Friday, July 28, 2017

Cessnas and Lying About the ATIS

Yesterday I was inbound to an airport overseen by a Flight Services Specialist. I don't know if other countries have this. There are no controllers, but there is highly trained person in the tower, dispensing altimeter settings, and traffic information, and generally doing everything a tower controller does except issue clearances and instructions. They make recommendations that you would be wise to follow, but if the FSS says, for example, that winds are 150 at fifteen gusting twenty-five, and the preferred runway is 15, the pilot is totally free to declare that she is landing on 33.

The FSS told me, when I was fifteen miles out or so, that there were two Cessnas in the circuit. One of them called final as I neared the field. I washed him do his touch and go, and kept him in sight, so that as I crossed over midfield I was able to say, "I have the red 172 in sight."

"They're both red," the specialist said somewhat acridly. "The other one is at the hold short line." So firstly he knew which one I had in sight, even if the identifying characteristic I chose wasn't distinguishing, and secondly, how is an aircraft at the hold short line--on the ground--considered to be "in the circuit"? It's okay. I'm an incurable smartass, too. I join downwind, ahead of the airborne red Cessna, and land. I refuel and taxi out again. A different specialist is on the radio. She tells me that there are "two Cessna 172" in the circuit. I find it curious that she considers C172 to be an inherent plural. I imagine this being something she feels strongly about, and that she argues for her position at sufficient length that others shrug and humour her sometimes. I mentally run through different aircraft types and try to think of any that I would not make explicitly plural. I do not ask her if either or both the C172s are red, and I depart straight out without seeing either.

I'm on my way to an airport with an actual control tower. I tune the ATIS and note that it is information Hotel. I also note that it's four minutes after the hour, and the ATIS is over an hour old. I know that this particular airport labels their ATIS on the hour, but often doesn't change it until a few minutes past. I'm still twenty minutes out of the destination, so I'll have to pick up the new ATIS before I check in. A few minutes later I hear WestJet checking in on frequency, "with India." I retune the ATIS and listen. It's identical to Hotel, same winds, same altimeter, same multiple cloud layers, same tedious NOTAM about the new rule about STARs being changed back to the way it was, "inform ATC on initial contact that you have information Hotel." What? "This is airport information India ..."

It's not that uncommon to be on frequency right as the ATIS changes letter. But it takes defiance of the laws of spacetime for Westjet to pick up India while I'm still hearing Hotel. Unless the ATIS is available by ACARS. Can you get ATIS by datalink? I don't know. It's also possible that one pilot wrote down the ATIS and the other one read the H sideways and got I, or that they heard Hotel far back, saw it was coming up on the hour, and knew they'd have to pick up India, and then forgot they hadn't. Or that they just flubbed the letter. Or they lied. I think they lied. They didn't want to listen through that tedious NOTAM that every Canadian airport with a STAR has up right now. I don't blame them. ATC would have said on frequency if the new ATIS involved a runway change, a significant change in weather conditions, or the like.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

It Can Happen to Me

I think this is the US Air Force base where I had my KC130 sim time, blogged about here close to ten years ago. It's possible that one of the young, keen US military pilots I witnessed learning to land the beast was on board today. It's likely that one of my readers has a connection to someone on board. My condolences.

Oops, I messed up my HTML on the first attempt and the link didn't post.

The article mentions a previous Herc crash attributed to an item jammed in front of the yoke to prop up the elevator. That resonated with me, because pilots do stuff like this, stuff that seems perfectly reasonable at the time, which can come back to bite us later. I couldn't write a list of all the things that I have inadvertently got stuck in all the parts of an airplane that could have caused me grief but didn't. The wrong bout of turbulence, the pen dropped just wrong, something else compounding the problem, and that giant, beautiful, stable airplane rolls up into a ball of snot and aluminum.

They'll find out what caused today's crash, and it will be something humans did, or didn't do, missed seeing, or didn't know how to plan for, or miscalculated, because airplanes only do what we and the laws of physics tell them to, for as long as their components hold out.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Salami is not a Dangerous Good

Struggling to make Transportation of Dangerous Goods legislation less stultifying for my folks than it was in the course I took, I worked to make the in-house course interesting, maybe make them laugh a little. I was working with a bureaucrat to get it approved, and it looked like we had it almost wrapped up. I sympathized with her about having to read these tedious plans, made the corrections she requested and submitted it. I think she appreciated it being not the same boilerplate as everyone else had. Then came a new e-mail from someone else, excerpted below.

Hello Mr. Aviatrix,

Please note, I have taken on the TDG review process of [your company] COM from [nice bureaucrat], and she is no longer involved. I will require a revised copy of 16-0090E prior to a full review proceeding.


There are several highlighted answers on the exam that are incorrect and others that are not of suitable difficulty for an air operator. For example, question #14 - salami is an inappropriate response as a potentially regulated substance.


All COM document submissions are considered legal documents and are fully discloseable in the event of an enquiry. This should be considered when adding unnecessary commentary.

Transport Dangerous Goods Inspector

There is nothing in my COM that I'm not proud of, including the humour. If something is interesting, people will remember it better. The administrative overhead required to give my folks an interesting dangerous goods course may be more than I can spare, forcing them to take the dull online course I took. Cockpit Conversation readers are, however, invited to suggest appropriate incorrect responses to a question asking test takers to identify the regulated substance from a list.

And I have a request for you. If you're not sure of someone's pronouns or term of address, and you can't be bothered to ask a colleague who has worked with them what it is, or otherwise look it up, don't just assume the person is a man. If you do, you might just be the lucky hundredth person to do that to that person, and eventually someone is going to invent a way to punch people through the Internet.

Never forget that "salami" is an inappropriate response.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

NOTAM of the Week

1707011745 TIL 1707011815

Because apparently that's how Nanaimoians celebrate Canada Day.