Tuesday, 26 May 2015

A night with the Canadian Military

With a title like that, how can a girl say no?

With that in mind, E and I headed off to Oshawa airport for the latest Transport Canada Safety Seminar. With such a title I had high hopes that this one would be better than the last one I attended. At least there was the potential for some decent eye candy!

The main topic of the evening was Search and Rescue Services and in particular how the new 406 MHz ELTs function, and why they are so much better than the traditional 121.5 beacons.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with ELTS, basically the old ones were emergency beacons that when activated make a horrible warbling sound on 121.5 on your radio.

The idea is that, where possible, you should be monitoring 121.5, so if a beacon goes off somewhere then a plane will pick it up and let someone know. I haven’t looked at the regs but it wouldn’t surprise me if you had a legal obligation to report it.

The problem is that Canada is a stupidly large country. I mean insanely large. So large that I still can’t get my head round it, even after living here for 8 years. And an ELT beacon can be anywhere. You are talking a radius of hundreds of kilometres. Also as one of the speakers pointed out rather wryly “you guys like to fly white planes……….in winter”. In Canada realistic search and rescue targets are measured in days.

So the 406 beacons talk to satellites and actually pinpoint your location to hundreds of metres rather than hundreds of kilometres. They are also registered, so that if one goes off, the guys at Trenton actually know who it is.

There was a reasonable amount of discussion about the importance of keeping the “registered to” details current with the handy hint that if it is you flying the plane then perhaps the primary contact ought to be someone different, duh!

The final bit (and the most fun in my opinion) was given by an actual Search and Rescue Technician (SARTech). Basically the guy who gets to jump out the back of a Hercules and comes to your rescue.
It was kind of interesting to see what he keeps in his backpack. He carries enough stuff to keep himself and a patient alive for 24 hours. It might be that they dump him out the back of the plane while they figure out how to actually reach you. His kit is definitely not TSA approved, containing at least six different ways of starting a fire and an insanely large machete.

In all it was a very useful evening, culminating in a deal being struck between E and myself.
You see while both of us are appreciative of decent eye candy, she was rather more taken with the JRCC commander and his incredibly easy on the ear Quebecois accent. I will admit there is something about a guy with a sexy accent and the ability to launch a fleet of aircraft on his whim.

Anyways we agreed that if I ever got a 406 beacon, I’d put her down as my emergency contact so she could talk to the nice man but she had to promise to make him send the cute SARTech.

Seems reasonable n’est ce pas?

Monday, 25 May 2015

A better question

One of the fantastic things about the 99s meeting was the sheer range of flying experience. Ranging from senior commercial pilots flying 777s for a living to us weekend warriors right the way down to student pilots.

Everyone was interested in each other’s story, the commercial captains remembering what it was like to be a pre solo student. There was no judgement, no competition, just pilots encouraging other pilots.
After a few conversations I realised something fascinating, any initial conversation between two strangers inevitably started with “so what do you fly?” (BTW a C172 is by far the most common answer!)

Follow on questions might be

·         So how long have you been flying

·         Where are you based out of

·         How long have you been with the 99s?

Not ONCE did I hear anyone ask “How many hours do you have?” Regular readers will know that this question is my pet peeve.

It simply didn’t seem to matter. I was amongst a significant group of women who had taken multiple years to get their PPL.

Noone cared.

Most saw it as the advantage that it was, that we’d acquired more experience, a broader range of conditions. The general consensus being that no flight time was wasted flight time!
I think as a student you can get caught up, no matter how hard you try, in the “how many hours” game.

The question of choice, when speaking to a student pilot, seemed to be a simple “so how’s it going?”
That is such a low pressure question, it opens up the floor toy talk about anything you want. It could be a “yeah I soloed a few weeks ago, now I’m just pounding out the circuits” or a “just got to nail those landings then I’m gonna be all on my own” or possibly a “yep, just waiting on the weather and then its solo cross country time”

It such a better question to ask. There’s no judgement involved and it actually opens the path to a dialogue rather than just a number.

Let’s all try to use it more often.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

I got 99 reasons to fly

No actual flying this weekend but plenty of aviation based stuff going on. I attended the AGM of the East Canada Section of the 99s.

If I haven’t mentioned it before the 99s are a group of female pilots. Our inaugural president was Amelia Earhart herself, so you’re in pretty good company. The organisation is open to female pilots (students as well) and aims to provide support and promote women pilots.

You can read a little about them here. I was introduced to the group by a couple of the female pilots at the local flying club, not long after I’d joined and quickly became aware of the events they support such as the “Girls take Flight” (an event I still need to blog about!)

Initially I was a little apprehensive about being thrown in to this mix. I don’t do big groups particularly well, especially groups where I hardly know anyone. I also had a horrid suspicion that it’d be a group of bored “ladies who lunch” kind of thing.

Yeah I couldn’t have been more wrong on that score.

I met (and was instantly welcomed by) young pilots, old pilots, student pilots, commercial pilots. Air racers, Sunday morning flyers. Pilots who had built their own planes, pilots who were weekend renters just like me.

The range of experience and backgrounds was staggering.  The welcome even more so. Everyone had a story to tell and was genuinely interested in your own in turn. From the pre solo student to the gold cup winners.

I have never been in an environment where I felt so accepted, so much like I belonged. To think of it, I’ve never been in a room with 45 other female pilots before.

I was truly humbled by some of the people I met. The woman who’d spent 45 years as a technician in the Navy before finally getting her PPL at the age of 78. The employee of a local aerospace company that enjoyed working with the planes so much , she got her commercial and type rating and now shuttles her fellow coworkers between Toronto and Montreal on the company Q400.

I spoke with pilots who fly twins, homebuilts, a little Ercoupe.The latter has no rudder pedals at all. I spent 15 minutes getting her to try to explain exactly how she lands it in a crosswind!

After a million different conversations I rapidly discovered that despite my awe, I had much in common with these pilots.

I discovered I’m not the only one who decides not to fly went the winds look too sporty or the ceilings too low to be fun. I’m also not the only one who improvises items to climb on to dip the wing tanks either.

I also discovered that people seem to be disproportionally (in my opinion) impressed that I learnt out of the island airport. For them it is intimidating, for me it’s just what I’m used to.  I admitted that actually untowered airports scare me somewhat.

I’ll probably have a couple more posts from this meeting but all in all I met a ton of new flying friends, have any invitations to meet up at various airfields and I’ve got 99 reasons to fly.  

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

You’ve got mail

This is what happens when a very nice person decides to send you some freebies and you forget to mention your actual name to them!

It made me laugh very hard to get mail addressed to my blog persona!

The items in question were these two books, from Owen Zupp (visit his website), who very kindly mailed them all the way from Australia when I won them off his website.

I’m about to start reading them so that I can write a meaningful review on his Amazon Page but already I can tell you they look very professional for what I assume is a self publish job and look to be snippet- just the right sized reads. I’m looking forward to delving in.

He has other stuff, including his practical pilot series,  take a look.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Perpetuating the stereotype?

I have a separate email account that I use for flying related stuff. Thus most of my flying friends email me as local flight east rather than my actual name.

Any store accounts or the like which are flying related also go to that email account. It helps me keep track of all things flying related. Occasionally I forget that people don’t have my real name. Leading to some funny mail. More on that in another post.

Anyway the thing that got me started on this post was the usual amount of  emails that I get from various stores that I have done business with in the past. Informing you about specials and stuff.

I just got one this morning, inviting me to “Give Dad a gift he really wants” and then listing their Father’s day specials.

Well for one thing, I think it is a little dubious that amongst the items listed on your “specials” pages are sick bags (“happy father’s day, puke into this”?!) but worse is the fact that I don’t recall getting a similar email on Mother’s Day

Once again reinforcing the stereotype that only men fly.


Monday, 18 May 2015

Infamous? Notorious?

I appear to have acquired a little bit of a web presence as it were. ­ It isn’t uinheard of for people to see or hear me and ask “are you LocalFlightEast?” or “Are you the one with the blog?” or “have I seen your videos on Youtube”

Sometimes it is funny, sometimes flattering, occasionally a little bothersome that my accent and online persona render me instantly recognisable. There’s a world of difference in spotting someone is having radio issues and “Ha ha I just heard LFE fluff a radio call!”

Anyways, this is all of my own making ­I guess. I’m not afraid really of having given up my anonymity. It honestly would not take a genius to figure out from my various online activities: my real name, where I work and what I do for a living.

Anonymity on the web does funny things to people. I’m still coming to terms with the fact that probably some of the really nice, really helpful, really supportive people at the local flying club I’ve joined are possibly some of the same assholes who make one of the forums I read (and occasionally post on, not under LFE’s tag) one of the most toxic places I have ever seen from a student pilots perspective.

And that makes me all kind of sad, because I’m genuinely of the opinion the General Aviation is in trouble and that we need to pull together to fix it.

Rant aside. It is sometimes hard for me to track the audience of this blog. I know I have a few regulars who comment. I know that family back in the UK read and I know I get trawled by Russian porn bots. Other than that, well who knows?

Notoriety can have its up sides too though. Completely out of the blue, after posting this confession of how I’d moved over to the dark side (no cookies though!) where I mentioned the Bad Elf GPS I had purchased, I got an email from the cofounder of the company! Telling me that he read  my blog, enjoyed it and hoped that my purchase was working out well for me.

That was just a teensy bit flattering.

Actually it was a lot flattering.

And for exceptional customer service in the form of email flattery, Brett, you have won yourself a free review of the Bad Elf Pro, here on this very blog.

Just as soon as I’ve written it!

As great as this international attention maybe (ok maybe not so great in terms of Russian porn),I still thing the sweetest thing was getting down to the flying school yesterday only to find that the owner had seen my name on the flight sheet and had placed my three milk crates that I use for my preflight , easily accessible just inside the hanger door so that I didn’t have to go hunting for them.

Now that’s service!

Saturday, 16 May 2015

YouTube thingy

I've had to remove the video bar from the side of my blog as, rather annoyingly, it has stopped showing my thumbnails.

Even more annoyingly I can get it to work by keyword search but not if I just put my channel name in.

Any ideas out in the blogiverse?

Friday, 15 May 2015

the wind is not what it seems

I push the throttle in, the engine dutifully produces the maximum rpm I’m expecting and I guide her down the runway until she’s gathered enough speed to decide she doesn’t want to be down on the ground anymore.

Eventually I depart the tarmac and already I notice that the summer heat is having an effect. I keep her nose down until she’s reached a safe enough speed to really start climbing. I make a mental note to talk to E about this. She’s happily plodding away in the circuit now and was looking for tips on how to keep your departure path aligned.

I know exactly what she was finding tricky, I In the winter as soon as you takeoff the increased performance means that you climb out briskly and steeply, you lose sight of the runway fairly rapidly. In the summer you don’t climb as well and can keep sight of the centreline for a lot longer, it certainly help when you are first learning.

If I was cleverer with videos and stuff I’d make a side by side comparison of a summer and winter takeoff, but I’m not. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.

The phrase “caution wake turbulence” still ringing loudly in my ears, I wonder if I have hit weak wake vortices or just a bit of local windshear as we wobble on the climb out.

Either way this isn’t exactly smooth flying, the wind is weird. It doesn’t feel anything like what is being reported. 090 10G15 is perfectly acceptable. Pretty much right down the runway should be easy with plenty of headwind to bring me down. No nasty crosswinds really to consider.

Except I’m on the downwind and being pushed IN, so that I’m crowding my circuit.


It’s a little roller coastery all round really, the winds are not what they appear to be for sure. I feel slanted on final, like I’ve over cooked the turn but in reality I’m good. I must be compensating for the wind, albeit unconsciously.

A reasonable touch and go (technically it might have been two touch and goes, a little bouncy there!) and off round for the next circuit.

The next circuit is strangely the same yet different. The winds not quite as advertised but the circuit reasonable…. Up to a point.

I’m on final, there is traffic slow to depart. No matter I’m fairly certain that the controller has a handle on this…. He seems a little ticked at me when I tell him I’m going to overshoot though.

In truth it has nothing to do with his traffic spacing management and everything to do with the fact that I’m up here and the runway is down there. I’m staring at four bright shiny whites and have no hope of salvaging a decent touch and go out of this, besides I did genuinely want to practice an overshoot at some point. It’s been nearly six months since my last one. So we will pretend that this was totally planned and ATC can just suck it up.

Variable tail winds, we can all blame it on that. Pilots love to blame bad landings on variable tail winds.

Once more unto the breech around the circuit and I think I’m done. I’m just burning Hobbs time for the sake of currency and one touch and go, one overshoot and one full stop landing has a nice symmetry to it.

I come around for my final one, still unsure of what the heck the winds are actually doing. I manage a passable landing and scurry off as directed, at foxtrot.

I needed the landing practice and a quick look at the GPS tracks, courtesy of my Bad Elf, show that they were actually pretty passable shaped circuits as well.

A worthwhile flight but not exactly riveting. I’ll be a little sad if that’s all I manage this month

Thursday, 14 May 2015


In the space of two weeks the weather at the airport has gone from “It’s just above freezing, I still need my gloves to do my walkround” to “Argh, it’s pushing 30 degrees I hope I can get the finicky fuel injected engine started

Today’s flying plans have been scaled back, big time. The original plan was to book a block of 4 hours and go somewhere for lunch. I fly one leg, RTH the other.

That plan was nipped in the bud by the two hour booking limitation at weekends. SAR is still poorly, so the flight school is a plane down. Hence the restrictions on long bookings at popular times. While this is annoying, it’s also understandable.

So I downgrade to a local sightseeing jaunt, maybe play with my new Foreflight stuff for navigation. The weather is getting sunnier and the lakes are getting prettier, plenty to see for sure.

Then of course, as the day gets closer, the forecast gets crappier. I’m due to fly late afternoon and my weather app has been bleating at me all morning “WEATHER ALERT!” and “SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH IN EFFECT”*

The METAR is slightly more subdued but even it is calling for a 30% chance of totally unflyable weather.

I wait as long as I can, call flight services for their take on it all. It’s looking OKish at the moment, hazy but technically still good VFR visibility, winds a little gusty but mostly down the runway. Some convective clouds but not as much as advertised, jeez, who knows?

I need to fly, as I’ll be out of currency in a few days, so I decide to just hop down for a few circuits. I could do with the landing practice anyways. RTH decides not to join me, he has shelves he apparently needs to attack with a circular saw.

When I arrive my plane is still airborne, the owner starts fussing about why it is late ( it isn’t really) but I let him know that I don’t like the look of the weather so I’m only gonna fling it round the block a few times. No hurry.

I chat while I wait, TOI from my practice flight test is there, I haven’t seen him in a while but it is nice to chat. I shall remain ever grateful to him, my actual flight test was pretty much a carbon copy of what he put me through. It helped. A lot.

Eventually I get to my plane and figure out just how to get myself set up in this thing again. I think the planes are punishing me for being away for so long, we don’t seem to play as nicely together as we once did.

I get the engine started first time, yay me. Obviously some skills remain with you. We are on the dreaded 08. I get the expected taxi instructions and start to move off, ATC then ask me to hold abeam foxtrot.

I’m totally Ok with this, I assume that they want to get the conga line of at least two Porter’s out ahead of me. Fine by me.

Nope, turns out that they are landing a helicopter and want me out of the blast zone, looks like I’m leading this conga line. Which sucks because it’s been officially aaaaages since I had to tuck it into that little corner on alpha. If I get it wrong this time. I’m going to be annoying a whole load of paying customers as they wait for me to flick the switches and check the dials during my run up.

As it turns out. I get her tucked in just fine and am rewarded with a cheery wave from the crew of the Q400 as they pass around me.

So far so good, I’ve made it to the hold short line and I’m dialing up the tower to see who is around. I need to hear because with the yucky haze stuff around, seeing isn’t that helpful.

Well what do you know, the first voice I hear is familiar, very familiar. It’s Bob! Apparently he’s established on the right downwind for 08 and is informing ATC that they will be doing a simulated engine failure to a full stop. I’m delighted to hear that I wasn’t the only student he pulls this kind of stunt on. I briefly wonder if the student is learning of this impending failure at the same time I am!
I get my takeoff clearance and do exactly that, JES and I launch off for a quick set of circuits..

*Alerts like this may seem melodramatic but we occasionally do get weather that could constitute dangerous. One of the big differences between “bad weather” in the UK and “bad weather” in Canada is that the former is irksome to be out in, the latter hazardous.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015


This marks my 1000th post on LOCAL FLIGHT EAST

WOW, Just WOW!!!

(it’s also my birthday!)

Monday, 11 May 2015

Where it all happens

Now that we’ve owned our own place for over a year now, it’s finally at the point where we’ve got each room looking as we want it to.

We’ve added storage so that out stuff doesn’t look like it just exploded everywhere and generally everything is where it should be. Bar a few pictures and other decorative stuff, we are pretty much done.

The spare room / my study was the last room to get the makeover treatment. For the longest time it was merely a repository for all the stuff that had been displaced because we were trying to sort out other rooms.

Now it is finished and I am very pleased to say that it has an entire space dedicated to flying and flight planning.

This is where LFE is plotting the takeover of the known universe Southern Ontario.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Check, check and check again

Checking stuff is important, that’s why we have checklists. I always have to explain to passengers that we will spend maybe a good 5-10 minutes on the ground before getting airborne, making sure that the plane is fit to fly. That doesn’t even include the time you spend doing your walk round.
Today’s flight was a great example of how even the most experienced* pilot needs a humble reminder of how important it is to check stuff.

The first example of this occurred whilst I was still waiting for JES to land. As well as chatting to the flight school owner (in a surprisingly cheerful mood!) I took a moment to glance through the journey log for JES.

A quick aside here, the journey log is a record of all the flights and maintenance that have been done on a plane. It tells you if the plane is legal to fly. You need a check a number of things such as the number of hours left on the engine before it needs maintenance, the various systems need servicing at certain intervals and so on. As the pilot, it is your responsibility to check this before every flight. And occasionally I’ll admit , there probably have been flights where I haven’t. The owner keeps his planes well maintained and legal, so there is a tendency to assume that all is well.

I glance through the journey log, the last page is just two entries of flights, so I skip back to see what else is going on. I’m looking for the “do not fly after….”tag line from the last maintenance entry.  Luckily for me our maintenance guys use a lovely system of printed labels which make the maintenance info stand out from the general “we added oil” stuff.

I see that the engine only has 0.1 left on the Hobbs before it needs looking at, that could be a problem seeing as that is from yesterday and the plane is currently airborne. Another glance tells me that the AME has signed off a 10 hour extension. I’m good to go from that respect.

But….. I also notice there is a date on the sticker as well as an engine hour time. “ do not use after April 2015”. It’s now May. Closer examination reveals it’s the static pitot systems turn for an overhaul. It has actually been done, it is just for some reason it’s buried in a wall of text rather than a nice neat sticker.

Either way the plane is legal. It just took me some time to confirm.

Next occurrence comes on my walkround. The plane isn’t long landed, a solo student. Because the plane has just been flying I concentrate my checks in different areas than I would if it’s the first flight of the day. I assume that the control surfaces are hooked up correctly for example, but I check more carefully for any damage that might have been caused by a hard landing.

It is looking good, no flat spots on the tires, the nosewheel shocks intact. I finish off and climb up to dump the fuel back in the tanks. I secure the cap and get down, realising that I forgot to dip them, Both tanks are below the level that I can visually see the fuel level and a finger just confirms the presence of some fuel somewhere below the tab. The gauges are showing ¾ in one side but less than a third in the other.

Fuel gauges are notoriously unreliable. Sometimes you do get an imbalance like that. If the plane has been doing a lot of circuits in one direction for example.

Now I’m only going to be taking it around the block a few times. I could probably get away without dipping them. But….

Mindful of the fact that I don’t want the accident report to read “despite claiming to have done a visual inspection of fuel levels the left tank ran dry approximately 5 minutes into the flight” I reluctantly grab my dipstick and get up there again.

The problem is, it’s been a month since I flew and I’m out of practice. Stuff just doesn’t flow like it used to. Getting myself seated and belted is a clusterf#ck all of its own. Never the most elegant person, I strap myself in, go to hitch myself forward and realise that I’m pinned by my lap strap and almost stuck. Yeah, I’ve attempted to use the passenger seat belt and unsurprisingly that hasn’t worked out too well.

Fixing the problem necessitates shoving the seat back, opening the door and unclipping myself.
Eventually I get it figured and  carry on, even managing to start the finicky hot engine first time. I get as far as the run up area and the “harnesses and doors” section of my checklist before realising that the passenger door is not latched.

At this point I’m glad that my exaggerated “put your hands on everything as you call it out” checklist method has paid off. I quickly pull the latch shut.

Passengers might find it a bit weird when you lean over them to touch the door and wndow latches on their side, but I bet they’d find suddenly being in a convertible at 500ft off the ground even weirder!

*Yeah I’m not really that much as an experienced pilot really but it sounds so good to say “Oh yeah I’ve got about 130 hours”. No one needs to know that all bar a handful were pre flight test!