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 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 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:


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.


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 )

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.


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.

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

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'