Monday, February 28, 2005

Squawk What?

The laws governing radio communications in Canada clearly state that it is an offence to divulge the contents of radio transmissions. Yet another reason for me to maintain an anonymous blog.

Overheard on the radio today:

"Tower, confirm squawk seven three four eight for Flight 123"

"Flight 123, I'm pretty sure your transponder doesn't go up to eight. Try seven three four five."

For non-pilots, that whooshing sound is the funny bit going over your head, because I didn't feel like explaining transponders today.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Career Track

Today I met a stranger who told me a story I already knew about a man I never met. The stranger was the relative of a pilot. The pilot had worked since high school to get his private licence, his commercial licence, his multi engine rating, his instrument rating, his float rating, and his instructor rating. He had worked as an instructor, and worked for a small company in a remote part of the country. He worked for another company and slowly, despite companies going bankrupt or being taken over, he moved along with his cohort of same age male pilots and gained a position on what Canadians call a tier one carrier, a major airline.

That's a textbook career track. There are as many similar stories as there have ever been red or blue seniority numbers. That's the way many pilots want to go.

He flew for the major carrier, on various aircraft until he became medically disqualified from flying. And that was it for that career. He then drank too much and within a few years that was it altogether. That's not the way a pilot wants to go.

"It's like the army," my stranger told me, "They tell them where to go and what to wear and when to sleep for so long, that they cannot be removed from that environment."

I have heard this story too many times. Serves me right for talking to strangers. I pledge to keep my life sufficiently diverse that should my flying career end, it cannot take my self-image down with it.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Inappropriate Checklists

Kristopher's blog entry inspires me to rant about checklists.

A checklist is a list of essential items to be completed at some particular stage of flight, so essential that the flight could be jeopardized if any is missed. Therefore even though you do the same things every day, every leg of the flight, you continue run through the checklist to ensure everything is done properly. The list might be printed on a bit of paper, displayed on a screen that pops up on your EFIS, or committed to memory as part of a mnemonic. In a two crew environment the non-flying pilot reads or recites the checklist to the flying pilot, who answers each item with "check" or "on" or "down and locked" as appropriate to the checklist.

In a perverse sort of logic, the checklists you use multiple times per day are usually read off the list, while the ones you hope to use never in a career are committed to memory. I'm not complaining about that. In an emergency your checklists may not be immediately accessible, and memory checklists always end in "consult emergency checklist." Some vital emergency checklists are displayed on the dashboard, on a manufacturer's placard. This always amuses me, as I picture some panicked pilot, all training forgotten in extremis, suddenly pausing to read the sticker that has been in front of him so long he no longer sees it.

Here's what I don't like:

  • Written checklists intended to be completed while flying VFR in single pilot airplanes
  • So let me get this straight. You're flying an airplane at over a hundred knots, towards the airport, the area with the highest concentration of air traffic along your whole route, and this is the time to stick your head in the cockpit and read a bit of paper? Memorize the pre-landing checks. Memorize where to put your hands to do them. Look out the window and complete the checklist while maintaining a watch for traffic.

  • Checklists shared between dissimilar airplanes
  • I don't know how this one gets past Transport Canada. The company has a fleet of aircraft, not quite the same. They get one company checklist approved. So the checklist includes "rear cargo hatch secured" in an airplane that doesn't have one. Or it says "fuel selector fullest tanks" in an airplane restricted to landing on inboard tanks. These don't just waste time. They are dangerous. If an item doesn't have to be done, it shouldn't be on the checklist. Not only is it a waste of time, but it teaches pilots to skip checklist items. So when they are flying the airplane with the rear cargo access they read "rear cargo hatch secured" and think "nope."

  • Checklists that don't match the panel layout
  • A checklist should be a flow check. If your checklist involves selecting, reading, or confirming the positions of fourteen items then the checklist should be written in such a way that your eye or hand sweeps over the panel in order. If you have to constantly jump from the overhead panel to the dashboard caution lights to the centre panel and back to the throttle quadrant you're going to get confused. Checklists that don't flow result from modernizing a panel without changing the checklist, or bringing a new type into a fleet and simply addding or subtracting items from the already approved checklists to accomodate the new type.

  • Fossilized checklist items
  • This could also be covered by the previous two gripes, but is so spectacularly annoying that it gets its own item. Sometimes items exist on a checklist even when the reason for them being there has died and rotted away. One company I flew for had a speed callout shortly after takeoff. The captain who trained me always called for flap retraction immediately after I called the speed. Then I flew with another captain and he asked for reduced flap before I had made the call. In cruise I asked to cross-check our airspeed indicators, as I hadn't realized I was late on the call. "Flap retraction has nothing to do with that speed callout," he said. But he didn't know what it was for. I asked more senior captains until I discovered that the speed callout everyone was diligently making had no function whatsoever. It had been the rotation speed of the aircraft in another configuration.

    That's just so wrong. It's like pushing in the cigarette lighter every time you brake your truck to a stop, because your old truck was standard and you always had to push the clutch in on it.

    Now I've ranted so long about printed checklists that I don't have time to pillory the cute but useless mnemonics that started me off. Another time.

    Friday, February 25, 2005

    Smartness Opportunity

    A contact at Badger, who has graciously offered to convey my updated resume to the desks of the appropriate people, just sent me an e-mail. It's one of those e-mails people forward to everyone saying "isn't this cool?" It was pretty cool, but the truly cool part is not the tricky mind-reading puzzle that was costing her sleep. The cool part was that I could solve the puzzle, and explain my solution. Well that's not the cool part either, I'm smart and overeducated, and I expect to be able to solve internet puzzles. The cool part is that when I walk into Badger, I won't just be "my friend Aviatrix." I'll be the smart person who solved the puzzle that was bugging everyone. That's the kind of person you might want to hire, eh?

    Unless I bragged annoyingly about my brilliance on the internet. And now of course she, and anyone she tells that I solved the puzzle, can figure out who I am if they read this blog. This anonymity thing is tricky.

    Monday, February 21, 2005

    ATC Blog

    I'm on a course for the next week (no, not the Z92) so I won't be posting. If you miss me, take a look at Michael Oxner's excellent aviation blog, Aviation in Canada. He's an air traffic controller with a radar-eye-view of all our stupid pilot tricks.

    I Have Control

    Here's a safety poster from World War II. It enumerates desireable qualities of the aviator: sound body, clear mind, steady nerve, and most of all, self control. I saw it and thought, "well okay, that's one way to put it," but I had no idea what the poster was really driving at.

    Now, it's clearly important for an aviator or aviatrix to have self control such that he or she remains calm in emergencies, resists the temptation to race his colleagues while in command of passenger jets (you know who you are), and is disciplined enough to cancel or divert a flight as necessary, despite personal or company pressures. Apparently that wasn't the problem the poster was designed to combat. They're talking about the self control required to avoid certain medical conditions. Another poster provides more context.

    I can safely state that while I've seen flights cancelled for weather, mechanical malfunction, availability of fuel or deicing solution, lack of business, continent-wide terrorist-inspired air travel system shutdown (yes, then), pilot illness, or pilot forgot to renew his medical, I've never seen a mission cancelled for this reason.

    I suppose this is an issue in every war. It figures I'd find this the day after I registered my blog on a site that specifed "no sexual content."

    Sunday, February 20, 2005

    Snowbird Fleet

    The Snowbirds aerobatic team perform in CT-114 Tutor jets but the jets need replacing. We were discussing today what aircraft they should use to replace the Tutors. My favourite suggestion was "the Avro Arrow."

    Yes, I'm a Canadian nationalist.

    Saturday, February 19, 2005

    Pilots Can't Blog

    The aviation community in Canada is just barely large enough that everyone doesn't know everyone else. Instead, everyone knows at least one person who knows someone who knows any other person in the industry. Eric's dispatcher knows several customer service agents at the next airline Phil wants to work for. Anne's company just hired a mechanic who used to fly for the airline that fired Dan's new co-worker. John missed an interview opportunity because although the operations manager liked his resume, he heard from one of the mechanics that Ben made a rude remark about the training captain's sister. If you're in the industry, you know me, or you know a mechanic who fixed a defect I reported, or you know a pilot I spent an hour talking with in a crew lounge, or you know a dispatcher who schedules flights for one of my former flight instructors.

    The industry is very sensitive to criticism. Public loss of faith in a company following an accident or rumours of insolvency may destroy the company. Pilots must be physically fit, mentally sharp, emotionally stable paragons of sobriety. That's fair. The public is nervous about air travel. The public must be able to trust the pilot to be safe.

    So why not identify myself here as a safe, emotionally stable pilot? Because I cannot guarantee that nothing I say here will not, taken out of context, disturb someone. A few people will recognize my stories and figure out who I am. But they're the people who already know the stories.

    I'm hoping I can keep a weblog to entertain and inform without whining, backstabbing or revealing confidential financials or policy information. Pilots are supposed to adopt a friendly, professional tone and explain any situations that arise, without alarming the cargo. Welcome aboard. Please remain seated with your seatbelt fastened, and I hope you're enjoying the ride.

    Friday, February 18, 2005

    Time For Confusion

    I've changed my blog timezone to Universal Coordinated Time, because I could, and because it seems appropriate for an anonymous pilot blog. Universal Coordinated Time, abbreviated "UTC" (international abbreviations are dyslexic), is used by pilots so as to eliminate time zone or daylight savings changes. That facilitate communications and forces us to do math every time we talk to an air traffic controller, thereby ensuring that our brains remain active, so we can still manage simple tasks like lowering the gear and closing the throttle.

    UTC is also called Zulu time, not because Zulus use it (unless they are pilots, or have moved west of their ancestral homeland I believe they use UTC+2), but because someone lettered the one-hour time zones right around the world, ending with Z at his own time zone in Greenwich England. He skipped O and I because they could be confused with 1 and 0, and he was labouring under the impression that the purpose of all this was to alleviate confusion. And the time in Greenwich (yet another name for UTC is "Greenwich Mean Time") matches UTC, except during daylight savings time, when it doesn't.

    And I will entertain suggestions for ways to explain that in order to make it even more confusing. Now you know why pilots say "uhhh" so much when we're telling the passengers what time it is. We're better with hockey scores. ATC just tells us those straight out, without us having to add or subtract anything.

    Thursday, February 17, 2005

    Bird Strike

    The other day I had to submit a bird strike report. I wasn't even the one who hit the bird, which I must admit is a good thing, but it is the nature of bird strike forms to need submitting, it is the nature of co-workers to have other things to do, and it is the nature of Aviatrix to do things that need doing, so at least they get done.

    There probably is no less exciting way to describe a heart-pounding event than to start with the paperwork, but paperwork is an aviation commodity even more ubiquitous than coffee. I'll start over.

    One afternoon, a single engine airplane departed a small airport in Canada and, according to the published departure procedure, levelled off briefly before continuing its climb to cruise altitude. A few miles away, a bulldozer trundled across a berm of earth, shifting a pile of garbage, much to the delight of hundreds of seagulls. As a flock, they wheeled aloft turning, climbing and descending in ever-shifting formations, hundreds of times more complex than a Snowbirds routine, but with no appreciation from anyone. A couple of seagulls peeled off the flock, on some seagull whim, and allowed convective currents to carry them up, over a thousand feet above the ground.

    The seagulls wheeled above the ground, seeing whatever it is that seagulls see: clean cars and other tempting bombing targets, garbage and other food sources, whirling ground beneath their wings. A pilot saw a sudden zoom of gray and white in peripheral vision, and then felt a shuddering "Wham!" With a jarring splash of feathers and blood, aluminum met meat and bone. The propeller still turned and the engine indications remained good, but the pilot was cautious. A call to the tower secured clearance for a return to the runway, and to the maintenance hangar.

    Damage was limited. The cowling needs repairs from the impact. The oil cooler was hosed down to remove blood and feathers. There are no nicks on the propeller. The airplane is back on the line before the birdstrike paperwork is complete.

    Always back to the paperwork. Location, phase of flight, altitude, airspeed, extent of damage. Number of birds seen, number of birds struck, species of bird, scientific name. (Scientific name? I resist the urge to put "Rattus aviatus" and just leave it blank). Cost to repair, time offline, other costs. If I were paid more the major time would be paperwork. But I'm not paid to do paperwork, just to fly airplanes, which I would probably do for free, anyway. No one pays the seagulls. And they have no paperwork.

    Still, the pilot and airplane fared better than the seagull.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2005

    Gimli Airshow?

    Winnipeg is cancelling their annual airshow, citing airport expansion concerns, and apparently Gimli is thinking of trying to attract the event there. The CBC story says "The community last held an airshow more than 20 years ago."

    Would that be the show Air Canada put on in 1983?

    A Morning in the Life

    I arrived at the airport in plenty of time to prepare for my first flight, and both the weather and the airplane appeared fit for flight, except that there was a sheet of ice covering most of the airplane. That's normal for this time of year, but it is illegal to attempt a take-off with ice or snow on the airplane. (And I do mean attempt: you can find a long list of nasty accidents resulting from failed attempts). Fortunately, deicing was available, and we were first in line. A spray of thick hot fluid (it looks, but doesn't taste, like a thickened version of the stuff you got at birthday parties at McDonalds when you were six) melted the ice and stayed on the wings to offer limited protection from refreezing during taxi.

    I inspected the airplane and ensured that the ice had been completely removed, then decided to let the airplane wait a few minutes, dripping with orange goop, before starting up. Snow removal was in progress, so better to wait on the apron than wait, engines running, on the taxiway. Just as I decided to depart, I looked to the north and realized that I couldn't see a familiar landmark that was usually there. I looked to the east, and realized mist was forming. Within one minute the condtions dropped from a vague diminishment of visibility to the east to complete coverage of the airport in fog, below a quarter mile visibility. Back inside for another cup of coffee.

    The fog cleared after less than an hour and we returned to the airplane, and reinspected it for ice--still clean. I got in, and discovered a problem with my seat. A quick call to maintenance. While explaining the problem to maintenance I got dripped on by orange deicing goop. Damn, on my spiffy company jacket. I'll have to do a laundry advice to pilots blog entry soon. Maintenance fixed the seat, but had no sympathy for the jacket. And finally, we were off.

    It really is a miracle that any flight departs on time, ever.

    P.S. Reminder to self of three important phone calls to make tomorrow, to contacts at: Aardvark, Badger and Groundhog.

    Sunday, February 13, 2005

    Coffee: Part One

    Most pilots are completely addicted to coffee. Stand in the concourse at any airport and watch us arriving for our flights. If we work for a posh airline, one hand is pulling a rolling carry on bag with a leather case on top. The other hand clutches a cup of coffee. If we work for a scruffy company we're not on the concourse, and we're hauling a knapsack, but the coffee is ubiquitous. Part of it is the need to be sharp despite irregular hours and part of it is the culture.

    Here's a conversation about flying the Airbus A320:

    "So you set the autopilot through four hundred feet and then order your coffee?"

    "Are you kidding? We set the autopilot right away. By four hundred feet we have the coffee in our hands."

    Pilots drink coffee. We're expected to drink coffee. While we're waiting for the airplane, while we're waiting for the weather, or while we're waiting for the approach clearance. Even if you're not addicted to coffee, you drink it because everyone else is, and then you are addicted.

    When I tried to kick the habit, it was like a well-known line from the movie Airplane, I picked the wrong week to give up coffee. I ended up flying with the chief pilot.

    Very early one morning I was in a hotel lobby eating eating croissants and waiting for the rest of my crew, when I saw a uniformed pilot from another company. I made a generic comment of greeting, along the lines of "Good morning, what are you flying?" After a dismissive grunt, he declined to acknowledge me further. He pushed past me and went up to the reception desk to complain loudly about there being no coffee left.

    Later, on the van to the airport, one of my crew turned to start a conversation with Captain Too-Good-To-Talk-To-Aviatrix. I was about to warn him, but to my surprise he answered my colleague quite civilly. And then I realized, he was now holding a cup of coffee. It really should be on our checklists.

    Friday, February 11, 2005

    Glass Cockpits and Dogs

    I know two jokes involving glass cockpits and dogs.

    The first is about The Cockpit of the Future

    The cockpit of the future will not be crewed by two pilots, but by one person and one dog.

    The dog is there to bite the person, if they try to touch any controls.

    The person is there to feed the dog.

    The second is attributed to an old time captain commenting on his first experience in a glass cockpit airplane.

    "I now know how a dog feels, watching television."

    I will let you know whether the Z92 type rating is dream or reality by the end of March.

    Glass Cockpit

    A few days ago I promised to say more about an opportunity I may have to train towards a new type rating. It's a type not flown by many companies in Canada, so identifying it by name would make it more difficult for me to be vague and mysterious. Maybe I'll call it the Z92.

    The Z92 is a glass cockpit airplane, which means that instead of having little spring and pressure driven needles and dials on the instrument panel, all the flight information is displayed on computer screens. This type happens to be the first glass cockpit airplane I ever saw, and that first time I saw it I gasped audibly in amazement. Now I'm steeled for the experience, so when I arrive at the international training centre to learn to fly it I'll only gasp inwardly.

    Whom am I kidding? I'm already drooling on my keyboard and hyperventilating like a landed fish at the very idea. This is one extremely exciting airplane. I'm going to the post office now.

    Thursday, February 10, 2005

    I before E

    I just updated my application for Ferret Air, over the web. That's good, but the nice positive feeling fizzled abruptly as I spotted a typo, just after I hit the submit button. You can imagine the HR person at Ferret, can't you?

    "What's this? A transposed i and e? Doesn't she know a spelling error like that can bring down an airplane?"

    My "expereince" allows me to distinguish the flap handle from the gear handle, but if I could swap an i and e on the job application, what will the company think I will do on the runway?

    Wednesday, February 09, 2005

    Pilot Pay

    I just got my T4 slip this week for the 2004 tax year. I thought I would reach a career milestone this year, but poor weather cancelled many flights for part of the year, so I came up $600 short of the poverty line for my area. The company I work for isn't even on this list.

    Low pay is normal for flying jobs. Only the higher paying companies are on that list. You may look at the top end of the Air Canada pay scale and think that is the payoff, but look what it takes to get there. The basic commercial multi-engine IFR qualification will cost at least $30,000, with no guarantee of a job at the end. This How it Works site mentions the training, the medical requirements and the myths about salary, but it doesn't include a Canadian reality. In some countries a newly qualified pilot can go straight to the airlines to fly a jet. In Canada there are vast murky areas of aviation to be navigated before those airlines will even look at you. WestJet, a discount carrier with a Boeing 737 fleet, requires 4000 hours of flight time from new applicants. The How It Works site leaves out the low end jobs with six hours of training, not six weeks.

    Pilots are typically paid for flight hours, so when pre and post flight responsibilities and waiting around time are taken into account (and there is always waiting around time -- why do you think I blog?) a brand new pilot is lucky to make minimum wage. And he doesn't even get free cheeseburgers. Even in the United States, where the aviation situation is better, pilots starting at some regional airlines qualify for food stamps.

    Like anything else, it comes down to supply and demand. There are lots of people who want to work as pilots, and a sufficient number of people hold the minimum qualifications for any job opening below heavy jet captain, that a company need only pay enough to keep a pilot alive.

    Monday, February 07, 2005

    The Multifunctional CFS

    If airplanes had been invented before the popularization of toilet paper there would be an old copy of the Canada Flight Supplement hanging next to the toilets. The pages are a convenient size, made of tissue thin uncoated newsprint, and the company replaces the book every fifty-six days. I've also used the green brick (okay, now it's blue) for fire starter, lumbar support in old broken-down cockpit seats, kneeling on while preflighting in mucky weather, taking telephone messages on, and threatening unruly passengers. I have a colleague who used one to demonstrate, almost convincingly, that there was a trick that might allow one to tear it apart with ones bare hands.

    I do occasionally pull one out to find a radio frequency or confirm a circuit direction. I'm just glad, as apparently is David Megginson, that the airport information is all in abbreviated code. Dave's is a good blog with actual research and information instead of rambling like mine, plus he has a great new layout, with pictures.

    Sunday, February 06, 2005

    A New Type Rating?

    I'm in the process of assembling a number of pieces of paper that may result in a new type rating on my licence (i.e. qualification on a new airplane) this year. Amazingly, considering this industry, the pieces of paper are not large denomination banknotes. I'm guessing there's about a one-in-fifty chance right now, but cheer for me, as know I will beat the odds. I'll reveal more on February 10th, by when I've vowed to have all the pieces assembled.

    Also Kristopher Johnson just had his first flying lesson; I've added him to the blogroll so we can watch him learn to fly. He's training in the United States, so the procedure is less structured than the Canadian equivalent, but the hours to licence are about the same, so it must work out in the end.

    President Badger

    I found out today whose office I was in when I tried to find the chief pilot at Badger the other day. The company president's. Is there a term for this level of blunder?

    Saturday, February 05, 2005

    Lord of the Planes

    If Lord of the Rings were your airline, these would be your co-workers.

    Runway Excursion

    The term runway excursion sounds like a family jaunt in the airplane, out to enjoy the scenic stripes on the tarmac and the Jet-A-scented breezes wafting down the runway. It actually refers to the event of an airplane leaving the runway by a method other than taking off or trundling down the appropriate taxiway. That is, over the side or the end.

    A couple of weeks ago in Calgary, a JetsGo MD-83 went off the side of a runway after landing. The airplane continued rolling along the ground beside the runway and ran over a taxiway sign, before the crew took off again and returned for a normal landing. No one was hurt. Costly. Possibly career-ending. Bad for business. Embarrassing. Frightening for the passengers. Some speculate that the pilots aligned the airplane with what they thought was centreline lighting -- but Calgary doesn't have centreline lighting, only edge lighting. An official report will be issued in due course, but one never has to wait that long for uninformed opinion.

    Today, there was a runway excursion at my home airport. Within two minutes of the first pilot saying, "hey, there's an airplane in the ditch!" at least seven pilots from three different companies were out on the tarmac, as close as we could get without entering the manoevering area. Everyone had at least one opinion on the cause and the extent of the damage. Airport staff and company maintenance personnel rapidly arrived to extract the airplane from the small ditch and tow it out of the limelight. And that was our excitement for the day.

    Wednesday, February 02, 2005

    Speed Trap

    No, I didn't get a ticket today. I've never had one. I almost always drive within ten percent of the speed limit, and aerial observation is a good way to discover the speed traps before I drive home.

    I'm reading Flight Theory and Aerodynamics: A Practical Guide for Operational Safety, as I promised to, and I'm looking at the section on airspeed measurement. The way it explains IAS/CAS/EAS/TAS is somewhat confusing.

    Under the heading Indicated Airspeed it mentions position error and notes that "it will be included in the instrument error chart." Then the paragraph ends. The next paragraph, under the heading Calibrated Airspeed, reads, "Calibrated Airspeed (CAS) is obtained when the necessary corrections have been made to the IAS. In fast, high-altitude aircraft, the air entering the pitot tube is subject to a ram effect, which causes the diaphragm to be deflected too far. The resulting airspeed is too high and must be corrected."

    The above makes it sound as if a correction for the ram effect is made to the IAS to derive the CAS, when in fact the IAS is only corrected for position error to get CAS. This one-error-ahead situation continues through to true airspeed. To prevent confusion, I would place each paragraph heading before the error it corrects for, or make it clearer when the description switches to a new sort of error.

    For anyone who is confused without even having read the chapter:

    IAS = whatever the instrument says
    CAS = IAS corrected for aircraft-specific position error, found in the POH
    EAS = CAS corrected for ram effect (compressibility) using a chart
    TAS = EAS corrected for non-standard air density
    For aircraft below 10,000' and 200 kts, EAS can be considered equivalent to CAS.

    I still haven't found a way to explain the concept of true airspeed that works for all audiences. Equivalent airspeed represents the rate of passage of your aircraft past the air molecules that happen to be there. Those air molecules will be more closely or more loosely packed, depending on the pressure and temperature, so their rate of passage is not the true airspeed, the speed of the aircraft through the air mass itself. People don't always grasp the concept of "movement through the air mass itself." Density is a function of pressure and temperature so the TAS is determined by correcting EAS for temperature and pressure. Maybe simplest is best, as this article from an inflight magazine illustrates.

    Skyward Aviation Grounded

    Today Transport Canada ordered Skyward Aviation (that's its real name: you can tell because "Skyward" is not a sort of burrowing mammal) to suspend operations because of "safety deficiencies." The company now has the opportunity to fix the problems and resume operations. This came as a surprise to me, and to people I know who are closer to the company. Management apparently hid it well.


    As compensation for not reaching the decision makers at Badger and Aardvark today, instead of watching more TV I e-mailed an application to Ermine Air Service. Then I called one of the people who got me into aviation in the first place, now a captain with Dingo Jet. He's doing well and had some great stories to tell, (and I'll tell them, implying they are my stories, in a future blog entry). He also gave me the names and telephone numbers of two people who work for Badger, and encouraged me to call them. Now if I can just avoid claiming their chief pilot is in hiding.

    Burrowing Mammals

    As promised, this entry signifies the completion of the five tasks I set for myself in the previous entry.

    I telephoned the chief pilot of an airline where I want to work. I'll be talking about that company a lot, so we'll call them Aardvark Air. (The airline has nothing to do with that tubulidente species, I just need something to call it. I think I'll anonymize all airline names as burrowing mammals.) I made about eight tries at calling him, but despite advice from his assistant (no, the advice wasn't "buzz off") I didn't manage to talk to him. I'll put that back on the list for next week. There's no great expectation of a job there this season, but it's good to keep in touch.

    I visited Air Badger, to, well to badger the ops manager and assess my chances of being hired this spring. There was no one in the reception area, but I could tell there was someone in a office around the corner. I spent a few minutes admiring the decor and then poked my head around the corner to say hello. Here's where I showcase my poise and wit. In the space of our short conversation, I (a) twice accused the chief pilot of hiding from me (b) admitted to being confused by the layout of the building and (c) failed to get the person's name. I did however leave a resume, which I was assured would be delivered to the Air Badger chief pilot. It didn't look like the person was annotating the resume with "confused and paranoid."

    I also dropped by the office of Civet Airlines, where I actually know someone, but, judging from the fact that the door was locked, it was a bad time.

    I printed off some information for a presentation I have to give next month, then browsed the web for a while, being hauled back on topic with this paper about speaking styles. (I have no idea how I got there.)

    Speakers adjust their speech primarily towards that of their audience in order to express solidarity or intimacy with them, or conversely away from their audience’s speech in order to express distance.
    I completed a first draft of the presentation, with a yet-to-be-determined speaking style.

    My logbook is now completely up-to-date. I have neatly entered the aircraft identifier, pilots' names, origin, destination, and flight time for a month and a half worth of flights. I have even verified the numbers against both my paystubs and my pocket calendar, and totalled up all the pages. I got so enthusiastic enough about accomplishing tasks that I then updated my pocket calendar with my scheduled flights for February, and did some banking.

    The physical exercise part of my pledge was a bit of a cop out. Aside from that walk to the bank, I settled for a hundred push-ups, while watching TV. But that should take care of the fortune cookie.

    On the minus side, I wasted at least an hour finding names of burrowing mammals that start with every letter of the alphabet. I master procrastination techniques others don't even dream of.