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.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Jean-Paul Vinay

This post is about Jean-Paul Vinay, a Canadian whose work is used worldwide, but most people ho use his work have never heard of him, and credit it vaguely to "the military." He was a linguist, not a member of the armed forces.

In 1950, he founded the department of linguistics at the Université de Montréal where he set up the university's linguistics program as well as courses in translation and interpretation. He served as chairman of the department until 1966. In 1968, he joined the University of Victoria in British Columbia and headed their linguistics department. He retired from the university as Emeritus Professor of Linguistics in 1976.

In 1958, he co-authored Stylistique comparée du français et de l'anglais, a comparative stylistics textbook considered to be a pioneering work in translation pedagogy. The work is recognized internationally, has recently been translated into English and is still used in translation and linguistics courses today. In addition, he was the editor-in-chief for The Canadian Dictionary/Dictionnaire canadien, published by McClelland and Stewart in 1962.

Jean-Paul Vinay is considered to be among those who have profoundly influenced the development of translation in Canada. He died eighteen years ago today, in Victoria, British Columbia on April 10, 1999. Translation style guides are very important in Canada, and people in his field and family probable honour him for those, but that's not the achievement I'm referring to.

He's the guy who designed the ICAO radio phonetic alphabet. His original 1952 version ran Alpha, Bravo, Coca or Coco, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliet, Kilo, Lima, Metro, Nectar, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Union, Victor, Whiskey, Extra or X-extra, Yankee, Zulu.

So yeah, for anyone familiar with today's version: Coco, Metro, Nectar, Union, and Extra are pretty odd. People didn't like them, for various reasons, and we settled into the current version. I found this discussion of the choices of words interesting.

The tendency of infer that because a word may appear “bad” in isolation, either phonetically, structurally or because it is unfamiliar and that its replacement by an apparently “good” word will achieve an improvement, is one to be considered with the utmost caution. The criterion as to whether a word is “good” or “bad” is fundamentally the measure of its success in relation to all the other alphabet words (and with spoken numerals), together with its success for transmission in noise. For example, the word “”FOOTBALL” has a higher articulation score than the present spelling alphabet word “FOXTROT” i.e. it is correctly identified when it is spoken, a greater percentage of the time. “FOXTROT” however, is the preferred word because it is less often erroneously recorded when other words in the spelling alphabet are spoken; therefore, the overall intelligibility of the alphabet is raised by using “foxtrot” rather than “football”.

I wonder what Q would have been had a non-Canadian concocted it.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Overflow Valve

I didn't really send it. I wrote that last blog post right after completing the form, and I really wrote that on the form, but in the sober light of the next dawn, before the Purolator truck arrived, I was hit by a fit of sanity and reprinted the pages on which I had expressed my personality and frustration, replacing them with blandness.

In the same vein, when today I received the form letter telling me "Good afternoon Mr. Aviatrix, Your submission has been received and will be sent to a regional TDG Inspector for review. The inspector will contact you if they require more information or corrections to your documentation," I didn't write back asking, "Is it your department policy to address all persons in authority by male honorifics, or is that an individual initiative on your part?"

Also I went for a nice little flight today. We brief an emergency procedure before every flight, and today it was an engine failure before rotation. "Okay," I said, "so we're rolling down the runway at full power and for some reason we need to stop."

I paused for breath and my co-worker said, "Coyote on the runway," at the same time as I added, "Maybe there's a coyote." Great minds think alike. "So, clearly there's a psychic coyote on the runway." The runway here is long enough to stop after reaching rotation speed, so I brief that I pull power idle, brake as required, tell ATC, and get off the runway to try that again, once the brakes have cooled. I also brief the full procedure for if an emergency stop were made on a runway too short to accommodate it, necessitating magnetos off, fuel off, inform ATC and electrical off, then evacuate when the aircraft is done crashing into whatever is past the end of the runway. If the day starts somewhere that an engine failure on the roll could leave me without braking room, I brief to the specifics of the environment.

After run-up I was held short of the long taxiway because the controller said, "there are a couple headed your way." I hear other people call for taxi and also get held short, so I move up a bit so there is room for whomever is behind me, but not so much that there isn't room for whatever the couple I'm waiting for are. Not a couple of coyotes, though. Turns out to be a Navajo and a Beech 1900. Once they pass I am given clearance to taxi, and discover I'm catching up to the aircraft ahead of me. Kind of unusual for me. I taxi slowly. They turn a corner and I see that the slowpoke has a foreign registration. That makes sense. Tourist. The locals and the people who come here often enough to know the coyotes by name taxi fast.

I get my clearance and depart. There are no literal coyotes. Today.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Like Chocolate for Manuals

So I had to revise a manual, create a document and complete a thirteen-page form because of a regulatory change. I was not impressed. The final page of the form suggests that I "Please provide additional information that may assist Transport Canada in their review."

I found chocolate assisted me in writing this document. Perhaps you will find the same in reviewing it.

I have now potentially outed myself to a Transport Canada Transportation of Dangerous Goods reviewer, and to any blog readers they happen to show it to during the process of assessing the penalty due for suggesting that chemical assistance helps with Transport Canada paperwork.