Monday, June 11, 2012

Big Day

All evening last night my coworker was assuring me that today would be a big day. It became a joke, so that every five minutes one of us would ask the other, "Do you think tomorrow will be a big day?" so that the other can reply, "Yes, it's going to be a big day tomorrow."

The day starts with waiting for a cab. The cab is late. Late cabs steal my sleep, at either end of the day. When it finally arrives I walk around to put my bags in the trunk. I see the fish symbol and recoil from it like I fear it will burn my flesh. Fish Cab has come for us again. It has become more pungent overnight not less. The driver says, "Don't ask me to close the windows, because I won't." We make it to the airport, preflight quickly, and head out for our big day.

I've filed an IFR flight plan that includes the fix LETRM. Such five-letter fixes are ubiquitous, each unique in the world, easy to enter into a GPS receiver, but not always easy to say. If you're unfamiliar with an area and told to fly direct something that sounds like "wild" you can't guess if it's going to be WILED or WYLDE or WHYLD or WAILD or something else. You're supposed to know the fixes on your own flight plan or any approach you're given, and ATC is usually considerate enough to spell out fixes for pilots they don't recognize as locals. I'm not sure if this will sound like "LEH-trim" or "LEHterm" or "le trème". Probably not the last as it isn't a French-speaking area. The controller says it before I have to. It's the first one.

We're working in military airspace again, the one by LETRM, so those of you with the home version of this game can guess that's Cold Lake. This military airspace is a patchwork of different restricted areas, each restricted at different times and altitudes. I've called ahead to the base, and checked NOTAMs to ensure that I am allowed in the space I need. I'm on my way to the target and the controller calls me to check that I will remain ten miles outside CYR 204. Uhh, I planned to remain outside, but ten miles? That might not work. The controller is a hero for me and negotiates with Cold Lake terminal then comes back to me with a restriction to remain 65 DME from the Cold Lake VORTAC--that means a little less than sixty-five miles horizontally from a variable phase VHF transmitter located on the Cold Lake aerodrome. It's less than sixty-five, because DME measures slant range. Those of you who like trigonometry as much as I do can figure out exactly how far horizontally, when I tell you I was at FL180 and the Cold Lake aerodrome is at 1775' above sea level. Hmm, I might need to give you the air temperature, too. So don't worry about it. I just read the little numbers off the DME and keep them above sixty-five. I think I got down to sixty-seven.

Then we went north and did some more work, and then I started down for landing. I misjudged the descent, so ended up level in the lower bumpy altitudes fighting a strong headwind for a while. You can't win: you stay high too long with the tailwind and you can't get down to the airport or you descend and the tailwind switches around and you're too slow too far out. I'm so often directly above an airport I'm supposed to land at. I land, order fuel, fax (yeah, high tech, huh?) in a new flight plan, pee and then start engines to take off again.

More of the same, oxygen, water, granola bars, switch fuel tanks and descend for landing back where we started. Taxi to the pumps, fuel, taxi to parking, shut down again and ... you knew it as coming, didn't you? Back into Fish Cab for the ride to the hotel. It's now more like "overwhelming scent of Febreeze and more air fresheners than you thought you could cram in one car, but with a definite undertone of fish" cab.

We go out for dinner and the restaurant has a steak and lobster tail special, which we each gleefully order and consume. It was a big day.


Ed said...

Hmmm, you might need to give us the air pressure in some form, too.

capnaux said...

Fish Cab...too funny! Fortunately our YVR hotel had its own van yesterday...but who knows about my layover next week, lol?!


Dan in ALB said...

In my usual effort to live vicariously through your stories, I looked up Cold Lake on google earth. Looks like the USAF Thunderbirds were in town when the images were taken. Yay!

zb said...

Wow. Sounds almost like the life of a commuter with an office job (don't ask how I know) ;-)

Recently, in Nuernberg, I overheard somebody talk about a story she must have read or seen a movie about recently. It was like this: "So, you know, there's this commuter, and his commute is so long that as soon as he gets off the train, he gets on another train back to work. You see, he has no home any more. And one day, he gets insane, and gets all mad at everyone else on the train, and he shouts 'what the hell are y'all doing in my living room?!'"

(If someone knows the book or the movie, please let me know.)

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately some RNAV fixes in the world are NOT unique. Been there, programmed that wrong... One that I can think of off the top of my head is PARAK.

DataPilot said...

OK, I'll bite.

What made it such a Big Day? Inquiring minds want to know.

Michael5000 said...

It's nice to have you writing (here) again, Avi. CC post days are Big Days.

majroj said...

Surf and Turf on sale makes it a big day that evening.

By the way , Avaitrix, I have the solution for your over the landing strip issue. It's called US Marines Aviation School, carrier landing unit.
(or some such).
Learn to land vertically even if yo are not in a Harrier.