Sunday, December 30, 2007

Back in the Day: Part IV

This was the fourth mass e-mail that I sent out. I had spent the summer flying medevacs and it was just a couple of weeks before my stomach started giving me troubles. Although I worked a lot that summer, it was a great summer. I got to go to Switzerland in June and was able to enjoy lots of outdoor activities in Thompson.


Yesterday, August 23rd, marks two anniversaries. Meaningless and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, however, it is still an interesting thing for me to stop and notice. It is my 2 year anniversary working at Skyward and my 9 month anniversary of flying for them.

If at the end of high school, someone were to say to you me that I'd be living over 2 years (right now with the way the industry is going it looks like it'll be probably around 4 or 5 total) of my life in a small town in Northern Manitoba, I would have thought they were crazy. WHY would anybody want to live there? However, here I am. I as of yet do not own a pick-up truck, a rifle, a snowmobile jacket and I won't ever grow a mullet. I have discovered a taste for country music, developed my 'Manitoba' accent and while I like to joke that I have lost my ability to successfully use words longer than 4 syllables in most sentences, I have found a new appreciation for a way of life that is different than the general hustle and bustle of Toronto.



Last week, Sara, a new flight nurse and also a pilot moved to Thompson from southern Ontario. It's been really great talking to her as I remember all the same reactions that I first had when I got up here. "I can't believe the amount of unsupervised children running around everywhere", "I've already decided to stop playing fashion police up here". It's humourous, but a little sad at the same time. I've been super lucky that I've been able to keep in touch with most people via e-mail and MSN and have been able to get home a lot. As long as you're not stuck there for months on end, Thompson can be a nice little town.

The INCO mine with the City of Thompson in the background

The flying has been going really well. Time has flown by since I started (sorry for the bad pun) as I'm finally doing what I came up here to do. My record of longest time working on the ramp has been broken and there will be guys who will have to do 2full winters loading cargo. I am one of the lucky ones.

Medevacs themselves are very interesting. Not something I'd ever thought I'd be doing. Today we had two trips to two different reserves, both to pick up guys who had had the crap beaten out of them. There are usually more fights right around the 20th and the 1st of the month because that's when the family allowance and welfare cheques come out. More money in town, means more sneaked in booze, meaning more business for Medevacs.

A few weeks ago we had a Medevac from Pukatawagan to The Pas. It was a psych patient so we took along an RCMP officer in case the patient refused to go, that way he could be arrested under the mental health act. This patient actually behaved really well, even said “Please” and "Thank you" when talking to the nurse and RCMP officer. On the way to The Pas, the officer asked if after we dropped off the patient, we'd be able to go visit the jail, as it was their brother in-law's first day. “Sure!” we replied, “is he a guard?” 'No' the officer responded, he's in jail and it's his first day. We weren't quite sure what to say to that, but they still ended up having a nice visit, after which the guards gave us a great tour of the place. I had never actually seen the inside of a jail before. It wasn't too bad, but not a place I'd like to spend any time.

Pukatawagan


The Pas



A couple days later, my roommates, Geoff (a Captain) and Paul (a nurse) and I had a midnight Medevac to Shamattawa. It was an overcast night, there were no moon or stars, and it was very dark. Shamattawa is very isolated, a few hundred miles south of Churchill. In October of 2001,on a very similar night, a Perimeter airlines Medevac plane crashed after doing an over shoot on the runway in the 'black hole' conditions killing both pilots and seriously injuring the flight nurse. We made note of this in the pre-landing briefing. As we got closer to the field and switched the runway lights on, we noticed that the front third and last third of the runway lights were working, but the middle lights were all burnt out. We could still see the outline of the runway clearly and decided it was safe to continue on with the approach. The approach was smooth, the winds were quite light so I didn't have a very strong cross wind to fight. Right in the flare, our landing lights revealed why the middle runway lights were out. Some kids had vandalized the runway, smashed the lights and left them and the pylons that hold them right in the center of the runway! Right where I was going to land. We still had enough speed so we were able to hop around them and then come to a stop with a fair amount of room left on the runway. But still, that's not something you are expecting to have to deal with when landing a plane. And really, if you live in an isolated community where airplanes are the only way or in out, do you think vandalizing the runway and possibly causing an accident is a smart idea? Geez, there really are some dumb people in this world, plus I’m willing to bet at some point one of them will have to be Medevac’d out making use of the same runway they vandalized.

Last weekend I had the most exciting Medevac of my career so far. It was already a busy night in at the Thompson hospital as a little girl and her mother were hit by a car while crossing the road. The driver was blinded by the sun and didn't see them until it was too late. Originally, Life Flight, the gov't of Manitoba's jet was supposed to take the little girl, and we were to take the mother. Sadly, the little girl ended up dying from her injuries, so they decided to keep the mother in Thompson for a little while longer. We ended up getting the patient from hell.

This guy, (only 20 years old) was easily about 6'4" 280 lbs and had just got out of prison a week before (not the same one I visited). I guess he tried to go settle some old debts after having lots to drink, but ended up getting the crap kicked out of him. He was found unconscious by the side of the highway. By the time we loaded him on to the plane he still reeked of alcohol even though it had been almost 20 hours since he had been drinking. He was barely conscious, but just to be sure his wrists and ankles had Velcro cuffs on them. He was difficult to get through the door cause he was so tall and quite heavy, however, since he barely had his eyes open we didn't figure he would be much of a problem. We got a quick glimpse of things to come when just before we took off, he bolted himself up to an upright sitting position and started screaming. The nurse settled him down, told him that we were just going to a hospital in Winnipeg and that he should just try and sleep for the trip. The doctor we took along with us didn't even wake up for it (probably because he was narcoleptic). The patient laid back down, and we blasted off for Winnipeg.

After we were about half way there (An hour and a half flight), the patient sat up and started screaming again, he was harder to calm down, the nurse managed to, but only for about ten minutes until this guy started screaming again. We woke up the doctor who went to go help the nurse hold down the patient. The doctor held him down by the C-collar on his neck, but the patient was so strong that he sat up really quickly and broke it. The doctor then held the patient down by his shoulders.. He was screaming and swearing more, and then he started spitting. This was made even more unpleasant when added to the fact that he had lots of cuts in his mouth so his spit was bloody. He managed to hit the doctor with some. The Doctor, a big man and ex Olympic class Judo competitor didn't appreciate being spit on. He then took a blanket and covered the patient's mouth to keep the spit from going everywhere. This may sound harsh, but when you consider the potential for serious communicable disease, I felt the actions were justified. Even still, after everything was done the ceiling of the plane was covered with bloody spit. The doctor didn't want to give him a sedative because we didn't know if he had brain damage or not. About 20 minutes before landing, the nurse said he was having real trouble with the patient trying to get out of his restraints, and unloading him was going to be next to impossible. We called ahead to Winnipeg and asked them to call the police to meet us after landing.

When we arrived, The airport police were waiting for us. We asked if they had any restraints to help unload the patient, but they said they didn't. I asked the maintenance guys that showed up to watch if they had any cargo straps, they said they did and we went to grab them. When the police were told about the spitting patient, they offered to get us a 'spit sock' for him. This is a mesh bag that you put over his face and when he spits, it doesn't go through. It took a bit of time, but once we had the patient herc strapped down, a spit sock on him, 2 pilots, a doctor, a nurse, 4 police officers, 2 paramedics and a bunch of mechanics, we were able to unload the guy. We had breakfast in Winnipeg, flew home, then went to bed, exhausted.

I'm sure I'll have more stories like these as time goes by.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Back In The Saddle

As some of you may know, I'm not flying commercially at the moment. I had some minor health problems which made flying a whole lot less fun. So, I decided to head back to school a couple of years ago and I'm currently in my second year of law school. If someone decides that a career as a pilot is something that they want to do, I think that it's very important to think about what they'd so if they lost their medical. Having a back up plan in place is key. While I didn't lose my medical, I figured that going back to school was a good idea.

While I love being back at school, it unfortunately isn't exactly a high paying position. Worse still, while I love Halifax, they don't have a flight school really close by. That combined with the fact that there's a lot of work involved with law school (who would have thought?), it had now been 2 years and 4 months since I'd been flying.

It had been too long and I've been getting the flying itch bad.

I booked a check out at the nearest flying school which is unfortunately an hour and twenty minutes away. The staff at Greenwood Flight Centre were great. Getting back up in the air was really great as well, however, it was a humbling experience. I was rusty. But I managed to bring the plane back in one piece and the instructor didn't seem to scared - I have to say though, I thought it was a tad unprofessional when he jumped out and kissed the ground before I had even shut off the engine (kidding).


Friday, December 21, 2007

Air Cargo

I just finished writing a paper on Air Cargo Security and as a result I've been doing a lot of research on the topic. Although I didn't include this in the paper, I remember a story that was told to me by an employee at Air Canada Cargo a number of years ago.

They received a call from a well to do woman who was wondering if they would be able to ship her sailboat's sail from Toronto to Florida. Altough the sail would be rolled up, it was still quite long. The cargo employees checked out the specs for the different planes, at the time, the largest that Air Canada flew to Florida was the 767. They tried different angles, but this sail just wasn't going to fit in the cargo hold.

The cargo employees called her back to tell her the bad news. They couldn't take the sail. Now this wasn't quite good enough for this woman, she paused for a moment and then with an air of authority asked "Well, why can't you just use a roof rack?"

Now in her defence, I suppose it makes sense from her point of view, they use a roof rack for the space shuttle, why not for cargo?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Calendar Controversy

Just a quick follow up to the previous post.

Spain Complains About Ryan Air Calendar

Dec. 12, 2007, 11:18AM
Spain Complains About Ryanair Calendar
© 2007 The Associated Press

MADRID, Spain — Spain's government-run Women's Institute has labeled a 2008 calendar for low-cost airline Ryanair featuring bikini-wearing air hostesses as sexist and said it would be sending letters of complaint to Irish and EU authorities.

The institute, which defends women's rights, said that while the fact that the proceeds from calendar sales would go to charity was positive, the photographs "represent the stewardesses as sexual objects" and "reinforce discriminatory stereotypes."

"It is significant that that only women are used, in a sector in which there is a considerable percentage of men," the institute, which is part of the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, said in a statement.

The calendars show the hostesses _ one for each month _ posing in bikinis on or outside airplanes. They are sold on Ryanair flights and on the Internet for 7 euros ($10.27). Proceeds go to the Irish disabled children's charity Angels Quest.

"We're not talking about morals or nudity here, it's simply how women are portrayed," institute spokeswoman Maria Jesus Ortiz said. "If there had been men in the calendar, I'm sure there would have been no controversy."

The Spanish union of consumers FACUA raised the issue Tuesday.

Ortiz said the institute would send a letter of complaint to the Irish Embassy in Spain and to the European Union's gender equality group. Ortiz added that the institute was seeking legal advice on what further action it might be able to take.

Ryanair had defended the calendar, saying the hostesses had posed voluntarily and that it was for a good cause.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bring on the Sexy Stews? Ya Baby? - Huh?

Some of you may have seen an article a few weeks ago about Ryan Air Flight Attendants putting out a calendar to raise money for charity. The flight attendants are all scantily clad in aircraft related pictures.

Here’s Ms. October, Joanna from Dublin ensuring that the 737 is nicely polished.

(As an aside, how long do you think it would take to clean a 737 with just a soapy sponge?)

Now, as much as I like having a clean plane, these pictures have sparked a bit of controversy about the role of flight attendants, and more generally, women in aviation.

Traditionally, jobs in aviation were gendered. The men were the pilots and the women were the flight attendants and that’s just how things were, cause that's they way they've always been, sonny! Initially, flight attendants were nurses put on aircraft to ease the public’s fear of flying. It’s unfortunate to note that Ellen Church RN, actually approached Boeing Air Transport to be a pilot, but they wouldn’t let her and instead she became the World’s First Flight Attendant. If nurses fly, flying must be safe, Right?


Whether this was a ploy by airlines or an honest belief that having nurses to care for passengers in the hostile world of flying can be debated.

The role of flight attendant continued to evolve, but not necessarily for the better. In the 1960s and 1970s, in the U.S. and most of the world, the airline industry was regulated. This meant that airlines were told which routes they could fly and what price they could charge. Therefore, on the busy route where there was ‘competition’, airlines had to charge the same price as each other and had to find different ways to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Suddenly, flight attendant uniforms became a lot more revealing. “Come fly with us, our flight attendants are sexier!”


Today, the uniforms have generally grown to reflect a more conservative professional image. In fact, here are the Ryan Air Calendar flight attendants in their work uniform.


Except possibly for Hooters Air. They’ve since ceased operating however, apparently their revenues were sagging.


Around the same time as deregulation, there began a slow change in the segregation of men and women in the business. Women were becoming pilots and men were becoming flight attendants. Airlines have realised the important role that flight attendants play in airline safety. Although they are responsible for front line customer service, their presence and professionalism has saved numerous lives in aircraft accidents, such as Air France flight 358 in Toronto where the crew got the passengers out of the plane in just a few brief minutes.


This recognition has not been without a struggle. Passengers can be extremely rude to crew members and often offer little respect. They are still sometimes simply looked upon as wait staff in the sky. So, is this calendar a step in the wrong direction? Will this discourage young girls from wanting to have a career in aviation? Will this slow the already too slow trend of more and more women becoming pilots? Or, is it just a silly calendar for charity?

I have mixed feelings about it. I’d like to think that I’m relatively progressive and open minded and some fun pictures for charity will not diminish the public’s perception of flight attendants and women in general. I’d like to think that there can be an appreciation of femininity without ignoring professionalism. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking?

Personally however, while I don’t think the Ryan Air Flight Attendants are unattractive, I find the following pictures far more appealing. It’s happening a little slower than I’d like, but I’m glad to see that more and more women are becoming pilots. More on that in a future post dealing with much more important issues than uniform styles.



Monday, December 3, 2007

A Few Corrections


I'm hoping I won't have to make too many posts like this, but in the Aviation Industry, things are always changing and there's always more to learn. Until a few years ago the A.I.P. was in loose-leaf paper form and every few months you'd get sent amendments to change. My book is not in loose leaf form, so corrections will have to be made on this site.

In the book in discussing the vision requirements for the medical, I mention that "the refractive error must fall within +/- 3.0 diopters." Although I do mention that you can often work with your doctor and Transport Canada to have particular conditions waived, it should be noted that this is possible for this situation. One reader mentions that they're on a waiver as their vision is well outside this limit (3.75 & 4.5).


In the section on Air Canada Jazz I mention that they are a wholly owned subsidary of Air Canada. This is no longer the case. ACE - Air Canada's parent company owns 20.1% of Jazz. The rest is owned by shareholders in the Jazz Air Income Fund.


In the section on Sunwing Airlines, I mention that Sunwing owns 3 737-800s. As of today, Sunwing has 5 737s listed on the Transport Canada Canadian Civil Aircraft Register.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Back in the Day: Part III

This is the third e-mail that I sent out after starting on the Conquest. It would have been sent out roughly the middle of January 2003:

Being the newest pilot at Skyward, and the lowest seniority F/O (First Officer) on the Conquest, I got stuck being on call for both Christmas and New Year's. However, seeing as I waited for so long to fly, this really didn't bother me.

At first, with the way the scheduling of nurses and planes was going to work out, it looked like I was going to get Christmas day off, then fly a lot for the few days after that. However, everything always changes and at 7:30 pm on Christmas Eve I got a page saying that I was going to have a flight from Thompson to Winnipeg Christmas morning at 6 am and I was to be at the airport at 5:45am. I don't think I've ever gotten up that early on Christmas morning!

We got to the airport and started getting our plane ready, a short while later the nurse showed up with the patient, it was a little girl who had broken her arm and her mother. They were going down to Winnipeg for a specialists appointment. The girl had set up a slide on the edge of her coffee table, then ran and jumped on it, but unfortunately it fell off and she broke her arm. Both the little girl and the mother were apprehensive about flying, so the nurse told them that Captain Steve had been flying for over ten years. Thankfully she left out that First Officer James had been on the job for just over a month! So when I went in to bring the passengers out, the little girl asked (in a really cute voice) "Are you Captain Steve?", "no, I'm James, the co-pilot" I replied. "Oh" she said, sounding really disappointed. "But," I added, "Captain Steve's in the plane right now getting it ready, you'll get to see him really soon." She was happy to hear that. Not the first time a girl had wished I was someone else! :p

The flight to Winnipeg was nice, the radio's were quieter than usual as most airlines had cancelled some flights on Christmas day. All the Air traffic controllers would wish you a Merry Christmas when you changed frequencies and the weather was pleasant as well. We arrived just as the sun was coming up and got a great view of the city, we could just imagine how much wrapping paper was being ripped open at that very minute.

When they had arrived at the airport in Thompson, the mother had brought a big garbage bag full of presents to take down to Winnipeg. They waited in the office for a few minutes while the plane warmed up. Unfortunately she didn't tell either the nurse or myself about it when we got in the plane and the presents got left in Thompson. We didn't discover this until we hadlanded in Winnipeg. I felt pretty bad, although we made sure they made it to Winnipeg the next day, and the girl had already received a few presents, so she was still pretty happy.

Cities on Christmas morning are always nice as they're always deserted. There were very few cars on the road, but it also meant that all the restaurants were closed, we could only find a Robin's Donuts, so we had breakfast there, and when we came back to Winnipeg that afternoon, we had lunch there as well.

I flew on Boxing Day as well. We went to Cross Lake and back twice. We took lots of pictures the first time. The second time we went it was at night and we got an incredible display of the Northern Lights. It was easily the best I have seen before, and Steve who has been flying in the North for almost ten years said it was probably the best he had seen before. I tried taking a picture, but it just didn't do them justice.

I did a few more trips that week. We had a couple of days with pretty bad weather, and flying in them was tricky, but a great learning experience.

On January 5th I went to Rankin Inlet for the second time. I took the scheduled flight up, it was in a Cessna Caravan which is a great plane, but really slow, it was long trip up.

The next day we got a Sanikiluaq - Winnipeg trip. Sanikiluaq is located on the Belcher Islands which are in the southern part of Hudson Bay right near Quebec. Everybody on the radio was speaking french. It's well known for it's carvings of either bone or green rock (not sure what type) so we called ahead and asked the airport radio operator to call some carvers for us. As we landed, the weather started to deteriorate, so I think the carvers decided to just stay home cause no one came out. Oh well. I ended up buying a carving back in Rankin Inlet.


We got back to Rankin late that evening, and didn't end up flying again for 3 days. We had gone out to go take some pictures of the town when we got called on the radio phone that we had a trip to Yellowknife. This was odd, cause we usually don't take patients to Yellowknife from Rankin we take them to Winnipeg, even though Yellowknife is closer. This patient was a psych patient and the mental health center in Winnipeg was full (hmmm, what does that say about Manitobans ? :) so we took him to Yellowknife. The company doesn't fly there very much so it was really interesting to go there. With going to the Northwest Territories, I only have to go to the Yukon and Newfoundland then I have been to all the provinces and territories.

We had dinner at a nice hotel and was surprised to see lots of Japanese tourists. I thought Yellowknife in January was a strange vacation destination. However, it's apparently a fairly popular honeymoon location as the Japanese believe that the Northern Lights are a sign of good luck, and if you conceive a child on a night that the are out, it will bring the child prosperity and luck. (*Note: I have since found out that that is untrue, however, there still were a lot of Japanese tourists) It's for this reason that some hotels in Churchill and Yellowknife have hotel rooms with glass dome ceilings!

When we got back to Rankin there was a full fledged blizzard going on. When a Blizzard hits up there, not a lot of snow falls if any, in fact it's actually considered a desert up in the Arctic. What happens is the winds pick up til they are about 40 mph (70 km or so) and starts blowing all the snow on the ground. You can fly over the airport, look down and see it fine, but once you get quite low the visibility drops. The approach was crazy, the visibility was really low, we saw the runway lights right at minimums and the captain (Jeff) managed a great landing in really strong cross winds.

The blizzard stuck around for a few more days so we ended up staying in Rankin a day longer than normal. We need 1/2 mile visibility to take off and it was 1/8 th of a mile for most of the time. We were on hold for a Rankin Winnipeg trip by this time. So when the weather improved we were to go to leave for Winnipeg. And wouldn't you know, the weather improved, not at a sensible hour say around lunchtime, but at 3 in the morning! So we got a call to pack up all our stuff as quick as possible and hurry to the airport.Within 45 minutes, we were on our way to Winnipeg. We ended up back home in Thompson by about 3 in the afternoon, where I went home and went right to sleep!

I now have about 120 hours on the airplane and have learned an incredible amount of information. I still have lots to learn though. While my regular landings have improved greatly, my cross wind landings aren't very good "Sonny, did we land or were we shot down?" No, that wasn't actually said to me. But I like the challenge of always learning new things and it's satisfying to succeed at things that I've been working on.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Airline Transport Licence - ATPL

I received a comment from reader who will be starting their flight training shortly. Overall the comments about the book were very positive although they had a question about the ATPL:

The only subject that I still have some questions about is the ATPL, in your book you described in detail every license except that one... I've heard there's no actual in-flight exam to obtain the ATPL but how does a pilot end up obtaining it? Lets say i get a CPL and a job... will the airline finance the ATPL and make sure i pass the exam or once I work up the hours I go to another FTU and pass the ground school + written exam...
That what my only question.


When writing the book, I thought about putting the information regarding the ATPL into a section but instead just briefly mentioned it. At the time I figured that this would be information that student pilots wouldn't need to know for a number years and they'd pick up the information as they progressed through the industry. In retrospect, I should have included a section on it. Although it is true that as a student pilot you don't really need to know about the requirements for at least a couple of years after you've been flying, it's always a good idea to know what you're getting yourself into.

THE ATPL
The ATPL is a different type of licence than most of the other licences. You're required to have it to act as PIC of a two crew aircraft. You can act as a co-pilot of a two crew aircraft if you have the ATPL, have passed the written exams but not met the hour requirements, or if you have a CPL and have passed the IATRA. Another test.

As you mentioned, there is no actual flight test. What is required is that you have to be over 21 years of age, have passed the two written exams within the past 2 years, and have passed a Group 1 (multi-engine) instrument rating within the past year upon meeting the hour requirements and passing the written exams. This can also be done in a Aircraft check ride or type rating flight test which usually will renew a Multi - IFR.

The magic number is 1500 hours. But keep in mind that towards this licence, you can only count half of your co-pilot time. So if you've got 600 hours as a co-pilot, you can only count 300 of those hours towards your licence.

Other hour requirements include:
-900 of those hours must be in an airplane
-250 hours PIC
-100 hours PIC cross-country
-25 hours PIC night, cross-country
-100 hours of night flying
-75 hours instrument time (max 25 in a sim)

When you have approximately half the time required for the licence, you're allowed to write the two written exams:

-The SAMRA which tests Meteorolgy, Radio Aids to Navigation and Flight Planning and,

-The SARON which tests Air Law, Operations and General Navigation

Each of the exams are 3.5 hours long, mulitple choice and you require greater than 70% to pass and are valid for 2 years (i.e. if you don't get meet the hour requirements within two years after writing these exams, you ahve to take them over).

You also have to have your Instrument rating exam passed and not expired.

There isn't a specific ground school requirement for the ATPL. However, there are a number of courses put on for refreshers. Also, there are a few different sample study guides which pilots will study for.

What will normally happen when you're in the industry is that you'll co-ordinate with your airline for a few days off to write the exam. Most people that I know general write one, and then the other a couple months later but it's not unheard of to write both in a row. You'll usually have to pay for the written exams yourself.

The flight test however will usually just be a type rating or PPC renewal with your airline which they should be paying for.

There is a special section in the hours requirements for PIC time. If pilots are flying as co-pilots for an airline that only operates larger aircraft where it is not possible to get PIC time without having an ATPL, they have the potential of gaining 100 of their PIC hours under the 'PIC under supervision' provision. This needs to be worked out directly with the airline though.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

So, You Want to be a Regional Airline Pilot

This was a video that has been up on YouTube for a few years now. It was done during a time of cut backs in the industry, likely by a pilot who was petty fed up with the way things were going. Basically, this video outlines the low salaries at the entry level positions for the regional airlines in the US.

These salaries are low. In relation to the last post, it's important for new pilots to understand that things can be a pretty tough go at first and that you won't be starting on a Boeing or Airbus directly after finishing Flight School.

There are a number of things to keep in mind though:

1- In Canada, although at the lower levels of the industry salaries are quite low, they're not as bad as the ones listed in the videos. I discuss average salaries at different levels of the industry my book.

2- The salaries listed at the time were for the first year junior F/O position. These salaries will go up as you gain experience. Interested pilots should check out www.airlinepilotcentral.com for salaries of each of the airlines.

3- The salaries don't necessarily consider the 'per diems' provided for new pilots.

4- This video was done at a time when major airlines were not hiring. Although the situation for pilot hiring in the US is not as good as the rest of the world, the economics of supply and demand will dictate what airlines have to pay to keep pilots. A few years ago there were a number of out of work pilots in the US and many airlines were doing very poorly financially, so they paid these low salaries.

5- Nonetheless, paying attention to the salaries are important. It's my hope that pilot salaries will begin to moderate themselves. While the highest salaries may not be quite as high, the lower salaries won't be as low.

On the plus side, I was talking with a a former co-worker who now flies for Air Canada. Currently he's an Airbus A320 F/O and he's on salary making $42,500 a year. In a couple of months however, he switches to formula pay. That will pretty much double his salary. He's not going to be rich anytime soon, but airline pilot salaries can be quite comfortable after a couple of years.

So, while I think that new pilots should be aware of the pay at different levels of the industry, I don't think it's necessary to be quite as jaded as the producer of the video.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Global Pilot Shortage a Looming Crisis

With a strong World Economy and the demographics of aging baby boomers, industry insiders seem to be suggesting that this global hiring boom will be creating a possible global pilot shortage in the near future.


Global pilot shortage a looming crisis in Canada
Pilots complain 'magic' of flying has faded with no-frills airlines, low salaries
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 21, 2007 | 10:31 AM ET
CBC News


While airlines are filling their planes with passengers, the struggle to keep their pilots in the cockpits is a deepening crisis in the global air travel business, aviation experts are saying.

shortage of commercial pilots flying the skies above Canada and the world over is so serious that the International Civil Aviation Organization predicts at least 15,000 new pilots will be needed every year in the next two decades. Canada and the U.S. will need at least 60,000 new pilots by 2020.

For Canadians, massive retirement, competition from the air force and foreign airlines, and low salaries are among the factors contributing to a general fading of the romance of the skies.

Flight classes at the Algonquin Flight Centre in North Bay, Ont., still have too many vacant seats, the school's owner, Stefan Corriveau, told CBC News.

Corriveau said that an airline in the U.S. last month had to cancel four per cent of its flights because no flight crews were available. He worries for the future of pilots at home.

"I think those problems will come to Canada," he said.

Although Corriveau said he knows he can handle more students to train for the major airlines, he said the flight business has lost its appeal to a younger generation discouraged by low starting salaries and sky-high training costs.

'Salaries are way too low'

"The salary issue is a very sensitive issue for a lot of pilots and in Canada right now, the opinion of many is that the salaries are way too low," he said.

To earn the minimum license required by commercial airlines at similar flight schools, students such as Bill Tompkins have to pay as much as $60,000, while starting salaries often barely crack $30,000.

"With the advent of low-fare airlines, really you've just become a glorified bus-driver," Tompkins said. "They've just cheapened it. For me, it's still there — there's a bit of magic, but the romance of flying is gone."

Travis Griffin graduates next year from the school, but he'll return to his native Ireland to work, where he can make a more comfortable living.

"It's 50,000 to 60,000 euros to start off, and then you get benefits on top of that, so it's better at home," Griffin said.

European and Asian airlines flush with cash are also coming to Canada and luring away home-grown pilots.

Air forces want to retain pilots
The military, meanwhile, is working hard to retain the young pilots it has trained in the air force. Before Jack Desmarais retired after decades of flying 747s for Air Canada, he began his career in the military. Many of his colleagues also learned their skills in the air force before later turning commercial.

But now, air forces around the world are giving better financial incentives to keep their pilots in uniform.

CBC workplace specialist Frank Koller said baby boom pilots are also retiring quickly, and that the airline industry has still not recovered pilots who left after the economic turmoil immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S.

He said some airlines, such as Air Canada Jazz, are trying to curb the pilot shortage by taking young pilots fresh out of flight school and mentoring them on the job in the cockpits. Although there are safety concerns, Koller noted that it's been done for years in Europe.


This article raises a number of key issues, some of which are addressed in my book.

The Pilot Shortage - I started my training in 1999. At that point, there was a strong economy and airlines were doing lots of hiring. When I graduated from college, things started slowing down and Sept 11th, 2001 caused a massive drop in demand for air travel.

Prior to this however, every flight school you talked to was predicting a pilot shortage. Things were going to be just like the good old days in the 1970s when Air Canada hired pilots right out of flying school. In fact, my uncle started with Air Canada at age 21 as a second officer on an L1011.



I was and still am sceptical that this will happen again. While I think hiring will be strong for the forseeable future, pilots will still ahve to find way to gain experience and hours. This brings us to the next issue:

Airline Cadets - Air Canada Jazz has a trial project this year. They took the top few graduates from a number of Aviation Colleges and put them through Ground School. If they passed all the required training, they will possibly qualify as junior first officers. This has sparked a bit of an uproar in the pilot community as a number of more experienced pilots who have been by-passed feel that these younger piots should have to 'pay their dues' and gain experience.

Cadet programs are used in Asian and European airlines. In a number of airlines, the First Officer of your Boeing or Airbus could be in her early 20s and only have a couple hundred hours. I think with the right amount of training this can avoid safety issues, but I am a proponent of gaining 'real world' experience. In the few years that I was flying professionally I learned a lot.

Low Salaries / Working Conditions - This is another difficult issue. Aviation is different today than it was a few decades ago. Passengers expect low airfares and with rising fuel costs, profit margins are getting thinner. If airlines raise salaries, they'll have to increase ticket prices which will likely lower passenger demand, however, if they don't raise salaries more and more people are going to choose other professions.

In my book I outline the general remuneration that pilots make at different levels of the industry. I think in general, many pilots sacrifice in the beginning making a low salary so that they will gain the experience to make a higher salary, infact, some newer pilots will even fly for free (Do NOT do this as I outline in the book).

Newer pilots should be aware of the general salary trends so that they have a good idea of what to expect in the industry. Jobs at airlines can be relatively well paying, but you're not going to be filthy rich.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Al's First Year

Here's a video by my former Co-worker Al documenting his first year 'flying the line' on the Metro with Perimeter Airlines out of Thompson Manitoba.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

University of Waterloo Aviation Programs

In my book, I have a listing of College and University Aviation Programs across Canada. These programs can change a fair bit from year to year and unfortunately one slipped under the radar. The University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario has two new aviation degree programs: A Geography and Aviation Degree and a Science and Aviation Degree. This program commenced in September 2007 and is run in conjunction with Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre.

More information can be found at: University of Waterloo Aviation

Here's an article from Waterloo's alumni magazine. One thing to keep in mind is the cost of this program. The alumni magazine suggests that Flight Training costs will be roughly $50,000 and this is on top of the regular estimated $25,000 University costs. Plus, Waterloo Airport is relatively far from the University of Waterloo Campus so you'll likely need to have access to a car - there is no public transportation that goes to the airport. So while it would be very beneficial to receive university credits for your flight training, the cost of this program is quite high.



New aviation degree offered with science and geography programs

Aviation enthusiasts will be able to learn to fly while earning a university degree through two new programs offered by the University of Waterloo.

A new bachelor of environmental studies degree in geography and aviation as well as a new bachelor of science in science and aviation will take flight starting September 2007. Recently approved by UW's senate, both programs were developed in partnership with the Waterloo-Wellington Flight Centre (WWFC).


"The field of aviation has evolved significantly over the past 50 years," said Morton Globus, a professor emeritus in the faculty of science and key developer of the new programs. "Aviation and aerospace industries demand a new breed of specialists who have a comprehensive academic background to help them understand complex aircraft systems and well-developed analytical, critical thinking and decision-making skills."


Professor Emeritus Morton GlobusToday, flight training is a requirement for many aviation and aerospace careers. A university degree, meanwhile, is seen by the airline industry as a valuable asset for a pilot and is rapidly becoming a requirement for the profession.

To meet that need, UW's new programs provide a solid foundation for careers in a diverse range of aviation and aerospace industries.

Both degrees are designed to provide candidates with a comprehensive grounding in aviation-relevant subjects such as geomatics (science and technology of gathering, analyzing, interpreting, distributing and using geographic information), climatology, cartography and remote sensing.

Globus, a pilot himself and UW's liaison with WWFC, said the programs are unique in Canada. "Waterloo has a very strong science, environmental science, geomatics and technology base that will provide many of the essential underpinnings of aviation and aerospace," he said.

In UW's faculties of environmental studies and science, aviation-related areas include solid-state physics, wireless communication, astrophysics, energy cells, fuels, remote sensing, climatology/meteorology, environmental sciences, computer cartography, geomorphology, global positioning systems and geographic information systems, among others.

The aviation component of both programs will cover professional pilot program requirements, delivered by WWFC. The WWFC, a non-profit organization established in 1932, has been offering flight training for more than 70 years and is widely respected in the Canadian aviation industry.

The new programs will cost about $50,000 for flight training, on top of about $25,000 in tuition fees over four years.

Written by John Morris
UW Media Relations



Friday, November 16, 2007

Thank Goodness For TCAS

Modern Airliners are equipped with a device called a Traffic Collision and Avoidance System or TCAS for short. It's actually an amazing system that alerts pilots to the presence of other planes that could cause the potential for collision. The more advanced versions of TCAS even allow the systems in each plane to 'talk' to each other. If there is a potential for a collision, the system on one plane will tell it to climb whereas the system on the other plane will tell it to descend - thus avoiding a collision.

A TCAS display - the diamonds are other aircraft

In fact, today pilots are taught that no matter what your Air Traffic Control Clearance is, if the TCAS tells you to do something, you follow its commands. There was a tragic accident in 2002 where a controller told an aircraft to descend whereas the TCAS told it to climb. The pilot followed the controller's instructions which led to a mid-air collision.

The other day over Indiana, there was a near miss. This time however, both pilots followed the TCAS instructions and everybody was ok.


Cockpit device narrowly averts collision

Controller error undone by cockpit alert over Indiana
By Jon Hilkevitch | Tribune transportation reporter
November 15, 2007

A Chicago-bound jet came within seconds of a midair collision at 25,000 feet over Indiana, but a cockpit safety device alerted the pilots flying the other plane of the danger ahead, officials said Wednesday.

The near collision Tuesday evening was attributed to an error by an air-traffic controller who directed an eastbound Midwest Airlines plane to descend into the path of a westbound United Express jet, according to a preliminary investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The controller, a 26-year veteran, appeared to have forgotten about the United Express plane after he mistakenly removed its electronic identification tag from his radar screen in preparation to hand off the plane to controllers in a different air sector, officials said.



The incident occurred "on the tail end of a rush" amid a shift change at the Chicago Center radar facility in Aurora, said FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.

It was the latest in a series of serious errors since Oct. 1 at the FAA center, where tensions are high between the controllers union and management over adequate staffing levels.

The near collision occurred near Ft. Wayne, Ind., as the two regional aircraft closed in on each other at a combined speed of more than 700 m.p.h. -- or about 12 miles every minute, officials said.

The jets' speeds normally would have been even faster, but traffic in the airspace was slowed by congestion at O'Hare International Airport, where the United Express plane, carrying 28 passengers, two pilots and a flight attendant, was heading from Greensboro, N.C.

Tragedy was prevented when a collision-avoidance alert sounded in the cockpit of the Midwest plane, carrying 21 passengers, two pilots and a flight attendant from Milwaukee to Dayton, Ohio. The pilots executed an emergency climb to steer clear of the other plane, officials said.

"If they didn't suddenly climb, there would have been a convergence," said Midwest spokeswoman Carol Skornicka.

On radio communication tapes, the pilots mentioned three times how close the planes came to one another, said Jeffrey Richards, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association at Chicago Center.

"Center, you really lined us up on that last clearance," Richards quoted one of the pilots as saying.

The two aircraft came as close as 1.3 miles from each other horizontally and 600 feet vertically, the FAA said. The minimum separation permitted is 5 miles horizontally and 1,000 feet vertically.

"The controller at first did identify the potential conflict and took action" to stop the descent of the Midwest plane, Cory said. "However, it's still to be determined why, within less than a minute, he then dropped the data block [from his radar screen] and continued the descent."

The controller error marked the third serious mistake in only six weeks by controllers at Chicago Center, which handles high-altitude traffic over portions of the Midwest. Only one error of such magnitude occurred within the previous 12 months at the radar facility, officials said.

On Tuesday night, controllers on average worked close to the two-hour limit on their radar positions between rest breaks, Richards said.

"These controllers are fatigued from working such long stints and very few breaks compared to just three years ago," said Richards, who contends that a wave of retirements is draining the FAA of seasoned controllers.

Richards said the controller who committed the error was nearing the end of his shift and had returned from a break just several minutes earlier.

"Each of his sessions were right up to the two-hour limit," Richards said.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Question - Re: Helicopter Pilots

I was e-mailed a question about the book the other day:


Hello,

I want to know if your book is relevant and/or pertinent for aspiring helicopter pilots like myself. If not, is there a book similar to yours that highlights the path for helicopter pilots.

Mike


Hi Mike,

Thanks for the question.

My book focuses mainly on fixed wing aircraft. My experience was with airplanes and I didn't really feel I could do the different routes for obtaining a helicopter licence / job justice. That being said, I think there would be a number of areas in the book that would be worthwhile to an aspiring helicopter pilot.

In the book, I outline the 3 main paths for getting your airplane pilot licences in Canada: Private Flight School, College Aviation Programs & Military and the pros and cons of these routes. These are also the 3 main ways for getting your helicopter licences.

There are a few differences however. To begin with, there are not as many schools or colleges for Helicopter training as compared to airplanes. The only specific college course that I know of is run by Gateway Helicopters in conjunction with Candore College in North Bay, Ont. Canadore College

I believe Chicoutmi CEGEP in Quebec also has helicopter training, but you're required to speak French.

There are a number of private helicopter flight training schools in Canada that are mostly centered in the larger cities. For example, Canadian Helicopters offers training in Toronto, Quebec City and Pentiticton.

Heli-College Canada is a private flight helicopter flight school in Vancouver

Searching the web will likely give you more leads as well as Helicopters Magazine which has articles about training

I'm not aware of any books similar to mine that directly relate to helicopter training. There are a few books out that briefly deal with it, but usually just a short section tacked on at the end of the sections dealing mainly with airplane licences.

I'm not sure of your background, but if you're relatively new to aviation, I think the sections in my book that would still be helpful would be:

Chapter 1 - the general introduction to the aviation industry

Chapter 2 - Things to keep in mind before starting out

Parts of Chapter 3 - examining the pros and cons of the different routes to get your licences - as mentioned, these would be slightly different for helicopters, but the general pros and cons of flying planes or helicopters will be similar for flight schools, colleges or the military.

Parts of Chapter 4 - The basic information regarding how to choose and instructor and tips for writing your licence exams would be good.

Limited Parts of Chapter 5 - Ideas related to networking would be important

Chapter 6 - Information about finding a job would be fairly similar. It's my understanding that finding a first job as a helicopter pilot is just as diffcult as finding a job as an airplane pilot in that you have to general go to remote locations and working in a non-flying position on the ramp for a certain amount of time before you're able to fly.

Chapter 7 - Tips for doing a good job.

Chapter 12 - General things you should consider before becoming a pilot.

(There's a full table of contents on the book's website www.piloteh.com )

So, I guess you could say, I think that the book would be helpful to aspiring helicopter pilots in a general way to help understand the industry, things to consider and tips for finding a job. However, it doesn't directly deal with the specific routes for obtaining a helicopter licence and job in Canada.

A380 Visits Montreal's Trudeau International Airport

The Airbus A380, which started service a couple weeks ago with Singapore Airlines, visited Montreal's Trudeau International Airport earlier today. Although the aircraft has landed in Canada before, once in Iqaluit, Nunavut for cold weather testing and twice in Vancouver, according to the Airport's website, this is the first time the plane has landed in Canada with passengers.

Although it is not expected that any airline will be using the A380 to fly to Montreal for the next couple of years, there is talk that Air France will eventually start flying the jumbo jet to Montreal from Paris.

I'm also glad to see the number of "plane-spotters" that were out. Watching planes near Pearson airport in Toronto was one of the thigns that first got me interested in flying.


Plane-Spotters Cheer for A380

Large crowd witnesses "superjumbo" jet landing
The Montreal Gazette, November 12, 2007.
Jason Magder, The Gazette

Daniel Bolduc said he wished his 2-month daughter were a little older so she could appreciate the historic moment she witnessed today.

As it was, Alexandra Laframboise-Bolduc was sleeping in her infant seat as the Airbus 380, the largest passenger plane built, landed about 12:10 p.m. at Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport in Dorval today.

Bolduc also dragged his wife, Chantal Laframboise, 43, to the event and they were in good company among a crowd of about 1,000 spectators who gathered at the end of the airport's runway 24 Right.

People gather to watch the Airbus A380 as it makes its first landing at the Pierre-Elliott Trudeau airport, 12 November, 2007.
AFP PHOTO/David BOILY (Photo credit should read DAVID BOILY/AFP/Getty Images)



Today's visit was part of a tour to demonstrate the plane that was purchased by Air France. The airline plans to start regular trips with the A380 between Montreal and Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport in the near future.

The airport renovated its jetty to allow passengers to board the plane's two floors simultaneously. The airport was one of the world's first to make such accommodations and did so at a cost of $500,000.

As part of the tour, the massive aircraft will leave Montreal today for Orlando International Airport in Florida before returning to Montreal on Thursday. It will then leave for France on the same day.

"She kept telling me, calm down, it's just an airplane," he said of Laframboise. "But this is an event that I'll remember for the rest of my life. It's an amazing feat of technology."

The aircraft's wingspan is 80 metres, 15 metres wider than any commercial plane in the air today. It is as tall as a seven-storey building. It can hold a maximum of 853 passengers, although Air France's configuration has only 525 passenger seats. That's still 40 per cent more than its nearest rival, the Boeing 747. It made its first commercial flight this year and has since visited about 60 airports worldwide.

Those who gathered on Pitfield Blvd. and St. François St. in St. Laurent had one of the best views of the jet as it approached from the east, flew overhead and landed on the other side of Highway 13, near the exit for the Trans-Canada Highway.

There were many so-called "plane-spotters" who come out regularly to see planes flying. Many brought binoculars, telescopes and cameras so they could have the best view of the aircraft.

Some climbed on cars and nearby billboard signs, while others camped on folding chairs they set up near the runway. People came from as far away as Quebec City and some had been there since 5:30 a.m.

On his Citizens' Band radio, Aldo Fittante, 42, listened intently to every word uttered between the pilots of the craft and the air control tower as the plane made its approach, and was too busy to give an interview.

"It's confirmed, they are going to land on runway 24 Right, and they're about 10 nautical miles away," he said with a smile.

He was there with his son Ricardo, 19, and Cosimo Carnevale, 38. The three have come to this area twice a week for the last 10 years to see planes fly. As well as being an aircraft enthusiast, Ricardo has a pilot's license. While the three say it's always exciting to watch a plane land, today was particularly exciting.

"It's historic," Ricardo said. "This is one of the first times this plane has ever landed in a North American airport."

Greenfield Park resident Jean-Sébastien Miller is usually here alone, nearly every morning enjoying a coffee and a muffin while watching planes land.

"I expected a few people, but this is a circus," said Miller, 36, who works in the nearby industrial park.

"It's a real thrill to be here. This is a big event and you can tell by the number of people who are here," he said.

When the jet made its final approach towards the runway, there were many cheers and whistles from the crowd. It seemed to hang in mid-air for a few seconds before it slowly made its way to the runway. It came so close, you could feel the vibration from its roaring engines. As it passed, many waved at the plane, as cameras went off and some people ran to the fence separating the street from the highway, to watch the plane land.

While there were many aircraft enthusiasts, there were also people who came to the area for the first time to witness the event.

"It's special," said Laval resident Stéphane Mailhot, 38 while clutching his camera.

"I'm not really a plane enthusiast, but I am an fan of photography."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Engines Falling From the Sky

Last night I watched the movie Donnie Darko which I really enjoyed. In the movie, an airplane jet engine falls from the sky and lands on the house of the main character. Not something you hear about happening everyday. However, just recently, a South African Nationwide Airlines 737 literally lost engine just after taking off.

While this is no doubt a scary experience, airliners are actually designed so that if too much force is put on the engine, it will fall off the wing. Modern Airliners are designed to be able to fly with one engine failed and if something goes wrong, it's better to lose an engine than a wing. You need both of those to fly.

It was a great job by the crew to safely land the plane. None of the 106 on board were injured.


ENGINE FALLS OFF PASSENGER PLANE DURING TAKEOFF

Daily Mail - Nov 8th, 2007

Terrified passengers were forced to adopt emergency brace positions after an engine FELL OFF their aeroplane during takeoff.

Crash landing procedures were rushed into action when machinery separated from the right wing and plummeted on to the runway.

The Nationwide Boeing 737 plane had been taking off from Cape Town Airport, South Africa, at 3.30pm on Wednesday when the drama unfolded.

The Damaged Plane. The Circle shows where the engine fell from

The plane, carrying 106 passengers, was continuing to climb as debris fell to the ground and the pilot was instructed to turn back and make an emergency landing.

Airport fire and rescue services rushed to the runway to clear the wreckage before the plane came down.

The Flight CE723, which had been bound for Johannesburg, eventually touched down safely as passengers braced themselves for a crash landing.

The Engine that fell - Luckily it's not on a house!

South African businesswoman Ronel Derman, 46, said she had been in a seat directly over the wing.

"I heard this huge bang, and the man next to me said: 'That's our engine that's just fallen off'.

I couldn't believe it. He had to repeat it to me," she said.

"The plane started to shake a bit, but what was amazing was the staff and passengers. Everybody was so calm. There was no hysteria, no nothing, it was amazing."

While the plane was making a wide turn and dumping fuel, cabin crew took passengers through the emergency procedures, getting them to take off their shoes and practice bending down.

"They didn't know what to expect. It could have been a hard landing. It could have been anything," said Ms Derman.

"I don't think I've ever been so scared in my life, ever," she said.

When the plane had come to a stop surrounded by fire engines, the pilot walked into the cabin, and passengers cheered.

The damage is inspected

The airline said: "At take-off it was reported that the right hand engine separated from the wing. The aircraft continued to climb out.

"The aircraft returned and landed at Cape Town International Airport without further incident."

The Civil Aviation Authority's executive manager for air safety investigations, Gilbert Thwala, said investigators were looking into the incident.

No passengers or crew were injured. Passengers were taken to a holding area where Nationwide representatives and trauma counsellors were on hand.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What It's Like Being a Pilot - American Airlines: Boston to Paris

Here's cool video by an American Airlines crew on a trip from Boston to Paris and back.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Back in the Day: Part II

This is the second e-mail that I sent out after I started flying on the Conquest. It was after a one week stint in Rankin Inlet in Dec of 2002. Wow, that seems like a long time ago now!





Skyward has 3 Cessna Conquests. They base one in Thompson, one in Island Lake and one in Rankin Inlet in Nunavut. They crew the planes at the remote bases usually in one week shifts. So, from Dec 8th to Dec 15th I was based in Rankin Inlet in Nunavut territory.

Every Sunday morning, Skyward has a scheduled flight that leaves Thompson at 8am, then makes stops in Churchill, Arviat, Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet. I sat as a passenger and enjoyed the flight. We only made brief stops in each of the communities so I didn't really get time to explore, but it was nice to just sit as a passenger and enjoy the view of Hudson Bay which I was seeing for the first time.

It wasn't my first time in Nunavut. One week earlier I was the First Officer on a flight to Baker Lake. We landed in a Blizzard. Outside it was -30c. With winds gusting to 42 mph, the wind chill was -67c! And I was completely unprepared for it. I didn't have my parka yet, I didn't bring my neck warmer, I didn't bring my heavy duty gloves or my super warm boots; I just had a regular jacket and a hat. I have never been so cold in my life! I got minor frostbite on my cheeks, when the captain noticed frost actually forming on my cheeks he told me to go inside and warm up. Boy did I learn my lesson! The locals found it humorous. Here was this silly kid from Toronto freezing his butt off in a full blown Arctic Blizzard! The taxi driver took pity on me and let me wear his boots for a bit cause they were already warm and I had no heat left in my toes. Although I had never met this person, I had no qualms about wearing his boots cause my feet were so cold!

So this trip up to Nunavut I was prepared, I came equipped with a big $450 Snow Goose parka (the type you see arctic explorers wearing), heavy duty mitts, a really warm hat and my good 'moon' boots (sorels). However, lucky for me when we landed in Rankin it was a balmy -20c, sunny and with no wind. As long as there is no wind, the cold is very manageable if you layer your clothes properly.




We didn't have any trips the first day. For dinner we went over to Jason's (one of our flight nurses who lives in Rankin Inlet fulltime) mother's place where we had an incredible prime rib dinner. The next day Luella and Jana (one of the pilots and the nurse from Keewatin Air) came over to have dinner with us, we hadn't got a call all day, but right as we were sitting down for dinner with them, we got a call for a
Coral Harbour-Churchill trip. We quickly finished some more food, then rushed to the airport. We got to Coral Harbour (on Southampton Island in the North end of Hudson Bay) about an hour and 15 minutes later. We picked up our patient (a woman who had slipped on ice and broken her shoulder) and flew to Churchill. An Ambulance met us at the airport and we went to the hospital. Our nurse Paul had looked at the x-ray and figured there was a pretty good chance this woman would need to go to Winnipeg and have surgery. At the hospital the doctor confirmed this, however, he was unable to find a doctor or a bed for her in Winnipeg. So we waited. A little while later he informed us that he had been able to find a doctor, but still no bed, so we waited some more. We had been waiting for a couple hours when Steve (the captain) decided that we should go to the airport and warm up the plane which had been sitting in the cold with the engines off for a couple of hours now.

After we had warmed up the plane, Paul returned and said that they had not been able to find a bed, so we should just return to Rankin Inlet. So we took off and headed home. We were just over half way back when ATC called us "Skyward 911, I've got some good news for you. Company wants you to return to Churchill." So we turned around and headed back to Churchill. The Ambulance brought the woman out to the airport and we flew down to Winnipeg, arriving just as the sun was rising. By this point we were quite tired and at the end of our duty day, we were not legally allowed to fly anymore.

We checked into a hotel, had breakfast at the restaurant and then went to bed (at 8am). I got about 5 hours of sleep when they decided to start doing bathroom renovations on the floor below me! I went for a walk and then came back and got a couple more hours of sleep.

We left for Rankin at around 5 that evening, the flight back took around 3 and a half hours, once there we put the plane in the hanger and I went back to sleep. I got about 2 hours of sleep when the phone rang for a Repulse Bay - Winnipeg trip. Repulse Bay is right on the Arctic circle on the southern tip of the Melville Peninsula. I crossed the Arctic circle at around 3am that morning. We landed, parked beside a Canadian Forces Twin Otter (I'm not sure what it was doing there) and went into the nursing station to pick up our patient. For some reason, the people are noticeably shorter up there. At 5'10" , I was towering over everybody, plus the ceilings in the nursing station were also really low: so this is what it's like to feel tall!

We flew to Winnipeg, stopping in Rankin Inlet to get gas and arrived in Winnipeg at around 9am. We had breakfast and then checked into the same hotel, I slept like a log, I don't think there was any renovations going on, but if there was, it didn't wake me up. We flew back to Rankin that evening.

On the flight back the sky was very clear and the moon wasn't too bright.We got a magnificent display of the stars, Northern Lights and falling space junk. I'm not sure what the space junk was, but it looked like an incredibly bright star falling from the sky, but it was only a few miles a head of us. Once we arrived in Rankin, we filled up the plane with gas, went home and I slept for the whole night.

Around ten the next morning we got a call for an Arviat-Churchill trip, which ended up turning into a Arviat-Churchill-Winnipeg. Luckily we still had time in our duty day to make it back to Rankin that evening.In 3 days we had flown 26 hours or approximately 13,000 km!

We had one more trip that week from Baker Lake to Churchill.

On Sunday we headed out for the airport for our flight back home, all told we had done about 30 hours of flying in the week and flew enough miles to go to from Halifax to Vancouver and back.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Captain's Decision

Note: This post is updated here: Pilot to Serve his Sentence in the Community

There have been a number of interesting Court Decisions in the past few weeks regarding pilots. Here are two which, although on the surface don't seem to be related - one happened in Winnipeg and the other in Salt Lake City - I think that together they have a very interesting connection. They are from different jurisdictions, so as a result, neither are directly binding, but they both go to show that as a pilot, specifically the Pilot in Command (P.I.C. or Captain), you're required to make some tough decisions.

In the first case, the pilot of a Piper Navajo, under pressure from his airline, took off in a bad weather day without autopilot (required for that flight) and without enough gas to make the whole trip. The pilot missed the landing and while over-shooting the runway, both engines failed. The plane crashed on a Winnipeg Street. One of the passengers later died of his injuries.

In the next case, an airline pilot who felt his crew was to tired to fly refused to do a flight. Eventually he was fired. In this case however, the Court found that he was wrongfully dismissed and ordered him re-instated.

Case 1: Pilot in Crash Landing Found Guilty

Pilot in crash-landing found guilty
Busy city street was turned into emergency runway

Fri Nov 2 2007

By Mike McIntyre

A Calgary-based pilot was found guilty Thursday of criminal charges laid after he crash-landed his twin-engine plane into a busy Winnipeg intersection, killing an elderly passenger and injuring several others.

Mark Tayfel, 42, had pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence causing death, four counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and dangerous operation of an aircraft in one of the first cases of its kind ever held in Canada.

He had been waiting on a verdict since his Queen's Bench trial ended in April. Justice Holly Beard finally released her written reasons late in the day. Tayfel will be sentenced at a later date.

Tayfel, who was employed by Keystone Air at the time, had argued he made an honest mistake and should not be held responsible for the June 2002 tragedy.

Tayfel and six American fishers were injured when both of his engines cut out when he ran out of fuel at 9:18 a.m., shortly after he missed his first attempt at landing at Winnipeg International Airport.

The plane came to rest on Logan Avenue just west of McPhillips Street.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES
Emergency crews examine airplane that crash-landed on Logan Avenue at McPhillips Street in June 2002.


Everyone survived the crash, but 79-year-old Kansas resident Chester Jones died a few weeks later from his injuries.

"The actions Mr. Tayfel took were not unreasonable and therefore not a departure of any type from the standard a reasonable person or pilot would take in this case," defence lawyer Belfour Der had argued at trial.

Crown attorney Brian Wilford said it didn't matter whether the crash was accidental or not -- Tayfel was guilty because he took off for Winnipeg from a northern fishing lodge without enough fuel to get to his destination.

"It was he and he alone who had the duty to ensure there was enough fuel," Wilford said.

"His passengers absolutely depended on him. Mr. Tayfel was the author of what befell that plane and those passengers."

An aviation expert called by the defence claimed Tayfel should be commended -- not criminalized -- for the deadly crash landing.

"Most people walked away from that accident. He did his job until the bitter end," said Robert Lemieux, who runs a small airline company in Alberta and works as a trainer and examiner with Transport Canada.

Lemieux told court the real blame for the disaster should rest with Tayfel's employer, Keystone Air.

He said they "pressured" Tayfel into doing his flight despite the fact he'd raised concerns with the chief pilot that his Piper Navajo wasn't equipped with a mandatory auto pilot, said Lemieux.

The device likely would have helped Tayfel make a safe landing in Winnipeg. Instead, he came out of the clouds too high and too fast -- with both engines on the verge of cutting out -- and missed the runway completely.

Tayfel then crashed as he tried to swing around to make another landing attempt.

Lemieux said Keystone's chief pilot failed to take Tayfel's concerns about the missing auto pilot seriously.

Tayfel also testified in his own defence, saying his boss simply said "Oh, I thought it was there" and then told him to take another passenger on his flight out of Winnipeg.

Lemieux said experience in the airline industry has taught him employers are often focused on making money at the expense of young pilots like Tayfel who feel there is no choice but to quietly obey orders.

During cross-examination, Tayfel admitted he didn't push the issue any further with the chief pilot and decided to do the flight as scheduled.

Officials at Transport Canada said they will take some time to review the ruling before offering comment.

-- with files from Lindsey Wiebe

mikeoncrime.com



Case 2: Judge Backs Pilot Who Grounded Self

Judge backs pilot who grounded self
By Paul Beebe
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 10/11/2007 11:52:02 PM MDT


An administrative law judge has ordered SkyWest Airlines to rehire a veteran pilot who said the company fired him illegally for declaring himself and his crew unfit to fly after a perilous trip to Jackson, Wyo., where a landing was aborted because of bad weather.

The airline said it fired Don Douglas five months after the 2005 incident because he wrote profane graffiti on company property on two occasions and then refused to take responsibility after being confronted. SkyWest said Douglas's declaration that he and two crew members were unable to fly had nothing to do with his termination.

"I'm ecstatic. I hope I've done something about safety. It was always about safety," said Douglas, who lives in Sandy.

A company spokesman said the St. George-based regional airline hasn't decided whether to appeal the judge's ruling.

"SkyWest maintains fair disciplinary procedures with our employees, and in the case of Mr. Douglas, a thorough investigation process was utilized before he was terminated," spokeswoman Marissa Snow said in an email.

"After two review boards in which his peers reviewed and upheld the decision, an investigation was conducted by the Department of Labor, which also found no merit in the case," Snow said Thursday.

The Oct. 3 ruling by Judge Russell Pulver overturns an earlier ruling by the department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA ruled last year that the evidence supported SkyWest.

Douglas, a 16-year SkyWest veteran, reported to work at Salt Lake City International Airport on March 21, 2005, three days after a vasectomy. Cleared to work by his surgeon, Douglas was scheduled to fly a 30-seat Embraer Brasilia turboprop airplane from Salt Lake to Jackson that night and return the next morning. Douglas felt fit to fly, even though he and his crew were warned that they would be flying through rain and snow.



Before departing, the crew's first officer and flight attendant told Douglas they were not feeling well. Troy Brewer, the first officer, said he was tired from a lack of sleep. Flight attendant Brandee Black said her arthritis was bothering her.

The flight was difficult, according to the judge, who wrote that Douglas and Brewer "were under more stress than usual because they had to fly on instruments and the conditions were icy."

Because wind and runway conditions were unsafe in Jackson, aircraft controllers put the flight into a holding pattern that lasted about an hour, then ordered Douglas to fly back to Salt Lake through the poor weather.

After returning, Douglas learned that he and the crew were scheduled to attempt another flight to Jackson - about five hours later - at 4:40 a.m. the next day. According to the judge's 49-page ruling, Douglas found himself unexpectedly feeling too poorly to fly so soon because he was physically and mentally drained from the experience. Douglas also said a mild discomfort from his surgery had become intense during the flight.

After considering how he felt and determining that Brewer and Black were too fatigued to fly again so soon, Douglas told a SkyWest supervisor that he and his crew would not be able to safely fly to Jackson.

"As a pilot, [Douglas] was trained to declare himself unfit should he become unfit during the course of a shift. He believed that it would be a violation of federal air safety regulations if he were to fly unfit, or were to allow a crew member to fly that he had determined was unfit," Pulver wrote.

"He also believed that he as the captain had the final authority to make fitness determinations concerning himself and his crew," the judge wrote.

SkyWest disagreed. After an investigation, Tony Fizer, the airline's western region chief pilot, suspended Douglas for a week without pay and put a letter of reprimand in Douglas's personnel file. Fizer said Douglas was already unfit to fly when he arrived for work. Douglas also did not have the authority to keep his crew from flying, Fizer said.

Two months later, a review board reversed the suspension and downgraded the severity of the letter. Fizer was told to inform Douglas that in the future he should consult with a flight surgeon before declaring himself unfit and each crew member must tell the company if they believe they are unable to work. Only if a crew member was incapacitated could Douglas declare that person unfit for duty.

In July 2005, the words "f--- Fizer" appeared on a cork board in a SkyWest crew lounge. After the board was removed, "You can still f--- Fizer" was written on the wall.

Two handwriting experts hired by Fizer later concluded that Douglas had written the epithets. Douglas was told he could keep his job if he accepted responsibility. He refused and was fired on Aug. 31, 2005.

"I couldn't admit to something I didn't do," Douglas said.

Lawyers for Douglas argued that the graffiti was written in generic block letters, not in cursive script. A handwriting expert hired by Douglas said the writing wasn't his. And the SkyWest experts never looked at handwriting samples from other people before determining Douglas was responsible.

At a hearing in September, Fizer claimed the epithets didn't bother him, though he said they created a sexually hostile work environment and required an extensive investigation because senior SkyWest managers were alarmed.

In Pulver's ruling, the judge said Fizer showed "retaliatory animus" at one meeting with Douglas. The judge also said Fizer lacked credibility because of "baseless accusations" and other steps he took toward Douglas.

"I . . . find Fizer's antagonistic statements concerning the protected activity [when Douglas declared himself and his crew unfit to fly] provide circumstantial evidence of a retaliatory motive for terminating [Douglas's] employment," the judge wrote.

Pulver said Douglas is entitled to back pay and attorney fees.


Being a pilot carries with it a lot of responsibility. Sometimes it's up to you to make the tough decisions even if that means risking your job. It has often been said that the factors you should take into consideration when making a decision are:

1- Your life
2- Your Licence
3- Your Job

In this first case, unfortunately the pilot put #3 first. Ironically, he ended up losing his job and will likely face jail time. More importantly however, this pilot almost lost his life and one of his passengers died. In the second case, although the pilot temporarily lost his job, he got it back. Airlines will often pressure you to fly when you don't think it's safe. It's up to you to make those tough decisions.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Back in the Day: Part 1

I started writing for fun with e-mails that I sent to friends and family when I started flying up North. Figure a good way to start posts for this blog would be by recapping these e-mails.

Here's the first one from November 2002:

Cessna C441 Conquest II C-FSKG


The last five days have been some of the most intense days of my life. They have been incredibly fun, but the amount of information I have absorbed has been incredible. The training has been like trying to take a drink of water out of a firehose.

I was supposed to start my groundschool on Saturday, unfortunately my training Captain got called out for 2 medevacs that day so we didn't end up doing much. Sunday started off with my first flight. We practiced take-offs, landings, stalls, steep turns and an NDB approach. The Conquest II is a much more powerful plane than anyone I have flown before. The most powerful plane I have flown before had 600 hp, the Conquest has 1271! That has taken a lot of getting used to. Sunday afternoon consisted of 6 hours of groundschool. We went through the majority of the different systems of the aircraft: How the Engine works and it's different characteristics, the electrical system, the hydraulic systems, pressurization and everything else you ever wanted to know about a plane. Monday started with another flight where we practiced a lot of emergencies and engine failures, we even shut down one of the engines in flight! We flew a couple more circuits and practiced some more take off and landings. In the afternoon my training captain had to do another medevac so I went home, slept for a bit and went over some of my notes. We were supposed to do some more groundschool that evening, but instead we did my third and final training flight. We practiced instrument procedures, landing at night, Maximum climb takeoffs (that's where you climb up really quickly and it feels like you're going straight up) and landing without a landing light.

I did some more groundschool on Tuesday and then went on-call Wednesday morning at around 3am. Luckily I didn't get paged until 10:30am. We had a trip from Thompson to Brochet which is a Reserve about an hour's flight northwest of Thompson. We flew out there at FL 220 (22,000 ft) which is more than twice as high than I have flown before. I was the pilot flying and Geoff (the captain) worked the radios, except Geoff did the landing in the reserve cause it's a shorter runway. We landed at Brochet where a pick-up truck met us and took myself, Geoff and the flightnurse to the nursing station. A woman had hurt her back in a snowmobiling accident. We waited around the nursing station for a bit while the nurse got all the stats about the patient. We then put her on a strecther and loaded her into the back of the pick up truck and went back to the airport. We had to sit in the back of the truck with the patient. Although it was sunny, it was the end of November in Northern Manitoba and we were on a dirt road: It was crisp and the ride was bumpy. Once at the airport, we loaded the patient on the plane and flew back to Thompson, this time I worked the radios and Geoff flew. Once in Thompson we were met by the ambulance who took the patient to the hospital.

We had just been back in Thompson for about 15 minutes when the pager went off again. Once the nurse got back from the hospital we were to take a little baby and her parents to the children's Hospital in Winnipeg. Geoff and I had lunch at the airport restaurant and then once the nurse came back from the hospital in Thompson with the family, we blasted off for Winnipeg. We flew down to Winnipeg at 17,000 ft cause we wanted to keep the cabin altitude nice and low, the baby just slept most of the way, it was really well behaved and didn't cry at all. We came into Winnipeg after it had just gotten dark, we flew right over downtown and then followed a WestJet 737 on final approach. We landed in Winnipeg, parked beside two Challenger Jets, and were met by another ambulance who took the nurse and the family to the children's hospital. Geoff and I waited around the airport for a little while then took the company van and picked the nurse up from the hospital. After we picked up the nurse, it was off to Polo Park mall for some dinner. After dinner we went back to the airport and flew back to Thompson. It was my leg to fly and we had a strong 75kt headwind the whole way back so it took us a while. Once you get about 200km north of Winnipeg, all the lights end and it gets really dark, you have to follow your instruments cause you can't see anything. I landed in Thompson, not one of my better landings, but the plane's still in one piece :) Taxiied in, and shut down. Our duty day only had a few more hours in it so if there was another call, the other crew would most likely get it.

Me at the End of my First Day 'On The Line'