Saturday, December 28, 2013

Two nervous flyers

Despite the infant stages of my flying career, I have noticed that there are (at least) two different types of nervous flyers.

They both would rather not go flying but has no other choice, due to their type of work, time constraint, or the remoteness of their destination, but to get inside this flying tube of metal and gasoline. However, I found that one is more pleasant to deal with than the other.

There's the one that knows their stuff. They know that smaller airplanes are usually more dangerous than the airliners. But they accept it. They work with their fear, so you usually find them asking a lot of questions and yourself answering most or all of those questions to the best of your ability. This is totally fine with me; I actually prefer that they tell me of their nervousness so that I could do my very best to make them as comfortable as I can. They ask about the operation of the emergency exits and actually and genuinely pays attention to your passenger briefing. In flight, they tend to be on the edge of their seat for the takeoff and landing but for cruise they sit quietly or close their eyes with their seat belts fastened. When I have this type of passenger I tend to make my control inputs as smooth as possible. Which is completely fine with me as I dislike turbulence either!

Then there's the other type. The obnoxious, just-get-me-there-safely-already type of nervous flyer. They make uncomfortable comments about the smallness of the aircraft, or how fast/slow it goes. They make a comment on how young you look despite your actual age (I just shrug this one every time because I'm pretty sure I will forever look like I'm 18). Then once you get inside, they are in a hurry are-we-there-yet-esque type of behaviour. When you give them the passenger briefing, they don't pay attention because in their mind you know nothing and will probably kill them. When you try to make them feel comfortable by showing how to use the doors/emergency exits, they make a stupid comment "I don't wanna know that!". And it just makes you want to smack them in the head and say I don't want you to have to use this information either but I have to give it to you, but you don't, because that's not very professional. When your captain tries to use humour as a tool to calm their nerves, there's a silent sound of crickets in the middle of winter.

So for me, I'd prefer one over the other but I have to accept their anxieties because it's human nature. And despite their obnoxious comments, I still have the responsibility for their care while we are operating the aircraft they are in.  It's my contract and promise to them whenever they step foot in the airplane to make flight safe and comfortable to the best of my abilities. It's still a part of the job description I take pride in and enjoy.

Some more videos

I recently borrowed a friend's GoPro Camera and took some shots and compiled them into a few YouTube videos.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Flying Video

Here is a quick and simple video I mashed up together last night. Footage were taken using my good ol' flipcam camcorder and a gorillapod on the dashboard. It was my cheap version of what I want to eventually upgrade to, a gopro set up. 

So it was a bit shaky but youtube added a bit of video stabilization which now means that the aircraft seems like it was vibrating like crazy when it really wasn't.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Appreciate the forgettable flight

I was reading this article called The Demise of the Airline Pilot and it got me thinking about a couple of things. I understand that the industry is not as glamorous as it used to be, no, not even close. It's a race to the bottom and it's unfortunate to say that we haven't even reached it yet.

But a couple of lines caught my attention.

Applause for landings is appreciated in this beleaguered profession but it sometimes underscores the frustrating fact that few appreciate all that goes into making the rest of one’s flight so forgettable.

It's so true. So much of the flying public applause after a greaser or reaching smooth air after a bumpy ride. No one seems to appreciate the forgettable flights. It takes every bit of the pilot's competency to make the flight seem like a walk in the park. A forgettable flight just like any other. Forgettable flights are the safest, and has the best pilots flying it.

While Schiff Senior concludes that he cannot recommend the pilot profession any longer, he conceded that “Coping with the challenges of weather, communing with nature in a way only pilots can appreciate, and maneuvering a sophisticated aircraft from one place on Earth to another remains a stimulating and gratifying endeavor. It is the price one must pay to get there that is so discouraging.

It's incomparable to anything you've ever experienced. Freedom and responsibility mixture is the greatest, most gratifying feeling. Only pilots with a passion for flying can ever appreciate this nature of this beast. The problem is that getting there, yet still not impossible, has gotten harder and harder to accomplish financially. 

I only wish for one thing, every once in a while, for the flying public to truly understand and appreciate what goes into making this profession and passion, our life.

Gear...2 greens?

Getting called that I needed to prepare the aircraft for immediate -ish departure was somewhat exhilarating. Certainly more so than what I was currently doing at the time. Grooming. Ick I despise that aspect of the job that's for damn sure.

So I quickly look at the essentials first: hours, deferred and past defects, oil on both engines, tires and do a quick inspection of everything else. 
Everyone else comes through the door and by that time I have changed into my pilot shirt and tie, a real tie not those pretentious clip-on ties. 
There's four aircraft in total flying North. Fire evacuations have been started and half of our fleet is dispatched. Hurray for some night flying. 

We get there at midnight and after the UNorganized chaos of rushing passengers and designating airplanes for them. We fuel and load up, start up and taxi out. Takeoff and back home we go. 
The most eventful part of the return leg was the fact that I tried to kill all the mosquitoes that checked into our airplane before I get 100 bites in the 2 hours and change of a flight. 

Drop them off and return to base. It's 3:30am by that time and we're all ready to go home.

Gear down landing checks. I go through the the checklist. Gear...NOT 3 green. Great just what we needed; Neither of us said that aloud but I'm sure we were both thinking it. He gave me control and troubleshooted the problem. I orbited on top of the airport at circuit altitude, good thing towers closed now. 

Tried switching bulbs, no joy. 
Tried recycling gear, no luck amigo. 
Tried emergency pump, nothing. 
Gear handle snapback suggests Hydraulic pressure is good. 
Tried pulling g's to lock left main gear to place, still 2 greens. 

Luckily, 3 of the other pilots were still on the ground so we tried our best to do a low pass and check it out. All three agreed that it looks good. 

He takes control back for landing and i get ready on the mixtures and other stuff in case it collapses. Land taxi shutdown normally. Thank geebus. 

Nothing like a gear problem to wake you up at 4am. 

Another day, livin' the dream....

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Not too shabby

Currently hanging out at the hydro shack for the day. Shack makes it sound shitty but in reality it's better than most of our holds.

There's a couch, telephone, and a TV! Even I don't watch TV at home because I don't have cable/satellite. It's pretty awesome to be honest. 

I think it was some weird commercial haha!

Can't say much about the airport/town though. It's livable for sure but not my idea of a great town. The airport and runway is right next to a bunch of houses and there's always stray dogs and seagulls everywhere. 

Short final, "3 green, runway is NOT clear". There were dogs crossing the runway. A flock of seagulls on arrival end of runway about to takeoff in all directions. Ah shit! Hope for the best and try not to hit them. Safety first after all. Two of the dogs cross very slowly on flare, the other dog remains on the other side. Touchdown, nothing was hit, thank Jeebuz!

Now we can relax and have a nap on the couch before we worry about real problems like thunderstorms that could build up along our route for our way home. 

Another day, living the dream...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Furthest north, so far

Last week, I got called for a last minute charter late Friday afternoon. It's cool, I didn't have any plans that night anyway because I was on call all weekend long. 

We were to pick up company personnel working up in Gillam, Manitoba. If you don't know where that is, a quick doodle on google will show you to one of the northern towns in Manitoba. If I remember correctly it's about 56°20' North. That's the furthest north I've been to, so I made sure to post something on Facebook so I can add it to my places map. 

We made sure to park it beside the fuel tanks because it was an average of 2.5hrs each way. 

Then the hurry up and wait game started. The company was working too late that they missed the scheduled service there with another airline, which would've been approximately $3000 cheaper. Yep, these charters aren't cheap. 

I noticed a few trucks just outside the terminal. Apparently that is where the road ends. And to go further North, you'd have to go by train, or airplanes, or ice roads in the winter. Pretty neat. 

A quick shuffle of bags and fill up and we were off back to Winnipeg. There was forecast bad weather back by the time we get there but it wasn't too bad. Got some night flying done too!

Friday, June 7, 2013


After working the ramp for about 11 months, marshalling, loading and unloading aircraft, including all cargo Hawker Siddeley 748s with a forklift, they finally let me try out crewing on the hawker. That is where you're in charge of loading the airplane up in the northern airports.

Technically that was supposed to be part of the training program in your first 6 months of employment, but I never got the chance to do it. It was January, right smack in the middle of the coldest winter I have ever experienced. The forecast all week called for -30C and lower weather. Just fantastic. I was supposed to overnight up north so I brought extra clothing, on top of the layers upon layers I was already wearing to keep warm.

Early 8am departure to a town 20 minutes north where were supposed to load up with food for the Northern Stores for the Attawapiskat. Uneventful start-up, being on the jumpseat, I got to witness the masters go back and forth with flows and checklists like a prayer they recited a million times.

Takeoff and the pressurization and environmental controls finally starts to warm up the cockpit. Soon enough we were unable to see our own breaths...time to thaw off. 
5 miles out and Gear Down Landing Checks were called. 2 green no red,...wait a minute.

Perfect, I remember thinking; my first flight as a crewman and we're gonna land with one gear not in down and locked position. Captain must have tried recycling the gear 50 times. Up and down, up and down, hoping that the next time would be different, but no cigar, still 2 greens.

First officer jumps out of his seat, I jump out of his way so he can look through the window in the back for the secondary indication that the gears are down and locked. He says that they are. He tells me what to look for just so that he's sure he's not just seeing things.
I see the same thing, circle filled with white means they are down and locked. It's a good thing we were still empty, otherwise going back and forth would've been tough. I go back and forth between recycles to confirm, still the same. The sounds of the gear locking into their places confirm that it's locked too.

20 minutes of troubleshooting we decide to go back home and ask the MTC and FSS to see if they see our landing gear down and locked. A low and over and a good briefing on what to do in case it wasn't locked later, we were finally lined up for runway 03. Approach was good, speed was good. Touchdown, no collapse! As soon as we touched down the gear indicator showed 3 green. Phew.

Captain has been flying that beast a long time, and he even said that was the first time in his career landing with 2 green lights. Good grief. Was I the unlucky charm, or perhaps the lucky charm since the story ended happily? I'll never know.

But that wasn't the only thing that went wrong with the airplane by the end of that long and cold*t happens though. You just deal with it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

No Presets, No Problem!

With the sudden onset of me getting a flying job, finally. I think this blog is going to finally include actual aviation related posts. Although, I'm currently flying part-time and there's usually not much to talk about but that's okay.

I try to write when I'm "holding" somewhere waiting for customers to finish their meeting or work so I can bring them back to civilization, literally. I don't usually save posts for future publishing because 1. I don't currently have that much to talk about, and 2. It's more fun when it just happened and I'm talking about it. Although there is some time delay though because most of the places we go to have neither cell reception or internet connection.

Kinda forces me to be more creative in the things I do there though, instead of being completely glued to my iPhone or computer. I usually bring a book or two, read the newspaper and struggle at those crosswords, they're actually super hard for me. And during the really long holds, I take a nap or two, or at least attempt at one for the sake of having some rest instead of being up all day.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Gunisao Lake Lodge

Welcome To The Lake, Gunisao Lake to be exact. Being today the IFR shitty weather in southern manitoba as it is, it's two crew time for Fishing Lodge trips.
Destination: Budd's Gunisao Lake Lodge.

Here is the link to their website.

Started out with waking up dark and early at 0245 for a 0415 check in for duty. This is the hardest part, I could say that once I got off that bed and into the shower that it's all downhill, "smooth" sailing from there. (It was actually super windy so mechanical turbulence from surface to 3000ft). A quick but thorough walk around, a splash of oil into the right engine and we're off for a short hop over to Winnipeg International where we're picking up passengers. 5 minutes of cloud base dancing and a decent crosswind landing later, we were ready to load up.

I'd say 99% of the guests for the lodge come from The States for some famous walleye fishing. We had 4 aircraft for the trip and we had 3 pax and loads of food and supplies for the lodge on our flight. IFR, taxi, and takeoff clearances were given and acknowledged. Checklists were completed. Procedures followed. 30 minutes of solid IMC and then gorgeous VFR the rest of the way. Yadda yadda yadda...It's my first time being here and well being new to the airplane as well, so the captain made the landing. Crosswind from the left and it's definitely not for the faint of heart.

Take a look at the "runway" for yourself...

It would have been a quick turn and burn for us but the two pax we were to take down south hopped on the other airplanes instead and so we get to sit here at the lodge for a few hours before our second trip of the day. I can't say I'm complaining. It'd be perfect if it was a little warmer and less windier.

The other navajo took off in front of us and this is literally the view from where we parked.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Flying like a...seagull?

"Being a pilot is much like being a seagull; fly around…eat some garbage…take a nap…fly around…eat some more garbage.”

The Pilots Room we were in

This pilots lounge is getting too comfortable with me being in it for the past 3 hours. That's okay, since we got in when the weather was right at minimums with lower forecasted, we get to sit for a few more hours until it's back home again for us.

The funny part is this airport is a bit bigger than our usual destination. A lot more livelier as it is filled with passengers and employees of a scheduled airline that comes here quite a bit. Still though, no internet access even though I'm connected through their modem and no cell reception, my options are similarly limited. I'm gonna have to start getting creative with all these day-long holds we often get. Maybe next time I'll bring a set of playing cards or a board game, however a game of twister might be pushing it. If I had a female captain, let alone a hot one then I might reconsider.

In the meantime though, I think it's nap time. The busyness of this place now seems to play against the possibility of catching some Z's now. What if I legitimately pass out, some next pilots will come in here and would have to be obliged to be quiet for my sake, and I don't wanna impose that on anyone.

What a conundrum, on a cloudy day, at least we get to fly...right?