Friday, 24 April 2015

Time flies and so do I!

It has been six whole months since I qualified as a pilot.

I’ve been doing some flying, not as much as I’d lie (curse you winter weather!)

But either way, if you are in the Toronto area and you look up to see a Cessna.

It could possibly be me flying it.

Be afraid people, be very afraid!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Seems an appropriate day

For explaining to our communications department why this is not an acceptable use of flags.

Uh huh


Happy St George’s day to all you expats out there.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Blessed are the cheesemakers

It may not come as a surprise to you that I’m highly opinionated. On most things really.
Anyways I’ve actually been using my powers for good, not evil. Well good for me at least, because they are earning me money!

Two main ways at the moment.

The first is earning me trivial amounts and probably costing me a part of my soul in the process but whatever!

I’m signed up for Google Survey, it sends me random surveys at random times and I click a few buttons and earn a few cents on my Google Play account. I have over 10 bucks now.  Deep in my heart I know I’m just a sell out and am feeding the evil Google overlord with more and more marketable data mined fodder but apparently I really am that easy to buy.

Seriously what Google already knows about me is quite frightening and probably going to be the subject of another blog post.

The other, more lucrative way, is by taking part in paid focus groups.

Somehow, I’ve ended up on the participant list of a company who provides fodder for whatever company is trying out its latest product/ad or whatever and when I fit the demographic they are trying to fill. I get a call.

I’ve done three of these now. They can be fun and they pay a reasonable amount, anywhere between $50 to $75 an hour.

The general spiel is that you are thrown with a bunch of not-quite-random strangers (the fun bit is trying to figure out what you all have in common), you sit in a room. Whatever you say / do is videoed and / or audio recorded and there is usually a suspicious looking mirror somewhere as well.
The moderator leads discussions on various ideas, you may be given printed material to look at, your opinions are sought, your reactions to various things analysed. It is generally pretty painless.

I’m hoping to get a few more phone calls now that I think I’ve built up a bit of a relationship with the recruiters, that I’ve proved myself reliable and willing to exercise some degree of flexibility in my answers to the screening questions for each survey*

I’ve given feedback on before it went live (I still stand by my original comments, they haven’t been acted on), I’ve told a bank just how crap Aeroplan reward points are and yesterday I got to comment on cheese.

More specifically a cheese companies marketing campaign direction thingy (I honestly don’t know what you’d call it, they weren’t adverts per se…)

This was probably the most fun one I’ve done to date. Helped massively by the fact that we were quite a fun group, laughing and joking with each other before we’d even introduced ourselves. We may have been spurring each other on to pull faces at the nameless minions behind the mirror and so forth.

So now I find myself with $120 in cash and I’m wondering what to spend it on. It could pretty much pay for the half hour or so of circuit bashing I need in order to iron out my landing issues or I could buy the new kneeboard I’ve been eyeing up.

I need a new one because I have “gone over to the darkside” and invested in an Ipad and a Foreflight subscription to go with it.

Also more about that in another post.

Oh yes and they gave us cheese yesterday too, I’m betting that I’m not in the minority when I tell you that after spending two hours drooling over pictures of cheese last night, the first thing I did when I came home was to go hunting for some crackers in order to liberate the rather ripe brie I had waiting for me in the fridge.

*recruiters are usually looking for a very specifically defined demographic for each group. You can sometimes assist them by tailoring your answers to the rigidly defined questions they have to ask. They key is having a good memory because you get asked a variation on these questions about three times during the process, you need to remember what you’ve said. They will eliminate you from the group if they think you don’t meet the requirements.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Two office workers, both alike in (lack of) dignity.

K and I are having a rocking Friday afternoon. We may be separated by geography and on opposite sides of the downtown core but we are both rocking out an awesome 80s playlist on our headphones.

It’s a tough call as to which of us is going to bust out the moves from “Flashdance” first!

My apologies in advance to the guy I share an office with.

And to RTH because I realise that I've just spammed our joint Googleplay account library with cheesy 80 songs!

Monday, 20 April 2015

Ready for launch….I mean take off

I’m faced with winds at 190 degrees and two choices of runway 24 or 26. All things being equal most people would probably take 24, to minimise the crosswind, right?


The truth is all things aren’t equal at CYTZ. 24 and 26 share a common threshold for sure but 24 is shorter (not a big problem), has a great big berm at the end (more disconcerting than problematic) and has a surface that is in pretty poor condition compared to the rest of the airport, probably because it’s only us little planes that use it.

ATC enquired as to whether I’d accept 24. I said “Affirmative” like the good little pilot that I am, because there really isn’t an operational or safety reason that I can’t take it.

I dutifully warned my passenger that the surface was about to become akin to a cattle grid. She looked at me funny because I don’t think they call them that in Canada.

If anyone cares to enlighten me as to the Canuck phraseology, I’m talking about one of these.

Muttering “hold on to your boobs” as we rattle thuddunk, thunddunk down the runway. I attempt to keep us straight.

I’m doing a pretty reasonable job, even if I do say so myself. Until, with perfect timing, the wheels hit a particularly troublesome bump at the same time the ASI hits a perfect 55 knots.

Rotation speed.

Defined by our good friends of the Wikipedia as The speed at which the aircraft's nose wheel leaves the ground.

Actually what happened is that we didn’t so much “rotate” as “launch” She hit the bump and up she went, at slightly too high an angle for either of our liking really.

I kept my mouth shut, as not to alarm my passenger. JES felt no such duty and promptly whined a way a la stall horn.

I gently eased the nose down and pretended that’s the way it always goes!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

It wasn’t me

SAR has had a bit of a boo-boo.

Photos below show one wing, the damage is  roughly symmetrical on both

the other wing is damaged in the same way

wing tip in pieces

I am making no comment on how the accident occurred as I wasn’t there, the associated report is shown below

It is my belief that the antenna in question can be located here if you zoom in. (please note I don't think the tracks shown in the grass on the google image are related to this incident)

It makes me sad to see SAR in this state, she is my second favourite plane after JES, especially once she lost her nose up , rocket tendencies!

Friday, 17 April 2015

A Spring evening

Blue sky, sun shining. A meet up with D

Patio weather, we sit outside and meander our way through a conversation.

Hot water in paper cup, tea bag steeping in the cool evening breeze. Drink getting stronger with every sip.

Our conversation comes in three letter bursts: IFR, VFR, ATC, POH.

We speak of Foreflight and hindsight; planned trips and missed approaches.

The world moves around us as we chat about flying, powdered sugar dropping from sweet pastries.

People come and go, our conversation remains constant.

For in this moment we are both pilots once again.

And all is right in the world

Thursday, 16 April 2015

New link

Another blog to add to my reading list…Owen’s The Pilot's Blog.

I stumbled by this a few weeks ago whilst stress testing the internet at work! It seemed pretty professional looking with some good stuff on.

The fact that I’m plugging it here has nothing to do with the fact that I won a competition and he’s sending me two of his books through the mail, honest!

Seriously take a look. For some reason it defaults to the bottom of my list because blogger can’t find a feed for it. I’m sure I’ll figure it out eventually.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

I want to get better

It was a nice flight with E. She enjoyed herself and was reasonably impressed with the fact that she was airborne.

We chatted a while, laughing at how my flying but not driving has really skewed my perception of how long it actually takes to go somewhere. Oshawa is an hours drive but probably no more than a twenty minute flight away for example.

In one way this flight shows just how much I’ve developed as a pilot. The planning easy, confident that I can easily find my way visually, able to do the quick mental math to decide that 22 gallons was more than enough fuel with an adequate reserve for our short hop. I had spare mental capacity to devote attention to chatting and enjoying the view.

And then in other ways it shows how quickly some skills deteriorate.

Even my prestart cockpit management was a little off, normally a relatively slick collection of getting the appropriate stuff out of my bag, shoving cable sin the correct holes and generally being organised. This time I ended up forgetting stuff that I needed and having to reach round in a semi arm breaking manner to grab stuff out the back. None of this leaves a good impression on your passenger.

My preflight checks just didn’t seem to flow as well as they should. I was almost hunting for the right switches on occasion. My eyes didn’t flow to the correct places automatically as they once did.


That’s not the worst of it though, no we’ll leave that for last.

The landing was dire.

Okay by S’s standards it was excellent, in that the plane could indeed be flown again but by even my lowly standards it wasn’t great.

Too high, too flat, too sideways and not enough centreline would be a fair assessment in my opinion.
Too high because the 08 knot wind was 100% crosswind with no head wind to help out the descent, too sideways because I didn’t compensate enough for the drift, too flat because I was too busy trying to wrestle it back onto the runway, ditto for the centreline.

It wasn’t dangerous, just sloppy. A go around may well have been in order.

I know I can do better, I want to do better, which now leaves me in the position of us having some great flying weather where all I want to do is make a nice long booking and go somewhere but what I really need to do is book an hour of circuit pounding in some sporty crosswinds.

<even bigger sigh>

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Slippery when high.

One of the things I’ve seemed to mention quite a bit now that I’m a “proper pilot” is that no one teaches you how to manage passengers.

I’m slowly figuring this out, mostly courtesy of very willing and understanding friends, who understand that I’m using them as Guinea pigs as much as they are using me to get a free flight!

For example, K was happy to tell me that the engine failing to start on the first crank was scary, now I warn people. M walked into the wing, now I mention this to people that they need to watch their heads. A was a good example of how some people don’t really want to know the technical details of everything you are doing and just wanted to sit back and enjoy the ride, reminding me that you need to tailor your “spiel” for each individual.

Well my latest victim passenger was E from work. E is awesome in many ways but I’m particularly proud of the fact that she quit smoking and has been cigarette free for a year now. That deserves a reward. A flying reward.

As usual I took this opportunity to hone my passenger management skills! I think I did OK. E certainly enjoyed the flight and didn’t seem unduly concerned.

Until we got to the last part, setting up for the landing. I’d gotten a straight in approach for 26, the winds were a little challenging at around 10 or so knots and pretty much a full crosswind. Looking back I realised that I let myself get lulled by the 10 knots and neglected to figure that none of that was in fact a headwind component. To put it bluntly, we were at full flaps and not coming down nearly soon enough.

I’d already briefed my passenger on the possibility of a go around (neglecting to mention that my teeth were firmly clenched against winds that were at the top end of my comfort zone) but I wanted to try and at least attempt a landing and I was already compensating for a crosswind, so I set up for a nice into the wind slip.

It did the job, silently congratulating myself for controlling my airspeed and not diving to the runway like I had a previous tendency to. We got down in one piece (more in another post!) and eventually headed off in search of food.

I asked E for her honest feedback in terms of if there was anything I should have mentioned or that came as a surprise to her.

Her response surprised me a little bit, she said something along the lines of “yeah, when we were landing, well just before that in the descent bit, you did something and it felt like the plane stopped moving. That was weird”

Initially I had no clue what she was talking about. When I powered back to idle maybe? A little bit of quizzing from me finally revealed the truth. She was talking about when I set up the slip.
Hmm interesting. Now that she’s mentioned it I have read that passengers don’t seem to like the physical sensation of slipping. I’ve never given it a second thought.

In fact the whole subject of “slipping” seems to be a tad controversial in some arenas.  I’ve mentioned before that I read flying forums from the UK, States and get the odd bit of kiwi fun thrown in as well. As well as some discussion about what you are actually talking about with a “Side slip” vs “forward slip” vs “slipping turn” .

This thread here makes for some interesting reading.

I will admit that up until that flight I’d never considered the slip manoeuvre to be anything more than a useful tool for when you’ve overcooked your approach somewhat. I wouldn’t have managed to pass my PPL without resorting to this during my less than stellar forced approach.

Either way I didn’t appreciate the physical sensation in gives your passengers. I guess it’s a little bit like the driver never getting carsick, that kind of thing.

For those of you who don’t fly the above paragraphs make no sense to you whatsoever, the short version is. I did something funky to the plane to compensate for a poorly planned descent and it made E feel a bit weird.

The good news is that she survived and is even happy to go flying with me again.

The even better news is that this epic post seems to have broken my writers block and I’m back in the blogiverse!

Monday, 13 April 2015

A special mention

To “A”, who when I saw him yesterday, insisted on a blog mention.

So, here you go……

Considered yourself mentioned!

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

A folder full of half written drafts

Is all I have at the moment.
Don’t understand why writing is so damn hard.

At this time, it seems like learning to fly was the easy part!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A new era

In the LFE and RTH household. We are a cable tv-less zone.

We’ve been looking at alternatives for a while but things have come to a head recently with crappy programming and even crappier hardware conspiring against us.

For a while we’ve suspected that we aren’t exactly getting value for money, so we made a list of the series that we actually watch during a year (on average) and priced out what it would costs to buy them outright on either ITunes or Googleplay. When it worked out to less than 3 months cable costs, well that gave us some food for thought.

As I mentioned things came to a bit of a breaking point and we were faced with the choice of either cancelling the cable or my going on an armed rampage through the cable company’s HQ.
Possibly worried about my workplace’s proximity to said Cable Company’s HQ, RTH did the sensible thing and cancelled it.

As of today we are officially cable free. The idea being that we will still watch the stuff we used to but my habit of having mindless crap on as background noise will stop.

We still have Netflix and options for purchasing digital versions of series, we can even pick up some stuff free over the air and we own a plethora of other assorted gadgets including an Apple TV and a Google chromecast.

I’m hoping that now I’ve removed my ability to zone out and waste the evenings sitting watching inane crap on the TV, it might spur me on to do some more useful stuff like

·         Writing blog posts
·         Writing my book
·         Doing something with my video backlog
·         Acting on my vague plans to reorganise the stuff on my current YouTube channel
·         Lego
·         Reading books
·         Other stuff that hasn’t occurred to me yet but may well do so.

At the very least I’m hoping it might spark some creativity as I’m not joking about my lack of writing ability at the moment.

We shall see.