Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Don't touch your face

Actual excerpt from aircraft journey log maintenance entry:

Stay safe. Wash your hands.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Seeing Resolutely

New Year's resolution: clean my glasses with optician-provided spray and a microfibre cloth instead of licking them and wiping them on my t-shirt. Not sure if I achieved last years' ones or not. I didn't make them measurable enough.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Bring Beer

Yes, I know I haven't updated in a year and a half. I do miss you guys, and I think about you when things happen that you would appreciate. I'm in my office--the one with a desk, not the good one with wings--late tonight, because maintenance is, and they have questions for me. I'm cleaning up old files. I found an outdated contact list for approved maintenance organizations. It's nicely formatted in three colours, I think colour-coded for the type of service. You probably all know Airparts of Lockhaven--didn't I get a fuel gauge from there once when the needle fell off the old one? There's a fuel cells place, and lots of avionics shops, and an upholstery specialist. The contact name for the custom upholsterer is printed as "Walter the Grouch," and there's a handwritten notation next to it. "Bring Beer."

Beer, the universal aviation currency.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Life is Good

A comment on a recent post made me realize that I haven't updated since last summer, and that when pilots disappear people can worry. I'm fine, really fine, stronger than I've ever been.

Life is amazing. I have two completely different side gigs, both with formal secrecy aspects, so I can't tell you about the awesome things I am doing, but if you read all the credits when you watch a TV show you'll see my name--nope, not telling you which show, but it's awesome. (Television is so much better than it was when I was a kid. The other day a millennial who had been YouTubing classic TV asked me, "did you you watch these non-ironically? Did you think they were good?") I have many new things to learn, some of which are difficult, different from anything I have done before, and diametrically opposed to my talents and existing skill sets, making it challenging and frustrating to the point of tears, but that makes it all the better when I win. In all three of my jobs I work with skilled people whom I respect and trust and they have all commended me for my contribution, so my life is a roller coaster slamming between lows of almost paralyzing self-doubt and glorious highs of triumph and camaraderie.

I also have to study and teach and write reports, and do some forms of creative writing (not that my reports aren't creative), so I have no need for blogging as an impetus to learn new things or provide an outlet for the desire to tell people things. I hope YOU are all well, coasting into exciting new jobs as the pilot shortage wave travels through the demographics, and learning new things that are fun and satisfying.

I have at least one reader who knows me in real life, so if anything irrevocable did happen to me that I couldn't tell you about myself, someone will let you know.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipse Awareness

While I think it's kind of cool that our moon and sun are just the right size and distance away to do this very neatly, I'm not awed by solar eclipses. I prefer lunar eclipses, because you can watch them safely without projecting them or having special glasses.

I was flying during the eclipse yesterday, although not through the path of totality. A bit before it, a pilot asked air traffic control, "what time is the eclipse at this latitude?" I think he meant longitude. Pilots ask controllers everything. Hockey scores, election results, what's that lake in front of me called? The controller said, "I think it's happening now where we are at the Centre. Some people just went outside on break with the glasses." As you would have expected, air traffic controllers are smart enough not to stare at the sun.

It might have been starting then. Or maybe a bit later. It got a bit darker. I turned the cockpit lights on and concentrated on not looking out the window in the direction of the sun. Eventually it got lighter again. Then the earth turned some more and it got darker again. I'm pretty sure that it will be lighter again in the morning.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Cessnas and Lying About the ATIS

Yesterday I was inbound to an airport overseen by a Flight Services Specialist. I don't know if other countries have this. There are no controllers, but there is highly trained person in the tower, dispensing altimeter settings, and traffic information, and generally doing everything a tower controller does except issue clearances and instructions. They make recommendations that you would be wise to follow, but if the FSS says, for example, that winds are 150 at fifteen gusting twenty-five, and the preferred runway is 15, the pilot is totally free to declare that she is landing on 33.

The FSS told me, when I was fifteen miles out or so, that there were two Cessnas in the circuit. One of them called final as I neared the field. I washed him do his touch and go, and kept him in sight, so that as I crossed over midfield I was able to say, "I have the red 172 in sight."

"They're both red," the specialist said somewhat acridly. "The other one is at the hold short line." So firstly he knew which one I had in sight, even if the identifying characteristic I chose wasn't distinguishing, and secondly, how is an aircraft at the hold short line--on the ground--considered to be "in the circuit"? It's okay. I'm an incurable smartass, too. I join downwind, ahead of the airborne red Cessna, and land. I refuel and taxi out again. A different specialist is on the radio. She tells me that there are "two Cessna 172" in the circuit. I find it curious that she considers C172 to be an inherent plural. I imagine this being something she feels strongly about, and that she argues for her position at sufficient length that others shrug and humour her sometimes. I mentally run through different aircraft types and try to think of any that I would not make explicitly plural. I do not ask her if either or both the C172s are red, and I depart straight out without seeing either.

I'm on my way to an airport with an actual control tower. I tune the ATIS and note that it is information Hotel. I also note that it's four minutes after the hour, and the ATIS is over an hour old. I know that this particular airport labels their ATIS on the hour, but often doesn't change it until a few minutes past. I'm still twenty minutes out of the destination, so I'll have to pick up the new ATIS before I check in. A few minutes later I hear WestJet checking in on frequency, "with India." I retune the ATIS and listen. It's identical to Hotel, same winds, same altimeter, same multiple cloud layers, same tedious NOTAM about the new rule about STARs being changed back to the way it was, "inform ATC on initial contact that you have information Hotel." What? "This is airport information India ..."

It's not that uncommon to be on frequency right as the ATIS changes letter. But it takes defiance of the laws of spacetime for Westjet to pick up India while I'm still hearing Hotel. Unless the ATIS is available by ACARS. Can you get ATIS by datalink? I don't know. It's also possible that one pilot wrote down the ATIS and the other one read the H sideways and got I, or that they heard Hotel far back, saw it was coming up on the hour, and knew they'd have to pick up India, and then forgot they hadn't. Or that they just flubbed the letter. Or they lied. I think they lied. They didn't want to listen through that tedious NOTAM that every Canadian airport with a STAR has up right now. I don't blame them. ATC would have said on frequency if the new ATIS involved a runway change, a significant change in weather conditions, or the like.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

It Can Happen to Me

I think this is the US Air Force base where I had my KC130 sim time, blogged about here close to ten years ago. It's possible that one of the young, keen US military pilots I witnessed learning to land the beast was on board today. It's likely that one of my readers has a connection to someone on board. My condolences.

Oops, I messed up my HTML on the first attempt and the link didn't post.

The article mentions a previous Herc crash attributed to an item jammed in front of the yoke to prop up the elevator. That resonated with me, because pilots do stuff like this, stuff that seems perfectly reasonable at the time, which can come back to bite us later. I couldn't write a list of all the things that I have inadvertently got stuck in all the parts of an airplane that could have caused me grief but didn't. The wrong bout of turbulence, the pen dropped just wrong, something else compounding the problem, and that giant, beautiful, stable airplane rolls up into a ball of snot and aluminum.

They'll find out what caused today's crash, and it will be something humans did, or didn't do, missed seeing, or didn't know how to plan for, or miscalculated, because airplanes only do what we and the laws of physics tell them to, for as long as their components hold out.