Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Drone vs Helicopter

This wasn't put together as a PSA on drones, but it's being passed around the aviation community as one. I haven't figured out how to embed it as a video, so let me know if the link doesn't open a video for you.


Having the audio on is not strictly necessary, but after the main sequence there's an explanation that you may find interesting if you like that sort of thing.

Drones are scary little things. You'd think the danger a small thing like a bird or a drone can pose to a large aircraft would be impressed on the minds of the public after things like US Airways Flight 1549. (I'm not going to call it by its nickname because that undermines the training and expertise of the aircraft designers, SOP writers, pilots, flight attendants and rescue personnel). But people go on thinking that anything in the sky above them is as impervious to as the moon to their interference, and they try to check us out. Transport Canada has a renewed campaign trying to protect us from them. The roads around my airport are marked out with bilingual and graphic "no drones" signs. I was going to say that people wouldn't throw rocks at passing cars, so why do they launch these things at airplanes, but then I remember a relative of mine getting picked up by the police for dropping rocks off a pedestrian overpass, so yeah, people would do these things. I can almost imagine this Casualty One episode inspiring people to attack helicopters.

I've reported drones twice in flight, both times while in the immediate vicinity of an airport, and both times taken very seriously by ATC. Just like playing with fireworks, lasers, or things that look like grenade launchers, even if you think you're not causing any harm, you do that in the vicinity of people operating aircraft and we're going to launch law enforcement (or more) right back at you.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

One To Beam Up

I'm on my way into into a major Canadian airport and overhear another pilot on frequency asking to fly direct to a particular fix. A "fix" is a point of latitude and longitude that has been designated with a five-letter code so that air traffic controllers and pilots can refer to it. It might be the point at which pilots are supposed to change frequency, or allowed to start descent, or just another way for a pilot to request to deviate from course, usually to get around convective cloud.

In any event, this pilot asks to fly direct the fix, but the controller doesn't recognize it. That's not surprising, there are hundreds of these things in any patch of airspace, and people only pay attention to the ones that are on the route they are flying right now. The pilot repeats the waypoint name. The controller still doesn't recognize it.

"You're going to have to spell that," advises the controller, sounding a little crusty.

The pilot spells it. It has a couple of Ks in it, I think. VIKOK or KADOK or something.

"Great," says the controller with heavy resignation. "Another place out of Star Trek." I didn't notice if the pilot got his clearance or not.