Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Top Gun Hair

My hair is growing wildly in every direction. I've been working every day for almost as many days in a row as the law and company op specs allow, and the few days off that have materialized haven't aligned with the days my hairdresser is available. (Yes, I could go to another hairdresser. Indeed it was just such a crazy hair situation that caused me to find my current hairdresser, but I don't take cheating on my hairdresser lightly).  The days off have been occupied with laundry and what I call 'weeding.'

'Weeding' for me is pulling out handfuls of green things I don't know what they are so that I can see the colourful flowers that I don't know what they are either.  My favourite part is when the weeds attack one another, e.g. when a climbing vine weed binds itself around a fast-growing vertical weed. My garden is even more unkempt than my hair. I confessed to a neighbour that I really didn't know where to start on the weeding and she said a little contemptuously, "You could at least start." Her yard is enough houses away that I don't think my weeds actually attack hers, so I hope she derives satisfied pleasure that her garden is so much nicer than mine. It's good when one's garden brings others pleasure, don't you think?

I was scheduled to do a PPC ride (annual recurrent flight test) a couple of months ago, but the examiner got sick and missed his ride, so he wasn't qualified to do mine on the appropriate day. It's stressy getting ready for a PPC, because I have to demonstrate flying the airplane in a way I almost never fly it.  I don't even know what approach category I should put myself in. (Approach categories are based on approach speed in Canada, not on stall speed. I can comfortably approach at anything between max gear extension speed and blue line, a range of forty knots, spanning three categories. And in visual conditions I have accepted requests to maintain speeds outside that range at both ends. Sequenced with military jets for a long runway I can keep my speed above gear speed until short final, and then let it bleed off over the runway before dropping  gear and flaps. And sequenced with little training aircraft in a busy circuit I have turned final a few knots below blue line, still going about double the speed of the student in front of me.

Blue line is the best rate of climb speed on one engine, a speed I should be at or above while climbing, so I don't need to try and accelerate to it if I lose an engine. It's still faster than red line, the minimum controllable airspeed or Vmc. That's the speed below which the asymmetrical thrust resulting from an engine failure may render the airplane uncontrollable. Vmc is calculated at full power, so while being below blue line on final represents a low energy situation, it's not one that would flip me upside-down if an engine failed. Should I need to abort the landing and go around because the student in the Cessna didn't make it off the runway in time, I would be sure to increase speed above blue line before raising the nose for the climb.

It's at take off, during a full power go around, or in very low speed practice manoeuvres that Vmc becomes of most concern. The POH advises that at take off the airplane should be kept near the runway until Vmc. Given that the rotation speed specified in the POH is Vmc, except for a different place in the POH where it's given at Vmc+5, I think I can keep the airplane near the runway until after rotation. For approach it recommends only "Maintain sufficient speed during turns in the traffic pattern." Yeah, thanks. I got that. It's a good thing you told me, POH.

So I'm in the office, looking for more specific training materials and someone eyes the baseball cap under which I've crammed all my unruly hair, crying out for the attention of a competent hairdresser. "Is your hair a different colour under there?" he asks. I explain that I'm pretending to be like Kelly McGillis in Top Gun. He is unfamiliar with the reference. "Who is Kelly McGillis?" What is he doing in aviation?

I elaborate, "I'm imagining that if I take my hat off, my hair will cascade out, looking perfect." Everyone has seen that scene in some movie or another. And then I remember that in the scene where Kelly is wearing the baseball cap, she doesn't take it off. She's wearing the cap because that scene was filmed later, after she had already changed her hair colour for another movie she was in. My coworker was right all along. What am I doing in aviation? I'd better re-watch the movie. Surely there is some scene in which she takes off a hat? A motorcycle helmet?  No, I think they don't ride motorcycle helmets in that movie. They're too cool.

Later I overhear a snippet of conversation between an HR person and an office person about maintaining a professional appearance. Hmm, maybe I need a classier baseball cap. Or a day off. Coming soon! Right after my PPC I think.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Balanced Diet

What I have eaten today, and what I was doing while eating it:
(times adjusted to match the time zone I started the day in)

0600 - packet of maple and brown sugar flavoured instant oatmeal - filing a flight plan
1300 - Apple & Cinnamon Larabar - talking to ATC, while flying in turbulence
1600 - A few cashews left in a bag that I opened a few days ago - flying and calculating my remaining oxygen
1605 - bag of Cheezies - flying and calculating my duty day,
1610 - box of raisins. They were all stuck together, so I just peeled the cardboard off and stuck the whole thing in my mouth - figuring out my descent profile so I could go under, not over the cloud layers that were solid at destination
1612 - packet of beef jerky, almost ate the "do not eat" packet, too,
piece of garlic toast my fellow crewmember saved for me from yesterday's dinner, roll of Rockets (Smarties to the Americans) - shoving everything I could reach in my face while the autopilot flew
1800 - a Starbucks cake pop & a persimmon fruit or passion fruit or something iced tea - hugging my ops manager who brought them out to the airplane knowing I'd be tired and hungry from nine and a half hours of flying.
2130 - two burgers, and most of the fixings that were supposed to go on someone else's burger

So the question is, what should I have for dessert?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Expense Report

Hello, my name is Aviatrix. I stayed at your hotel last week. You charged me GST. There is no GST number on the bill. Would you like to refund me the GST or tell me the government-issued number that allows you to charge me the goods and services tax?
 I wonder how many businesses charge it but never bother to remit it. I'm pretty sure I worked for one once. It's easy GST is a tremendous pain in the neck. I had to charge it when i was a contractor. I'm generally considered a smart person, yet I screwed my GST return up every year. I think something about loathing it makes me not want to understand it.

Also, because who wants to read a blog entry solely about taxes, I brought an airplane back right on the dot for the hour it was due for the 100 hour maintenance check, after three flights totalling almost ten hours. I didn't cheat. but anyone will think I did. And the airplane was fresh out of it's last maintenance last week, which explains why no blog entries in a bit, eh?

Sunday, May 04, 2014

New Definition of Number One

Overheard on the radio today: You're number one, behind a Pilatus. The pilot didn't seem to have a problem with that kind of counting.

Also overheard, as I was walking into an FBO, a discussion of hiring a new pilot, they were discussing how much to offer. "Ah," said one, "We'll just get them to write up the requirements and see if we can get a guy." "Or a woman," I said, my trajectory through the room such that I was right beside them right at the moment this needed to be said. They agreed completely, and then asked me how much I thought they should pay a Pilatus captain. "It depends on so many things..." I waffled.

"Like whether we hire a woman or not," joked the guy, and I raised a boot as if to kick him the head and then passed by. A pilot doesn't pause long on the route from cockpit to washroom after a flight. The sad thing is that he's right. It's harder for women to get jobs in aviation, so when one is available we'll accept it at lower pay than a man would, and stay longer, because it's harder for us to get the next job too. Men know this, and it's one of the reasons men protest the hiring of women and minorities. We lower the wages. One we do it just by existing: people added to the existing number of white men being available in the labour pool means that there is more supply of labour, so wages go down purely by supply and demand. And then we do it by being hungry. We'll take that lowball job offer. Men can't keep us out of the labour force, so the only way you can fix this and be sure that we and you are hired on merit is to make sure we're paid the same for the same experience and duties.

'Cause apparently in aviation you can be number one right behind someone else.