Wednesday, July 14, 2010

As Easy As Picking up A Rental Car

Happy Bastille Day, everyone. I'm at a a swanky FBO within easy walking distance of the passenger terminal at a large Canadian airport. There's a spacious waiting room with windows looking out on the runways, and I can recognize one of our company airplanes parked outside at the back of the large apron. Inside there are leather couches, a big TV and a fancy coffee machine.

I order the tanks all topped off, which based on how much should be in there right now, will probably mean three or four hundred litres of avgas, but the FBO lady say there might be a problem. Kind of two problems. The first problem is that the avgas truck broke down this morning, and the second problem is that the totalizer on the avgas truck indicates that there is barely more than four hundred litres in the bowser. This may or may not be the amount that can be actually pumped, so they might have four hundred litres or they might not. I guess they don't always reset the totalizer properly, or something. I didn't press for an explanation.

They estimate that the truck will be operational in about an hour. I tell them that as long as I'm getting good fuel that I'll take what they have once the truck is ready. The FBO woman lets me leave my luggage in a conference room while I go and get some lunch at the terminal. It was Swiss Chalet, or Subway or something. And an apple. A fast food restaurant on the terminal concourse was selling apples and oranges. There might be hope for the world after all.

When I return, the good news is that the truck is fixed, but the bad news is that it only put out two hundred litres or so. I've lost track of the number of FBOs--or entire airports--that I have run out of avgas. I go out to the airplane, noting to myself that if you buy fuel for an airplane, you can get access to the airside at this international airport without producing a ramp pass or any ID. I don't think I even gave my name. Everything is in order with the airplane, but it does need a couple hundred more litres of fuel. No problem, there's a flying club that sells avgas, at the other end of the airport. I start up and call ground for taxi clearance.

They give me clearance, and a simple routing. I read back the hold short instruction and trundle along, in that direction, keeping my nosewheel on the yellow line. I can check it by looking in the mirror I use to ensure the gear is down, but I don't have to. Even though the line is only about the width of my hand, I know when my nosewheel is on it just by looking ahead through the front window. I remember my first or second lesson, when I asked the instructor if I could just taxi today, because I needed more practice. He told me it wasn't necessary, I'd get enough practice as part of normal lessons. I guess I have lots of practice now.

I pass an El Al jet, just sitting there off to the side. There's a visible security presence, so I guess they know how easy it is for me to get onto the apron with my airplane full of shoulder- launched missiles and high explosives perfectly innocuous, harmless cargo. I taxi on by, hold short of a runway and then am cleared across.

The general aviation area is a little crowded. Ground instructs someone else to hold for a Katana, and then me to hold for someone else, and then I find my way to the avgas pumps. And there's someone already at the pumps. I stop and idle waiting for him. He sees me and makes elaborate, "do you want to come here?" gestures. I nod emphatically and then he pushes his small single-engine airplane out of the way. There's a yellow line painted on the tarmac leading up to the fuelling area, but I don't know what wingspan it's for. I'm afraid it's a little too close, so follow a bit to the left of the yellow line. Someone appears to marshall me, so I follow his instructions, still watching out for my own wingtips. It would still be my responsibility if he directed me to taxi into something. When I'm opposite the pumps, he signals me to shut down, so I do, but by the time I get out of the airplane, he's gone again.

I inspect the pumps and they don't look like self-serve. I go up to someone getting out of a light twin behind me and ask if the pumps are self serve. He says no, so I go inside the building to place my fuel order. When the airplane is fuelled, the guys at the hangar say they don't want me to start up there, because I will blast the hangar as I turn out. Someone comes back with a tractor. The tractor is dragging a lawnmower attachment, and on the back of the lawnmower is a hook, and on the hook is a sort of trailer, a tongue pulling a little platform with four wheels on it. And, after a bit of winching, on the platform is the nosewheel of my airplane. This contraption tows my airplane out to where I can start up without blasting anyone, and I do so.

Ground control states the wind and asks me if I can accept the small runway at the flying school end of the field. I glance at the CFS for its length, then at the OAT, and answer in the affirmative. It's not hot enough or high altitude enough for me to have to pull out the chart and do the exact calculation to accept this length. I have a number in my head that I an accept in calm winds up to 2000' density altitude up to 20 degrees. I'm number one on the taxiway and cleared for takeoff after a Cessna 172 lands. I use lots of the runway, but not all of it, and climb out on vectors.

Post continued after you folks have fun deciding where I am.


borealone said...

Hmmm...sounds an awful lot like CYOW.

CanuckFlyer said...

with the El Al plane, I want to say YYZ, but since I really can't see a 172 at Pearson, I'm going to go with YOW as well (El Al flight might be a Government charter or something)

david said...

It does sound like YOW, except that YOW has both a Shell and an Esso on the south field, so she wouldn't have to taxi all the way to the Ottawa Flying Club when one FBO out of 100LL.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sure the only Canadian airport El Al goes to is YYZ, so I'd have to go with that, though I'm not sure which FBO is within walking distance of the main terminal.

YYC Dispatcher

Aluwings said...

I was thinking YOW as well. El Al may not do skeds there, but there's been a lot of diplomatic traffic related to G8s and G20s and whatever - which explains why the aircraft is "just sitting there."

As for the fuel issue mentioned by david - a little peek into COPA's places to fly listing reveals that:
Fuel Price Comments No Avgas at Esso Avitat

So, yup - I'll go with Ottawa as well.

Jim said...

And if Trixie was in Ottawa and didn't ping for lunch invitations with all the readers here(surely we could have done better for her than Swiss Chalet), well then, tsk tsk.

There is a Swiss Chalet / Harveys at YOW, but I can't recall a subway.

D.B. said...

Sounds like San Antonio - except for:

1) El Al on the field
2) Fuel in litres
3) Swiss Chalet in the terminal
4) Being in Canada


Anonymous said...

El Al has scheduled flights to Montreal and Toronto. Swiss Chalet
has restaurants in Ottawa, so I guess you were at Toronto Pearson International.

Mike Eisenstadt
Austin, Texas

david said...

Mike: if only CYYZ had a short, general-aviation runway (it doesn't).

I do happen to be familiar a certain shop where the mechanics are fed up with propwash blowing through their big open hangar door in the summer and knocking tools, papers, and parts all over, and that certain shop is by a non-self-service fuel pump, beside a flying club that uses Cessna 172s for training, near a shorter general-aviation runway at a big Canadian airport. 'nuff said.

coreydotcom said...

les cèdres

Christopher said...

My bet is for YOW as well ... the Israeli PM was here recently for a visit, which would also explain the ElAl aircraft.

Aviatrix said...

You're all so smart, and I would totally have invited you locals for lunch had I a) had advance warning and b) had time for more than a a quick piece of chicken and fruit to go at the terminal.

My duty day starts when I check in for any flight, whether I'm pilot or passenger, and it was ticking, with miles to go before I slept.