Saturday, August 15, 2009

Survey Says ...

They do it.

They have to inspect all the circuits that are served by that breaker looking for anomalies. They basically open everything up, poke at it, don't find anything, and then can't reproduce the problem. "What do I put?" muses the engineer, pen poised over the journey log trying to write a rectification.

"You've got a three letter abbreviation for that, don't you?" I suggest. "I'm okay if you just put 'NFF'." It stands for 'no fault found.' It sometimes means "pilot is stupid/lazy." I suppose it sometimes means the engineer is, because this one declines to write that. He documents the steps he has taken and signs off the airplane. I offer the flight to my coworker, but she doesn't want it.

Taxi out again. Backtrack to the end. Turn around. Power up. Gauges green. Brakes release, airspeed alive and rotate. Gear up. I bring back the power before we speed up and we cycle the flaps. All good. Flaps up, back to climb power and we're en route for real.

Today's destination is Red Deer. It's in Alberta, almost exactly half way between Calgary and Edmonton. It's getting dark as we arrive. I set up for 16 and then am offered a straight in for 29 and take that instead. Landing on 16 would have had me roll out and be at the apron, but now I'm not sure of the best route. We're coming up on taxiway delta but before I can check if it goes where I want, the controller offers us the backtrack. It's not actually a control tower, but an FSS, but it's one of the assertive ones that coordinates traffic rather than just telling you where other aircraft are and asking "what are your intentions?"

There's a 737 parked on the apron, but we tuck into a corner where we won't be in the jet blast when they start up again, and shut down.


A Squared said...

It's not actually a control tower, but an FSS, but it's one of the assertive ones that coordinates traffic rather than just telling you where other aircraft are and asking "what are your intentions?"

What is up with that anyway? In the US, you will never, ever have a FSS specialist instruct you when or where to operate your aircraft. They will advise you of known traffic, and that is it. And mind you, I operate in the one part of the US where Flight Service Stations are still located at airports with windows looking out over said airport.

So what would happen if you told a FSS specialist who had been playing controller to GFY?

I thing in the US they'd take the hint, otherwise it could wind up in an unpleasant (for them) conversation with their supervisor, because they are not supposed to be playing controller.

Aviatrix said...

What would happen? You'd get a fine for inappropriate radio language. If they said "active runway is 16, report downwind" and I said "ABC is landing straight in 34" they'd say "Roger, ABC, traffic is a King Air on short final 16, a C172 turning base 16 and a B737 on 15 mile final 16."

They do know they aren't a tower, but they have a good handle on where the traffic, airport construction, winds and other factors are. They are usually extremely professional and I usually take their recommendations because it makes life better for me and everyone else trying to use the congested airport.

A Squared said...

You'd get a fine for inappropriate radio language. . I meant that in the figurative sense

They do know they aren't a tower I'm not so sure all are clear on the concept. I recall FSS at Fort Nelson, years ago acting very much like they were in fact ground control, and this at a time when there was one other airplane taxiing, and many acres of pavement with upon which we could avoid hitting each other.

nec Timide said...

@A Squared

It can be a bit disconcerting, and though sometimes the phraseology takes on the syntax of an ATC instruction, I've never heard one issue a clearance except when relayed from ATC. This usually only happens when they work in buildings constructed and equipped to be towers so they have the same information available to them that a controller would. The operating style has evolved to provide pilots with that data in a form similar to what they are used to.

If you don't like the recommendations, replying with standard phraseology like "unable", "unfamiliar" and/or "XYZ intends something else".

I had a discussion with St. Catherines FSS one night. When I checked in and asked for advisory he reported no traffic and asked me to "report left base" I replied that I intended to perform a standard overhead arrival. He replied that I was 16nm out and had lots of room to descend, which I trumped with "I am unfamiliar". That was the end of the discussion.

Angus said...

I had a trip into Cranbrook yesterday, so I was explaining this US/Canada difference in FSS function to my US copilot. Ironically Cranbrook is where it all started, with this accident

One result was the system of MF airspace. Canadian FSS operating in a MF (mandatory frequency) area do have additional responsibilities. In my opinion the Canadian system is a good one.

Angus said...

...oh, and nec Timide it's spelled St Catharines (my hometown, sorta).

E said...

In my corner of the aviation world the abbreviation for "we have no idea what is wrong but it seems to work now" is CND... "could not duplicate."

nec Timide said...


Crap, sorry. I even Googled it to make sure I got it right, then I guess I didn't actually correct it.

Coincidently that accident is what got me interested in aviation safety. That airport was my home town for a while, sort of.

jinksto said...

In a previous life as an electronic tech working with fairly complicated equipment our favorite was: OHST Mal.

Which stood for "Operator Head-space or Timing Malfunction."

dpierce said...

RMF: "Repaired by Mystical Forces"

Aviatrix said...

RFM? ROFL! That reminds me of the time I asked an avionics guy how something worked and he told me it was PFM.

Anoynmous said...

In my corner of the tech world, there was an official category for things that were returned by a system troubleshooter but tested out fine. They got labeled "NTF" for "no trouble found". More than half the returned products fell into this category.

Eventually the people flagging them as faulty got together and complained loudly enough about the implied slur on their abilities, and the category was changed to "TNF" for "trouble not found".

viennatech said...

Ahh these are too easy. How about these ones?

The problem lies somewhere between the controls and the chair.

PICNIC Error - Problem in chair, not in computer.

ID10T Error - "I, dee, ten tee Error"

Working help desk, you pick up on these a lot!

Anonymous said...

I find St. Catharines to be pushing a little too much on the "control tower" type attitude as well.

I was leaving out of there late one night, and as per standard called them prior to taxi-ing out with my intentions. They didn't answer, so over the next couple minutes I called them a couple more times with still no answer.

I shrugged my shoulders, figuring they were gone to the washroom or something and taxied out. In my backtrack I called them one more time, and this time they answered. Long story short they yelled at me over the radio for a "runway incursion" due to not contacting them before taxi-ing out, and they filed a CADOR on me.

Transport Canada called a few weeks later, and after I explained my actions they told me I didn't do anything wrong and dismissed it. End of story.

Wildcat said...

I prefer "Loose nut behind the yoke/stick".