Friday, May 21, 2010

Time Check

I wake at six to the sound of my calypso alarm. It's actually an old cellphone, but I like the distinctive cheery alarm so much that I keep it just to serve as an alarm clock. It's not just the cheerfulness but that nothing else sounds like it, so that no matter what weird shift I am working, I can sleep through all kinds of buzzing and beeping of alarms in other rooms, trucks backing out and other sounds without worrying that I have missed my alarm.

So rise, bathroom, dress, nuke oatmeal in lobby while eating banana, eat oatmeal while checking weather. For some reason slush NOTAMs are persisting in the system even though two days of well above freezing temperatures have made the runways bare and dry. There are still piles of snow on the edges of the aprons, but nothing impeding aircraft movement.

CYLL OBST LGT U/S TOWER 531742N 1094908W (APRX 9 NM E AD) 250 FT AGL 2274 MSL TIL APRX 1004301800

CEK6 RSC 11/29 100 PERCENT SLUSH 1 INS 1004141650


I put on my boots and meet the client at his truck at 6:30. We drive to the airport and history repeats. Let the cat in. "Hi Margo!" Unplug the airplane, stow cords, put my gear inside, preflight. There's only one litre of oil left so I split it between the engines.

The airport manager said he'd be here at seven but isn't, so I taxi to the pump and start fuelling. I don't see a light or a switch for one anywhere at the fuelling area. It's light now, so I don't need one. The manager comes out and takes over fuelling when I'm halfway through and confirms that there isn't a light. I guess we're not that far north, so operations can be scheduled to fuel in daylight. There's a little charter company here, but they haven't been too active. During preflight I find a knob on the floor, it's for the pilot-side instrument panel dimmer switch. I put it back on its post and verify that all the swiches and circuit breakers are in their proper positions. And I left the mags on after the taxi. Wake up, girl. I leave them on and start the plane, recording it at 1320, that's 7:20 a.m. local. I taxi out to the main apron and set the brakes for the lengthy warm up and run up and bootup.

When that's done, there's a small airliner coming in to land, calling four minutes out. I quickly backtrack and take off, recorded at 7:36. That was a pretty quick bootup. The mission specialist on board today prides himself on his efficiency. Unfortunately efficiency is hurting today as one of the computers throws a small fit and we have to circle above the airport for thirty minutes while the specialist talks soothingly to it, or whatever he does back there. Our manoevers are confusing the FSS, especially as the airliner is taxiing out for takeoff.

"We're at 6000', two miles west, circling towards the airport, just coming up on the button of 08," I report.

"Are you aware the Beechcraft is departing 26?" asks the FSS.

The pilot of the B1900 settles the matter by stating "We won't be at 6000' for four miles after takeoff." They depart underneath me, no conflict.

I switch from circles to flying in a straight line for ten minutes. Then back to circles for exactly five minutes, then straight lines again. It's good to have variety. I text our flight follower with an updated arrival time while flying in a straight lines. I go eleven metres to one side while texting, but this is an acceptable deviation. Don't try it on the highway.

Normally I just mark operational times like take-off and for fuel management, but today I try to rememebr to mark down everything, for your entertainment.

9:00 Eat apple.

9:30 Tell guy in the back where the pee bags are.

9:31 Add nose down trim.

9:32 Restore nose up trim.

9:56 Turn on the pumps to transfer fuel from the nacelle holding tanks to the main tanks, and switch the tank selector from main tanks to outboards. I also notice that the right engine is running a little too hot, so I crack the cowl flaps and enrich the mixture slightly. The gauges indicate that the engine likes that solution.

10:51 Turn off pumps, switch to inboards until gauges register and confirm that the correct amount was transferred, then switch back to outboard tanks.

11:05 I'm starting to think about needing to pee. Eat arrowroot cookies on the completely unsupported theory that they will soak up liquid in my digestive system.

11:30 Run out of arrowroot cookies.

12:15 Switch tank selectors to inboards.

12:30 Now I'm sure I need to pee.

12:33 Discuss the clouds that are forming

12:34 Conclude that they are above the aircraft altitude and will stay there, plus aren't building rapidly enough to be a threat for rain.

Sometime after one we make our way back towards the airport for landing and circle overhead for a bit. There's a Piper single taking off and the FSS asks me for an estimated time to landing. I say four minutes, and the Piper departs. I was off by two or three minutes, my actual landing time was 13:56.

We idle on apron, at 1200 rpm then taxi to the pumps and shut down at 14:08, turning the mags off this time. My coworker is right there, so I brief him on the temperature/cowl flap issue. and then I get to PEE!

I come back out and get the soapy & water spray bottle and a soft towel out of the nose to clean the bugs off the windows. Yes, that's right, in Canada there is an overlap between bug season and snow season. I guess we have tough bugs. The other pilot is on a stepladder fuelling when I'm done with the nose compartment, so I put the airplane key in his back pocket, explaining what I'm doing so he doesn't think he's getting groped. I also tell him I'm taking the journey log, because it's paperwork day.

14:34 I go inside the FBO and throw out the empty oil bottle from this morning, plus call a number we have for Dennis. He doesn't answer, so I call the other number. I pat Margo, even though she's kind of grimy-looking for a cat. Probably because oily-handed pilots keep patting her.

14:53 I text our PRM to find out where to fly for the scheduled maintenance tomorrow.

14:55 Pay for fuel, ride back to hotel.

15:10 Talk to project manager about our maintenance break. I'll take the plane over alone first thing tomorrow, before the p.m. pilot's duty day starts.

15:15 Eat buffalo sausage on crackers. Check e-mail. Start listening to CBC podcast of Quirks & Quarks.

16:00 Realize I have too much to do to goof off like this. I get the journey log page photocopied at reception then cross check all the numbers on my daily flight tickets with my e-paperwork. Scan receipts and flight tickets for the week. Curse my thrashing computer and multitask by packing while it tries to figure out what it is doing. I should reinstall the operating system. Maybe with a hammer. It's something to do with Firefox I think. Or maybe something to do with me running eleven tabs in Firefox, iTunes, Voyager 4 (my flight planning program), and Neat Receipts all at once.

17:55 Paperwork and flight planning complete, I read webcomics. Fourteen more tabs. Suck it up, Firefox.

18:25-20:00 Mediocre supper with incredibly slow service.

20:00 Blog.

20:30 Work out on a semi-functional exercise bicycle in the hotel weight room.

21:15 Text coworker to come and get journey log when he lands so he can update and sign it before I leave. Also update my duty time sheet, marking days I am "off," not counting the ones where I waited around all day for an airplane that wasn't ready, washed airplanes, or otherwise had duty, even if it wasn't flying. I believe the strict Transport Canada definition of duty days would allow me to mark those as off, too, and certainly Victory Airlines would have expected me to do so, but this company believes in pilots actually getting to relax on their days off.

10:05 Pilot came back from flight and filled out journey log. He saw the same issue on the right engine.

10:30 Bed. The person who will drive me to the airport tomorrow says to meet at 7:30, so I set the calypso alarm for 6:30. That means I get to sleep in for half an hour compared to yesterday.


Critical Alpha said...

Interesting about Firefox. I was a devoted Firefox user on the Mac. Sometime after 3.x came along I ditched it. The three upgrade seemed to thrash all the time, it was a memory hog and generally turned the laptop into a piece of crap.
The problem was I switched to Safari...and when Snow Leopard came along...Safari started the same antics. Safari is a huge memory hog and the Flash plugin sucks big time.
The browser has become the single most important app on a computer and I don't think that the people who code the browsers understand how many tabs we use and how many window. I've currently got 29 windows open, including 2 in Mandarin, and over 100 tabs in those windows. The browser engines just can't cope.

Anoynmous said...

18:25-20:00 Mediocre supper with incredibly slow service.

I wouldn't mind service that slow if I had good company to share it with.

amulbunny's random thoughts said...

Since the last firefox update where it tells me that I've got an application running that screws up my bookmarks, I'm pretty much living on Safari. I don't like Chrome. I can get up to 17 windows without too many problems on the macbook.

Hope you get some real honest to gosh down time.

Anonymous said...

Google "firefox sqlite vacuum".

Doing that sorted things out nicely for me on older versions of Firefox though, come to think of it, I haven't had the problem for a while.

5400AirportRdSouth said...

I'm thinking the pee bags were in the back...and your mission specialist was pretty quick in getting it all done in the one minute that required the trim adjustment.

I'm assuming as well that the bag didn't go overboard, or you might have had had to recalculate landing speeds.. :)

PJ said...

Do pilots pee in flight? Doesn't that cause ackward moments? How do you do the peeing in a bag as a woman?

Aviatrix said...

It's a lot easier with an additional pilot, an autopilot, a cockpit door, and/or no passengers. Pee bags have a powder in them that turns liquid to gel pretty much instantly, and they have a collar on them. So long as you know how to find the hole that pee comes out (don't laugh: I've met adults who thought it was the same hole babies come out), and you can arrange to have gravity working with you, it's possible.

I wrote a blog entry on the details once, but it's in the "never-posted" file.

kbq said...

PJ -

Whilst Aviatrix may have a "never posted" set of details, the subject *has* been discussed at length here and elsewhere:

And many, many more!


James said...

11 tabs? Pfft. My main browser has 370 tabs open at the moment, and that's after I cleaned some out recently. Plus I have 2 other profiles and 3 other browsers running as well, each with tens of tabs. However, my tab addiction has forced me to upgrade to 6GB of RAM.