Monday, November 17, 2008

No Swans but No Turkeys Either

While the scheduled maintenance is being done on the airplane, I sleep in, laze around a bit, and then just before checkout time call the engineer for a progress check. His answer will tell me whether I should check out or extend our stay another night. He says everything is going fine, but he needs to order new brake rotors and, funny thing, he can't get a hold of anyone to sell him some on Thanksgiving Day. He says he thinks he can AOG some tomorrow morning, to arrive on a nine a.m. Air Canada flight. Ay-oh-gee is a verbed form of the abbreviation A.O.G., for "aircraft on ground". It is the aviation equivalent of super-rush. Anyone in the industry knows that an aircraft on the ground is costing, not making, money and a part tagged or ordered AOG is required to get that machine back into the air.

I message the PRM about our progress, knowing that he's going to be out of town tucking into appetisers somewhere, with the smell of roast turkey wafting about, but for some reason he not only reads the message, but replies that he'll swing by the hangar and ship some too us on the next flight out. I call the mechanic back to tell him that the brakes will be here tonight, do a workout, catch up on paperwork and then I go see the town.

I mean, wooee! This is it, the town that puts the Grande in the prairies, right? The wind is absolutely howling. I'm not looking forward walking back to the hotel, upwind, but there's nothing in the other direction. I walk down the main street, which is also the highway, I forget the number, then across a bridge and find myself downtown. Three guesses, readers, for the name of the streets at this central downtown intersection. If you can't get it in two, you haven't been paying attention, but for those of you just tuning in, I'm at the corner of 100th Street and 100th Avenue. The only places I've found open on Thanksgiving are the Salvation Army thrift store and the Co-op grocery store. I checked out the former and I'm now wandering around the latter, planning to buy a small package of turkey pepperoni and a yam. If you're going to have Thanksgiving in a small town where you don't know anyone, you might as well play it for the maximum pathos, right? And then my phone rings.

It's the mechanic. He's ready for a dinner break, so I put down the package of pepperoni and meet him on 100th Avenue, or maybe it was 99th. We go to a good chain restaurant called Earls, where I enjoy roast chicken (the closest I could get to turkey) and pumpkin pie. The service is slow but you can tell it's through inexperience, not laziness. Anyone in the restaurant industry with any seniority at all has today off. I sort have have today off. After all, I didn't fly. The engineer is good company. He does a good job on the airplane, too. He's a great guy. I hope he is well paid.

After our leisurely dinner we head out to the airport to pick up the brake parts from Air Canada Cargo. It's a small terminal of a familiar design: the cargo counters are located at the side of the building, staffed by the same folks who man the check in desk. There's no one in sight, so we ring the buzzer. A harried-looking man comes through from the check-in desks and asks us to hang on for a bit. We do, for quite a while, until he finally returns and thanks us deeply for being so patient. "It's a cluster-eff here today he says." Just like that "cluster-eff". He finds out what we're looking for and goes off to look for it, while we giggle over his choice of minced oath.

It's okay," we tell him, "We're in aviation too." We know about the delays and chaos that can result when technology meets Mother Nature in the presence of government regulation. I suspect that the strong winds have caused flight delays across the country and it doesn't take many accrued minutes of delay to duty out a crew. And then how do you find replacement pilots who will interrupt carving their turkeys to answer the phone? He's friendly and happy despite the muttered curses and he finds our package.

The mechanic says he has hours of work left to do, so he drops me back at the hotel to go to bed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

//We know about the delays and chaos that can result when technology meets Mother Nature in the presence of government regulation.//

Well said! I always enjoy your little vignettes into the life of a commercial pilot.