Thursday, April 15, 2010

Out of Calgary

I fly to Calgary International Airport and then jump in a cab, asking the driver if he knows where the Springbank airport is. He says yes, that he did his citizenship exam in Springbank. "Congratulations," I say. He is originally from Kashmir. I ask him why he chose to come to Canada and he says his father worked in the Indian Embassy here and he loves the country. He doesn't think Calgary is too cold, and the scenery is familiar, because you can see the Himalayas from Kashmir.

He's fascinated by the fact that I'm going to fly an airplane, and when we arrive at the maintenance hangar he gets out of the cab and wants to see it. I don't even know where it is, but I point through the fence at some that are larger and smaller than mine, looking for one that is the same type, but then I see mine at the back behind a twin otter and I point it out. I tell him he can go down the road a bit and get a fam flight at a school, and he'll be able to see what it's like to fly. I wonder if he'll be at the controls of an air taxi someday.

I go inside the FBO and introduce myself. The airplane isn't quite ready yet, as I expected, so I get an estimate as to when it will be, and go down the field to get lunch and updated charts at the flying club. Springbank is the Calgary area's training airport, a busy little patch of airspace where students can do hours of touch and go landings without congesting the runways at YYC. They're still all up in Calgary's airspace, and in fact as of a recent NOTAM, Springback Tower controls only its immediate airspace, and Calgary Terminal takes over again all around it. I review the reporting points here so I won't get caught out be being told to fly direct some place I've never heard of. On my new chart, I cross out the Springbank frequency and write in the Calgary one as directed by the NOTAM. I call an 888-number to prerequest a transponder code. The controller can't give it to me now, but my call ensures one will be generated for me, and he says I'll get it from the ground controller.

When the avionics work is complete and the airplane is released to me, I start a preflight inspection. They have installed that new GPS I told you about, replaced the ADF loop antenna, and adjusted the pitch control of the autopilot by tightening the elevator cables. The first thing I do is go on board. The panel is all closed up, circuit breakers reset and so on. I can just see the elevator if I have my head up against the window, so I pull on the yoke to make sure it goes up not down. (It's happened!) It goes up but there's a shuddering noise in the yoke, like there's no lubrication or something. I try the same thing with the right side yoke, and curiously there is no such noise. What the heck? The two should be completely connected and do exactly the same thing. I go back inside to get the technician. He comes out to see and then understands my concern. He explains that the bushing on the copilot yoke is worn and now that he has tightened up the elevator cables (they were loose, explaining the altitude hold problem of the autopilot) there is vibration. He says it's safe to fly, so I defer the yoke sleeve according to the company maintenance control manual and get on with it. I won't in flight routinely pull the yoke that hard or far anyway. I check all the trims, jumping in an out of the plane to see what I can't see from my seat, and I tell the techs that I will continue to destination regardless of whether everything works to spec. I know that the work was being done on a time available basis and that the contract I'm flying to means the time is no longer available. Canada needs more good avionics techs.

I call for fuel and while that is being delivered I determine that all the bits I need are sufficiently attached to the airplane for flight. There's some sun damage to the nosewheel tire, not enough to pose a risk, just an unusual thing for this airplane because it usually works hard enough to wear it out before it rots at all. It's been a slow winter.

The airplane starts easily. When I turn on the avionics master I laugh because a local AM radio station starts blaring through the overhead speaker. The techs have been using the ADF navigation radio for entertainment during the work. I don't mind, but if you're an AME or apprentice who wants make the best impression, I'd recommend you turn down the volume and set the ADF to a different frequency before giving the airplane back to the customer. I flick the ADF speaker switch back to headset and tune the Pidgeon NDB. It identifies extremely faintly, and the needle doesn't point, but it's ten miles away, so it might not work on the ground.

I monitor the ATIS and call the ground controller. He does indeed have my departure squawk code ready for me, and taxi via Charlie. Just before I start rolling forward they amend the taxi instructions to include the few metres I will have to travel on A to get to C. The controller automatically spat out the standard instructions from the flying school apron and then had to revise them to match the fact that I'm not at the flying school. I wonder if I could have got in trouble for being on alfa without an explicit clearance. I don't think so. There is a run up area by the runway, but it's not that big. I'm glad I finish before another twin comes up. I'm cleared to position and then for takeoff, "maintain runway heading, not above 5000'." That sounds pretty good until you remember that Springbank is at 3940' elevation. As soon as I'm radar identified they allow me up to 5500' and give me a vector, then switch me to the Calgary frequency. Calgary gives me another vector, then clears me direct to destination, but they apologize that they can't give me higher until I'm out of their airspace. They point out a couple of helicopters and a regional jet for me and then I'm squawking 1200 and on my own.


Aluwings said...

Cue music: "On the road again... Aviatrix is on the road again... " yee haw!

Sarah said...

Yes! In the air again!

Interesting bit about the Indian immigrant taxi driver. I have great respect for anyone brave enough ( however compelled, there is always some choice involved ) to change countries, learn new culture and language to enrich the new country with hybrid vigor. :)

I only recently was told what the 'test' button on a King KR86/87 ADF is supposed to do. You hold it, and the needle is supposed to turn, slowly. I've found the wimpy 25watt NDB's around here won't move a needle unless you're within 15 miles and aloft. Hope yours is really fixed.

N6349C (aka D.B. Cooper) said...

I'm not sure if it true in Canada, but as long as your taxi clearance included "taxi to Runway xx", you were also cleared on Alpha, even if Charlie was the only part explicitly provided. Even if you have to cross a runway to get there.

But being paranoid, I always double check if unsure. It only costs a few words and one extra breath, and could cost a hell of a lot more if someone has made a mistake. To quote a US President "Trust, but Verify"!

Aviatrix said...

Canadian taxi clearances are different. I'm always taken aback when I'm in the US and they say "Taxi to runway 23," leaving the route entirely up to me, even when it involves crossing a runway.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to see the stats regarding runway incursions in Canada after that rule was changed. It used to be more like the US rule.

Joël Morin said...

Just a nit-picky detail: the Class C airspace outside Springbank's zone is managed by Calgary Terminal (which is part of Edmonton Centre). Calgary Tower doesn't actually manage any airspace.
That airspace had been delegated to Springbank tower until recently.
Cheers :)

Aviatrix said...

Ack, I knew that after amending the frequency all over the chart, and I remember typing TML and then going back to edit it for people who didn't know what TML meant. Fixing it now ...

Michael5000 said...

"I wonder if he'll be at the controls of an air taxi someday."

There you go trying to make your occupation accessible to everyone regardless of race, color, or creed again! IT'S ANARCHY!!! : )

Sarah said...

Random update, in the "It's amazing I recalled this question coming up and in which topic" department:

The FAA must be reading these comment threads. They've decided to require complete taxi instructions, and explicit clearance to cross each runway - active or not. These rules will take effect the end of August 2010.

No word yet on when "line up and wait" will replace "position and hold".