Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Best Little Whorehouse in Paris

See previous post, to explain why in the name of Beetlejuice I would ever post this.....

In December 1981 I was sent on a one-week business trip to Paris. The trip was excellent, everything we wanted to accomplish was a success (and more), plus I had a chance to tour the city.

I was travelling with some sales reps, and were in serious danger of getting stuck in the hotel bar for much of the trip. The inside of one hotel looks pretty much like the next, as do hotel bars, and so I agitated to get out on the town.

Aside from the Louvre, left bank, Notre Dame, and many other sights, we also toured the local night life. We ended up a good distance from the hotel, in a random direction, and so we caught a taxi to get us home, or closer to home. During the taxi ride someone asked if we were ready to call it a night, and after a short debate we all decided that the night was still young. So we asked the taxi driver to take the five of us to a bar close to the hotel.

Our French was poor, his English was mediocre, but communication was achieved, and he dropped us off in front of the Black Cat... and followed us in?
  • The doorman was black, wore a black tuxedo, and must have been 6'6" - and just as wide. He had no neck.
  • The walls were black.
  • The ceilings were black.
  • The floor was black.
  • Every table in the place was one of those dinky 12" diameter tables that would not hold three beer glasses.
  • Every table came pre-equipped with a stunning woman in a state of minimal dress.
  • There was a beaded curtain at the back of the room, which we noticed when a stunner and a customer got up from their postage-stamp of a table, and retired to whatever was back there.
We stood in the doorway, not wanting to enter, and not brave enough to leave (the taxi driver was standing between us and the street).

I went to the bar and addressed the grey-haired matron, inquiring if she spoke English. Fortunately, she did.
  • How much is a beer? $20.
  • A mixed drink? $20.
  • A coke? $20.
  • Are all the drinks $20? No, the champagne is $100.
I could imagine sitting down, a blond would be at the table, fingers snapped, and a $100 bottle of champagne opened faster than you can say "uh oh".

I went back to the doorway, and told the guys "We have one chance to get out of here, and that is right now." We turned and left.

The taxi driver refused to give us a ride to the hotel - he was peeved because he didn't get his payoff, we assume.

Next day was a touring day for we two techies, while the sales dudes did whatever sales dudes do when the techies are not there to keep them honest. So we walked by the Black Cat (it was about 2 blocks from some government leader's house, which was guarded by some mean-looking dudes with big automatic weapons) and I took a picture.

Some weeks later, as I was showing my pictures to my wife, just after the Eiffel Tower there was a picture of a low-rise building with a Black Cat sign on it. Nancy inquired as to why I would have taken a picture of this random storefront. "Oh, that's the whorehouse we went to."

Three Things

Via Aviatrix, the three things challenge:

The Challenge

  • Post 3 things you've done that you believe nobody else reading has done.
  • If anybody responds with "I've done that," add another thing.
  • Encourage your friends to paste this into their own journal to list the unique things they've done.

My List

  • Visited a whore house in Paris, told my wife about it, and lived to talk about it (this will be explained in the next posting on this blog, or else I am sure everyone will leap to their own conclusions) (what are the chances that a non-anonymous poster will comment "I've done that"?),
  • Roasted a turkey over a campfire in the middle of a Canadian winter,
  • Produced music videos - before MTV (1972-1974)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fall colours - September 29

What can you write about circuits when you've been flying them for what seems forever?

Though the fall colours have come out in the last week, and it looks like it will be a spectacular year.

Pre-flight I found my first snag - the nosewheel valve stem had no cap. Temperature was above freezing and there was no moisture, so we took the aircraft anyway. Noted it so the staff could find a valve stem cap and install it.

Slight crosswind from the right on 28, but no gusts. I did three touch&go, then three low&over, then another 5 touch&go and a full stop.

Time: 1.8
Landings: 8

I need more practice with side-slips, so I flew the low& overs at about 100-200 feet AGL to practice moving the aircraft from one side of the runway to the other while the pointy-end stayed aligned with the runway (no yaw). First one was sloppy, the second and third one had some good moments. I need to continue practicing side slips.

Tony Hunt came out and did a touch&go in his Husky, then departed to the west and arrived from the north. Both my instructor and I were confused by "Husky - i.forget - Hotel - Yankee", thinking that we were hearing Whiskey not Husky. The phonetic alphabet works as designed, you can figure out words because no two have the same phonetic construction (Canadian call signs will have Golf, Hotel or India as the first letter - but Tony was giving his aircraft designation).

Landings were all decent, a few were good.

When we got back into the school I remarked to the CFI that they must have done an engineering change to the aircraft, because everything is now happening much slower than it used to. I'm noticing a lot of the other small changes that come with increasing experience... for example, my landings used to be very focused affairs, with tunnel vision on the numbers. Now my vision is much broader - to the point where I have peripheral vision through the flare.

Done well:
  • Softer focus vision
  • Altitude maintenance in circuit (I wandered only once, and then by 50 feet)
  • Traffic management - one other aircraft in the circuit was doing stop&go practice (soft field or short field), and backtracked on each landing. I had to manage my speed and length of downwind so we could co-exist in the circuit.
  • Radio calls - anticipate a busy airspace, keep the information complete and verbiage to a minimum.
  • Landing on the centre line (I had one of the left of the runway, otherwise all landings were on or near the centre of the runway)
  • Smooth finals
  • Minimal yaw at touchdown
  • Calm, slow, gentle responses to deviations from the desired flight path when on final
  • Lots of variations in landing approaches... high, low, gliding, easing off the power at different altitudes from 600 feet (and gliding in) to easing off the throttle while flaring
Needs work
  • Side slips
  • I tried a forward slip when I was very high on an approach - it was mucky and I got somewhat right of the runway - though I did recover with a nice&slow left shuffle, and put it right on the centre line with no yaw.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Crosswinds - September 18

I had booked three hours of flying this morning. based on progress, if things went well, today could have moved into a check ride and solo.

When waking up this morning I didn't feel sharp. Sleep has been disrupted all week, and the schedule is busy so I didn't make it to the gym.

Arrived at the flight school plenty early. Pushed out airplanes, added some oil, checked the weather, and pre-flighted the airplane. Paid special attention to the checklists since I wasn't feeling perky. - That's what checklists are for - to make sure things get done without relying on the brain to remember.


Flying was booked from 8-11am, 12-15Z.

METAR CYOW 181300Z 35010G17KT 15SM FEW020 BKN050 09/04 A3036 RMK CU1SC6 SLP283=
METAR CYOW 181200Z 35013KT 15SM FEW016 BKN050 BKN070 09/05 A3033 RMK CF1SC5AC1 SLP273=

350 True is 80 degrees to the right of runway 28 (280 Magnetic), or effectily a direct crosswind. 10 knots, gusting to 17 knots, aside from being a strong gust, was going to be interesting since the maximum crosswind component for landing this airplane is 20 knots.


During taxi the weather-vaning was serious, and I had full rudder and often a touch on the brakes, to stay on the centre line for the backtrack.

Takeoff was smooth, including a touch of left rudder (normally you need a bunch of right rudder as you apply power).

As soon as we got airborne I had a 20 degree crab into the wind to stay on runway heading.

And we were bouncing all over the place - the air was very unstable, especially for early in the day.

Flying was fine. My first downwind was a bit far from the runway since the wind had blown me south on the crosswind leg. I corrected on the subsequent circuits.

Tracking on final was difficult. I had right aileron and left rudder applied, and was still drifting somewhat left. On the first landing I did an overshoot since I was well left of the centre line, to the point of being too close to the edge of the runway.

To handle a crosswind landing one uses a side slip, with the aileron (the stick) into the wind. This generates a slow gentle turn into the wind, at the same time that the wind is blowing you back. Done correctly, the two cancel out and your ground track is straight to the runway. Because you have right aileron the nose of the airplane will be off to the right, which you correct with left rudder.

Today we had gusting crosswinds, mechanical turbulence close to the threshold of 28, and a few interesting wind shears (airspeed suddenly dropping from 60 knots to 40 knots, with a stall speed of 34 knots, can be exciting). All in all, this taxed my limited experience in handling crosswinds.

It was good to practice, since I hadn't seen much crosswind lately. But the landings were all hectic. I got better as the lesson progressed, and even landed on the centre line a few times, but it wasn't worth continuing with the nasty gusts.

And there is no way that a rookie student should fly solo in those gusts.

Things done well:
  • Patience on the landings - even when things are bouncing close to the ground, just working through them and not over-reacting,
  • Take-offs - even in the crosswinds,
  • Flare, and being patient while waiting for the ground to arrive,
  • Reaction time when gusts, or wind-shear, hit.
  • Yaw control was acceptable.
Things to improve:
  • Crosswind landing - I needed more stick to handle the crosswind, but was reluctant to apply it.
Time: 0.9
Landings: 5

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Round and round we go

Son of a gun, it is coming together!!!

The low-level practice, and having patience, is making all the difference. Several dozen (several hundred? it seems that way) landings ago I was alarmed at seeing the ground rushing up at me, and landing was a great big panic. Now it seems to proceed along quite nicely, there is lots of time, I think I know what to do, and there is lots of time to control the aircraft.

Wx was light occasional rain, ceiling variable between 1200 and 1500 feet above ground level. Several aircraft in the circuit.

Today's first takeoff was one of my best. Tracking the centre line dead-on. Rotate the nose, and let the plane fly when it is ready. I had been doing some reading, and the suggestion was to get the nose up and keep accelerating down the runway - the plane will fly when it is ready. It works! And is very smooth.

Circuits good. Some days (when distracted) I blast right through 1000 AGL, or don't track. Today went well.

Had one aircraft arriving from the north, crossing over the airport and joining the mid-left downwind. He announced as being over the airport as I was coming in on the downwind (having stayed in the circuit after takeoff), we I couldn't see him, and we were both closing in on the join between the downwind and the mid-left entry point. This is no time to keep sky-searching, so I called a 360 and did an orbit, then re-joined the downwind. Unfortunately I ended up doing the downwind rather close to the airport, but still shed the altitude by getting out the boards, getting the speed down to 60 knots (best L/D is 73 knots), and had a glide right in to the touch&go. Instructor approved the decisiveness when faced with the uncertain position of the closing aircraft.

I landed on the centre line a few times, greased a few landings, but had a few mild bounces.

On one landing the instructor added some right rudder to counter-act yaw, and there was another realization.... I didn't think the aircraft needed any rudder, when what actually happened was that I didn't need to add any rudder because it was being added for me. So we did the remaining 5-6 circuits with a running commentary from me.. I just talked about what I was seeing, what I was doing about it, so the instructor could determine what I wasn't doing, and what I wasn't doing yet. That way, he could determine what I was missing (and apply correction to keep us safe and minimize the wear&tear on the aircraft), and avoided having him try to guess what needed to be done (when maybe I just hadn't done it yet).

One uglier landing: I flared through cruise and into nose-up, gained some altitude, and applied a tiny bit of power since the aircraft needed the energy to have a gentle descent. Unfortunately, it needed a slightly bigger nudge of power. As we were coming down I just gave it more and more nose-up, the timing was decent, and so the landing was a bit harder, and no bounce.

Easiest and nicest landings were ones where I carried lots of altitude and eased the power to idle, then just glided in to a landing.

A few times I carried some altitude to the threshold and then eased off, had the altitude to handle the power cut, solidify the new attitude and flare through the landing.

I had one landing where I eased off the power while rotating through the flare - and that worked not too badly. Must practice that some more - there will be landings where you need to add power to get to the runway, and then have to ease off the throttle at a low altitude and low speed.

I did one landing where I started the flare comfortably high, but it was nice and slow, and that was a good landing. Landing is a good time to not rush things.

For the final landing I suggested a simulated forced landing at the airport. Chopped power, pointed at the threshold, traded airspeed for altitude, got to best cruise, did the cause check (oh my, throttle is at idle), had lots of altitude so went to full flaps, then kicked in a forward slip and rode that down from 1100AGL down to 200AGL. We crossed the threshold perhaps 300 feet AGL, lined up with the runway, smoothly removed the slip, and glided in to a decent landing.

Landings: 8
Time: 1.2

I'm buzzed. It is coming together.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Goal Setting


"On a cold afternoon in February, the vision of flying a powered aircraft for the first time in Canada came to be when the Silver Dart took to the air above the frozen waters of the Bras d'Or Lakes in cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

This inaugural Canadian aviation feat on February 23rd, 1909, was the result of innovative thinking, entrepreneurial spirit, unrelenting determination and a talented team of experts who had a common vision."

My goal: PPL by February 23, 2009

Monday, September 01, 2008

Wave to your Audience - September 1

I didn't have a few of the required tools to perform consistently smooth landings, so The last few lessons were with the Chief Flight Instructor (CFI), a level 1 instructor. I wanted to bust through the plateau, and a change in teaching methodology is one way to do that.

And so today (12 days after the last lesson), in mid-afternoon (usually the height of the daily thermal activity and usually with increasing winds), we went flying again.

I was concerned with the layoff, so I did some reading and some visualizing, to reactivate the little grey cells.

Pre-flight, taxi, take-off, flying, radio work, all were fine. There were a few thermals, and a bit of mechanical turbulence, but they were easy to handle. I found a balloon in the final if at a higher altitude, and sink at lower altitudes. The centre line tracked reasonably well, yaw on approach and landing was much less (but not yet zero), flare was at a decent height, never did a stick-push, and added a nudge of power if we bounced or flared upward to minimize the descent rate.

For the first time I had enough bandwidth on final approach to easily see the runway numbers track up and down the windscreen, so I could adjust power and pitch to maintain a landing target. Until now I had been doing this as an approximation - and it was hard to do anyway when bouncing and yawing down the approach.

When we started there was no traffic - we actually sat on the threshold at the take-off position for a minute doing a visual re-acquaintance with cruise attitude, yaw (over the nose) and looking at the wings' angle with the side of the runway. This had been a glorious long weekend here in Ottawa, so maybe everyone was at the cottage, park or in their backyard?

As circuits progressed we were joined by lots of traffic. Approaches from all angles, different aircraft. Wayyyyyy back that I couldn't do radio calls and fly at the same time, now there is a visual acquisition to be performed, while tracking altitude and direction, making a mental inventory of traffic, remembering call signs, and making radio calls.... while the pre-landing checklist is completed.

I greased the first landing. Several were performed with no reminders or coaching. All were near the centre line. One had the nosewheel on the centre line. Most had minimal or no yaw.

Time: 1.2
Landings: 7

Things to improve next time:
  • Power management - easing off the power earlier, or doing it in the flare itself if I need the power to get to the runway.
  • We had a few mild bounces as I ran out of energy before I ran out of altitude.
  • Keeping in the rudder, to eradicate the yaw right to touchdown. I have a habit of releasing the rudder as we're about to land.
  • On the whole, I'm just a bit behind the activity on the landings. Something happens, it takes a wee bit of a time to react. That reaction time is decreasing, but needs to decrease further.
What I did well:
  • The flare - the timing is getting pretty decent. Nothing scary today, and a few landings were slick.
  • If the nose gets up during the landing, a nudge of power and continue to land the plane. No stick-pushes.
  • Final approach - not quite on rails, but only minor control inputs were required. There was a bit of mechanical turbulence today that I reacted to - a bit late, rather than as it happened.
  • Power and attitude management on final.
As for the "Wave to your Audience" title - I was trying to land the plane. Wrong method. Correct method is to fly the plane (at a very low altitude) until it lands. After flying to cruise attitude, sometimes this means being very patient as speed and altitude bleed off and the nose comes up - and this is where my instructor coined the "wave to your audience" phrase. What I was doing was getting the plane on the ground. What I needed to do was to just be patient, keep flying, and let it land.

All in all, it was a very re-assuring, and good, day.

At the debrief, the CFI was well-pleased. Apparently I have all the tools, and what I now need is practice. I'm back to my primary instructor for the next few lessons, then a checkride with the CFI, then solo.