Saturday, April 30, 2005

Aerodrome Classification

On my last post, David commented on the Wikipedia's attempt to classify airports into "private" and "commercial." As David pointed out, that is nonsense: they aren't even opposites. A 1500' private grass strip can be dedicated to a commercial agricultural spraying operation. Any runway that is open to the public for landings and takeoffs without prior permission probably hosts some sort of commercial air operation: I can't think of one that doesn't, even the unpaved ones. And there is usually some kind of commercial activity going on anywhere. I know of a private grass strip whose owner rents out hangar space, and pretty much every public aerodrome has paying commercial tenants.

So you could try to classify airports as private versus public, but where would you put those that are open to the public but prior permission is required to land there? Or the ones that are open to the public as long as prior notice is given of the intent to land? Or the ones that are open to the public, but it's public knowledge that they get ticked off if you land there too much? It's a continuum of access, not a dividing line.

But there are ways airports are classified. In Canada, anywhere that is used or set aside for landings and take offs is an aerodrome. Yes, anywhere, be it land, water, or the frozen surface thereof. The documentation itself admits that by that definition most of Canada is an aerodrome. If that aerodrome is listed in the Canada Flight Supplement, then it's considered a registered aerodrome. An aerodrome is listed in the CFS if its owner submits it, it meets minimum safety standards, and it's a land aerodrome. (Water aerodromes have their own book. That's another way to classify them: land vs. water). And if the aerodrome meets a more stringent set of safety standards, it becomes a certified aerodrome. And that's the Canadian definition of an airport: a certified aerodrome. You'll notice that I sometimes use the words airport and aerodrome interchangeably. I can't be bothered to look up whether an aerodrome is certified or not before talking about it.

Sometimes when people ask me if I want to fly commercially and I tell them I work for a commercial operation now, they reply, "you know what I mean!" And I do. A commercial airplane is a big one that you pay to get on with a lot of other people and fly away on vacation. When the public says "commercial" airport they mean it the same way as they mean commercial airplane. A commercial airport is where you board a commercial airplane, in order to start your vacation.

So how many people is "a lot"? The Canadian Aviation regulations do include some numbers and airplane weights and configurations that form the boundaries between one kind of operation and another. If you're a Canadian commercial pilot, you know what they are, so just sit smugly. Otherwise, hit the comments and tell me how many seats you think an airplane has to have before it's big enough not to ask the pilot if she'd like to fly commercially someday. I'll ask my mom, too.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Building Time

People often ask me if I'm 'building time.' It's their way of saying, "You seem to work incredibly hard at a lousy job, there must be some purpose to this." Or maybe they've just heard the expression and think it might apply, because they also ask me if I have "gone solo," which clearly indicates that they haven't a clue what that means. My family waits for me to become a "real" commercial pilot and seem to reassure themsleves that I am now building time in order to fly "commercial" airplanes. Every airplane I fly is commercially registered.

I rarely think of a job as 'building time'. I don't think I have spent one minute flying an airplane while thinking "I'm building time." I fly airplanes to fly airplanes. I apply for other jobs, but not for their time building attributes. I'm trying for the opportunity to fly bigger, faster, more complex airplanes, and make more money doing it.

Am I building time? Yes, ma'am, I am accumulating flight time in my logbook, but that is only a side effect of what I am primarily doing: providing you with a safe and enjoyable flight. And when they ask me solicitously if I might like to be a "commercial pilot" one day, I tell them I used to be one, but I have since upgraded my commercial pilot licence to an airline transport one. That usually confuses them into silence long enough for me to get a taxi clearance.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

It Actually Flies

The A380, largest airliner ever built, made its maiden flight today. What's to say? It was designed and tested in computer simulation, and flew as it was designed to. The chief test pilot described the take-off as "perfect" and defined the aircraft, based on its handling characterists, as "a true member of the Airbus family." He also said it was like "handling a bicycle." Maybe he means like the bicycles in the movie E.T.

Another year of testing stretches ahead, involving five A380s. At least one of them is expected to come to northern Canada next winter in order to discover whether it breaks in half at arctic temperatures. I had a bicycle once that had a chain guard made out of plastic and it shattered one winter morning when my boot hit it on the way to school. Designed in California, or somewhere where it never occurred to the engineers that it might be used when the weather was twenty below. I want a picture of the massive double-decker A380 taxiing in at Yellowknife, past Buffalo's DC-3s.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Now on e-Bay

The Global Sky Air Charter Corporation (website "temporarily unavailable") is for sale on e-Bay. No aircraft are included in the e-Bay auction description, but their Pilot Career Center listing claims a rather eclectic collection of aircraft, not entirely what you'd expect from an executive charter company:

LR25 LearJet ExecJet
BE20 Beech Super King Air Turboprop
C421-C Cessna Golden Eagle Twin
C340-A Cessna 340 Twin
DC3 Douglas Transport
BE18 Beech 18 Freighter
BN2A Britten Norman Islander

Another website listing the sale includes one aircraft, the Cessna 421-C from the above list, in the list of assets. The description in the e-Bay ad, makes the company sound like a faltering start-up, but who would start a company with such a bizarre fleet? I'm thinking hobby airline, or possibly a money laundering scheme for an import business, considering its Florida location.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Air Canada Going Boeing

The rivalry between Airbus Industries and the Boeing Aircraft Company ressembles an extremely high-stakes version of the internet browser wars, and a significant development was announced yesterday.

B777 and B787 flying in Air Canada minty white livery

Air Canada, not only Canada's largest airline, but the tenth largest airline in the world, just switched from Airbus to Boeing. Despite being just seven months out of bankruptcy protection, Air Canada is one of the healthiest airlines in North America, and the company has placed firm orders for 18 Boeing 777s and 14 B787 "Dreamliners," plus arranged purchase rights that could represent the eventual delivery of up to ninety-six new Boeing airplanes. Air Canada parent ACE has released a powerpoint presentation describing the future fleet plans. The existing B767 and Airbus aircraft will be retired as the new Boeings come on line, leaving Air Canada with an all-Boeing fleet.

The 1988 Air Canada decision to acquire an Airbus fleet has always been suspect, since there is evidence that significant kickbacks were involved. Prime Minister Mulroney was cleared of associated charges, but someone got the money.

One advantage of operating B777 and B787 instead of B767 and A319/320/340 is that Air Canada can maintain one pool of Boeing pilots instead of two pools of Airbus versus Boeing, with associated savings in training and administrative costs. Ironic, as it was Airbus that pioneered the interchangeable cockpits that allow pilots to be simultaneously current on an entire family of aircraft.

The Air Canada purchase is a significant achievement for Boeing, as announced in their press release, discussed in Randy's Blog, and shown because the picture I've linked to above is today the main image on the Boeing homepage.

Mammal Hunt

Everyone brings happiness. Some by arriving, and some by leaving.

When searching for a job, I recognize the importance of keeping in touch with the people who will be doing the hiring, and the people whom the people who will be doing the hiring might ask about you, and the people who might tell you that the people who will be doing the hiring are about to start hiring. That means telephoning, writing to, or calling on those people on a regular basis. I know I don't do this enough, because otherwise I would be flying something faster and with more knobs and switches in the cockpit.

I have been on the receiving end of pilots 'keeping in contact.' I was once the senior pilot at a base, and pilots who hadn't done their research believed that I had some say in hiring. There were two people who did the 'keeping in contact' thing extraordinarily effectively. I am terrible at remembering people, but I still remember their names. But their efforts were a dismal failure because firstly, they were bugging the wrong person, and secondly they annoyed the heck out of me. If I had had a word of input into hiring them, the word would have been 'no.' I knew just enough about them to know I didn't want to work with them.

I don't want to be like those pilots. Naturally I don't want to alienate people I want to work with or for, but I also don't want to annoy anyone, regardless of who they are. I want people to be happy to see me, not happy to see me go. I think the secret lies in short, meaningful, varied contacts. I'm going to make a top twenty company list and contact someone from each company at least once a fortnight. (Maybe I should randomly assign some companies to a control group that gets a mailed resume once every six months, and then I can report back on the most effective method, based on interview callbacks).

By way of monitoring myself, I have placed a list in the sidebar of this blog, showing how many days it has been since I last made contact with which companies. A contact doesn't necessarily mean talking to Steve B. Mammal: it might make more sense to talk to an employee or a former employee. Sometimes I'll visit, sometimes fax, sometimes e-mail. You are encouraged to mock me if you find me slacking in my contacts.

I think I'll throw my mom in there, too. Something tells me I should probably call her at least as often as I call strangers in Sioux Lookout.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Loopy Fire Detection

If you're tuning in for the airplane stuff, I hope the last couple weeks' jobsearch travelogue isn't boring you. I promise to go back to pretending to know all about airplanes soon. And here's a nice technical post to tide you over: the inside story on the twin otter fire detection system.

The twin otter fire detection system is a marvel of space age technology. And whe I say space age, I'm talking about the 1960s, the era of the first man in space, and the American moon landing. A twin otter pilot I know was alerted to the presence of a fire in his engine because he saw the reflection of the flames in the dashboard. But back up systems are everywhere on the twin otter, so in addition to the well-polished dashboard, there are four thermal switches located in each engine nacelle.

The thermal switches are composed of two different sorts of metal that expand at different rates when heated. The forward switches are constructed such that they will bend enough to close a circuit at 450 degrees F, while the rear switches will close at 300 degrees F. The original design had all 300 degree F switches, but the forward ones kept triggering by accident in hot climates when reverse thrust was selected. The switches are connected in parallel so that if any one of them closes, it will activate a cockpit warning light and paralysingly loud fire bell. The number one checklist item to be completed in the event of an engine fire is Fire Bell MUTE, so the pilots can hear themselves think. The fire bell mute switch is located either above the captain's left knee or behind the captain's head, depending on the serial number of the airplane, so the captain has to be able to think a little bit in order to silence the alarm. That's why he gets paid more.

The pilots have to be able to test the system, so there is another switch sort of in parallel with the four thermal switches, a normal switch that closes when someone presses the test button in the cockpit. Holding the test switch illuminates the lights and rings the bell, if everything is working. This is only the beginnings of the workings of the fire detection circuitry.

Rather than being a simple connection to each side of the thermal switches, de Havilland has engineered two loops, which they call Loop A and Loop B. That way if there is a break in either loop, there is still a path for electricity to follow to ground, and detection will work. The test switch bypasses the loop, so that fire detection is still available, but the test switch will indicate the fault, so it can be repaired. There's more.

Loop A is normally powered, waiting for a thermal switch to trip, so that power can get through loop B to the warning light and bell. If Loop A should develop a short circuit, then a magnetic circuit breaker will pop. That magnetic CB is cunningly configured so that as well as cutting power to Loop A, it closes the circuit in Loop B, so that Loop B becomes powered. In this configuration, if one of the thermal switches reaches its trigger heat and closes, electricity will flow through Loop B, through the switch, through Loop A, through the warning lights and to ground, through the short circuit. Thus even with a short circuit in A, the fire warning will work.

The fire detection system is powered off the left bus bar, so that if you were unfortunate enough to have your right engine catch fire while the left generator was offline and the bus tie open, you'd have to depend on the shiny dashboard method of fire detection.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Every Two Days?!

During my Yellowknife trip I that I learned that Air Vizcacha hires a lot of people with my qualifications. Today I followed up the e-mail conversation mentioned yesterday by telephone and found out that they were training now, but they'd consider me if anyone didn't work out. Realizing that I should have contacted them earlier, maybe March or even February, I asked when I should call for the best chance of being hired for the season. The answer I got was the answer to a different question, and revealed that I am not even in the ballpark for nagging adequacy. He said, "Every two weeks after May. Every two days before then."

Holy firetrucks. I guess the strategy is to annoy them so much that they hire you to make you stop calling.

P.S. Some unfortunate individual found this blog this morning by searching for "IFR+headwind+timing." Maybe I should put a larger disclamer on that collection of posts. "No one really does this! Aviatrix is just exercising her algebra and trigonometry!"

Friday, April 22, 2005

Air Vizcacha

Got a live one. Steve Vizcacha just replied to my e-mail asking for more information on my qualifications. I hope he likes the answer.

What Really Works?

Being a pilot often involves concentrating on the journey, not the destination. I caught myself last week enjoying the silly process of stalking chief pilots in the attempt to get a job, and that made me stop and consider how I have got jobs in the past. What really works? Here are techniques that have succeeded at least once at getting a chief pilot to call me and tell me he has a job for me.

1. I walked into the company every week to ask if they had work for me, until they said yes.
2. I did business with someone who worked for the company, and he called me when a job came open.
3. I helped someone find a rare part for an old airplane and he remembered the favour when I needed work.
4. I kept updating a chief pilot with my progress towards his minimum qualifications. He hired me before I met them.
5. An ex-instructor thought well of my skills and committment and hired me.
6. I faxed one resume to a company that I found on the internet, and then had forgotten who they were when they called, months later.
7. I made telephone calls of inquiry to a company and they passed my resume onto another without telling me.
8. A guy I introduced to his wife called me when he became ops manager for a start up company.
9. The ex-colleague of a mentor still had my card when a client needed someone with my qualifications.

So it appears that yes, harrassing a chief pilot is a viable way to get a job, but certainly not the only way.

Note that not all of the above actually turned into real employment. Insurance, operating certificates, finances, aircraft availability, political unrest, contracts, terrorist attacks and alien invasions can interfere with the job offer becoming a job, or take away a job you already hold. Actually, I can't remember ever having extraterrestrials steal a job from me, but it could happen. All the others did.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


My inbox was stuffed with memos this morning. I know that every profession is plagued with memos, but I suspect that aviation has it worse than average. I think it's because due to our non-intersectiong schedules and being always out of town pilots get away with fewer meetings than other folks, so we make up for it with memos. I overheard an amusing memo-related conversation recently.

"You'd better do it according to the memo, they're going to be checking."

"What memo? I never get any memos."

"You have to look in the memo book."

"I don't know anything about any memo book."

"You're supposed to read the memo book when you come on duty. There have been memos about it and everything. You'll get a letter on your file if you don't."

"What happens if I get too many letters on my file?"

"Dunno, you probably get a memo, and a letter on your file about it."

At that point the Dilbertian irony of the situation overwhelmed both participants.

You learn a lot about a company by reading their memos. "As of Tuesday we have been reinstated as a permitted carrier for such-and-such company." Hmm, what did they do to lose that status in the first place? (Turns out they crashed a plane on that company's airstrip.) I saw an interesting one last week, dated in April and noting that a crew member had suffered frostbite during a trip that week. The memo decreed that it was now the responsibility of the pilot-in-command to ensure that all crew members were equipped with parka, winter pants, boots rated to -40 degrees or below, an extra hat and mittens and face protection. Next week there will be a memo reminding pilots to remove their balaclavas before going aft into the passenger cabin.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

My Turn To Say No

I had a meeting with Steve Raccoon, the employer who called me while I was in Yellowknife and then I removed myself from his list of candidates. What? Why? Am I crazy?

The Raccoon job would begin as part time on single engine aircraft, progressing to full time with some single and some multi-engine flying. Steve shortlisted me because he knew I have ties to this community and he was looking for someone who wouldn't be leaving town in a hurry. While I would very much like to be flying both types of aircraft Raccoon operates, I said no. He suggested that I juggle the two jobs, because the work with him would start out slowly, and that he had previously had employees who did that. I talked to my current employer about the possibility and learned that those previous employees had caused scheduling problems. "Havoc" was the term used. I don't like to make commitments I can't keep, and holding both jobs would entail regularly bailing on commitments to the first job. I considered quitting my current job for Raccoon, but over the next six months, I expect to be doing both more multi-engine and more total flying with my current employer than would be happening with Raccoon. Twelve months from now I would expect to have more income and more multi-engine flying with Raccoon than with my current job, but twelve months from now I don't expect to have the current job, in any case. He wasn't asking for a fixed commitment, but I he clearly wants someone who would be there two years, and I would feel that I was betraying him if I did not give him that much time.

Last time I turned down a position in similar circumstances, I got a much better job immediately afterwards. Let it happen again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Ending With A Bang

By the end of the trip, I had managed to meet and speak to everyone I sought, and spent some time unashamedly being a tourist. That's all I could reasonably expect, and I had a good time.

In the B737-200 "combi" out of Yellowknife I sat in seat 7F. That put me in the first row of passengers, right behind the bulkhead that separated the self-loading freight from the regular kind, and in the window seat next to the right engine. I told the passenger next to me about my mission in Yellowknife, and that I had enjoyed my stay despite my lack of immediate success. He had lived in Yellowknife for years. I'd seen him at security carrying a bag with a Government of Canada logo on it, so I asked him about that, and he admitted with an only slightly sly grin that he was with Transport Canada Aviation Systems Safety. I managed not to wince at all this time.

We discussed a few companies that might be looking for someone with my qualifications, and I wrote down the names of those people to contact whom I didn't already know. We were happily discussing the relative attitudes towards safety of different companies when what the official report will call "an incident" occurred. About five minutes after takeoff a sudden noise and an unusual vibration shook the whole airframe, eliciting a few screams from the passenger cabin. The vibration settled down and then as the Boeing entered a gentle right bank, a muffled cabin announcement confirmed that the crew had completed a precautionary shutdown of the number two engine -- the one next to me-- and that we were returning to Yellowknife. I hate making PA announcements for abnormal situations. You want to be honest with the passengers, but not scare them and you have to dumb down the information enough that they can understand it. And then you have to reassure them without sounding like a complete dork. I remember the words "this airplane flies very well on one engine." The PA was textbook: what the crew did, why they did it, what we're doing next, time to destination and that there is nothing to worry about. And then there was a cringeworthy second PA right before landing, including the phrase, "everything is going just fine." I can't put my finger on what was so embarrassing about it, but I think if I hadn't known that a seven thirty-seven doesn't require engine power to land, that PA would have scared me more than reassured me. I wonder if anyone has ever done a psychological study of how best to word these things.

Our firetruck escort (you knew there would be firetrucks) confirmed that neither the engine nor the brakes were on fire. It turned out that every passenger in the front row was either a pilot or a mechanic, so everyone in that row and forward knew that the airplane wasn't going anywhere soon. It was the last flight out of the day, but another one was coming in in a couple of hours, so we commandeered that one and took it back to Edmonton. Thus my trip to the 'knife ended in a bang, not a whimper. And speaking of the knife, I did remember to retrieve the confiscated Swiss Army knife on my way through YEG.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Local Radio

Despite being up until after midnight, the whole household has to report for work before seven. Pilots in Yellowknife have two jobs, the aviation job and the money job. One of my hosts works on the ramp almost every day of the month, often starting an hour and a half before the first scheduled departure. His roster is on the wall and it's worse than mine at home. Plus he works in a video store some evenings, where he makes several dollars an hour more. The other flies as a first officer, has an administrative job for the airline, and works at the video store.

I hitch a ride to the airport with them, putting me at Air Mongoose at 6:30 am. Neither Mandy nor Bill is there yet. Armed with a good description of Bill Mongoose, I wait in the lounge. I stand up and greet him as he arrives. "Mr. Mongoose? I'm Aviatrix. I understand you had a very busy day yesterday, so I came in early to reach you before things got busy today." He is oblivious to the irony, and receptive to my qualifications, but I still need to speak to Steve if I'm to have a chance here. Steve is at Flight Safety doing simulator training in Downsview, and won't be back until the weekend.

Over at Ferret Airways, I confirm with the gate personnel that Frank is still arriving on the next flight and then head over to the arrivals gate. There is an older gentleman standing by the door, his coat lapels ornamented with pins from every airline in the north, and a few from further afield. Many larger airports have a corps of retired folks volunteering as goodwill ambassadors, perhaps he is one, or perhaps security. I approach him, "Excuse me, you know Frank from Ferret Airways, right?" Of course he does. The old guy at the airport knows everyone. "He's getting off the flight that just landed. Could you point him out to me, please?" He seems to enjoy the conspiracy, and peers out the door around the corner, looking for him. He stage whispers to me that Frank is the next one coming into the building.

I greet him, welcome him back from Iqaluit, and introduce myself. Pretty soon he's holding my resume in his hand. I feel like a process server. Too bad I'm not one, or my job would be done now. But I have go on and sell myself. Sell myself? Like a hooker? I think hookers make more money. They are more likely to die on the job, though, and have even less respect in the community, even in Yellowknife. Frank says I have to talk to Bill. The chain continues.

After I run out of people to harass who aren't verifiably out of town, I head back to where my suitcase is today. The people I am visiting leave a VHF radio scanner playing, monitoring the Yellowknife tower, flight services and company frequencies, just playing in the background the way I would listen to local news radio. After a while I realize that this is the local news radio. This is what is going on in town. What else is there? Knowing what size and type of aircraft are being chartered to which diamond mines is a better stock tip than anything on the AM1340 business report. Hear live and first hand about the Hercules crew that declared an emergency and flew into Yellowknife because a crack as big as a finger and as long as my arm opened in the wing spar during flight. Learn who is transitioning to which airplane, who is arriving and departing, who forgot their sunglasses, or had to call back to company to be reminded where they are supposed to be flying to. Right now there's a twin otter doing a compass swing on the threshhold of runway 27. Apparently there is no suitable compass rose on the apron, so they are sitting on a runway, using its declared heading to calibrate their compass. A take-off clearance is issued to an airplane on another runway, with a "caution wake turbulence, departing B737" as I can hear the unmistakeable sound of the jet over the house. It really is what is going on in town.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Springtime in Yellowknife

The temperature is minus thirteen this morning.

Aurora Borealis

The sky has been overcast a lot. It is today, and forecast to snow again later. It's still really bright, as if the sun comes in around the edges of the world, even though you can't see it directly. I guess it's because the ground is still mainly covered with snow. Where there are gaps in the cloud, the sunlight comes in and reflects off the snow, then off the clouds, then off the snow again, the land transmitting the light like a giant cold optic fibre.

I knew it was a tourist question, but I had to know, and didn't want to miss the chance, I asked, "what time of year are the Northern Lights?" It turns out that they are all year, you just can't see them in the summer, because it's too bright. It is amazingly light, considering that it is only three weeks past the equinox. We aren't far enough north here to experience six months of darkness and six months of light, but it was light enough to see clearly at ten pm last night and it's broad daylight at five am. A couple of evenings ago the sky was mostly clear, and after midnight someone called me outside to see.

When I first looked, I thought I was looking at a low cloud illuminated by the lights of the city below: a vague, dimly lit form in the direction of downtown. Then I realized that was the northern lights. I was near a cluster of houses, so I couldn't see the whole sky, and it wasn't a perfectly clear night. They were sort of greenish, and wavered a little, with stars visible through the sweep of green. I think the sight would have been more impressive if I had been able to see the whole sky, and if I hadn't been seeing colour-enhanced postcards of the phenomenon all day. Also, for the proper experience you have to get away from the light pollution of the city.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Go North, Get Job

I never thought that playing adventure games would do me any good, but today I applied the Infocom skills of caching inventory, mapping the adventure area, and performing repetitive, occasionally ridiculous actions.

I started my Yellowknife job hunt by dropping into the Air Mongoose office. I knew that Steve Mongoose was out of town, so I asked to speak to Bill Mongoose. The receptionist -- I'll call her Mandy, because I'm going to be talking about her again -- told me politely that he was busy, and suggested that I try back later in the day.

The Ferret Airways chief pilot isn't even based in Yellowknife, so I know he's not here, so I chatted up the cargo attendants (none of whom is a pilot) to find the name of the base manager: Frank. I thank them, and continue to the Ferret check-in counter. "Good morning, is Frank around?" Frank is not around, but not only do the check-in clerks tell me where he is, but they consult the computer and tell me the flight number and time of his return tommorow.

I visit Mongoose again. Mandy says Bill is still busy. I keep coming back. On the fourth visit, I achieve a breakthrough. Mandy actually goes back into the office to check before declaring Bill busy. On subsequent visits she does the same check, but he's still "busy" by the end of the day. At five-thirty in the afternoon, I leave Mandy with a cheery "see you tomorrow." Just so she knows the game is not over yet.

If you think I'm being cynical, or made up the part that it took four visits to get her to even check on Bill, consider what happened at Air Nutria. I asked to speak to Steve, and the dispatchers looked at one another. "He's flying, isn't he?" One checks a roster. "Yes, he's flying, What is this in regards to?" This is part of the game, too. They know.

"I'm a pilot with <quite a lot more than they were expecting> hours and some experience on the <airplane they fly>, could you please tell me what time he is expected back?"

Another exchange of glances. A phone call. "He'll see you now. Just go up the stairs behind you and turn left." None of us even blinks. Two plus two has always been five. This is how the game is played. We all know the rules. In the end, it doesn't matter. I have too much experience to want to work on the ramp here for three years, but not enough experience for a direct-entry captain position. We observe the ritual, have the chat, exchange the handshakes, and my resume will be kept on file. This company is well-connected and it's quite possible that someone else will call them to ask if they know of any available first officers, so it's time well spent.

The game continues from company to company. Sometimes I win an audience with Steve. There's an unspoken agreement: they will continue to pretend I might get a job there as long as I pretend to believe where they say Steve is.

And then at the end of the day, I checked my e-mail and discovered that I am being considered for a job I didn't even know existed, with Raccoon Corp, right next door to home. Someone who knows me recommended me for the job without my applying. The job would be part time at first, so I would have to negotiate with my current employer to make it work, but I'm used to having multiple employers. I will definitely accept if the job is offered. It's ironic, but almost predictable, that I would get a job offer close to home, without trying, while far away knocking on doors. The universe has a good sense of humour.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Wherever You Go, There You Are

Yellowknife looks a lot like Edmonton, or any other flat Canadian city. The streets are about as wide. The tall buildings are shorter, fewer, and less shiny, but the traffic lights still cycle green-amber-red and the pedestrian crossings make whistling sounds for the blind. It has public transit, with three bus routes. No light rail, but I'd think two aerodromes, one with two paved runways and another that currently has a runway cleared out of the snow on a frozen lake beats out a monorail on the coolness scale. There's an A&W on the corner by my hotel, and I know from wandering around town that there's a McDonald's, a tattoo parlor, an alternative medicine colonic care centre, all the major Canadian banks, art galleries, auto repair, corporate offices, governement buildings and dozens of souvenir shops. It's cold, yes, just below freezing, and snowing lightly from an overcast sky. The snow is not very deep on the ground, and the ice road, as someone noted in a comment, has just been closed. So, if I were driving south, I'd have to go the long way, bypassing Great Slave Lake, instead of just straight across it.

One of the city tourism slogans is "Where the Gold is Paved with Streets," an appropriate Dick Whittington reference for someone arriving in a city and finding it not what she expected. The city bells told Whittington to turn again, as he'd be mayor. I'm definitely not looking to be mayor, but maybe some of those turbine engines will tell me that I'll be a captain. If I were here to seek out the true north rather than a job, I'd still be following the red needle on my compass. Oh wait, that's magnetic north. It's always good to know what you're looking for.

I don't know why, but I was expecting Yellowknife to be more different from home than any other Canadian city. There are the same products in the stores, and the same international collection of people to see in the streets. I had lunch at a Chinese restaurant and the menu and proprietors were what you would expect in any Chinese restaurant. The friendly woman who shared my booth and told me sad stories about her mother turned out to have been on psychiatric medication for thirty-five years, just like half the people who spontaneously eat lunch with to strangers in any other city. She had stunningly fine teeth, however. Toothpaste commercial perfect, at fifty-four years of age. Perhaps strong teeth are a Slavey characteristic: when I asked her what her language sounded like one of the three phrases she gave me was "you have good teeth." Something like E'e na nee-in. Very approximately. Someone later told me they were probably false.

I shouldn't expect any different. Culture Is global. The meal on the airplane was a choice of Chicken Teriyaki or Sushi. That seemed incongruous with a flight from Alberta, where beef is king, but I suppose it fits in with the Northwest Territories, whose native languages don't have words for pork, beef, chicken, or pasta, and have vast area with no wood for cooking. You want proof that culture is global? I sat next to a gold prospector, a genuine, grizzled. hatted, gold prospector, who ate the sushi, accompanying vegetables, and the creme brulée entirely with the provided chopsticks.

And I know I haven't got to the part about the airplanes yet. Delayed internet access is keeping me a day behind, so I haven't written up that part yet, but I'll get there.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Adventures in Dial-Up

In Yellowknife, I tried to connect to the internet via the hotel's dial-up access. The Windows 95/98 instruction sheet didn't match my Windows XP laptop, but I wouldn't even complain about that. The settings I needed were on the sheet, and I clicked and selected until I had found out where to enter them all, and hit dial. After a distinct absence of dially noises, a dialogue box popped up informing me that my modem port was in use by another application. Odd that, as I wasn't deliberately running anything else. I tried switching the modem to different com ports, but the message when I try to connect did not change.

A troubleshooting problem suggested that my com port was not actually enabled, and explained how to enable it. I'm supposed to right click it in the list of ports, in Device Manager, and select enable. The problem was, that it wasn't in that list. Device Manager lists LPT1, but doesn't list any com ports. I tried a lot of options, with no more success, so I decided to use the traditional turn it on and turn it off again technique. I selected the modem from the same hierarchy in the list and disabled it. That required a restart, which I did. Back to the list to re-enable it, but .. um .. it had disappeared from the list, so it wasn't there to re-enable. All the screens I was working with before gave me no access to the modem, because I had erased it from existence.

In the end, the Install New Hardware routine discovered the perfectly functional modem, and allowed me to install it. It reappeared in the list, and when I clicked Dial, I got a dialtone, followed by beepy dialling noise, modem negotiation, and then the bingy sound of dial up success. Limited success, however. It then rejected the username/password combination (guest/guest, if you ever want to hack in).

I tried again, having nothing else to do. It repeated the previous steps, accepted the password, and announced in the tool bar the existence of a 33.6 Kbps connection. Yippee! Right? Wrong.

I fired up my e-mail program, but it was unable to get the network address for my mailserver. My browser couldn't resolve addresses either. Neither could a telnet-based program. Doing it over again didn't resolve the problem anymore. Neither did rebooting. In fact, every time I rebooted, I had to start over from the disable modem, reboot, reinstall hardware sequence before I could get a dialtone. The front desk didn't answer the phone. The connection status reported "connected," but maxed out at receipt of 303 bytes, and a number of errors. Three hundred and three and no more.

In the morning, I talked to the front desk, and all they could tell me is that the instructions only work with Windows 95/98. I made a brief attempt to explain that the instructions cover connection, and I have successfully connected to the network, but she wouldn't let that be her problem. As far as she was concerned, the internet doesn't work for Windows XP. And where I was concerned, she was right. I wanted to conserve my usual dogged persistence for the job finding mission and not waste it on getting connected. So I'll finish typing this, and then wander over to the Frostbyte Cafe, which advertises free wireless access with a purchase. So think of this as blogging "live, with tape delay" like the Olympics when they are held in a distant time zone.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Leaving Edmonton

The second-to-last chief pilot I spoke to at Edmonton City Centre Airport was not named Steve, but for convenience I'm going to call all chief pilots Steve, and give them a last name corresponding to that I have assigned their airline. Steve Kolinsky was a complete gentleman. He welcomed me in and then kept looking at my resume, the way I keep looking at the weather when I want to go flying, but the weather just doesn't meet my limits. He was looking for another pilot, but I don't have enough multi-engine time to satisfy the requirements of one of his larger charter customers, so if he hired me he couldn't schedule me well. Naturally, he could see that in the first five seconds after he put his glasses on, but we sat down and talked about aviation, and kids these days, and the demise of common sense. He made me like him, and Kolinsky Air. When I have the qualifications, I'll be talking to him again, and if he ever needs a favour from me, he's got it.

I arrived at Edmonton International with all my luggage, so I went first to the airline check-in desk. They were willing to accept the suitcase, even several hours before the flight, so I double-checked that it didn't contain anything I would need in the next few hours, and checked it in. That left me with the bag I've been using to carry my logbooks and certificates around in, my boots, and my computer bag. Edmonton International apparently doesn't subscibe to the worldwide paranoia of unattended baggage explosions, because a business in the lower concourse took my bag and boots into custody for a couple of bucks, leaving me free to convince the Stevage of YEG that I am just the pilot they have been looking for.

That involved a lot of walking: expect a blister update in the next installment. There aren't that many companies based at Edmonton, and it wasn't the best time of day to visit them. My best bet seems to be with Lemming Airlines, who just hired someone and are looking for one more. I didn't get a chance to speak to Steve Lemming, but the woman I spoke to was going to be seeing him shortly, so the handoff may have occurred. I'll call him later and check.

At the end of the office day I still had a few hours before my flight, so I treated myself to a proper dinner. The steak was way past the medium rare I ordered, but it still tasted good and the broccoli was terrific. My tour complete, I unchecked my computer and found a place to plug it in. I had been planning to pay a few bucks to use a wireless hotspot, but the only one available was for Fido subscribers, with no information on how to acquire time on it, so I amused myself by looking through the pictures of airplanes stored on my laptop. The man sitting next to me was also looking at pictures of airplanes on his laptop, and turned out to be a Transport Canada inspector for the Dash-8, B737, and ATR.. After an obligatory mock recoil-in-horror that I am unwittingly talking to a TC official (for which he gave me a nasty face), I told him where I was headed and why. He was taking a different flight to Yellowknife, doing a flight operations inspection. He gave me some advice and some names, and told me where to drop his name for best results.

On the way through security to my flight, I discovered that Edmonton International is not completely behind the times when it comes to paranoid security measures. While I had ensured I had not checked anything that should remain unchecked, I had left one item unchecked when it should have been checked: my Swiss Army knife, veteran of many adventures. While the blades are shorter and possibly duller than the cutlery provided on the flight, it was a prohibited item. I decided it was worth a dollar a day to me, so it is in custody of the YEG information office. My next challenge is to remember to get it on the way out.

The flight to Yellowknife was awesome. I can't even tell you how awesome. We touched down right at sunset, on runway 09, with the wind twenty knots gusting to twenty-five knots, and the B737-200 seemed to be going as slowly as a Seneca before it touched down. I'm about to connect to dial-up at the hotel, to see if I can send this.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

City Centre Airport

I've walked around one half of City Centre Airport at Edmonton. I'm now at the Shell. Yeah, I know, for cars a Shell gas station has only grubby washrooms and overpriced potato chips, but for airplanes you can expect a computer for checking weather and e-mail. On the continuity side of he equation, the keyboard is grubby and the T key doesn't work very well.

There's a routine to this, probably the part I dreaded most about the trip. It's walking into a company, having it completely obvious to everyone you walk by that you're a pilot looking for work. They check you out, as if you were wearing a chicken on your head. People call it "running the gauntlet" after a medieval punishmen when you had to walk between two rows of people who would all hit you. Then you try to locate someone from Flight Operations. Then you introduce yourself to him (it's always him, and he's usually named Steve). Steve doesn't want to completely turn you off, because he knows that a month from now half his pilots could leave, and he might need you, but he really would rather get on wih his day than deal with polite, portfolio-clutching applicants. You chat with Steve about your time, the state of the indusry, and how well-regarded his company is. You're trying to persuade him that you are a mature, responsible individual, but also that he could stand to be stuck in an airplane with you for six hours. Then Steve says that he doesn't need anyone right now, but he'll keep your resume on file. Or he tells you that he's looking for captains right now, or he needs someone with a current PPC, or he has people on the ramp he's promised jobs to, or he only hires people with the middle initial Q. And you thank Steve, and shake his hand again. Then you sit down outside the office and make some notes on the meeting, and look to see which Steve you are meeting next. When Steve is not there, and you've left your resume for his attention, everyone passes it around the office to check you out more thoroughly.

I'm off to see two more Steves, then lunch, then on to the International airport.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Sojourn in Edmonton

On the plane to Edmonton, the first officer's name sounded very familiar. I sent a note to the pilots via a flight attendant, and the message came back without recognition but with an invitation to visit the flight deck after the flight. (No one but airline employees may visit during the flight, ever since you-know-when). After I had ogled the full glass cockpit of the B737-700, and after a bit of a conversation it turns out that the FO used to be the Ops Manager for Jackal Express, which no longer exists. His name was familiar from all the cover letters and phone calls I addressed to him in my low-time days. He didn't recognize my name, because I was one of dozens if not hundreds of hopefuls.

Edmonton is much maligned by popular reputation, but it seems a fine city. Tall shiny buildings, wide streets, parks, trees, and rather more shopping malls than one might expect. No wonder it is home to the largest. The people are diverse, friendly and helpful, the transit system takes you pretty much anywhere, and the weather was great. Sunny tody, about fifteen degrees, with a ten to fifteen knot wind blowing everywhere I went. In winter I know it gets very cold, and that that wind would blow the snow right into your bones, and in the summer I imagine it carries grit and dust everywhere, but today, Edmonton presented a day that any city in the world should be proud to host.

I decided to make this first day in Edmonton one of rest and adventure, so I took a walk by the North Saskatchewan River and explored the city. No, I'm not chickening ou: I deserve a vacation. Tomorrow one day should be enough to visit air operators at City Centre Airport and the International, before leaving for Yellowknife in the evening.

Oh, and if you're ever in Edmonton, loking for a net fix, consider Geeker's Beakers Cafe, an organic cybercafe. That means high speed internet while you eat yummy organic food.

Land of the Polar Bear

Acme Licencemaker

I've packed clothes and documents that I might need over the next week, and of course probably forgotten to pack a number of vital items that will be impossible to obtain in Yellowknife. I'm excited, but realistic: this is probably just going to be an interesting vacation. Everyone in Yellowknife is a pilot looking for a job. I'll just be the newest one in town.

I've been watching the CYZF weather the last few weeks and it has been quite mild. around freezing most of the time. Here's weather from the middle of Saturday night.

METAR CYZF 100400Z 22003KT 15SM -SN FEW018 BKN021 BKN031 OVC040
01/M02 A2965 RMK SF2SC3SC2SC1 SLP054=
METAR CYZF 100500Z 25004KT 15SM -SN FEW018 BKN025 OVC040 00/M02 A2966
METAR CYZF 100600Z 23004KT 12SM -SN OVC019 00/M02 A2967 RMK SC8
TAF CYZF 100544Z 100606 25005KT P6SM OVC030 TEMPO 0616 5SM -SN BKN012
FM1600Z 30005KT P6SM SCT020 TEMPO 1606 BKN015

For the non-pilots who stumbled upon this blog searching for tachyon inverters (I'm the top hit) and Yellowknife whiskey, the above means that the temperature was hovering around the freezing mark, it's been snowing lightly from an overcast sky with light winds, and the snow is predicted to become intermittant overnight and stop in the morning. And you don't care about the rest.

I expect I'll be able to post at least a couple of times in the next week, but don't worry about me if I don't. I'll tell you all about it when I get back.

Friday, April 08, 2005

My Job

I'm a commercial pilot. This does not mean that I fly Boeing 747s. It means I get paid to fly. My current job is the lowliest job in commercial aviation. It's the fallback job. The "if you can't get a real flying job" job. I know. I've returned to it more than once. I mean no disrespect to my colleagues, some of whom have managed to make a proper career out of this, but they too routinely have to respond to the customer question, "So have you ever considered becoming a commercial pilot?"

I work for a good company, among the best in the country, with better conditions and pay than typical at this end of the industry. I'm well treated and have great co-workers, but it still means low pay, and I cannot go further in the company without joining the ranks of management. And that would mean less flying and more paperwork, so no thanks. My days are divided among flying, looking for a better job, sleeping, and procrastinating, although not in that order.

I have at other times worked in operations certified under part 702, 703 and 704 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations. All I need is 705 to complete the set, and I intend to document my progress towards that goal here.

I suppose the real purpose of this blog is to articulate my attempts to advance myself, thereby subjecting them to the scrutiny of strangers, and elevating them to the status of commitments. If I make a commitment to others, it gets done. For some reason I don't habitually extend that same courtesy to myself. Therefore I will regularly make commitments to you, who probably neither know nor care who I am, and trick myself into carrying them through. If I don't make a regular, reasonable effort to advance my career, not only will I lack that happy sense of accomplishment that I crave, but complete strangers will mock me.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Don't Look! It's a Moose!

On my way home from work today, I listened as the radio show host read out one of those dubious strange laws you hear about from time to time. You know what I mean, "No female shall appear in a bathing suit on any highway within this state unless she be escorted by at least two officers or unless she be armed with a club." I'm sure you've seen them. According to CBC Radio, "in the state of Alaska, it is illegal to look at a moose from an airplane."

If it's a real law, I suppose the reason is to prevent harrassment of moose, like the Canadian rule prohibiting overflight of cariboo, reindeer or muskoxen below 2000' agl. It might be an extreme measure to prevent hunting from airplanes, herding animals towards hunters with airplanes or simply locating moose to direct other hunters toward them. It could also be to prevent what an American pilot I flew with once called "moose stalls" (losing control of the airplane in a steep bank, while circling to look at a moose on the ground).

So, does that mean that if you're overflying an airstrip in preparation for landing there, and there are moose grazing on the runway, you must avert your eyes? What if you're taxiing out? Or sitting in a parked airplane?

I find it really difficult to believe that any legislature enacted such laws. I think they are just funny stories that circulate forever on the internet. This site has more, including the claim that in Delaware, "It is a violation of local law for any pilot or passenger to carry an ice cream cone in their pocket while either flying or waiting to board a plane," and "it is against the law to sneeze in an airplane."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Nav Aid Power Sources

Recently, a pilot discovered before taxiing for departure that the ADF was unable to receive the NDB required for the assigned instrument departure. They could tune and identify a number of other, weaker radio navigation stations, but the required one remained elusive. ATC had no information on the status of the beacon.

The pilot had checked NOTAMs before departure and there was no mention of problems or scheduled maintenance on that station. It is usually identifiable on the ground at that aerodrome, and the aircraft equipment had been verified as functional. The tower controller made a couple of telephone calls. A terminal controller asked a few aircraft in flight to verify reception but none of them could receive it either. Eventually the tower controller called the pilot to relay the obvious: the station was non-functional. The pilot was a little taken aback at the lack of concern anyone seemed to have for the sudden unexplained demise of a navigational beacon, but accepted an alternate departure clearance and did the flight.

Later, the radio news reported an electrical substation failure denying power to a large area--including the location of the uncooperative beacon. That solved one mystery, but opened another. Public nav aids used for instrument approaches, as this one is, are supposed to be monitored and have back up power supplies.

An hour later, Flight Services still had no NOTAM on the outage of a facility that serves as an initial fix for the approach to one airport, and both the departure and missed approach guidance for another. The specialist commented that such problems are usually located in either the aircraft equipment or the pilot's procedures. Well yes, that's probably true, but no amount of equipment or procedure is going to allow anyone to fly to a non-functional beacon. I asked, "isn't there supposed to be a back up power supply?"

I was told, "Sometimes, sometimes not." Something to think about when a flag flickers on a VOR or the ADF identifier sinks into static and engine noise. "The back-up power might take a while to come on line." How long? The briefer thought it might be hours.

Trying to salvage a sense of hope and care for my welfare from this exchange I asked, "Is there some way to tell which ones do and which ones don't have back-ups?" I couldn't remember any notation on that in the CFS or the CAP. Some miserable night when storms threaten aircraft and power substations alike, it might be nice to know that my alternate will still have approach facilities.

"Oh maybe in some technical publication." He couldn't give me any more information.

True, we are supposed to, and do, monitor the condition of nav aids while using them, so that a loss of signal would be inconvenient, not be catastrophic, but you'd think someone would pretend to care.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Keeping the Cows Small

Airplanes all work the same way. Push forward and the cows get bigger. Pull back and the cows get smaller. Pull way back and the cows get bigger again.

Yesterday Kris Johnson described what he termed a holy war over airspeed and altitude control. He perceives that "aviation experts are divided into two camps about The Right Way to learn how to do it."

I wrote a long, physics-filled posting in response, but I didn't post it because I saw David Megginson's posting. Go read it.

Here are a couple of accident reports that illustrate his point.

This pilot escaped with minor injuries.

These four people weren't so lucky.

An airplane has kinetic energy from its forward movement and gravitational potential energy from its altitude. One can be excahnged for the other. Energy is lost to drag. Energy is added with thrust. Pitching up exchanges airspeed for altitude, kinetic energy for gravitational potential energy, but it's like a credit card. You can only afford to buy altitude as rapidly as you can pay in thrust. Otherwise that altitude is going to be repossessed, and that might hurt.

You can use power to replace energy losses and maintain altitude for several hours, and then you run out of fuel. You can use pitch to overcome drag and maintain airspeed for several minutes, and then you run out of altitude. You can use pitch to maintain altitude for several seconds, and then you run out of airspeed. At this point, you need to be a few centimetres above a suitable landing area. And hope there are no cows in the way.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Oh for the Unisex Silver Jumpsuit

As conclusive proof that I am an aviatrix, I'm trying to decide what to wear in Yellowknife. I always have to think twice what to wear to a pilot job interview. The traditional things to wear to job interviews are suits. A guy can put on the same tie he wears to work, iron a shirt, put on a suit jacket with uniform pants, and look great. A guy's suit looks almost like a pilot uniform. But a woman's suit involves a skirt, stockings, and high heels. While I have no objection to wearing things like that, and can even turn heads (towards, not away from me), it always strikes me as silly to apply for a job wearing something that would hinder one from doing that job. I've never worn a skirt to even a big city job interview. And if I turned up in Yellowknife like that, it would be a tossup whether I'd be laughed out of town or freeze to death first.

Have you ever heard this one: "If the airport has an ILS, wear a tie and shiny shoes. If it's only a non-precision approach, wear boots and jeans." I think I need to leave the tie behind and dress like a clean, responsible, sober lumberjack. But I'm not quite sure of the details. I need to be myself, act natural, appear well turned out, and not be too dorky. That's a lot to ask of an outfit.

I long for the future when we all wear unisex silver jumpsuits. The wrinkle-proof fabric will still look great as I get out of my flying car, too. Until everyone agrees to wear them, it would, however, fail the dorkiness test.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Catching A Unicorn

When pilots have to say letters or spell things on the radio, we use an international phonetic alphabet. You've heard it in movies: Alfa Bravo Charlie Delta Echo and so on. (If they are really old movies, you heard Able Baker Charlie, but that's another story.) The point is that we don't say "M as in Mike, W as in Whiskey ..." we just say "Mike Whiskey."

It's funny watching people who are not used to working with letters this way try to keep up with spelling. I can spell my name "Alfa Victor India Alfa Tango Romeo India X-ray" at a fairly leisurely pace, taking much more time than if I were just to say "A - V - I - A - T - R - I - X" but the non-pilot is desperately scrambling to figure it out fast enough to write it down. They can't decouple the initial letters from the meanings of the words. And when they have to come up with their own word equivalents they scramble amusingly to think of anything. I remember being given a password over the phone from a person who came up with "K as in ... Kindergarten!"

I had enough grocery store air miles (I must eat a lot) to fly to Yellowknife via Edmonton (I guess I'll hit Fort Smith another time) so I called an 888 number, listened to hold music for a bit, and got free flights. The friendly booking agent read me my confirmation "numbers" (they were all long strings of only letters), "V as in Victor, Q as in Quebec, E as in Echo ..." I wrote down the first one tediously, and read it back rapidly, "Victor, Quebec, Echo ..." to show that I didn't need the "as in" part. But she started on the next one the same way.

"It's okay, you really don't need to say 'as in.' I understand it the fast way."

"I know. I'm required to do it this way. Company policy." Okay, I'm not going to mess with her SOPs. She continued, "U as in Unicorn ..."

"Excuse me, did you say Unicorn?"

"Yes." Wow. I understand the substitution of Sam for Sierra. (C-what?) but how is Unicorn clearer than Uniform? That's just a dose of surrealism.

Unicorn. I love it. I'm going to try that on ATC next time I fly an airplane with a U in the call sign.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Two Crew Operation

Below is an excerpt from an article by Jenny Beatty, in a Women in Aviation newsletter I received today. She's talking about her transition to the Saab 340 from small single-crew piston aircraft.

But the most dramatically different dynamic was my being second-in-command to the captain and pilot-in-command. The constant reinforcement of this subordinate position grated on one raised on egalitarian principles and without prior exposure to military-style hierarchies. Once I knew how to the fly the airplane, I thought I could simply do so, turning on those engine anti-ice switches when required. But some actions are never taken without the express knowledge and consent of the captain. He "owned" those switches, turned them on and off himself, or delegated and closely supervised my doing so.

Her attitude seems flat out weird to me. She had just completed training on the aircraft and was sitting next to someone who not only is her direct supervisor but has been flying the aircraft for years. And it rankles her to consult with that pilot in command before flipping switches? How can you get that far with no exposure to the chain of command. Didn't she even watch Star Trek? It's not like the captain was violating the Prime Directive: he just wanted to know about the anti-ice coming on.

Friday, April 01, 2005

I Got A New Job!

I'm so excited I can hardly type.

I made another call to Badger this past week, and succeeded in reaching Mr. Flight Operations, and he consented to talk to me. Good thing it was rainy this week, so I could sneak out of work to interview one day and sim the next.

Geez, I am such a terrible liar. I'm trying really hard to write a post to go with the above headline, but even with my fingers, even when you can't see my face, I can't choke out a convincing pretence that I managed to parlay a telephone call into a job, when I didn't. It's too hard on my organs of guilt.

Happy April Fool's Day. I have the same job as before. And you know if you're on my plane and I say, "Nothing to worry about folks, everything is under control," that everything *is* under control, because there is no way I can lie and fly and airplane at the same time.