Sunday, January 31, 2010

When Line Pilots Get Bored

I'm back at home and it's almost Christmas. In a burst of holiday spirit I drive into the city for shopping. This includes a stop at a Canadian Tire -- Canadian Tire ought to have its own blog category by now -- for a timer to turn the Christmas lights on and off at appropriate times of the night. Nothing like fire and forget seasonal cheer.

Driving in the city includes parking in the city, but Canadian Tire has a parking lot where they will validate parking, so it's free. That's a good deal and the not-terribly-spacious parking lot is full of people taking advantage of said deal. To facilitate traffic flow, there is a guy in a reflective vest directing drivers to open parking spots. He is a remarkably competent marshaller giving clear, unambiguous signals, and avoiding the aviation signals "your engine is on fire" or "start engines" that always make me giggle when I see them from policemen or others directing traffic. (Check out the link if you haven't seen the marshalling signals page in a while., They've improved the artwork and descriptions).

He has also spotted my aviation-themed licence plate frame and I confess to being an aviatrix. He's not familiar with the word, so I translate it as an old-fashioned word for pilot, the female equivalent of aviator. He muses that none of his female FOs has ever called herself that. Wait, what did he just say? No wonder he's so good at aircraft marshalling signals. He's an Air Canada captain. I'd love to chat to him longer, but he has a job to do. I'm left wondering how many ex-wives you have to have, or how bored you have to get, to get out of a B767 in order to direct cars at Canadian Tire. Whatever the reason, he was good at what he was doing and did it with a smile that made everyone's day better.

No, my licence plate frame does not say "I'd Rather Be Flying" or "Pilots Make Smoother Approaches." But speaking of approaches, today's was the full procedure ILS/DME RWY 14 into Halifax, under the weather conditions encountered by Air Canada Flight 646 the night they crashed in a go around. They had an eighth of a mile visibility so I dialed my landing visibility up to the advisory value of half a mile, so as to have a chance of landing. I went missed twice, one because it was unstable on the glideslope--pitch control again--over a mile back, and one pretty much exactly what the captain in AC646 saw: descending from minima with the runway in sight but not well enough aligned with the centreline to flare to land safely. That low level shear is very nasty. Then one good one with the autopilot, just to prove it could be done and another one hand flown to success, because no way am I going to let an autopilot outfly me.

4 comments:

Aluwings said...

(note: the blog entry says Halifax where I think you meant Fredricton.)

Good job. Stemming from this accident TC issued more stringent requirements about who should be landing the aircraft when the vis is below certain limits for CAT 1 approaches. Ironically it can be trickier to land on a "black hole" CAT 1 runway at limits, vs. say a CAT2 approach where the runway lights illuminate the entire touchdown zone.

James said...

As an old instructor of mine once said, "The autopilot is a better pilot than you. Don't feel bad about it, just push the button and take the money" :D

Sarah said...

@Aluwings ... I wondered about that too. The accident report refers to "ILS 15" af Fredricton, but the (expired) 2006 flight-sim plates I have only show an NDB (!) approach. Though 15 has nice ALSF-1 lights and everything.

Perhaps Aviatrix substituted a proper ILS at Halifax.

Aviatrix said...

Sarah and Aluwings are both right: The AC accident was at Fredericton, but I only had a VOR RWY 09 with a GNSS overlay for that airport, so I set up the same weather at Halifax where I have an old plate for the ILS/DME RWY 14, which was close enough to RWY 15 that I then forgot I had transplanted the approach.