the 18 gusting 28 at 230, I stop packing up stuff and say “Yep, I guess I’m not going to need to drag this into the office then”

Once at work I phone down to cancel “I don’t fancy playing with those winds” I say. No one questions this in the slightest.

A little later I get a text from a new found flying friend “Good decision to cancel today’s flight, have you seen the GFA?”

Intrigued I take a look.

This is what I see (I’ve added the green arrow for the geographically challenged. This is CYTZ)

For those of you who don’t speak fluent GFA-ese

The following

Is shorthand for “you don’t have enough sick bags on board”

That’s why we don’t fly. 

*Boss wanted to fly with me, suggested a Friday afternoon, who am I to argue?

Friday, 6 March 2015

Why we fly

Last time when I was down at the airport, keeping up my currency I had the good fortune to run into Bob, he’d just finished up with a CPL student and was waiting on his next.

I’d just finished my “three times around the block” circuits for currency and was reasonably happy with how it all went.

We fell back into old routines quickly, chatting about flying, the world in general and our usual topics.

“How’s work?” Bob inquires.

“Hell!” I reply with the kind of laugh that indicates I’m actually being fairly truthful.

“And you?” I reciprocate.

He gives the half shrug and wry smile that I understand all too well.

“You too, huh? To be honest that’s one of the reasons I’m flying today. I just felt the need to burn through some sky. To be up there, even if it was just circuits, you know?” I respond.

A look passed between us, a moment of clarity and entire mutual understanding. Bob knew exactly what I was talking about.

“I used to do the same thing,” he confessed “have a bad day at work and just fly, then at least I’d have achieved something”

He’s 100% right. 

Flying is amazing, awe inspiring and satisfying. In the circuit there’s a rhythm, a cadence to the flying and yet you still have to be hyper aware as to what’s going on around you.

You switch off the parts of your brain that are p!ssed at your boss, the parts that are frustrated at the world and replace them with the memory of muscles needed to land, the mental processes need to parse what ATC is trying to do.

You can’t hang on to the useless crap that circulates through your mind at 3:00am in the morning. You are simultaneously exercising the most primal survival seeking parts of your brain as you do something that no human was ever designed to. While at the same time you need every single one your highest order mental processes to carry out the multitude of tasks required.

There’s simply no room for anything else.

All the emotional baggage you pick up just goes.

Flying is the ultimate paradox in that it demands total and utter concentration while at the same time totally clearing your mind.

And that’s why we fly

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

It’s all about the landings.

I made a joke about doing some circuits for my currency flight, in order to persuade myself that I haven’t forgotten how to land.

But the truth is that as far as your passengers are concerned, landings are all that matters. As a pilot you are judged on that split second when your tyres make that initial contact with the tarmac and nothing else.

Yes takeoffs might be impressive to a passenger, awe inspiring for sure. As a pilot, the takeoff is pretty much a routine affair. Planes want to fly. Line her up, apply power, keep her straight and eventually she’ll take off.

It’s pretty hard to mess up a standard takeoff.

During the actual flight, passengers will be impressed alright. But more by the scenery than anything else. While perhaps aware of the fact that you are somehow guiding the plane, chances are they’ll not be giving a second thought to your actual workload. They’ll be too busy admiring the view to admire how you are maintaining the perfect crab into the wind in order to get the plane pointing in the direction you want.

If your passengers are perceptive, they might pay at least a superficial acknowledgement to the sheer number of tasks you need to divert your time between.  Then they’ll go back to their camera.

It’s only on final to the runway that they’ll suddenly remember that they are in a plane and that they have to get back on the ground again.

This is when the knuckles turn white. Sometimes for pilots as well as their payload.

The final and sometimes sole memory they will take away from this flight is how well you manage that split second between being in the air and being on the ground.

Unlike pilots who have many criteria by which they judge a satisfactory landing. Passengers only have one.

Pilots evaluate the approach; was it stable? Did you hit your planned speed? Did you make good use of the flaps? Were you too steep? Too shallow? Did you need to drag it in?

We judge the landing as a whole. Were you on the centreline? Did you flare at the right time? Did you touch down on mains first? Or did you three point it into the tarmac? Did you bounce?

Passengers just want that greaser. That’s a good landing to them. They have no concept of crosswinds. They don’t know that sometimes it’s better to make a positive landing. That, in certain conditions, it is good technique to land on one wheel then the other.

Fortunately I have an ace up my sleeve.

Most of my passengers have a skewed reference point from which to form their opinion. If they have any experience of the commercial operations at CYTZ then they are expecting a heavy landing.

The runway here at CYTZ is on the short side for the Dash 8 Q400s that operate out of here. Short enough that they run with reduced passenger carrying capacity in order to reduce the weight. 

Consequently their operating procedures call for an early and firm landing. With fairly aggressive braking as well.

Once any passenger has experienced this, even my dodgiest landings are like kissing a cloud!