Thursday, September 30, 2010

Runway Ten

And it's time to go back to work. can't find any flights into my destination, but I've flown there before and I know the airline that goes there still serves it. They must have had a fight with the Expedia people. I book the connecting flight separately and then work on the leg into the boondocks. I was going to say disdainful things about the little airline, but one of my friends works there, so I'll just bitch about their website. The customer service staff are wonderful, obviously the pilots are terrific (you'd better appreciate this if you're reading, girl), but the website really sucks. It's hard to find flights that go where you're going unless you're familiar with the route structure, and then when you buy a ticket there's a blank box that says "Enter Terms and Conditions here." It's the same level of not- caring demonstrated by spammers who begin their missives with "Dear %name%." Do they never look at the hideousness of their own website? I enter a constructive comment on the feedback form and it responds with an error message instructing me to use the latin alphabet. I did. No accented characters at all. I try again, gradually eliminating top row symbols, numerals, and all punctuation, but the box keeps urging me to restrict myself to the latin alphabet. I call up an online English to Latin translation site and copy from it the Latin translation result of "This is the worst air ship site ever." When I paste that into the comment form, the website stops responding to inputs all together.

I reload it in a new tab, and now the flight I found earlier is listed as unavailable. I pick up the phone and speak to one of the ever -helpful customer service agents, who completes the transaction. And then the next day--yes that's the sort of notice I get of where I'm going--I get on a plane.

At the connecting airport I have to go all the way down to the end of a terminal and go outside to board the airplane. It's a tight connection--maybe that's why Expedia wouldn't approve it--and I run all the way down the concourse and show my boarding pass through the gate onto the ramp. There are two airplanes parked there: one is a Dash-8, like it says on my ticket, but is not the right airline. The other is the same airline as it says on my ticket, but is not the right type. I walk towards the one that is the right airline and the captain puts his head out the window to ask where I'm going, then directs me back to the Dash-8. I guess they are subcontractors.

This Dash-8 is familiar. This is the same Dash-8 that skirt woman was so vigourously defending in Dawson Creek. And guess where we are landing enroute to refuel: Dawson Creek! I don't disembark there, but I crane my neck looking for skirt woman. I don't see her but I want to run to the doorway and yell, "I'm SECURE! I'm coming from VANCOUVER!"

I'm a good little passenger and stay in my seat. There's an interesting passenger announcement while we are there, directing all passengers to remain seated and unfasten our seatbelts during fuelling. It's obviously to facilitate emergency evacuation in the case of a fulling accident, but I've never encountered this before. The CARs forbid fuelling with passengers on board unless it is in compliance with the company operations manual, which means that a company needs individual approval from Transport Canada and a set of procedures in their company manual regarding how it is to be done. Evidentally this company has included seatbelts unfastened in their manual.

As we depart I can see that there is a big white X on the grass in front of the water landing area. An X is the 'closed' symbol for airport maneuvering areas, and sure enough when I get a chance to check the NOTAMs for the airport I see that it is closed until the 6th of October.

1007060600 TIL APRX 1010061800

No explanation is included. The water looked full of algae, but it probably always does. There was plenty of water, it's nowhere near freeze-up. I suppose there could have been some kind of construction going on, but nothing I noticed that would justify closing one of the few fuel stops for float planes on the Alaska Highway route.

We have a quick hop to destination, then it turns out there's another airplane that beat us to the airport and it's on the IFR approach, so we hold. You really don't know the difference between turning and straight in a properly coordinated airplane with no visual reference. We get our approach clearance and land. I think the airplane that we had to wait for was the same one that I didn't gt on in Vancouver.

I collect my bags, which somehow made it, and call the hotel shuttle. The guy at the hotel asks my to clarify which part of the airport I'm at. Aha! They know it's not all about the passenger terminal. The shuttle picks me up and then stops again at an ATCO trailer to pick up three people who arrived in a C172. They are VFR and the weather to the south is too iffy for them. It looks nice here now. I mean it's raining, but a decent ceiling. Yet I know how nasty it can get around here. Also it's July and I'm wearing a heavy jacket, the one I wear in January. Love the north.

I check into the hotel. My room not ready, but at least they have a booking for me this time. The airplane is not here yet. Another pilot is bringing it. I sit down in the lobby and make some local calls, phoning around to find hangar space for scheduled maintenance. Someone has a hangar, but isn't sure that the airplane will fit inside. I know my dimensions, and they say yes, they've had this type in the hangar before, some fit, some don't. Does it have a high beacon on top of the tail? I have a photo of the airplane that will be coming here on my iPod and I zoom in to look. Yes, it has a beacon on the top of the vertical stabilizer. We'll see, maybe we can maneuver it in.

I go for a meal (perogies) and then get into my room and e-mail the other pilot about what I've learned about hangar space. He says nope, the airplane doesn't have that beacon anymore. It stopped working and instead of repairing it they took it off, capped off the hole, and replaced it with a multi LED belly beacon.


Paul B said...

Flybe have a route from the south of England to Scotland, and the middle-of-the-day flights stop in Yorkshire, kinda half-way. And yes, we stayed in the aircraft, with seatbelts undone (to enable quick evacuation).

Funnily enough, I think THAT was a Dash 8 too!

flightless bird said...

If we're boarding pax when refueling we're supposed to let the cabin crew know so they can make an announcement over the PA instructing people to leave their seatbelts undone. As you say, I guess it's all about being able to get out quicker in an emergency (fuel related emergency no less).

MathFox said...

On one of my flights the pilot came on, mentioned a fuel pump malfunction and that, because of that, the MD11 needed some additional fuel. Passengers were requested to undo their seatbelts during fuelling.
So, yes it happens on bigger planes too.

Anonymous said...


Thats funny stuff, I don't care WHO you are.


Anonymous said...

Speaking from the Deep South of your neighbor to the south of Canada, I didn't know what the heck a "perogy" was... I couldn't tell whether you were naming your food or making an arcane comment about it...and even after I Googled it, I'm still not sure I know... ;) but I still luv the flyin' stories...

Aviatrix said...

They're also called pyroshki, pyrogi and a lot of other things. It's a northeastern European food, consisting of stuff, usually potatoes and cheese or maybe meat sealed inside a circular piece of pastry folded in half, and then boiled, fried or both. Kind of like semicircular ravioli, but fatter and served with sour cream, bacon and onions instead of tomato sauce. In Canada you can buy them pre-made in the frozen food section, and probably from a Ukrainian lady down the street, too.

Patrick Pohler said...

It's surprising to me still how many aviation sites aren't up to the times when it comes to providing a quality, informative, and personal site. With all the talk of social media, facebook, twitter, there are a number of small airline websites that don't have a decent way to contact customer support.