There's a break in the weather and we're back to work. The outside airplanes have a thick layer of frost and snow on them, so we're glad to have had the airplane indoors. The ramp is so slippery from ice that we all come close to falling as we walk out to the airplane, even as we're all warning each other about it. I pull sideways on the towbar to straighten out the nosewheel so we can reconnect the steering scissors, but instead of the towbar turning towards me, I slide across the ramp towards it. There's not enough friction to equal the force the towbar is exerting on me.
Once again the runway surface condition report is offered as an afterthought, not part of the airport advisory on first contact with the FSS. I looked this up but I can't find anything on why I would know I had to ask for it. Today the runway is 90% ice patches, 10% bare and dry with a 65' wide centre strip sanded. No crosswind. We don't expect any trouble on take-off, and there is none.
Fresh snow on the mountains highlights their jagged shapes, like cat teeth, kind of pyramidal, but with sharp chisel marks all around. They are so like sharp bones and teeth lying there in the landscape that I imagine them to be the remains of huge mythical beasts. Or maybe I'm hallucinating from the heat. Yup, the heaters are still cranked for those finicky electronics in the back.
We fly over some high but very flat-topped plateaus (why is it tableaux but not plateaux?) I try to picture the geographic processes that formed these. I assume they were once jagged-peaked mountains too, and something ground them off. Hard to believe the same glaciers whose disappearance is being concernedly documented all over the world did this kind of thing. The plateaus are tree-covered with only a light dusting of snow. Now that I look more closely, what I thought were deciduous trees in fall colours are actually beetle-killed conifers. The deciduous trees are all bare now.
A crew calls flight services and asks them to please call Fort Simpson for them. "We're supposed to give them an hour prior notice for fuel" they explain. Someone else hears the call and asks the Fort Simpson-bound crew, "got a second for a plus five?" It was "go up a nickel" when I learned it, but funny I haven't heard that in a while. I follow them up to 126.75 MHz on the VHF radio but there's nothing juicy to report so I go back to monitoring 126.7.
It's a bright sunny day, and the sun streaming through the cockpit windows increases the temperature inside, but as the windows are blacked out in the back, it doesn't warm the electronics operating in the cargo compartment, so now we're hotter than ever, even though it's -15 degrees outside.
You probably think this is hyperbole, but it turns out it's literally baking in here. Yes, I mean literally. After landing I gather up my belongings including an uneaten snack, an apple in a plastic bag. The apple is soft to the touch and almost too hot to hold comfortably. I open the bag and it smells like fresh baked apple pie. All I need is cinnamon.
I don't know why this is a problem this winter but it never was before. The boss is working on getting a rear heater installed, so we can stop living in an easy-bake oven.
At least no one on board has swine flu, though. Here's a story showing that Air Canada would rather put a person with contagious swine flu on your flight and in your workplace than waive a flight change fee. They wanted $700 for the certified sick passenger to change her flight to a few days later, and she couldn't afford that. Could you?