Monday, November 05, 2007

A Tale of Two Airlines

I'm doing a ton of flying these days, but most of it is back in carriage rather than the front left seat - so I may as well blog about some of those experiences. Author's note: One of my major hot buttons is customer service.

Last weeks' business trip involved 8 legs to visit three customers in three cities.

Story 1:

I'm in IAD (Dulles airport, Washington DC) in the United departure lounge, waiting for a 777 flight to Denver. Across the aisle is the departure lounge for an overdue United 747 departure for Frankfurt. These are smallish departure lounges, and it is hot and crowded.

The pilot for the 747 Frankfurt flight, in jacket and with four stripes, came into the departure lounge and made an announcement regarding the delay. The gist of his announcement was "Hi, my name is {insert name here}, I am your pilot for your flight to Frankfurt. We had a mechanical problem, some of you probably saw the guys with the wrenches under the engine, then wondered why we left without you -- after they had the problem fixed I took the aircraft up and did a loop around the airport to check everything out, all is fine, and we'll start boarding for our trip to Frankfurt in the next five minutes."

The passengers applauded.

Story 2:

In my hotel room in Reno, American calls me on my cell phone and lets me know that my 1:00pm flight to Chicago will depart at 1:45. Thanks, no problem.

I get to RNO and the flight is now scheduled for a 2:40 departure. We leave after 3pm. An obtuse comment about the delayed departure from the captain on one of the announcements, and I've got it figured out - the previous day's flight crew snagged something, and nobody from maintenance did anything about it overnight. They weren't waiting for a part - they didn't even order the part. Maintenance activity started when today's flight crew arrived at the 757, read the snag in the log, inquired about the resolution, and then maintenance got started.

My 2:45 layover in Chicago was reduced to 35 minutes, 25 of which were spent going from gate to gate.

Story 3

I arrive at my Chicago departure gate 13 minutes before departure, and I'm not checked in (since I had such a long layover scheduled at ORD, the checkin would happen there not in RNO). The United/Ted flight ORD-YOW was actually operated by Skywest. They had closed the flight, since all passengers had been boarded. They looked at the paper trail, listened to me curse American, determined that the door was still open, gave me a boarding pass and walked me down to the aircraft.

Astoundingly, my checked baggage made it onto the aircraft, despite the quick change involving a late-arriving aircraft, two different airlines, and two different terminals.


I've flown American Airlines very few times. It's never been a clean, happy experience. How do these guys stay in business??

Friday, August 31, 2007

Classic Air Ralleye

Last Saturday the wife of my youth (and today) celebrated our 28th anniversary. "We" celebrated it by attending the Classic Air Rally (she has a lot of patience, not only during the exhibit day but also for 28 years). This is an annual fly-in at the Canadian Aviation Museum.

Vintage Wings Canada had a display of a Spitfire, a Mustang, a Harvard, and a Fox Moth, and another display with the internal workings of a Merlin.

There were 4 Republic SeaBees in attendence both in static attendence and a fly-by. This is one beautiful bird - or really ugly, depending on your perspective. Definately a practical, high utility, aircraft.

There a hangar beside the main museum where ?Northwinds? is restoring several aircraft, and they had a guided tour.

Free admission to the main museum was also offered. This is an impressive collection, with many "only one of two surviving in the world" units.

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera at home, so I have only a few really ugly grainy pictures. I may add them to this post later.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Security Lockdown

Whenever possible I like to fly direct - it is one less opportunity for the airline to misdirect your luggage, and on a direct flight you are not at risk of screwy things happening at an intervening airport.

Last trip I flew Ottawa-Toronto-Heathrow due to unavailability of seats on the direct YOW-LHR flight. The 320 we flew to YYZ had a problem with a sensor relating to the ground spoilers, and after some failed attempts to reset the gizmo, the flight deck got on the phone with maintenance to confirm (45 minutes later) that this was not a Minimum Equipment List items. Fortunately we had enough fuel to fly to Toronto without going back to the gate to tank up, so we could arrive 15 minutes after my connecting flight to LHR had left. AC put me on the next flight, I got to fly in the triple-7, and my suitcase arrived about 6 hours after I did.

On the current trip I flew Ottawa-Montreal-Heathrow, so my flight would depart at 20:30 instead of 18:00 (more time with family on the Saturday). When we arrived at Montreal the International departures area was in a lockdown.

We never get the full story on this at the time, of course, and Transport Canada isn't going to share their Standard Operating Procedures, but the airline was quick to point out that they were not the cause of all the delayed flights, and stated that there was a problem with the security checkpoints.

Apparently some Einstein took a knife through security into the international departures area. TC responded by removing all passengers from all aircraft, and all passengers from the area, and searched the area and all the aircraft. Total delay was 3 hours, though my flight was delayed "only" 1:40. Nothing to do except walk up and down the hallways, enjoy some kiwi gelato, and wait for the system to sort itself out.

At least my suitcase arrived at Heathrow at the same time I did.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

200kmph at 0' AGL

I am currently on a business trip. Yesterday was Munich.

Alas, I didn't have my camera with me, for at the entrance to the airport there is a static display of (I think) three vintage aircraft.

On the freeway / autobahn, from the airport to the hotel, the taxi (a very nice Benz) achieved a top speed of 200 kilometers per hour.

I've been terrified in a taxi in Manhatten, and a few other places. Not here - this guy knew how to drive, and kept his head well in front of the vehicle.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Smithsonian - Enterprise

Wayyyy back when NASA was designing the Shuttle, Star Trek fans started a huge campaign to have the first one named Enterprise. That plan was successful in the naming, but it resulted in the first test flight vehicle receiving the Enterprise name.

Enterprise was a test vehicle. All systems (computer, hydraulic, power generation, power distribution, control surfaces) had to be tested, as well as aerodynamics, structural integrity, gliding, handling and so forth. It's loaded with sensors, such as temperature and strain. It has never had "real" engines mounted in it, it was never sent into space (nor will it ever be sent into space). It was "launched" from the back of the 747's NASA uses to move the orbiters around. For the first landings it didn't even have landing wheels, but used skids instead.

It was one of two vehicles to have ejection seats (Columbia, the first orbiter to go into space, also had ejection seats for the first few flights - these were removed when Columbia entered regular service).

As a long-time follower of space programs, I knew the dimensions, weight, various capacities, unique manufacturing techniques etc. of the shuttles - but until I saw it in person I never realized just how honking huge these vehicles are. NASM also has Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules nearby - you can put a Mercury capsule into the back of a pickup truck, those things were tiny!

As you first enter the "Space Exploration" wing the SR71 would be immediately behind you. Rockest are ahead on the right, and the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo capsules are ahead on the right. And dead ahead is Enterprise.

Only a wannabe pilot would take a picture of the nose gear. The entire shuttle flight, including the landings, can be flown by the onboard computers (and for many phases of flight the flying must be done by the computers, as humans don't react quickly enough), but the gear bays can be opened, and the gear lowered, only by the onboard crew manually flipping a switch - the wires don't (normally) exist so the onboard computers cannot get that command to the hardware. There is no gear retraction capability, so the inadvertant deployment of the landing gear (for example, due to a computer program bug) would be an uncorrectable error, resulting in the guaranteed loss of the vehicle and crew upon re-entry. Recently the shuttles have been equipped with a short cable, so that if there is a major heat shield problem the cable would be installed, the shuttle would return unmanned (the crew would stay behind on the ISS if that was in the flight profile) with this little cable between here&there - so the gear can be deployed by computer

You can see the thickness of the tiles - about 6 inches IIRC.

The entry/egress hatch is on the left front side of the vehicle - at the round red dot below, behind the scaffolding. The crew-inhabitable section of the orbiter is the tile-covered area at the front, to the left of the "Enterprise" (you can see the lines of the cargo bay doors). The crew compartment is on three levels, with the lowest level being storage. On a full shuttle the flight deck carries 4 individuals, and four more (normally only three more) ride on the second level.

And below we have one the Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSME). Pound-for-pound, these are some of the most powerful engines ever built. Their fuel, lquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, flows into the shuttle through a 17" diameter pipe, and is then divided between the three engines. The fuelmixing/burning chamber is about 10" in diameter - the size of a basketball. Most of the burn is in the nozzle. One of the common questions on the newsgroup asked about wearing a space suit and hitching a ride into space. It wouldn't work - the noise level in the engine chamber would turn you into jelly within a few seconds.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Smithsonian - SR71

I had two hours to kill before a flight back (business trip) from Washington. Sitting in an airport bar for 4 hours is not my idea of a fun time. Besides, if you go through security at Dulles well before a flight then they get suspicious and sent you through the extended security check (the sniffer machine, digging through luggage, etc).

So I made my way to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The museum is in a corner of Dulles airport, and the transfer bus to the museum (or back to the terminal) is 50 cents.

Except for two exhibits (one is a Cessna, one is a simulator with a long lineup), NASM is a no-touch museum. It's huge. I had minimal time, so I flew through the place. There is an IMAX theatre, but I didn't have the time (this trip).

Greeting you after security is the SR-71 Blackbird. Upon retirement, it was flown from Palmdale California to Washington/Dulles/NASM, a flight which took 68 minutes and 17 seconds.

Here's the bird, nose-on.

Friday, August 10, 2007


[This is a story from a while ago - passenger access to the flight deck is now strictly verbotten.]

A "snowbird" is a Canadian term for someone (usually a senior or retiree) who spends most of the year in Canada, but heads to the south for an extended visit during the winter. Many snowbirds own a condo or trailer or house down south. The popular locations are Arizona and Florida.

My mom is a snowbird, spending 4 or 5 months a year in Phoenix, rather than winter in Northern Ontario. For her first winters she/we would drive both ways so she can take more luggage, her dog, and her car. One year, when I was driving her back, I left Ottawa at 6am, arrived in Phoenix in the early afternoon, and by 3pm we were on the road back home. That was the last car trip - she's getting on in years, shouldn't be driving that distance (4-6 days in a car is tiring), and she couldn't see the sense of taking 6 days to make the trip when she could do it in 6 hours.

In the fall (of 1999, I think) I had driven her down, and was flying back. I had some expired upgrade coupons, but the aircraft was only one-third full so the gate agent said "why not?", and upgraded me from budget tourist el-cheapo to business class.

After enjoying the meal and the wine, I noticed that the flight deck door was open. Myself and two other pax spent the trip on the flight deck. The captain was the PNF and chatty, the FO was doing all the system monitoring and was flipping the jeppesen charts to the next available airport.

Flying over southern Ontario it was absolutely clear. At that time I lived in the area, and I could point out the small towns and name them - the crew could name only those with an airport.

I got the jump seat for the landing in Toronto. It was a Saturday evening and things were very quiet, but we did some racetracks northwest of YYZ - apparently there was a new software load in the ATC computers, and they were being very careful with the traffic load for the first few hours.

The captain did the landing - and he greased it.

Thanks to OBL et al, flying the jumpseat on that flight will likely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Driving Lessons

My daughter is learning how to drive. Dad (moi) is sitting in the right seat as we slowly roll around the parking lot of ScotiaBank Place. After she gets the basics under control we went for a drive on the quiet back roads, then residential areas.

My hands were firmly clenched around the door handle most of the time. She didn't hit anything, or even come close, but I had more than a few nervous moments.

I can only imagine how clunky my flying looks to my instructor. But she has dual controls.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Airborn once again

After spending most of yesterday digging crabgrass out of the dirtpile that used to be my front lawn, today I decided that it was time to break the 8 month 8 day drought.

Today I went on a flying lesson.

I qualify with "lesson" because I've flown 25 legs (I think) so far this year due to work. And last Sunday I engaged a pilot and aircraft to take a friend and I sight-seeing tour around Ottawa. But it was time for me to drive.

Before leaving home I read through all of my notes from the last spate of lessons, and arrived somewhat prepared, but fully expecting that I've forgot most everything. We started with a very brief pre-flight briefing, but she (and I) thought it best to have a list of things to do, get back into the air, get to know each other, and get a realistic assessment of what the next steps will need to be.

I did the W+B correct (I asked the instructor to check it in detail since it had been so long since I completed that last one), pre-flighted the bird, then we climbed aboard. I scanned through the checklist and realized that I had not checked the (wooden) Sensenich propeller, so I called myself on the oversight and climbed out, did the check, then climbed back in.

Run-up etc - good (but slow due to unfamiliarity with the checklists).

Taxi - good. I think back to the drunken-sailor taxiing I did when first learning, today was decent (the Eclipse does not have nose-wheel steering, so it's rudder and tow brakes). I may have set a land speed record when backtracking, comment was that I should be slower - but at least the rudder was effective.

Take-Off - one of my best (so far). I've managed to create a few hairy take-offs, with wheel barrowing, wild weaving, yank-it-into-the-air-and-nearly-stall, etc... but this one was pretty unremarkable.

Radio work - good, somewhat stumbly due to rust.

Upper air work - turns good, altitude holding poor, straight flight (including drift) not bad.

Slow flight - not bad. No problem with stall recognition and recovery. I was always trying to hold the nose way up until we have a honking good stall and then recover (student procedure), but in The Real World you start recovery at the first sign of a stall.

Turns - OK. I hold altitude better in a right turn than in a left turn.

HASEL, observation, eyes-outside - very good.

Climbs and Descents - good. Actually, I spent most of the day climbing because I tended to lose altitude in turns, and because we were doing stall recovery practice.

Slips - new. I had not had a lesson those in power flight, flew a few in a glider some time back, and we covered those today. I think I want the rudder pedals a bit closer next time.

Circuits - I'd never done circuits before, always just coming in for a landing. But we did two touch&go, followed by a full stop, with a gentle 80 degree crosswind. Flared a bit high on the second T&G with a somewhat firm Tough, the third (the landing) had a not-too-bad flare and touchdown.

Total Hobbs: 1.7

Next lessons: Slow flight, I need much work on holding altitude in straight flight and turns (no surprise), but ready to start circuits.

Really good: percentage of time with eyes-ouside was very high.

Needs work: Altitude maintenance.

Surprise: I was uncomfortable with slow flight (it used to be fine). 80kt - 120kt was comfortable, when we got slow my spidey sense was tingling. More air time in slow flight will bring this into my comfort zone.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

PSTAR Complete

I did some studying over the past few days for the PSTAR exam. This morning I went to the flight school and wrote the exam. 49/50. I missed a question regarding minimal visual range for helicopters flying through a Control Zone in Special VFR - NOT something that is going to cause me concern. Solo students can't even fly Special VFR, so one has to wonder why TC would have such a question on the pre-SOLO exam. Oh well......

So I now have my Student Pilot Permit. Time to go flying.


Thursday, July 19, 2007


I received notification that the flying school has a new Chief Flight Instructor.

Carpe Diem.

So I visited the school earlier this week and sat down with her for an hour to:
  • Introduce myself,
  • Discuss how I learn (I'm an analystic internalizer connect-the-dots person),
  • Discuss the next steps in my development,
  • All the full-time instructors at the school have changed since I last flew. I wanted to see if I would be happy with her as my primary instructor,
  • Find my ground school exit exam, and see where my areas of weakness are (she couldn't find it),
  • Discuss how best to make up the three Ground School sessions I missed due to business travel,
  • Procedure for writing PSTAR (drop in any time),
  • Had her photocopy my medical certificate for the school's files.
It was a good meeting. We have an action plan.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Itching to fly

Happy Canada Day!!!

So much activity, so little time.

Work is busy - in addition to lots of North American travel, I've been 'across the pond" three time in the last three months for sales calls and business development. Since my job isn't directly in sales my own job (I am a Product Manager) continues, so when I get back home I have to do 4 weeks of work in three.

Aviatrix has a new job! Congratulations to her, I read her blog every day.

I haven't flown since October -and it bites to not be flying. A positive financial change is rumoured, so I'm taking the plunge and re-applying myself.

I have been reading constantly. PSTAR study is ongoing. I need to make-up three sessions from last winter's ground school. And I scored a solidly passing mark on my exit exam from ground school (despite missing a few sessions due to business travel), but it was too far from 100% to satisfy my personal safety standards -- so I have some remedial work to do in both making up the sessions, as well as the knowledge. The objective of the learning is not to pass the exam, it's safety - and it's my butt that up there.

I get emails from the glidng school mailing list, and they are building my desire - the weather has generally sucked in the last few weeks for gliding/soaring, but they are still getting up there and flying. Gliding is the most exquisite way of falling, and I am still lured.

The front hall still needs painting, the front sidewalk needs to be lifted and re-aligned, and the front lawn needs to be re-built. She Who Must Be Obeyed has a list.

My frustration is showing - I really want to go flying again. Based on past history, strong desire the first step in moving forward.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Women Fully Clothed

Last evening the wife of my dreams, myself, and six others went to the show: Women Fully Clothed. They perform about once per month, and from the show schedule it seems to be centred in Ontario (all the women have full-time entertainment jobs, presumably in Toronto).

This show will especially appeal to the middle-aged surburban woman (about 75% of the audience, by my estimate). But husbands of same certainly will appreciate the show. Having been through parenthood is an asset.

If they are performing anywhere in your area, make an effort to see them.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Beware of Thunderstorms

An amazing story today from New South Wales, Australia, where two paragliders unsuccessfully tried to skirt a thunderstorm, got caught in an updraft, and soared to in excess of 30,000 feet.

One died.

35yo Ewa Wisnierska, reached a height of 9947 meters (about 32,600 feet), had no oxygen supply, survived -40C temperatures, encountered hailstones the size of baseballs, and lived to talk about it.

According to her GPS unit, maximum climb rate was just under 4,000 feet per minute.

Ewa, buy a lottery ticket.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Just got back from a business trip, which took me to Columbus Ohio for one day. Due to the winter storm which socked in the US midwest, I spent most of two days there.

We flew there&back in a Dash 8. Going there was low-altitude and in cloud, so I got to watch the wing leading edges ice up, and the infalatable boots blow them off.

KCMH de-ices and anti-ices planes wherever they happen to be. I shudder at all that glycol draining off to wherever - the airports around here have a specific de-icing pad with a catchment system in place.

I changed my flight back online on, and three hours later the changes were not still in the United company. The check-in, which was incredibly inefficient, took forever, but she could not assign a seat. So I went to the gate to get my seat assignment, and I still was not shown as being on the flight, so we did it all again.

Stories from other passengers were "amusing". The weather truly sucked, precipitation was active, and there was rain, freezing rain, and snow, in below-zero temperatues. Streets were tough to go through, cars were parked in the ditch, and the passengers were complaining that they couldn't get where they wanted. An inconvenient combination of a death wish and ignorance of the technicalities of flying?

Airlines really need to work on their communications. One very irate [twit] was chewing out a gate agent (hah- just wait until you want to get a standby seat!) when she explained that a flight was delayed some number of hours, and all he heard was "cancelled".

Me? It flies when it flies. CMH has free wireless, so I got online, read blogs, wrote a report, processed email, and generally kept busy. And got home safe.

And I got to the mall in time to buy the Valentine's Day earrings for my wife.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Flying Bananas

An "artist" has become inspired to build and launch a flying banana over Texas. Approximately 300m in length, filled with helium, unmanned, high-altitude.

Being an artist, he's doing this with OPM (Other People's Money). Frankly, I could think of a few thousand things that would produce more lasting value than floating a yellow banana in the very high altitude over Texas, but woe to anyone who speaks out over funding the Arts.

I support funding "the Arts". Hopefully, someday, we may have the courage to recognize that not all proposed projects in "the Arts" are worthy, some are just tremendously stupid or nondescript ideas.

The banana irks me on two fronts.

First, it's funded by public money. I have no problem if somebody thinks this is a good idea and wants to put money into it. But taxpayer money is also being tossed in. There is also likely indirect tax money (my money) - I'll bet that the private and corporate donors are also writing this off as a donation or a marketing expense on their taxes, and so the oter taxpayers (you and me) are taking up the slack. Go ahead and float your ballon, but don't ask me to pay for it.

Secondly (and this is an aviation blog so there is - finally - an aviation relationship), it is a Really Dumb Idea, technically speaking. For example:
  • Helium is a rare gas, really expensive, and finding 200,000 cubic metres of it for a 1 month lark is going to be a challenge.
  • Helium atoms (molecules) are Really Small - so small they'll (slowly) pass right through even a dense substance such as glass. The plan is to have this thing hover over Texas for a month, and without really terrific materials and contruction the helium will seep out long before that time.
  • Because the thing flies, there are standards to be met. Our artist figures to bypass all the rules by launching from Mexico (apparently he thinks Mexico has no airworthiness standards) and going so high the blimp will technically be in outer space, above the legislative reach of the FAA. Alas, the height required is so high that the banana won't visible from the ground - which rather defeats the original inspiring purpose.
  • What goes up must come down, and this thing is supposed to suddenly magically and simultaenously self-destruct and then burn up on the way to the ground. Of course, what will really happen is that it will start to leak, be unable to maintain altitude, and come fluttering/drifting down in some random location.

Obviously, this guy is not an engineer. Though his website says the project is "in the final stages of engineering", perhaps that is a marketing statement.

If the objective of art is to get people talking and thinking, he has been successful. Hopefully, he'll stop here. It would be a lot cheaper and safer, too.

Friday, February 09, 2007

More paperwork done

Checked the mailbox today, and was pleased to see that another step towards solo flight has been accomplished... my medical certificate has arrived in the mail.

Category 3. And even though my left eye is 20/800 uncorrected (and virtually uncorrectable unless I have a coke bottle lens), my right eye is about 20/25 uncorrected, and 20/20 corrected. The only restriction on the certificate is that I must wear glasses when flying.

Woo hoo.

Radio operator certificate - done.
Medical certificate - done.

Next up - the PSTAR.

I guess I better get flying again. Though I have been travelling weekly on business travel, I've generally been in seat 2C, not the front left one. Dang.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Mid-Winter Celebration

One of the traditions at "my" gliding club is a mid-winter dinner, held just after the mid-point between the end of one gliding season, and the start of the next. The dinner is held in either very late January, or very early February, at a local country hotel. The food is hearty, the conversation vibrant.

Of course, everyone asked me where the blazes I was all last summer, having not shown up at the club once. I then confessed as having moved to the dark side, to power flight from gliding. One of the highlights (lowlights) of the conversation was around cost, where a power lesson approaches CA$250, and a glider rents for CA$21 per hour.

But it got me thinking about what to do for next summer, where I believe I will continue the power lessons to the point of license (or rec permit), and also do some gliding. I'll also get myself on track for flying the tow plane, so I can get hours and lots of circuits, but not have to pay to fly. So I guess I'll need to add a tail-dragger validation as well. All in due time.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Tower Tour

CYRP (my home airport) is just outside the Ottawa control zone, so we fly under the wedding cake north to the practice area, dipsy-doodle around for an hour, lose the appropriate altitude on the way home, circuit, land and we're done. No contact with ATC required.

So the school arranged a tower tour for this afternoon. Sunday is quiet, so having a bunch of wide-eyed students tromping about wasn't an incursion.

We started with a chat in the theatre with the shift supervisor where we got the real-world perspective of how things really work, then went up to the tower itself. We had a tour of the hardware, looked at the screens, enjoyed the view and chatted with the controllers on duty.

No more plastic strips being juggled and passed along like in the old movies... everything was computerized, aircraft existed on the computer screens only, and were passed along by using the touch screens.

One Eagle flight waiting for Philly had been sitting and parked for an hour - most of the eastern US seaboard was under weather. They were sent on their way while we were there, winging off to their destination and hour behind schedule before they even got wheels up.

The tour was an excellent idea. Thanks to this tour, entering a CZ is something I won't approach with apprehension.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Paperwork Gauntlet

The last weeks have been spent on paperwork.

First was the PSTAR exam, for which I have been studying. The exam is 50 questions, selected from a pre-published list of 200 questions. Since the answers are readily available the passing mark is 90%. I tend to be a nut for rules, so I'm studying the guides and working the questions with an objective of learning, rather than just passing this exam. First pass through the questions was easy, but it has highlighted what I don't know (light signals from the tower being the prime example). I figure the knowledge will eventially be required for (a) the PPL exam, and (b) because it may one day save me from getting my butt in trouble, so I'm working the books.

I'm also working on the Category Three medical. Since my left eye is 20/800, I fall under the minimums and, if I pass my medical at all, I'll expect to get a monocular medical. If monocular, my 20/25 right eye has to reach the 20/20 standard, which means I need glasses. So I visited the optometrist before I went to the CAME, ordered the glasses, and am now waiting for them so I can complete that part of the test. And while we're at it, the CAME suggested I get some documentation from my optometrist so I can send the whole mass to the Transport Canada RAME, and have it all considered for approval at once. Oh yes, I also need an ECG.

I do have a backup plan: If there is a problem with the medical certificate then I'll get laser surgery on the left eye, which will bring it into the 20/20 to 20/30 range. I'll then have two eyes within standard, and the certificate is easy to get.

I already have the Restricted Radio Operator's Certificate (legacy of the glider school course).

This will probably all come together at once, with the medical and ground school getting completed at about the same time. The PSTAR I can complete at any time at the flying school.

Advice to new students: Start the process of getting the medical when you commit to taking the lessons. It takes time.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


I've been earthbound for 2 months, but not idle. And not doing much blogging either.

Work has gotten incredibly busy, with long hours per day, travel (1-3 trips per month), and some work on the weekend. Sounds like a crummy schedule for what is supposed to be an office job, but the work is transitional (it won't last forever), exciting (beats the snot out of boring), and even at my ripe old age I'm learning a lot.

Ground school started, and we have progressed to approximately the half done point. There is no doubt in my mind that starting to fly, before ground school, is an asset.

The Christmas season has come and gone, and it is always busy. This year my son came home for a week (he lives out west), and though I had dinner with him only 2 weeks earlier on a stopover through an airport, it was really great to have him home.

Home renovation continues to not get done. Well, it gets done slowly.. a coat of paint will get applied one evening,a nd then nothing happens for 3 weeks. My wife has the patience of a saint.

And my volunteer involvement in soccer peaks at this time of the year, as we're into the AGM and budget season. And I'm treasurer for a soccer club, on the Board for a recreational league and also first VP for the District. I was registrar for the same club, but I've ceased that activity (but am still the reference for the incoming registrar). It's a Good Thing I have reduced my soccer involvement from previous years.

With all this activity, something had to give. At my stage of learning, flying infrequently is not a good use of dollars. While it remains challenging and a fun learning experience, flying once every three or four weeks isn't going to quickly develop my flying capabilities (I'll spend most of a lesson re-learning muscle memory as I blast expensive tunnels in random parts of the sky). I decided to work on the rest of my life, continue my involvement in flying with groundschool, booklearning, PSTAR study, web-browsing, and save the bucks for flying one we get to the spring.

And maybe I'll finish painting the kitchen before 2008.