Sunday, October 25, 2009

Being an AME Really Sucks Sometimes

I'm expecting to fly at around noon today, after the magneto has been replaced, but in the morning I get a call from Whitehorse. One of AME's flights was delayed, causing him to miss connections, so now he's arriving in Whitehorse around one p.m., getting him here for six p.m. I book a hotel for him and call hangar guy to see if he wants me to pick up a key in advance so as not to bother him outside business hours. He says we'll work it out when the AME arrives, because, "he'll probably want to wait until the morning." I assure him that the company wanted the work done yesterday, so there's no way this is going to wait until the morning, but he is sure that we can work it out when the time comes. I pass this, hangar guy's home number and the hotel reservation info on to my co-worker in Whitehorse.

I spent the day napping, eating, doing crosswords on my iPod and going for a stroll around the community. The weather is spectacularly perfect for flying. It's a sadly ugly town compared to the beauty of its surroundings. I think there are three scrapyards on the main street, and everything has the look that you'd expect if it was hauled up the Alaska Highway on the back of a truck and then left out in Yukon weather for a few years. Some houses still had wide load signs on the end. But everyone is friendly and the only dogs that ran out of at me were eager to have their ears scratched.

Our AME, as I discovered the next morning, spent the day flying to Whitehorse, being driven to Watson Lake and then changing the magneto. Outside. On the ramp. In the dark. At minus ten celsius. And then he got to check into his hotel and sleep. And they put him in the poorly-rated hotel. Which turned out to be not so bad. So the Internet and the cab driver were wrong in that respect.

Hangar guy answered his phone, but thought the repair could wait until morning. I would have thought there would have been some solidarity among the profession. Hangar guy has been an AME in the Yukon for decades. He must know the pain of working in freezing darkness. Maybe he wants our AME to build character. I think he must have plenty of character already, seeing as he got the job done in those conditions. He even changed a spark plug and mended a gasket while he was in there.

(And to Firefox spellchecker: don't wave your squiggly red line at me; celsius should not be capitalized. It's the name of a metric unit. The abbreviation C is capitalized because it's named after a person, but the full word is not.)


Ed Davies said...

Sorry, but this once Firefox is right.

As you indicate, in general the names of SI units are given in lower case even when they are named after people (1). However, "Celsius" is not the name of the unit. The unit is the "degree", "Celsius" is an adjective added to indicate which scale it's a degree of and so doesn't follow the normal rules.

Kelvins are units (the "degree Kelvin" is obsolete) so, except at the beginning of a sentence, are spelled in all lower case.

This is described in Wikipedia. More relevantly and authoritatively ICAO Annex 5 (2) also gives the spelling "degree Celcius".

(1) The symbol for the unit is given in initial caps when the unit is named after a person, or lower case if it's just a unit name. The only exception is that some authorities (e.g., the US NIST) recommend use of "L" rather than "l" as the symbol for the litre because of possible confusion with the digit one. However, that's not the official SI notation.

(2) International Standards and Recommended Practices, Units of Measurement to be used in Air and Ground Operations, Annex 5 to The Convention On International Civil Aviation, Fourth Edition, Amendment 16, Table 3-2, Non-SI units for use with the SI.

Jeremy said...

I expect the "degree Celsius" causes no amount of consternation to the SI people, given that its zero doesn't correspond to a lack of the quantity being measured (the kinetic energy of the atoms or whatever the official definition of temperature is). I'm not aware of any other commonly used measurement/unit that can take on negative values in this sense. Thus it makes sense to me that officially the "degree" is the unit, and the "Celsius" is just a tag to tell you the number has been offset by 273.15 from where it ought to be if you were using a more "normal" measurement (in this case kelvin) where zero actually means nothing.

Also about the symbols - sometimes the are capitalized just so they don't cause confusion with others, as already noted with "L" for litre. Lowercase "c" is of course already used for the prefix "centi-". Similarly, uppercase "B" has been proposed (though not formally adopted) for "byte" - even though that's not a person's name.

viennatech said...

The uppercase Byte is there to prevent confusion with his little brother the bit. In this case upper case signifies "bigger" and not respect for the name.
Always exceptions for the "rules". ;)

Aviatrix said...

Thanks Ed! I should have figured I'd have some proper SI geeks for readers. I stand corrected and apologize to Firefox for doubting it.

I remember when I was a kid we had an old textbook that used the cursive lower case l for litre. We hadn't learned "joined up writing" yet, so we thought it was an e.

On the topic of SI capital letters and incorrect knowledge, here's a cute story about a joke that got out of control, the story of Jean-Baptiste Litre.