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
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
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
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.
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.
oDo 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
oThis 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
·Doors & Seatbelts
oThis 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).
oDo 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
oYour 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.
oTurbulence 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
oDuring 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”.
oAt 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.
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
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
* 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!
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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
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!
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.
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
“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.
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
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
Once any passenger has experienced this, even my dodgiest landings are like
kissing a cloud!