Sunday, October 16, 2016

Someone Has to Read Them

The flight that was cancelled in the previous blog entry is back on again, but there's a new weather puzzle to solve. The scud is still present in the low terrain, but this time the air is stable, only trace icing expected. The clouds only go up to ten thousand, so I can climb through them and fly on top with no fancy routing. We'll cancel IFR and alerting after we get into uncontrolled airspace further north, so we can descend out of radio contact and look at the things that it's our job to look at, without people getting all antsy about us showing up to do an approach at our destination.

This time we do depart, and the flight goes as planned. The wings and windshield stay clean as we climb through the slowly brightening grey. I switch to sunglasses as we break through the top into the sunshine. I'm going northwest, and the sun has risen behind me, projecting a round rainbow on the clouds below me, visible through the propeller. It's called a glory or the glory of the pilot because you have to be between the sun and the clouds to see it. The colours repeat through the ring, faintly right into the centre and fading away to the outside. It's a light refraction effect, obviously, but according to the Wikipedia article it isn't certain how they are formed.

As we continue north, dark shadowy holes appear in the solid deck of clouds below, and then they widen to become green and grey and sparkling as the clouds scatter out and we can see the rocks and lakes and trees that define most of Canadian geography. the lakes are not yet frozen and some of the deciduous trees still have their coloured leaves. The clouds thin to occasional wisps and I cancel IFR to fly without having to follow a clearance or stay so far above terrain. Once we finish our work we turn again toward our destination. I'm listening to the Centre frequency as well as the air-to-air en route frequency of 126.7. I can't communicate with Centre, but I can hear other aircraft talking to them and pick up some information that way. A Dash-8 announces that they are in the missed approach from what we'll have to call Elk Creek. The fact that Elk Creek is below minima is a bad sign for the weather at my destination, because the two airports are relatively close, but then the Dash-8 pilot reads back a clearance to my destination. That's a good sign that overrides the bad one. He wouldn't miss and then go somewhere dubious. Sure enough I soon hear the Dash-8 pilot say he's planning the contact approach, which means he has the terrain in sight and is confident he'll remain visual all the way to the runway. He asks to fly direct a fix I'll call WIBEL and then I start to be able to hear the controller, who can't find WIBEL, even after the pilot spells it. The pilot tells him which approach it's on, and that it's the fix before AXFUG. (I wonder who makes these things up. It's kind of fun.) The controller says that the fix before AXFUG is WAGPO. I know what the problem is, but I can't interrupt their conversation. The two of them discuss this for a while, get the pilot an appropriate clearance, and then the controller has a number of calls to catch up on. When he's done I check in and add, "There's a NOTAM out today on the WIBEL/WAGPO situation." I knew I was planning in here VFR, but my eye ran over a NOTAM mentioning a waypoint substitution, and them repeating the waypoint name has triggered my recall.

The controller says, "Thanks, Aviatrix," using my real name over the frequency. He finds the NOTAM and reads it out. WAGPO has been temporarily replaced by WIBEL. It's curious that the airliner had a database that showed the new temporary waypoint while the controller didn't. I would have expected it to be the other way around, or to have them both be operating with post-its on their screens.


Aluwings said...

I'm picturing a radar screen with whiteout painted on top of an approach label ... Anyone recall what whiteout was used for? ;-)

Aviatrix said...

I still use the tape-type whiteout to amend flight plans. The special flight plans I file for our work can only be submitted by fax, and with the quality of some hotel internet, it's simpler to write them out in ink, including whiting out corrections, and getting the hotel to fax them than it is to fax them from the computer-and persuade the hotel to print me a copy to have in the cockpit.

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