Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sometimes It's Monday on a Friday

Just before I wake up I have a dream that the front gear collapsed. I jump out though the crew door and survey the damage. Both ends of both propellers are curled under, so there's engine damage to contend with to. I berate myself that if only I had gone out the back door instead of the crew door, it wouldn't have overbalanced. That makes no sense, seeing as I only got out to look, but the whole thing makes no sense. For example, this particular machine doesn't have a crew door. It's an option for cargo flights, but it's not installed on any of our company aircraft. The crew can go out the airstairs door, through the emergency exit beside row two behind the FO, or by kicking out the front window. And my airplane has three-bladed propellers, not two-bladed like the airplane in the dream. And, you know, the real airplane isn't morphing into a whale or whatever else seemed perfectly normal in the dream world. Looks like my subconscious is really worried about that nosewheel tire. Or my brain is just processing back to work stress, and channelling it through an easy target. I'll bet parents have some spectacularly horrible nightmares about things happening to their children.

Back-to-work also includes not having all the luxury of my own kitchen full of food. The hotel only has flavoured yogurt, and I prefer plain, but it's the fruit-on-the-bottom kind, so I eat the white off the top and leave the sugary flavouring at the bottom. And I have a bagel with marmalade. Commercial marmalade might contains gelatin, so this is a bit like eating matzo with bacon, but whatever keeps my engine running. I find out what the job will be and promise to do what I can to get the airplane fuelled before they need it.

It's Good Friday, a public holiday here, and many Canadians take a four day weekend. Given that there were biblical themed children's books (e.g. God Made Outer Space) on the stand at reception that typically contains postcards or tourist brochures, this may not be an easy town to get things done in on Easter weekend. I start with the fuel callout number listed in the CFS, but no one picks up the phone. I leave my name and number then I look around the chart and use Google and the CFS try to find somewhere nearby I can fly to for fuel if no one calls back. There used to be a flying school at this field, but it moved to another airport just last month. I momentarily thought I had found a 24-hour cardlock pump, but it was at an airport with the same name in the states. The obvious one takes cash only, which isn't out of the question, but how am I going to get several times my ATM withdrawal limit of cash on a holiday? Google offers me "The Best <my location> Online Dating Sites." I hate those things that hijack your search terms and offer you a useless page on the subject. I pick another airport close by and then realize that it is across the border in the United States. I try calling the FSS to see if I will luck out and get a briefer with local knowledge, but this FIR is so huge that he can't help. Once upon a time I could have called the FSS on the field and they would have known.

I call back the fuel callout number to give my cell number instead of the hotel number, and to make sure he hasn't been trying to call me. Still no answer. As I listen again to the outgoing message, I realize that the company name is that of the flying school that just moved out. I'm probably calling a phone that is dead in a drawer. I go to the airport to see if there is a different number there. There is, but just as I'm dialing it, the fueller I had given up on appears. The company that ran the flying school is still running the fuel pumps here, and he just left the phone upstairs. Yay!

He's brought a team with him: a two or three year old daughter wearing a purple Tinkerbelle coat, and a shy but energetic dog with silver ear tips. The dog had a very short coat--no winter pelt, even though this area is just creeping out of winter--and I first described it as brown, but it's an interesting colour, maybe a bit grey, also almost purple. She has silver ear tips. I think it's some kind of German hound, a Wehrmeiraner or something. (It's funny, I could always Google things like that and act as if I were already an expert on everything I encounter, but I'd rather be my natural self and let some reader who is expert on dogs tell us the details). The dog drinks from a puddle by the airplane. I cringe, wondering how many toxic substances are in that puddle, from the fuel pumps, deicers, airplanes leaking fluids and the sealed tarmac itself. The dog doesn't drop dead, though. The fuller tows my airplane to the pumps, his daughter riding on the tug and the dog dancing excitedly all around. He fuels, goes in to get the bill, then realizes he has forgotten to copy the number of litres off the pump and comes back out.

It's a few degrees above freezing, but it's windy so seems cold. I thought I put my winter stuff in my flight bag, but there's only one glove and no toque. I go inside with the fueller and pay, then explain that I will need one more load of fuel this weekend, but it can be any time between this evening and Sunday morning, does he have a preference for when I call him out? At first he says anytime is fine, then amends it to "not Sunday morning." He wants to enjoy the Easter egg hunt with his daughter.

I had anticipated fuelling and then going back to the hotel before flying, but I brought my flight bag just in case. And the case comes up. Fly now. I finish my flight preparations, taking off the tents and putting them in the wing lockers, the mission specialist catches the fact that I have the cord hanging out of the locker and that I have left the electrical plug cover open, before I do. It makes me look sloppy. I feel icky about it, and I'm also not certain the engines will start. They really don't like freezing weather overnight. Remember the right one freezing in a couple of hours at Watson Lake? They were tented all night, but that's just to contain their own heat left over from the flight. With no plug in, they weren't producing any heat of their own.

I bribe them, promising them nice fresh oil if they'll just start for me. They are champions! I praise them out loud for their sterling performance. During the run-up I turn on both heaters, but the sun coming in the cockpit windows warms me up so I flick off the front heater. I stick my hand back behind the cockpit partition to test the temperature in the back. The client is on the phone and thinks I'm trying to get his attention. Oops. There are some ground delays related to the computers in the back, then we finally take off, and yes, I manage to do that right. It's just before noon, and I had breakfast at seven. Day in the life. I eat some Arrowroot cookies out of my flight bag. They're soft because they've been there for months and the package is open. It's cold at altitude and I turn on the cockpit heater again. It gets colder. I only had it on for a few minutes on the ground. It is approved for ground operations, with a squat switch linked fan to keep the air moving in the absence of forward motion, but sometimes it overheats while sitting on the ground, and this is one of those times. Oh I'm having such a great day.

I also didn't have a blank OFP form with me. I just came out to fuel, thinking I'd be back to the room before I left. I usually have spares in my flight bag, but it turns out that all the ones on my clipboard are used. I had an old one that had been partially filled out but not actually used, from a day I didn't go to Montana. I reworked that form messily before I left, just to have the weight and balance and a place to fill in the times, not changing everything else because I'm going to recopy it properly when I get back to the hotel. It still says I'm going to Montana, with 100 pounds of baggage instead of a passenger, but I have the correctly worked weight and balance on my computer. It's Good Friday: I'm not going to get ramped today, if anyone ever gets ramped here.

We do the flight and I'm rusty, so waste a bit of time, but the work goes reasonably well until the last half hour when weather conditions don't allow us to finish, so we turn around and go home. There are two runways at destination: a long one and a shorter but still long enough one. There are four airports in the CFS for this town, and they all have two runways. It's a windy area. There's currently still a howling north wind, so I land on the shorter into-wind runway, which despite my landing with lots of runway to spare and not using aggressive braking I find out afterward made the client uneasy. I turn around and taxi in. As I'm parking a voice from the back says, "Hey it's Transport Canada!" You've got to be kidding. I look. It's one guy in a multicoloured toque and a nondescript coat. No, it's not TC. They travel in pairs, with matching jackets and ramp passes. They stick out like sore thumbs at little airports where no one has a ramp pass. It was probably the met observer for the local weather station.

Dinner is yesterday's leftovers nuked in their takeout container in the breakfast room microwave. The styrofoam warps alarmingly. Inside the potatoes are still frozen and the vegetables dehydrated. It's not quite enough for one of only two meals I get to eat today. There's a Tim Horton's next door so I walk over, but once I get there I question whether I am really hungry or just bored and in need of comfort food. I ponder for a while then order two Timbits. That comes to thirty-six cents, which I count out carefully. The server gives my my Timbits in a bag and I thank him and leave the store. When I open the bag I discover I have three Timbits. Do I look so impoverished that a Tim Horton's employee has taken pity on me and snuck me extra food? I eat all three. I really would have preferred vegetables, but there aren't all-night vegetable stores.

I recopy my messy OFP, and prepare new one for the next day. I call the fueller and we agree on a time tomorrow morning.


dpierce said...

toque: Learned a new word

A Squared said...

toque: Learned a new word

Obviously not a bob and doug mackenzie fan.

CeridianMN said...

I always add water before nuking my lunch. It prevents things like the veggies dehydrating. The amount of water to add is a cross between a lucky guess and a learned skill, and varies based on the food being nuked. If I have very different types in a single container I have been known to nuke one for awhile before adding the other. The styrafoam I got nothing for. that stuff just doesn't work well in the nuker.

Cirrocumulus said...

I love your nightmare. I've certainly never had one like that.

During the Napoleonic Wars, our home fleet mutinied: they put the officers ashore and went on strike. Their main demands were for more pay and more vegetables.

dpierce said...

Obviously not a bob and doug mackenzie fan. ...

Oh -- I thought they were saying "toke" ...

Sarah said...

I just want to say, in addition to a long and complicated post including a dream interlude... I like the photo. The emptiness of the horizon and the little family unit, in painterly low-res.

It reminds me of .

Sarah said...

Oops, sorry. My link didn't work.

Aviatrix said...

Ooh, I'm glad the idea got through even though the photo wasn't quite as I wanted it. I didn't want to show the people's faces, especially the child, and I wanted to show the dog, but it was a very hyper dog, and kept leaping out of frame.