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.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Salami is not a Dangerous Good

Struggling to make Transportation of Dangerous Goods legislation less stultifying for my folks than it was in the course I took, I worked to make the in-house course interesting, maybe make them laugh a little. I was working with a bureaucrat to get it approved, and it looked like we had it almost wrapped up. I sympathized with her about having to read these tedious plans, made the corrections she requested and submitted it. I think she appreciated it being not the same boilerplate as everyone else had. Then came a new e-mail from someone else, excerpted below.

Hello Mr. Aviatrix,

Please note, I have taken on the TDG review process of [your company] COM from [nice bureaucrat], and she is no longer involved. I will require a revised copy of 16-0090E prior to a full review proceeding.


There are several highlighted answers on the exam that are incorrect and others that are not of suitable difficulty for an air operator. For example, question #14 - salami is an inappropriate response as a potentially regulated substance.


All COM document submissions are considered legal documents and are fully discloseable in the event of an enquiry. This should be considered when adding unnecessary commentary.

Transport Dangerous Goods Inspector

There is nothing in my COM that I'm not proud of, including the humour. If something is interesting, people will remember it better. The administrative overhead required to give my folks an interesting dangerous goods course may be more than I can spare, forcing them to take the dull online course I took. Cockpit Conversation readers are, however, invited to suggest appropriate incorrect responses to a question asking test takers to identify the regulated substance from a list.

And I have a request for you. If you're not sure of someone's pronouns or term of address, and you can't be bothered to ask a colleague who has worked with them what it is, or otherwise look it up, don't just assume the person is a man. If you do, you might just be the lucky hundredth person to do that to that person, and eventually someone is going to invent a way to punch people through the Internet.

Never forget that "salami" is an inappropriate response.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

NOTAM of the Week

1707011745 TIL 1707011815

Because apparently that's how Nanaimoians celebrate Canada Day.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Q-Tips and Canoes

En route to a busy GA aerodrome, I checked the ATIS and started setting up for the runway in use. I needed one more approach before the end of the month to maintain my IFR currency, and was planning on flying it simulated just to get that box ticked. The time then passed the top of the hour, so I checked again, and discovered that the runway with the approach was now "closed per NOTAM" and the cross runway, with no instrument approach was in use. Unexpected, but perfectly manageable. On final I saw a light twin and a pick up truck on the grass at the side of the runway. Something had not gone well for someone.

I landed without incident and taxied to the FBO, where we learned that the disabled aircraft had had a gear collapse, a term which the FBO staff seemed pretty sure had been applied euphemistically to a situation where the pilot had neglected to extend the landing gear. The poor airplane was lifted back to its wheels and towed past the windows of the FBO, where I pointed out to my non-pilot co-worker the characteristic Q-tipped props of an aircraft that lands gear up with the engines powered. I paused as I wrote that. Of a propeller, Q-tipped refers to the ends being bent over. I've always called them that, and I remember the first time I saw a Q-tipped prop, on a fixed gear single whose pilot had tried to make it stop flying and land on a short runway, rather than going around and trying again with a better short-field approach. I think someone with me must have called them that, and I absorbed the term. Searching for an etymology, I discovered that there is a company that makes Q-tip propellers on purpose (and a funny story about an FAA inspector who didn't know that). Trying to find when they were invented, to help determine whether the company was named after the condition or vice versa, I wandered down a rabbit hole of the history of the tip-fin propeller, invented by J.J. Kappel, initially for marine applications. If anyone knows when they were first put on airplanes, let me know. I had to escape from articles like this one before I got wrapped up in the physics. This was meant to be a quickie blog entry.

So we're watching the remains of this once-airworthy vessel towed past, and the FBO staff are all fixated on it. One of them is scrambling for a ramp pass so he can drive down and check it out. My co-worker is confused about the excitement. "Remember how much we had to spend to get the engines overhauled on [the new plane we just bought for our fleet]?" I asked my co-worker. "The engines on the gear-up plane, no matter how new they are, are done now." The force of the prop strike bends and breaks other components of the engine.

"But what's the spectator value?"

I thought about it a while and finally came up with an analogy he could appreciate. He's an outdoorsman. "You know when someone drives their van into a parking garage or under a bridge with a canoe on top? No one is hurt, but the canoe is destroyed, and the van is damaged, and the person who did it is in emotional pain from how stupid they just were, and how much money they just destroyed. And everyone comes to look, and take pictures. You feel the pain, and you're so glad it wasn't you, because you know it could have been you." He got it.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Flare Stack Unserviceable

I love this NOTAM. It's in oil country, just north of Edmonton and advises pilots that the flare stack, a pipe with gouts of flame shooting out the top, is currently not doing that thing. One often sees NOTAMs for things that are on fire, so one for something that is not on approach fire amuses me. I can think of two possible reasons why it is NOTAMed. One is that pilots are using the stack as a navigation beacon for night VFR, and the other, more likely one, is that the stack is close enough to the Josephburg aerodrome that its lack of illumination could cause a hazard for aircraft maneuvering to land. I've used Josephburg and remember the plant just past the runway, but not that the stack was worrisome.

(APRX 4 NM N AD) 310 FT AGL 2354 MSL
1604051926 TIL 1604191900

And then there's this one.

81N 90W-81N 70W-78N 70W-78N 90W-81N 90W. ACFT AT 1500 FT AGL.
1604181100 TIL 1604181900

So long as you're 936 feet or more away, there's no hazard. I don't know where they came up with that. It's 285 m, so not a really round number there, either. Also the airborne laser thing isn't me anymore. Used to be. But never that far north. I think the Canadian Armed Forces are testing a super weapon to stop the Russians from coming in and messing with the Canadian Arctic. Another line of defense, should they make it past the trained polar bear attack squadron, and the Rangers in bunny hugs.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Great Cover Letter -- Too Bad You're Lying

I have three jobs right now, all of which are very awesome, and all of which involve learning new things and writing reports, so blogging is not something I especially need do right now. I regret this a little bit, because I'm very fond of you all, and you have helped carry me through lean times when I didn't feel as appreciated in my real life as I do now. Sometimes I want to tell everyone, including strangers on the Internet, about how much fun I'm having, but there's not a lot I can talk about. Also, just as the more successful a stand up comic becomes, the more her jokes pertain to hotels and airlines, the further along in her career a pilot gets, the more her story pertains to paperwork and management. Sometimes I want to tell specific people things, but those aren't always appropriate, either. This person, though, I think I'll talk about to you, because it's not appropriate to talk to them.

Once upon a time, when a person applied for a job, she put together a resume of skills and experience and then took it to a place to get it copied however many times she thought she could afford stamps for. Then she wrote a cover letter for each potential employer, highlighting for them the aspects of her resume that were most appropriate to the particular company. Cover letter went on top of the resume, then they were folded together and placed in the envelope. the envelope would be the first thing the employer saw, so of course a person would address it neatly, make sure she had the correct name and address, and I used to look for special stamp issues with airplanes on them and use those. I figured that chief pilots would be attracted to stamps with airplanes on, the way I was. By the time I was looking for my second job, it had become normal to just fax the resume and cover letter. I mention this, because nowadays resumes are typically e-mailed to potential employers, but the wisdom applicants receive from their parents or mentors may not include the fact that there is now another layer of presentation: the e-mail message itself.

Step one of e-mailing your resume to a potential employer is not sending it from the e-mail address you made up when you were in grade eight. does not say great things about you. You would not believe how many e-mail addresses I see in that vein. But let's say you have a sober, mature e-mail address. You need to write something in your e-mail. I will never open an attachment to a blank e-mail, not from a friend, relative or a stranger. If there's nothing in the e-mail that indicates the person knows who I am I delete it, no regrets. I do open pretty much all e-mails from job hunting pilots. I've been there. But adding "2000h TT," or "Current [type] PPC," or whatever you know your prospective employer needs will help you get looked at. The content of the e-mail determines whether I go to the next step. Think of what is written in the body of the e-mail as you convincing me I should open the attachment and look at your resume. Don't make it the equivalent of "you won't believe how many hours this pilot has." I don't see anything wrong with copying the body of your cover letter right across to the e-mail body. That's the letter you took time crafting.

Here's what was on one recently:

Dear Sir/Madam [...] I have learned about this company online, and have familiarized myself with the aircraft fleet.

Right there, right there in the first paragraph, the candidate has lied to me. My information on our company's website make it clear that "madam" and not "sir" would be appropriate. What did they learn about the company online? The complete lack of reference to what our fleet is composed of strongly suggests that the candidate did no such thing. Why does it matter? If I were to hire this person, they would have to sign a form before each flight stating that they have familiarized themselves with NOTAM and weather for the route of flight and verified that the aircraft is in weight and balance limits. They expect me to turn the page and believe the numbers they have written down for their experience, when they have already lied to me today?

Am I, who got hired for her first job with a resume bearing a spelling error, playing this game too harshly? Maybe. Maybe it's petty. I looked at the resume, and the person had some really relevant experience (which had they actually researched the company they would have been smart to put at the beginning of the cover letter, or even in the subject line). The total time was really low. If the cover letter had showed they cared, I might have opened a dialogue with them, passed the resume over to another company that we hire from. But I didn't. I worried a tiny bit that they would see this and then go back and actually look at the websites of all the companies they sent the generic cover letter to, to find out which ones had a female in my role, so they could out me. But given they weren't willing to do that much research towards getting an actual job, they probably won't do it for a minor act of vengeance. Plus that's not a very distinctive opening line. There's probably a flight college power point slide somewhere that a whole class copied it off of.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

My Accomplishment for the Week

This week I have assessed the scope of required revisions to TDG Act training, helped the PRM analyze the root cause of audit findings, verified the capabilities of an FBO in another province to service our aircraft, met with control tower supervisors, and checked the insurance coverage on an airplane that will not be flying this year. You'd think I was a fricking grown up.

I also flew an airplane a couple of times. Remember when I used to go to work in order to fly airplanes? How did I get here from there?

If you are at the beginning of a pilot career, and you have skills you are willing to contribute related to scheduling, regulatory compliance, training, or management of manuals, highlight this on your resume. If I knew then what I know now, I would have walked into the office of the chief pilot of my choice and parlayed my previous experience managing revisions of regulatory compliance manuals into a PPC. I could have had quite a different career. Or maybe I would have ended up here sooner.

But that was not my accomplishment for the week. It was this line in a comment on an older entry of this blog:

Reading your blog inspired me to give pilot career a one more shot and went on with the training. Now I am a training captain in a real airline.

Wow. I inspired someone! Finding out you're inspiring is even better than chocolate. If someone inspired you, even if it was a long time ago, or even if you think they are too famous or important to care, consider sending them a note.