Apr 30, 2007

When the Fire Goes Out...

What’s worse than an engine on fire? How about two engines with no fire at all - that is a dual flame-out, on a twin-engine airliner!

Pilots often talk about “losing an engine” and except for the odd case where engines have actually parted company with the rest of the airframe (was it something I said?), what we are really referring to is the loss of engine thrust.

When I worked as Second Officer on the Boeing 727 we passed considerable time in the flight simulator practicing the drill for Two Engines Failed. Lack of thrust wasn't the only challenge with this configuration. The limited hydraulic and electrical power available from the last-surviving engine caused several complications. Notably the flaps and landing gear required special procedures to extend them, and once extended, retracting them was not necessarily an option.

Soon after upgrading to First “O” on the DC-9, I found myself wondering what the procedure was in case of losing two engines. To my surprise as I flipped through all the back corners of the emergency procedures chapters I found nary a reference. If there’s no checklist for it, it can’t happen. Right? Uh huh.

A few other folks must have been wondering the same thing because soon the two-engine flame-out drill did show up. But I didn't wait for that. The next time I was at the simulator I set up several landing scenarios with both engines dead and developed my own procedures. The Airbus came 'factory-equipped' with an All Engines Out drill - more on that next time.

In the meanwhile, a few incidents of multiple engine-failures:


Apr 25, 2007

It's a lulu

This time I found a book in the self-publishing genre that looks well worth the price:



by Jim Clonts

This item rated Teen Teen by its creator.

Price: select the products you want to purchase

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    Buy as Paperback book
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This is the true memoir of one US Air Force navigator’s journey from the schoolhouses of Air Training Command to the nuclear alerts of the Cold War to combat in a 35-year-old anachronism called the B-52. It is a first-hand account of life during the last days of Strategic Air Command, the early day of Air Combat Command and the ensuing military drawdown of the 1990s. From peacetime training exercises across the globe to combat operations in Desert Storm, Jim Clonts takes the reader inside the cockpit where life and death are seconds apart. Often comical, sometimes heart-pounding, other times tragic, WHEN PENGUINS FLEW AND WATER BURNED takes you into the world of military aviation, a crucible where warriors learn the true nature of character, conscience and mortality.


Jim Clonts Book is Exceptionally Well Written 7 Feb 2007
Jim Clonts has written an exceptional personal account of the life of a B-52G Nav. I found that I could not put the book down. Mr. Clonts writes a truly personal account filled with pride, patroitism, fear, humor, and at times sheer terror. His account of activities on the Island of Diego Garcia during Desert Shield/Storm were particularily riveting for me, as Mr. Clonts served alongside my fellow patriots of the 42nd Bomb Wing. This book will not disappoint. Any true fan of the B-52 will love this.

Apr 22, 2007

Too Good to Miss...

I don't know how long the Smart Cockpit website has been around, but I've just discovered it. It's not often I find a site this good with so much free information available for download.

I'm adding this to my sidebar of Favorite Links, but I think it is worth calling attention to for aviation buffs and professional pilots alike.

Check it out:

A Day in the Life (17) Up, Up and Away...

A description of a typical day's flight from Montreal to Vancouver and back - as a backdrop for a detailed, non-technical description of what an airline pilot does. (check left hand column for series index).

Log Entry 2003 - A320 Capt - CYUL - Initial Climb

Elapsed Time: Take-Off plus ...

The excitement of taking off is followed by the intensity of the inital climbout. But the peak danger is past now as increasing speed and altitude translate into more options and greater safety.

At four hundred feet AGL we can make any turns required by the departure procedure. This morning it’s just a straight climbout. The flight director guide bars command the appropriate pitch angle to keep the speed hovering just above V2, our ideal climb speed.

The Altimeter tape scoots past sixteen hundred and twenty feet, which is fifteen hundred above the runway, so FO Paula reaches up and smoothly pulls the thrust levers back to the climb detent. This is Auto-Thrust’s signal to fully engage and reduce the engines to climb power. This mode change is announced across the top of our PFDs (Primary Flight Displays), and we hear the reduction in the noise around us.

FO Paula makes the callout, “Climb, Open Climb.”

Autothrust will keep the engines at climb setting while the vertical nav program varies the pitch attitude to maintain the proper speed profile. I notice my flight display agrees as I switch the VHF radio from tower frequency to the departure controller.

“Montreal Departure, GooseAir one-eleven is off zero-six right, out of one thousand eight hundred for five thousand.”

“Roger GooseAir one-eleven. After three thousand turn left heading three three zero, climb and maintain flight level two five zero..

I repeat the numbers and he confirms my readback with a quick “roger.”

This morning FO Paula has chosen to stick-handle the airplane for a while, so she calls out the new altitude and I set it in the auto-flight control window. As soon as we clear the three thousand foot noise abatement requirement she calls for the new heading and I set three hundred and thirty degrees into the heading command window. “Speed push,” she continues. I give the speed control knob a gentle nudge and watch as the flight director guide bars respond. FO Paula lowers the nose and banks the aircraft in response.

“Flaps Zero,” she calls as we accelerate past the magenta speed bug on the ASI tape. I move the lever out of the gate into the zero notch and glance at the flap and slat position indicators. They move normally. In a few seconds they indicate proper retraction.

“Flaps zero, Gear’s up,” I call and with that the initial climb phase is complete. "You're working me to death over hear," I tease. "Can I go back to sleep now?"

"Just a little longer and you can continue your beauty rest all the way to Vancouver," she assures me.

Thankfully the after take-off procedure is short and sweet. A quick scan of the MCDU and flight instruments. The landing lights remain to be retracted at ten thousand feet. The best check list is no check list. So simple.

Elapsed Time: Take-Off plus four minutes and counting...

A320 Take Off Pattern

Apr 21, 2007

Required Rate of Climb?

All jet transport take-offs are planned to meet specific minimum climb constraints in case of an engine failure. Of course engine-out performance is more critical for a two-engined aircraft than for a three or four-engined version. When we lose an engine on a twin our remaining performance falls to less than half.

To meet a gradient of 200 feet climb per nautical mile, at a climb speed of 120 kts (i.e. 2 nm/minute) this translates to a 400 fpm rate of climb on a single engine. Climbing at 180 knots, we'd need a vertical speed of 600 feet per minute. So generally, our normal two-engine climb rate never gets much below 1,000 feet per minute.

With a lightly-loaded A319, which has a better power-to-weight ratio than the A320, I've seen the VSI hit almost 5,000 fpm. That's just plane fun! (pun intended - sorry).

These are very general numbers to convey the concept. For a more technical discussion of climb requirements, here's an excellent article:

Transport Canada > Civil Aviation > Civil Aviation Publications > TP 185 - Aviation Safety Letter

Obstacle Clearance During Takeoff
by Captain Robert Kostecka, Civil Aviation Safety Inspector, Foreign Inspection, International Aviation, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

A failure to understand some of the important aspects of aircraft performance can have a tremendous impact on flight safety. It is not hard to imagine a situation where a lack of aircraft performance knowledge could have catastrophic consequences.

Let’s assume that you are the Captain of a Transport Category jet aircraft that is about to depart from Québec City on a flight to Europe. Tonight your aircraft will be very heavy. You are carrying a full load of passengers and are tankering extra fuel. The weather is 300 ft overcast, 1 mile in rain showers. As you taxi to position on Runway 06, you review the Québec Two Departure again: “Climb to ‘BV’ NDB then track 064° outbound...” maintain 4 000 ft.

You advance the thrust levers and the aircraft accelerates down the runway. Your First Officer calls “V1,” then“rotate” and you smoothly pitch the nose up. As the aircraft lifts into the night sky, your First Officer advises, “positive rate,” and you reply, “gear up.”

Just after you become airborne, the No. 2 engine fails. Instinctively, you apply rudder to control the yaw and adjust your pitch attitude. You fly the aircraft smoothly and precisely. Your many years of training appear to be paying off. It flies just like the simulator, you quietly think to yourself.

As per your company’s standard operating procedures (SOP), you engage the autopilot, select heading mode and call for the engine failure drill. You continue to follow the Québec Two Departure: “Climb to ‘BV’ NDB then track 064° outbound...” As your First Officer proceeds with the drill, the ground-proximity warning system suddenly barks:“Too low, terrain.” This can’t be right, you think, as your heart races. Your eyes dart to the vertical speed indicator. It indicates that you are in a steady climb. But the radar altimeter only shows 100 ft—and it is decreasing rapidly. You have no time left to understand what is happening.

How could this occur? Why would an aircraft that is being flown smoothly and precisely impact the ground? Aren’t Transport Category aircraft supposed to have sufficient climb performance—even with an engine failure? Isn’t obstacle clearance guaranteed if we fly the published instrument departure procedure? Most importantly, how can we ensure that an accident like this doesn’t actually happen? These are important questions. In answering them, we’ll review some of the important issues of aircraft performance.

It is vitally important for pilots and air operators to realize that the obstacle clearance provided by a published instrument departure procedure is based on all-engine aircraft performance. Following a published instrument departure procedure will not necessarily guarantee obstacle clearance following an engine failure.

To begin, we must understand the obstacle clearance requirements for published instrument departure procedures. These can be found in Transport Canada publication TP 308, Criteria for the Development of Instrument Procedures. TP 308 states that an obstacle clearance plane, with a slope of 152 ft/NM, is required. Aircraft must remain above the obstacle clearance plane and are expected to maintain a climb gradient of 200 ft/NM. In the event that an obstacle penetrates the normal obstruction clearance plane, a climb gradient greater than 200 ft/NM is specified. This is the case in Québec City on runway 30, where aircraft are expected to climb at least 290 ft/NM.

It is vitally important for pilots and air operators to realize that the obstacle clearance provided by published instrument departure procedures is based on all‑engine aircraft performance. In the event of an engine failure, the aircraft may not be able to achieve the required climb performance. Following a published instrument departure procedure will not necessarily guarantee obstacle clearance following an engine failure.

The aircraft’s climb performance with an engine inoperative may not meet the obstacle clearance requirements provided in published instrument departure procedures.
The aircraft’s climb performance with an engine inoperative may not meet the obstacle clearance requirements provided in published instrument departure procedures.

The regulations require airline operators to limit weight during takeoff so that the aircraft will clear all obstacles during takeoff—even with a failure of the most critical engine. Subsection 705.57(1) of the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs), Net Take-off Flight Path, specifies that, “No person shall conduct a take-off in an aeroplane if the weight of the aeroplane is greater than the weight specified in the aircraft flight manual as allowing a net take-off flight path that clears all obstacles by at least 35 ft vertically or at least 200 ft horizontally within the aerodrome boundaries, and by at least 300 ft horizontally outside those boundaries.” (The “net take-off flight path” is the aircraft’s actual or “gross flight take-off flight path”—that was determined through flight testing—decreased by a margin. For two-engine aircraft, the gradient is reduced by 0.8 percent. This margin is intended to account for less-than-perfect pilot technique and slight degradations in aircraft performance.)

Airlines comply with this regulation by considering the obstacles in the take-off path and verifying that their aircraft will clear all obstacles by the required margin. In addition to obstacles, this analysis considers all of the factors that could affect the takeoff: the characteristics of each individual runway—including the slope, pressurealtitude, ambient temperature and wind component. This information is used to produce special charts that are known as Airport Analysis Charts. (Some air operators refer to their Airport Analysis Charts as WAT Charts.)

Airport Analysis Charts specify the maximum allowable weights for takeoff under various conditions. This data is based on the aircraft following a specified engine-out path during the takeoff. The airline may choose to follow the published instrument departure procedure or they may choose a straight-out path, along the extended runway centreline, as their standard engine-out flight path.

In some cases, because of high terrain or other obstacles, following the published instrument departure procedure or a straight out path will not provide the required obstacle clearance following an engine failure. In these cases, “special” engine-out departure procedures—that allow obstacles to be avoided laterally—are provided. These special procedures include a turn (or a series of turns), as well as the specific headings or tracks that must be flown in order to avoid obstacles.

In our fictional engine failure during takeoff that we discussed earlier, the aircraft ran into the high terrain that is northeast of the ‘BV’ NDB. This could have been prevented if the proper engine-out path—on which the Airport Analysis Chart was based—had been followed. This special engine-out procedure required the aircraft to turn right at the ‘BV’ NDB, so that the obstacles could be avoided. (Instead we followed the published instrument departure procedure.)

It is important to understand which procedure has been used to establish the engine-out departure path. If an engine failure occurs, flight crews must know whether they should follow the published instrument departure procedure, fly straight-out on the runway heading, or follow a “special” engine-inoperative procedure.

Weight must be limited so that the net take-off flight path will clear all obstacles by at least 35 ft vertically (CAR 705.57). The“net take-off flight path” is the aircraft’s actual or “gross flight take-off flight path”—that was determined through flight testing—decreased by a margin that is intended to account for less-than-perfect pilot technique and slight degradations in aircraft performance.
Weight must be limited so that the net take-off flight path will clear all obstacles by at least 35 ft vertically (CAR 705.57). The“net take-off flight path” is the aircraft’s actual or “gross flight take-off flight path”—that was determined through flight testing—decreased by a margin that is intended to account for less-than-perfect pilot technique and slight degradations in aircraft performance.

Increasing the altitude for level acceleration and flap retraction (extending the second segment of climb) is another method that is used to ensure obstacle clearance. Pilots must know if the engine-out procedure requires this technique. In addition, if a special engine-out procedure has a turn (or a series of turns), pilots should know whether they should delay flap retraction until after completion of the turn. (This is because of the effect of acceleration on turn radius.)

In an emergency, pilots are authorized to deviate from published instrument departure procedures in order to ensure obstacle clearance with an inoperative engine. (An emergency should be declared as soon as practicable, so that air traffic control is alerted and can take appropriate action.) These special engine-out procedures allow airlines to carry profitable payloads, and still comply with the engine-inoperative obstacle clearance requirements of CAR 705.57, Net Take-off Flight Path.

When obstacles such as high terrain are a factor, it is important to have a way out should an engine fail. Properly-designed engine-inoperative take-off procedures will ensure that the aircraft is able to achieve a safe altitude. These procedures should terminate with the aircraft at minimum radar vectoring altitude, minimum sector safe altitude or 100-mile safe altitude. The obstacle clearance requirements for takeoff described in CAR 705.57, Net Take-off Flight Path, must be complied with until the en route obstacle clearance criteria of CAR 705.58, Enroute Limitations with One Engine Inoperative, can be met. Net take-off obstacle clearance requirements do not always end at 1 500 ft above ground level (AGL) or at an arbitrary distance from the runway.

A diversion to an alternate airport due to poor weather or a medical emergency can pose unique challenges. In addition to having correct take-off data for airports that are normally used by the airline, it is recommended that arrangements be made for obtaining take-off data in the event of an unscheduled diversion. Pilots and dispatchers should know how to obtain accurate take-off data—which properly assesses obstacles—when an aircraft has had to make an unscheduled landing at an unfamiliar airport.

Good airmanship requires us to expect the unexpected. To fly safely, we must anticipate what can go wrong—and develop a plan. The engine-out departure paths, on which the Airport Analysis Charts are based, provide a plan that allows airlines to take off at heavy weights, while still ensuring obstacle clearance in the event of an engine failure.


TP 308, Criteria for the Development of Instrument Procedures
CAR 705.57, Net Take-off Flight Path
CAR 705.58, Enroute Limitations with One Engine Inoperative
TP 12772, Aeroplane Performance

Prior to joining Transport Canada, Captain Kostecka worked as a pilot and instructor for several Canadian airlines. He has flown over 12000 hr and holds a Class 1 Flight Instructor Rating as well as type ratings on the A320, A330, A340, B757, B767, CRJ, DHC-8 and B-25.

Copyright and Credits

The Aviation Safety Letter is published quarterly by Transport Canada, Civil Aviation. It is distributed to all holders of a valid Canadian pilot licence or permit, and to all holders of a valid Canadian aircraft maintenance engineer (AME) licence.The contents do not necessarily reflect official policy and, unless stated, should not be construed as regulations or directives. ...

Reprints of original Aviation Safety Letter material are encouraged, but credit must be given to Transport Canada's Aviation Safety Letter. Please forward one copy of the reprinted article to the Editor.

A Day in the Life (16) - Take Off, Eh!

A description of a typical day's flight from Montreal to Vancouver and back - as a backdrop for a detailed, non-technical description of what an airline pilot does. (check left hand column for series index).

Log Entry 2003 - A320 Capt - CYUL - Take Off

Elapsed Time: Take-Off plus zero

FO Paula smoothly presses the thrust levers forward to set the donuts at thirty percent. When both engines are responding equally she continues pushing smoothly through the climb power detent, clicks again through the slot marked FLEX, to the TO/GA detent (TakeOff/GoAround).

One of the first things pilots have to get used to on jet aircraft is the silence. Where other airplanes during the take-off produce walls of noise and syncopated beats from propellors and exhausts, the jetliner simply accelerates. There may be an increase rush from the overhead airconditioning vents. There may even be a detectable rumble from wing-mounted engines - but if your new jetliner has tail-mounted engines it’s even more likely the takeoff will seem eerily silent.

So we depend upon the needles and guages more than ever to set the power correctly and there may be some seconds of fine-tuning levers to get needles lined up ‘just so’.

But thankfully Airbus has automated away this fiddly process. Once the levers hit the TO/GA detent, the EFCUs (electronic fuel control units) set the engine to Take Off / Go Around . It’s so typically Airbus that they call this setting TOGA which is the legal definition used in certification I suppose. The engine design specs allow us to use this much power for up to ten minutes.

I notice our navigation display shifts slightly now to put us at the beginning of the runway, and then I quickly scan the engine gauges for nominal values as FO Paula releases the levers to me. At GooseAir the captain holds the engine levers until V1 - the decision speed. Up to that moment if something ‘bad’ happens, he only has to snap the power levers to idle and immediately trigger the rejected takeoff.

Today all goes well. We’re heavy so V1 is 160 kts. and it takes nearly a minute of acceleration to get there. Knowing what I do about high speed rejected takeoffs, my tension level rises with the airspeed.

“One hundred,” I call as the ASI reaches one hundred knots. “Roger,” FO Paula responds. This cross-checks our airspeed readings and confirms that the pilot flying is not comatose. It also signals that forward pressure is no longer required on the control stick to aid directional control and finally it reminds us that we are entering the high speed regime in the event of an RTO. Up until now I would have rejected the takeoff for most any irregularity. It’s easier to deal with problems on the ground. But from here on I’ll only reject for significant threats to our safety.

I quickly glance at the engine parameters and then outside and repeat this several times during the roll, hoping the engine temperatures will remain normal. Engine two EGT is slightly higher than number one, but well below the red line. Good.

The airplane lumbers along the runway reminding me we are near our maximum take-off weight. As the speed builds I begin to hear a hum from the nose-wheel below and slightly behind. I've always suspected that someone with a good ear could call Vr (the rotation speed) by that sound alone. "There's "B sharp, wait for it... yes, there's High C! Rotate." Imagining the centrifugal forces at work reminds me that tire failures cause more takeoff incidents than engine failures. Yet in the flight simulator we practice a variety of engine problem scenarios and rarely delve into tire problems.

“Vee one.” The magenta marker on the airspeed "tape" slips past the reference line. I ease my hand off the thrust levers. Then call, “Rotate,” as Vr slides by as well. FO Paula is already easing back on the control stick. The nose of the Airbus lifts. The target rotation rate is 2 to 3 degrees of pitch per second. Any slower would tend to prolong the ground roll. Any faster might also increase the ground run and would certainly increase the chances for a tail strike. The airplane is protected by a skid, but if it hits the runway hard enough to shear the indicator pin a special inspection is required for possible hull damage.

FO Paula is as smooth as usual and the windshield rapidly fills with blue, or at least hazy white this morning. There’s a short hesitation, followed by a solid thump as the main gear legs hit one last rough spot in the runway and then bottom out in their cylinders. We have broken free of the ground. The nose continues to lift until it stabilizes just below fifteen degrees nose-up attitude.

The VSI needle flutters then surges towards positive territory along with the altimeter tape moving skyward.

“Positive rate.”

“Gear Up,” She commands.

I reach across the center panel to flip the wheel-shaped switch up. Gear lights begin flashing through their sequence of red and amber and then wink out as the nose-wheel thuds home beneath us and spins down, buzzing slightly against the brake-pad. The main gear brakes pulse automatically during the retraction to stop the main wheels from spinning in their wells.

The nose gear doors thump closed and the flight deck returns to calm once again. The altimeter says we’re climbing, but not rapidly. The VSI settles in around one thousand feet per minute. But we are airborne and on the way. Up.

Elapsed Time: Take-Off plus...

Apr 19, 2007

New Concorde SST Museum in Barbados

Bridgetown, Barbados, April 17th, 2007

In a spectacular multi-media display which left top-flight guests in awe, the island's latest visitor attraction - the Barbados Concorde Experience - was officially unveiled recently in a ceremony marked with glitz and glamour.

Delivering the feature address, Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Noel Lynch, said that the new facility would help to accelerate Barbados' tourism industry to even higher heights.

Addressing over 350 guests at Spencer's Plantation, Christ Church, the Minister said that the Concorde Visitor Experience would help the island to soar above other destinations.

He explained: "Today's event gives Barbados a stronger branding image which is closely associated with excellence and luxury. The Concorde in-flight attraction would help to place Barbados in a league by itself and ensure the sustainability of its tourism industry."

Flown in especially for the event was retired Concorde captain, Mike Bannister, who described the exhibit as being the most impressive in the world.

Bannister, who was the youngest pilot to fly the supersonic jet, recounted that Barbados, will always hold many treasured memories for him.

"The most memorable experiences of piloting Concorde which will always be flying in [uniform] with the Red Arrows over Buckingham Palace to salute the Queen; secondly it was flying to Barbados for the very first time; and thirdly, flying the aircraft back 'home' to Barbados for the final time in 2003."

The $3.5 million (US) facility, which is managed by Goddards Shipping Tours Ltd, boasts an interactive flight school, a departure lounge, an observation deck, and an in-flight experience multi media presentation.

The Barbados Concorde Experience opened to the general public on Monday April 16 from 9:00am to 6:00pm which will be seven days per week. Admission for local residents is $28.00 (Bds) for adults and $20.00 for children, while for non-residents it is $35.00 for adults and $25.00 for children. Special group rates are available for students and visitors travelling in groups will receive special rates.

- - - -
Similar museum experience (?) in Scotland.
- - - -

Some facts and figures about Concorde:
The aircraft travelled at 23 miles per minute

Flew twice the height of Mount Everest (60,000 feet)

Expands seven inches while travelling at supersonic speeds

Only 20 Concordes were manufactured, six for development and 14 for commercial aviation operations

On early evening transatlantic flights departing from Heathrow or Paris, it was possible to take off at night and catch up with the sunrise in the west

Wikkipedia entry:

Apr 15, 2007

The Times, They are A-Changing...

This year Air Canada is celebrating its 70th Anniversary:

It all started in the 1937 when Bill 74 - The Trans-Canada Air Lines Act - was passed in the House of Commons. Several months later, on September 1, the first passenger flight took off from Vancouver enroute to Boeing Field, Seattle on a Lockheed L-10A, piloted by Billy Wells and F.M. McGregor with two passengers.

By the end of 1937, TCA had 71 employees and had taken delivery of three additional Lockheed L-10A's.

In 1938, cargo service began, carrying mail to various cities across the country. Lucile Garner, a nurse, was hired to set up TCA's stewardess department. Requirements for the job were strict.

Stewardesses were all required to be registered nurses, be under 5 feet 5 inches in height, weigh under 125 pounds, be over the age of 21 and in perfect health, have excellent vision, be unmarried and have their parents permission in writing. By the end of 1938, TCA employed a total of 332 employees and carried 2,086 passengers throughout the year.

On April 1, 1939, TCA accomplished its first major goal of launching scheduled transcontinental passenger flights. Two Lockheed 14 H2 aircraft took off simultaneously from Montreal and Vancouver to cross the country. At the time, the cost of a round trip ticket from Vancouver to Ottawa was $248.50. A typical meal on the transcontinental flight consisted of boxed lunches with sandwiches and fresh fruit and a total of 21,560 passengers were carried that year.

B-787 Flight Deck


The other part(s) of the legacy not specifically mentioned in the above press release...

Canadian Airlines International Ltd. ... was the descendant of five predecessor airlines. On March 27, 1987 Canadian Pacific Airlines, Eastern Provincial Airways, Nordair and Pacific Western Airlines amalgamated to form the new airline. PWA Corporation acquired Wardair in 1989

Canadian Airlines was ... acquired by Air Canada in 2001.

Apr 11, 2007

This won't hurt a bit...

Hang on, because we’re now going to insert enough energy into your body that should we not extract it properly later on, it would rip you apart. And we’re doing it with what looks like nothing more than a big comfy living room armchair. But, the secret is, this armchair is bolted to an Energy Conversion and Time/Space Continuum Unit (or T/SCU for short). The T/SCU can collapse space by a factor of hundreds. What used to take 10 days we can do now in 5 hours. A journey from England to Vancouver Island that used to take six months now takes a mere 12 hours!

To accomplish this miracle our T/SCU utilizes compressed dead diatoms. Our Energy Converters will extract the stored energy of the sun, held dormant for a million years, and release it in strictly controlled stages. This energy will be used to collapse space and compress time. It will provide the force we need to lift you to a higher view of reality. You will see for miles and miles and miles and travel to destinations beyond previous possibilities in times so short as to make the ancients shake their heads in disbelief. And all you need to is sit back and relax as you would in your own living room.

You may have guessed - our T/SCU - is also known as a jet airliner. The maneuver by which we inject you with kilo-joules of energy and embark upon these wonderful feats of reality-shifting is called, simply, The Take-Off.

Are you ready? Don’t worry. If all goes well it won’t hurt a bit.

Apr 10, 2007

Go Fly a Kite!

This is an impressive and artistic display of aerodynamic control and aerial ballet! Ray Bethell, 8-time-Multiple Kite World Champion is flying the kites. He is 79 years old, and this is an absolutely stunning film.


Apr 9, 2007

Jet Transport Take-off profile

I found a neat video that illustrates a typical take-off and climb-out profile for jet transport aircraft, as seen from the flight deck. It will come in handy when I publish the next installment of the "Day in the Life" series. There are some differences of course from the B727 and the A320, but the general idea is the same.

This video is labled as a "Short Field Take-off" procedure, but that relates to decisions that the pilot will have made in selecting the flaps and V-speeds during the pre-takeoff planning. Once on the runway, the procedure looks pretty much the same each time.

Here's the Google video link (I couldn't find a way to imbed it here...)

A couple of notes about what to watch for:

1. The no. 2 engine is started during taxi as they approach the takeoff runway. This is normal when conditions permit. On the A320 a single engine taxi-out is done when the airplane is light enough and other conditions are favorable.

2. This particular airline makes the final flaps setting once all three engines are running. Then the bug speeds are reviewed.

3. There's a note about this specific departure - namely the high terrain which necessitates the "short field" take off flap setting, etc.

4. Due to the terrain consideration, the engines are spooled up and then the brakes are released. A rolling take-off may take a little more runway, depending on just how fast or slow the roll into the take-off spot is. But for a precise, short-field technique, when it's critical, most pilots prefer to keep the brakes on and get a good pre-spool on the engines.

5. Watch as the airspeed indicator increases slowly. (it's in the top left corner of the instrument array). The small 'bugs' around the edge are set by the pilots according to the V-speeds and flap retraction speeds for each take-off. The A320 of course, has electronic versions of these which appear on the vertical 'speed tape' indicator.

6. When we see a definite indication of climb (positive rate), the PF calls for "gear up" and the PNF accomplishes this and monitors that it goes as it should.

7. The rattle you hear is the B727 horizontal trim system's 'tell-tale' sound. Older jet-liners have some sort of feedback sound added to the main trim system to warn the pilot that changes are occurring. This serves as a warning in case of autopilot or trim system malfunction (trim run-aways). The A320 horizontal trim works automatically and a system monitor warns the pilot if there's a problem.

8. Normally, there are no turns initiated below 400 feet above ground level (AGL).

9. The flap retraction begins at 1,000 ft. AGL on the B727. At 1,500' AGL on the airbus. The difference is that the newer engines on the Airbus are certified to operate at full Take-Off Thrust setting for ten minutes, whereas the previous generation engines were only certified to run at this setting (in normal conditions) for five minutes.

10. As the speed progresses past each 'bug' the flaps are retracted in stages.

11. Once the wing is 'cleaned up' we pull back the engines to climb power.

The initial take-off and climb-out phases of flight are officially finished.

Here's that link again:

A Day in the Life (15) - De-ice is nice

A description of a typical day's flight from Montreal to Vancouver and back - as a backdrop for a detailed, non-technical description of what an airline pilot does. (check left hand column for series index).

Log Entry 2003 - A320 Capt - CYUL - Taxiing

Elapsed Time: plus ten minutes… and counting…

While I taxi the aircraft, FO Paula has some extra work to do. We've noticed aircraft leaving the deicing bay and heading over to runway 06R. This is a change since our preparations at the gate. She types out the request and the Data link soon responds with updated information. The runway change is confirmed.

Approaching taxiway Delta FO Paula flips the radio to Montreal ground control. There’s someone else already talking so I slow to a crawl, hoping Paula can obtain our clearance across runway ten before we come to a full stop. If we lose momentum it takes more power to get rolling again.

The frequency clears up and FO Paula jumps in. “GooseAir One Eleven holding short at Delta.”

“GooseAir One Eleven, cleared to cross runway one zero. On taxiway Kilo, call Deice.”

Just in time. I add a small blast of power to get us around the corner and accelerating. We look carefully left and right before crossing the runway.

Now FO Paula is busily sparring with MCDU calling up load and performance numbers for the new runway. Then she flips the number two radio from company frequency to Deice control and reports on their frequency. We receive our clearance into deicing bay four.

I follow the yellow lines and electronic signals, watching carefully on both sides to ensure the deicing trucks are parked behind the yellow lines where they will be safe from collision and jet blast.

Pulling into a crowded deicing bay is a good reason to stop all other chores and keep our eyes peeled. As I ease up to the correct spot, the iceman shows us the red light. I stop a couple feet short of the yellow line to avoid dropping our nosewheel directly onto a drain depression in the tarmac. That would make it harder to get rolling again. This way we’ll roll down the slope and gain some momentum when it’s time to leave.

“Checklist,” I call as I set the parking brake. FO Paula takes up the QRH and reads us through the configuration changes. Basically we’re closing up holes in the airplane where deicing fluid might get in. If we ingest any into the air conditioning system it can produce fumes or even white smoke in the cabin. Disconcerting.

“Brakes set, configured for spray.” I advise the de-ice crew. We've pre-ordered a type 1 spray to take the light snow and frost accumulation off the wings. He confirms the instructions again as he reports that spraying is underway and gives me the official time.

I write it down, but it’s not a critical issue today. In snow or freezing rain conditions we'd refer to a set of tables to determine how long the protection should last. These tables provide guidelines under specific conditions. If we go over the guideline time or have any reason to doubt the conditions of the wings, then a visual inspection is required.

While the crews are busy outside, we’ve also got things to do. FO Paula continues poking away at MCDU to enter our new numbers in the appropriate pages of the flight guidance system. There are revisions to the departure route. This requires some modifications as well, and I pull out a different twenty-five cent chart to confirm that the electronic genies are all playing nice this morning.

FO Paula updates her pre-departure briefing while I listen carefully for any discrepancies. We just get finished as the Deice coordinator calls us. “De-Icing complete.” He assures me the trucks are safely parked clear of the aircraft and we peer out the side windows to make sure. I run the windshield wipers in a vain attempt to clear off the greasy de-ice fluid. If we leave it too long it bakes onto the heated glass and then it’s even harder to get off.

We continue with the QRH checklist to re-configurethe airplane for taxi.

As FO Paula negotiates the clearances to leave the deicing center I’m planning ahead. There are a couple of “got-ya’s” I need to be aware of. The first is that our taxi-way will cut through the approach end of runway 28 at an unexpected point and we must not taxi past it without proper ATC clearance.

The second is that our route will take us through several ATC jurisdictions between the ground controller, the tower controller and the ramp controller. It’s a nuisance and I can’t help but think that there must be an easier way. But I suppose making it easier for us would complicate the procedure for someone else. For today and the forseeable future we just have to deal with it. I taxi a little slower than usual to allow time for our checklist and the necessary ATC calls.

There’s potentially a third complication. If snow was falling heavily I would keep our flaps retracted until just before entering the takeoff runway. But today I’ll stay with our normal operation and extend them right now. One less thing to miss later.

As we’re leaving the deice bay we have time to start the checklist, so I call for it.

“Flight Controls,” FO Paula begins and we launch into our drill. The Airbus requires a unique procedure to check the functions of both pilot’s control sticks as well as the monitoring systems which should detect deficiencies. As we move our controls FO Paula monitors the appropriate ECAM page. She's employing the most important deficiency detector anyway - the human eyeball securely wired to a functioning, carbon-based computational unit, hopefully primed with a suitable blend of caffeine as required to ensure alertness.

We juggle our way through the rest of the checklist without missing any ATC calls and without stopping anywhere along the way. It’s a smooth flow of activity and quickly, we're in the holding bay of runway 06R, the checklist is up-to-date and our flight attendants have been warned in time to secure the cabin. FO Paula reports ready on the tower frequency. I take one last glance around to ensure the performance and flight management screens have been updated to the new runway.

“GooseAir One Eleven, Montreal, cleared for take-off, runway 06 right. Contact Departure airborne, good day.” FO Paula responds, and clears up the last item on the list while I reach up to flip on our landing lights. Which sounds strange for a take-off. But we’re using them for increased visibility for other aircraft and birds. Terminology does get complicated sometimes.

“Whenever you’re ready, you have control.”

“I have control,” she responds. She makes a smooth turn onto the centerline. Taking the airplane a little early like this means she transitions into a “rolling take-off” without any confusion over who’s pushing on what.

FO Paula reviews aloud the V-speeds one more time as well as the initial altitude we’re cleared to on this SID. then she slides the power levers to the TOGA detent. This is it… We’re going.

Elapsed Time: Pushback plus thirty minutes…

Apr 4, 2007

A Day in the Life?

For anyone wondering - the series will continue. It hasn't been 'pulled' by the network... The next episode is currently in production.

As with any other film endeavor, head-movies, with actual scenes drafted On Location in the author's imagination, can be very labor-intensive exercises. Moving vast resources to the various exotic locales required by such a story involve thousands of imaginary people-hours of work. Researching the appropriate imaginary sites and sets as well as transporting and scheduling the actors and other personnel to live and work together does require tremendous logistics.

And yes, I should quit this continual procrastination and just get back to work.

Air safety...

In the previous posting about Air Charter safety, Ron commented: "why must everything by controlled by the government?"

Good point and one I've enjoyed thinking about. A couple of things come to mind:

At the extreme we could ask "Who makes the companies carry insurance?" Should I have to read the proof-of-insurance documents for each carrier I travel with? Obviously not. I assume that as they are allowed to publicly sell air transport services, then they are regulated by someone I trust (okay - "trusting the government" may sound like an oxymoron...).

But I'm even less comfortable trusting those whose vested interests are profits and my security is just a necessary by-product to be managed towards that end.

Having said this, I should point out that my personal aircraft is a "homebuilt" - I must display a placard visible to my passengers that tells them that the government has given me a great deal of latitude in how the airplane is manufactured and operated. Unfortunately it's too vague. I think the placard should really ask: How much do you trust this person at the controls?

Unfortunately in commercial aviation we don't always know the full reputation of the airline owners.

In Canada the industry often works in some pretty remote regions. The mystic of "the bush pilot" is as pervasive here as in Alaska and connotes ingenuity, daring, steadfastness, and so on. But there's another edge to that reputation evident in terms like: "bush league" ... meaning unprofessional and second-rate.

And in truth many "bush" operators are just that. And they aren't all operating up north, far from civilization. Unhappily, they endanger and even kill the traveling public before they fail financially or the government steps in to shut them down.

In both instances (financial failure and government-regulated shutdown) I'd say the two 'extremes' of safety regulation are working together. And that to me is the ideal balance.

Apr 2, 2007

Air taxi owner says safety violations rampant

This item came across my desk today. I thought I'd pass it on. It seems like this part of the industry hasn't changed much in the thirty years since I was 'there' ... I expect Aviatrix will have some useful insights:

Updated Thu. Mar. 29 2007 10:38 PM ET

Kathy Tomlinson, CTV News

Kirsten Brazier
Kirsten Brazier takes pride in her Ontario air taxi company, DaxAir Inc., which operates one of 3,000 small planes that fly workers and tourists all over Canada each day. Brazier is blowing the whistle on her own industry, though, and is going out on a limb to warn Canadians that many other air taxis are not flying safely.

"Their safety -- their lives -- are actually at risk," Brazier told CTV News.

She told us safety violations have become widespread in her industry. Brazier claimed many operators now break the law by overloading planes and not maintaining them properly. She said pilots routinely fly in bad weather or fly too many hours, without the required amount of maintenance -- practices which also violate the rules.

"There is a lot of rule-breaking going on across the board," Brazier said. "It's standard industry practice. It's a sad thing to have to say, but it is."

She said the pilots then have no choice but to fudge their log books -- to make it look like they aren't in violation.

"This happens all the time," Brazier said. "It's quite common for a pilot to be expected to continue operating the airplane with things that are broken to keep the operation going. There's a lot of pressure on the pilots and the mechanics to not do their job, essentially."

The primary reasons, Brazier said, are cost and competition. For small operators, fuel and insurance are becoming unaffordable, while the market is shrinking and becoming more competitive. Many operators, she said, now feel they must break the rules just to make a profit.

"In order to survive people are cutting corners," she told CTV News. "In the end we (in the industry) are faced with a decision to either break the law or go out of business."

What's driving Brazier to speak out now is Ottawa's proposed legislation, Bill C-6, that would essentially transfer responsibility for managing airline safety from Transport Canada to the airlines themselves. The proposed new regulations, called "Safety Management Systems," would require airlines to investigate their own unsafe incidents, and report back to government on how they will avoid similar situations the future.

"You're talking about new legislation that will put control of the industry in the hands of the industry," Brazier said.

She said the plan may be fine for larger carriers, which already have their own safety management people. She told CTV News, there's no way air taxi operators will be able to comply. She believes her industry needs more government oversight, not less.

"The industry might be breaking the rules but the government isn't helping the situation," Brazier said.

In anticipation of the change to Safety Management Systems (SMS), Transport Canada has already stopped regular safety audits of the industry, and cancelled ongoing investigations.

CTV News obtained dozens of reports on incidents involving Canada's air taxi operators, for 2005 and 2006. They are reports airlines must file with the government, by law, when an incident poses a serious or potentially serious safety hazard. On average, at least one of these incident reports is filed each week. They include accidents, near misses and mechanical problems. The majority of them were never investigated by government officials.

One of many examples occurred in Grande Prairie, Alta. in February 2005. It was a close call, and remains unexplained because it's never been investigated. A Cessna 550, C-GDLR, taxied for takeoff down a runway -- right into the path of a Beech King Air 100, which was heading in for a landing. The two aircraft were on a collision course in a runway intersection -- less than a quarter of a mile and only a few seconds apart - when the Beech King Air pulled up and away, aborting its landing.

Other examples include near misses where aircraft came within 200 feet of one another -- a hair away from collision, by aviation standards. Several mechanical problems are also documented, including mid-air engine failures and landing gear malfunctions.

Greg Holbrook - Right
"Because the inspectors will not be going out and doing the checks of the actual operation themselves anymore, it will be left to the industry and those kinds of activities will not come to light," said Greg Holbrook, a pilot who is president of the Canadian Federal Pilot's Association. His group represents aviation inspectors who work for Transport Canada, and has been very critical of the changes proposed in Bill C-6 -- especially when it comes to the air taxi industry.

"These air operators are occupying the same airspace and the same runways that all the major airlines are operating on," said Holbrook. "The inspectors will simply forward the information (about unsafe incidents) to the companies and they will be responsible for determining what they will or won't do about it on their own."

He said the majority of Transport Canada inspectors recently surveyed predicted a crash -- if the proposed changes go through.

"Most inspectors are very concerned about that possibility," Holbrook told CTV News.

""It's going to increase the risk to the safety of the Canadian air traveling public, without a doubt," said Justice Virgil Moshansky, from Calgary. He investigated the 1989 crash in Dryden, Ont. that killed 24 people. He told CTV News the current situation, especially with the smaller carriers, is like deja vu.

"If your direction is to keep the aircraft in the air, and you defer maintenance, then you increase the risk to safety. That occurred at the time of Dryden and I suspect that is occurring now," Moshansky said. "We are on the slippery slope to another Dryden."

CTV News put those concerns to the head of Transport Canada, Merlin Preuss, in Ottawa. He responded that C-6 is still a proposal that will likely undergo changes before it becomes law.

"Everything we are doing, while making this addition to the regulatory framework, is being done extremely cautiously," said Preuss. "We think it's going to work."

Brazier wants Canadians to know that, in her opinion, their safety hangs in the balance.

"There is a lot of talk about safety - but there is no safety. In order to have safety you have to stop the (air taxi) industry from what it is doing."

Jet-Blast Delights...

This is the threshold of runway 07 at Montego Bay - as viewed in Google Earth:

What's missing are the teen-aged boys usually gathered just outside the barbed wire on the seawall. They love to stand spread-eagled against the jet blast behind departing aircraft. The runway is barely long enough some days for the hot-weather, full-load departures so most flights line up as close to the threshold as possible before applying takeoff thrust. Which adds to the thrill for the kids who often get blown back into the surf.

If I ever have a long layover in Mo-bay I'd love to join them. It looks like a hoot!

Apr 1, 2007

Glory Days

Airline flying has changed a lot from the glory days of the Pacific Clippers through to the development of trans-Atlantic jetliner service. Who knows what the future holds: