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.