A Whirlwind 5 Days


A simple Friday morning. I am sitting in the dining room, having enjoyed breakfast with my wife. The dogs are slowly waking up and we are messaging our Canadian friends who have recently moved into our village on Lantau Island. It’s hot in Hong Kong. Barely 10am and its already well above 30 degrees, approaching 40 in fact with the humidity. I love it. The quiet morning with my wife, my dogs, the heat, I love all of it.

Brandon and Carrie to no surprise suggest we head to the water fall to help with the heat. We were there the day before in fact, dogs swimming, adults chatting, tanning, and enjoying a cold cocktail or two. We have had a lot of heavy thunderstorms this spring, so the waterfall is in full flow, and all the pools beneath it are full. Perfect for us, and the dogs.

Before we go, I decide to take a quick look at my online schedule. I was to start a reserve block of six days the next morning. When I opened my schedule, I see I have a notification. There must be a trip. Another Anchorage freighter I assume (it is where our 747’s are most used with a Second Officer like myself). But no. It’s a trip that for an SO is as rare as they get. I am to passenger to Mumbai (formerly Bombay, and still coded ad “BOM” on our schedule) on Saturday night. After a 30 hour stay, I will operate a 747-400ERF freighter to Paris. Once there, catch out 777-300ER flight back to Hong Kong in the comfort of business class.

I suppose most of my excitement, despite this being a change from the routine, was that I was going to India, a place I have long wanted to visit, but have yet had the chance. I love Indian food (most food in fact, as was evident at the weigh in during my last medical – fitness training has commenced). But I have a few friends who have visited and really enjoyed the experience. “Eye opening” was a common description of others trips to the sub continent.

So to the waterfall we go. Excited to tell my friends of my trip, and looking forward to cooling off. I soon realize that not only is the trip going to be exciting and new, it is also going to be quite easy. Four day pattern, and I only operate one 8 hour 30 minute flight, wile the rest of my globe trotting will be done in the comfort of business class.

We enjoy our afternoon at the waterfall, and meet some friends, mostly all Scottish, in Hong Kong for dinner that night. Again excited to tell them of my trip the next day, I soon meet a friend of a friend who highly recommends a seafood restaurant in Mumbai. So, “Trishna” is now on my list of to do’s on my short layover.

Saturday afternoon brings another few hours at the waterfall and a beachside lunch with the my wife and Canadian friends. I leave the group before they are done a few more glasses of Sangria to pack and leave for work. To those wondering, despite being just a passenger on the flight, we are under the same rules for drinking before flying, so it was water for me at lunch.

I get to work with about 30 minutes to kill before I check in. I google a few quick things about the area surrounding the hotel, and come up with a plan for the day. As we arrive around midnight Mumbai time, it will be straight to sleep. Wake up, breakfast (probably in the hotel) then spend some time at the pool before heading into downtown Mumbai mid afternoon for some sightseeing and dinner.

Once we get to the plane, I am PX’ing (riding as a passenger on our own flight) with three other pilots. No one booked in first class for this flight, so the cabin crew offer it to us, so we have our own private 9 seat (actually called suites in Cathay First Class) cabin in the nose of the 747. Full service from our lovely crew, soup, fresh bread, I choose the vegetable curry dish to keep with the theme of my Indian weekend. I fall asleep towards the end of a movie, and before I know it, the quick 5 hour flight is over.

The drive to the hotel was the first glimpse of India. In a word, extreme. There is some extreme wealth, and unfortunately, much more extreme poverty. People sleeping on the sidewalks, slums around almost every corner. Dimly lit fruit and snack stands offering what most need in India, a light snack and a cold drink to deal with the heat. Despite it being after midnight at this point it is still well above 30. When we arrive at the hotel, a truly palatial entrance complete with security checking under our crew bus, and all around, I soon realize this is one of our nicer crew hotels. The security of course is a welcome sight, as India is frequented by terrorism and violent crimes. Check in and to the room. More then adequate. Larger bathroom, queen size bed, and a great view of the Indian Ocean and pool.

I wake up around 6 am, and play around on my phone as I do for a while. Fall back asleep (kind of) but by 830 I decide the hotel buffet breakfast is in order (as it comes highly recommended by other crew). Breads, pastries, eggs to order, bacon, sausages, potatoes, enough fruit to start a farm, yoghurt, juices, coffee, espresso. There is literally nothing missing. The price, 350 rupees, about 6 dollars US. The service (despite it being a buffet) is remarkable, and I soon realize that India is known for service in these high end hotels. I meet up with a First Officer (also a Canadian, from Toronto – who actually used to work for my uncle at Sky Service) and he recommends the same seafood restaurant my friends did two nights before. He was there last week and really enjoyed it. He also gives me a tip that our hotel has a free car service to its sister hotel, just a short 15 minute walk to Trishna for dinner. So after breakfast I book my car for the afternoon. About an hour drive they tell me, but I am sure to see a lot of Mumbai and its surrounding suburbs.

To the pool, swim, tan, hydrate, repeat. With of course a peach iced tea (again no alcohol as I am starting duty around 2 am that night) and a foot massage from the “pool menu”. The foot massage was performed by a blind man. Another first on this trip for me. I also keep in touch with my wife and friends, as the wifi by the pool is strong. I also check my online schedule to see if I have any changes (common when operating freighters) and discover that once I land in Paris, I will no longer be headed for Hong Kong, but in fact taking British Airways to London where I will enjoy another day off, before flying back (as operating crew) to Hong Kong. I send a note to my childhood friend who lives near our hotel in London, and make plans for dinner.

Once i realize I am soon running our of sunscreen in the intense Indian sun, I head to the room to clean up and get ready for my evening in downtown Mumbai.

The driver picked me up at the front door to the hotel, white glove service with refreshments and a local paper to keep me busy on the one hour ride. I am too fascinated with the world outside to pick up the news paper though. We pass rich areas and poor areas, beaches, a mosque that is set in the middle of a bay and can only be reached during low tide. We also pass a building that is the world’s most expensive private real estate. Two billion US the driver tells me, 28 stories with a helipad on the roof. All for one man, his wife, two kids, and mother in law. The last few blocks to the hotel are some of the wildest traffic I have seen in quite some time. People and cars moving in every direction, and even a few horses.

Once let off at the hotel, I take a deep breathe and head into the crowd. The hotel is right next to one of Mumbai’s well known monuments, the Gateway to India. The crowd surrounding the monument is dense to say the least. I see a woman with her baby on the sidewalk, she points at her baby and gestures to put food in her mouth. I know what she is saying, she needs to feed her baby. But what I also know from doing a quick scan of the crowd, is that there are dozens more like her, and if I offer even a dollar to them all, I would soon be out of money. I move into the monument area, having walked by another woman with her baby. Accept she isn’t holding her baby, she is working the crowd in a small circle around her completely naked child sitting bare on the concrete behind her. I am at a loss for words. I reluctantly decide that I simply don’t have enough for everyone. I complete a lap around the monument, however I can’t get more then a few meters before being hustled by someone to by whatever they are pushing. One man, offers to take my picture in front of the 85 foot 100 year old monument. No thanks. How about a post card he insists. No thank you. Maps, you must need a map. No thanks, the hotel gave me one. Weed? You want some grass? I start to laugh (as I was not expecting that) and say “not day my friend.” Not today, of course, is a common expression in North America and elsewhere, but apparently not in India, as the man looked at me and said, “ok great, come back tomorrow.” I smiled and continued on my way.

Another man hustles me to by his drum, after he followed me for about 20 minutes, I turn and offer him 10 dollars (he was asking 50) and say take it or leave it. Of course he took it, so now not only am I the only western guy in the crowd, no I am the only western guy carrying a drum aka a huge target for everyone else. The next hour was more or less a war. I couldn’t escape the hustling. One man offered to show me where my restaurant was, but only if I visited his friends shop. I did of course and found a silk/cashmere pashmina for my wife, and was again on my way. I walk by another store, and feel the cold rush of the air conditioning burst from the doorway. I decide it looks as good as place as any to escape the heat, as I still had 30 minutes until my dinner reservation. I find a nice set of brass, Indian made cheese knives. As I wait in line at the cash, I see soaps, to which I think, how appropriate to bring home soap from one of the most polluted countries I have visited.

Dinner time. As warned the waiters know the restaurant is highly acclaimed, and thus think they must be as well. Despite there “lack of give a shit” I have some spring rolls, and garlic ginger prawns. Oh, of course I had naan bread as well. Overall, a very tasty meal, and I would go back if in downtown Mumbai again.

Back to the hotel by 9 pm for a quick 4 hour nap before heading back to the airport and off to Paris. I was particularly looking forward to the flight, as our routing brought us from one end of Iraq, through to the other. Transiting nearly the entire conflict stricken country. When lining up to takeoff on runway 27, it is obvious where the neighboring slums have been relocated to make room for a runway extension project. And when I say neighboring, I mean if the window opened in the 747, I could throw a baseball 5 shacks deep. Once airborne we almost immediately find ourselves over the Indian Ocean, our setting for the first two hours of the journey this morning. A few air mass thunderstorms to avid, but nothing too big to sweat over. Soon we are talking to Muscat control in Oman, and the Persian coast is glowing on the horizon. Muscat to the left, Karachi Pakistan off to the right. It’s important to keep aware of the closest airports, if an emergency takes place, the first thing we do once it has been handled as per the check list, is consider diverting. Thankfully no emergencies to deal with this morning. It’s 430am over Dubai, and the Burj Kahlifa is visible from 50 miles away as the tallest building in the world stands out, even from 33,000 feet. Once talking to UAE control, having been handed off from Muscat, I am greeted with an American voice working the skies. To busy to ask him where he is from, but like me, he is living a long way from home.

Dubai is of course home to Emirates airlines, and we see the fleet climbing up all around us like a squadron off on a bombing mission. Something this part of the world has seen plenty of, however today their mission is delivering 300 passengers at a time to all corners of the world. We soon meet up with a slower 777 and wonder if their on board wifi would reach us 2000 feet below him. We will ask for the password next time. Bahrain is the next airspace we transit, but it only lasts for a few minutes as the country is barely bigger then some large cities. Same goes for Kuwait, and then it’s into Iraq. Not that long ago, and pilot flying where we were that morning, probably had a letter to his loved ones in his pocket in case he/she was shot down. Today I just have my iPhone. Ready to take pictures. It’s over Iraq that the Captain and I begin an early morning discussion about how so much of this earth looks the same from the air. Iraqi desert? Could be Texas, could be Mongolia, could be Sahara. If it’s not that different from up here, how can it be so different a few miles below us?

Once exiting Iraq airspace, it’s into Turkey. It’s here I tell my Captain how my mother in law was given some “turkish towels” by her sister in law after a trip there. And how she now features them in her grocery store in their summer lake community back in Canada. Don’t ask me what a Turkish Towel is, but while I stare down at this muslim nation, those towels are on a cabinet for sale in Clear Lake Manitoba on the other side of the planet in my in laws store.

Time for my rest, 3 pilots break up the flight, so I have worked the first two thirds and can stretch my legs in the bunk for the last two and a half hours or so before landing in Paris. I wake up around 20,000 feet on our approach to Paris, enjoy a quick piece of birthday cake (the first officer was celebrating his birthday) and hop back into the seat. We touch down a little before 9am in the French capital and park at the far end of the airport on the cargo ramp. We set the brake next to an old Lockheed 10-11 Tristar, that I’m told has been sitting in Paris for a number of years with unpaid bills. It’s obvious it hasn’t moved in a while, it could use a bath.

I part ways with the crew, two gentlemen that made the morning fly by (literally). Off to terminal 2A where I catch British Airways flight 309 to Heathrow. It’s an Airbus 320, the smallest plane I have been on in almost two years. Times sure have changed for me. Land in London, clear customs, and hop on the tube conveniently at Heathrow’s terminal 5. The Picadily Line takes me from the airport to Hammersmith station, across the street from our hotel in under 30 minutes. It’s a nice day in the the UK, so I take the time to enjoy the passing scenery and listen to some Led Zeppelin. I was in this hotel just last week, so familiar with the area I am. I decide that as it is 2 pm, I will relax in my room until the evening until I meet my friend.

Ginny lived down the street from me in Winnipeg with her tow sisters. Her parents and mine have been friends for years, her dad and I sharing many golf carts over the years as well. We go to a nice Italian spot near her house and catch up on our mutual friends, her new niece, and whether or not we get home sick. It was nice to criss cross the globe and find a friend at the other end. We part ways until my next London trip and I head back to the hotel for some sleep.
Another buffet breakfast in the morning (nice, but not Mumbai nice). Shower, pack and back to the airport.

While waiting to take off I manage to snap a pic of an Air India 787, the wing flew on this machine is quite impressive. The flight from London to Hong Kong was as routine as can be, little to no thunderstorms to deal with, and a nice tailwind almost all the way home. The rising sun near Chengdu China does light up some thunderstorms in remarkable colours, thankfully a few miles off our track. Eleven hours later, we are at the gate in hot humid Hong Kong. My dogs and wife awaits, and perhaps another day at the waterfall.

It’s good to be back.

20130605-233028.jpg20130605-233110.jpg20130605-233119.jpg20130605-233138.jpg20130605-233146.jpg20130605-233157.jpg20130605-233210.jpg20130605-233223.jpg20130605-233250.jpg20130605-233307.jpg20130605-233318.jpg20130605-233331.jpg20130605-233345.jpg20130605-233358.jpg20130605-233444.jpg20130605-233514.jpg

20130605-233433.jpg

747-8 PIREP


Sitting here in the crew bunk of a 747-8 that was only delivered to the company in August of this year (2012), I am thinking this is as good a time as any to update my blog. It has been a while since my last entry. The month of September involved a mere four hours of work, with my family visiting for 2 weeks. But here I am back to work (it’s been a nice holiday, but I enjoy my job enough that I was really looking forward to flying again.) Last week involved an Anchorage trip that was flown in a 747-400 ERF. In fact on the way to Anchorage, we flew the last production 747-400 Boeing ever built. Of course the only 747’s that Boeing are pushing out of the production hangar doors these days, are the 747-8’s. Both in a freighter and passenger variant (the 747-8i). Cathay does not have any of the passenger model, but as I mentioned, today I find myself in one of our 747-8F’s.
The first noticeable difference when we start a day of work on this type, comes when we get our paperwork. Among the first things checked are fuel, flight time, and weights. Of course we follow this up with an in depth look at enroute weather, winds, NOTAM’s, as well as departure and destination weather. First when it comes to fuel, you might think the bigger 747-8 would burn more. However the opposite is true. General Electric GeNx 2B engines are a relatively new design, and are highly fuel efficient. Noticeably more so then the Rolls Royce or Pratt-Whitney power plants on the 747-400. So when it comes to our flight planning, the fuel burn between typical freighter routes (HKG-ANC) is very little. Quite often the -8 will burn even less than the -400. Fuel burn is of course dependent on gross weight. This is where the big difference comes. The 747-8F has a MTOW (maximum takeoff weight) of slightly more then 447 Tons, or about 985,000 pounds. The -400 tips the scales at a mere 397 Tons, or 875,000 pounds. When fuel burn is near identical, but payload of the -8 being much greater, the 747-8 has a much better fuel used per kilogram of freight travelled, per mile (I hope that makes sense). This is where the -8 variant really shines, with the flying time being about the same (within a few minutes, often faster) the fuel/time/weight battle between the two has a clear winner. After all, Boeing did design the -8 to be a more efficient version of it’s most recognizable design. When I took a look at an LA to HKG flightplan the other day for our 747-8, it showed being in the air for 15.5 hours, with 17 hours endurance. Very impressive fuel figures. What was even more impressive was this was with 140,000 kgs of gas, and room for another 45,000 kgs. Pushing the endurance to past the 20 hour mark. Did I mention there was also room for about 40,000 kgs more cargo? Impressive I know.
Once paper work has been thoroughly looked over, it’s off to the airplane. This is again where we see some big differences. It might be hard to imagine driving up to a 747-8, but I can say there is a definite wow factor. The first noticeable feature is the wing, and what hangs off it. Unlike the -400, the raked wingtip of the -8 has a modern/futuristic look to it. Simply put, it looks fast. The GeNx-2B engines have a distinct trailing edge cowl to them, as well as a larger intake. So the first sight of the -8 offers little confusion as to which model 747 you are approaching. Once inside the main deck L1 door, the cargo hold offers very little if any differences to the -400 freighters. The next obvious difference is climbing into the upper deck. The galley layout is oriented different then the -400, and with new leather seats in the crew rest area, again you realize this is a new machine.
Entering the cockpit. To the naked eye, there is very little differences to the -400. This was a purpose built cockpit, as Boeing could only have so many differences before the -8 became a whole other type rating for pilots to be trained on. Keeping a similar type rating of course offers advantages to the customer airline buying the -8, as training costs are very low when simply converting to the -8 from the -400. The majority of the differences you could say are, “under the hood”.

Once airborne at a weight similar to the MTOW of the -400 we climbed straight away to 36,000 feet. The -400 usually starts the HKG-ANC sector at 31,000 feet. Of course if we were at gross weight, the cruising level would have started out lower. The best thing I could say about the airplane as a flying machine, is quite simply, efficient. It climbs fast, accelerates at heavy weights nicely, and doesn’t want to stop flying once it’s in cruise. On descent we needed the speed brake to slow down, as the ultra efficient wing needed a little help in the distance we had remaining.
The flight across the North Pacific was relatively uneventful. We were higher and faster then virtually all other eastbound crossing traffic, which is always nice for the ego. We also had some spectacular views along the way. Below are just some of those views.
Fly Safe

20121030-124732.jpg

20121030-124843.jpg

20121030-124913.jpg

20121030-124933.jpg

20121030-124946.jpg

20121030-125012.jpg

20121030-125033.jpg

20121030-125050.jpg

20121030-125113.jpg

Village Life


There is a lot to be said for living in one of the largest, most densely populated, well known major cities in the world. There is also a lot to be said for living a quick 30 minute boat ride from said metropolis. Village life is definitely not for everyone, but I would say we are built for it. Our village of Mui Wo has a population of less then 10,000 people, and it offers some unique opportunities that people just can’t get anywhere else.

1.) Ditch the cars and grab your bikes. Virtually every hour of the day here in Mui Wo, including rush hour, we can ride our bicycles down what is the only main road in Mui Wo and rarely run into other traffic. The occasional bus, sure, other cyclists on their way home from the ferry, or the grocery store, and perhaps the usual crowd of ferrel cattle making their way to another field for grazing. You can’t last more then a few seconds in the middle of most Hong Kong streets without a mini bus or Ferrari running you down, except perhaps in the wee hours of the morning.

2.) Leash? What leash? We have two puppies, and within a few short weeks they were more then happy to trot along side us on a walk or bike ride. Here in Mui Wo you can let your dogs run free, the local walking paths, the beach, the hiking trails, are all suited for the dog life. Even around the main 4 blocks of “downtown” Mui Wo we can leave our dogs to run free from our patio, meet other dogs, play with the kids, or just wander and smell every garbage can and restaurant kitchen.

3.) Outdoor playground. There are plenty of outdoor activities to participate in here in the Hong Kong area, but most of the city dwellers come to this island to partake. Here we are just a few minutes away from a waterfall, beach, hiking trails, walking paths, mountain biking trails, the South China Sea (kayaking, surfing, paddle boarding etc…) and even hang gliding.

4.) Pants optional… well kind of. The nice thing about the “social scene” here in the village, is that it only entails making friends. No one really cares about how expensive your jeans are, or what boutique your shirt is from. More often then not people gather at the China Bear (our local waterfront pub) in not much more then a bathing suit and a t-shirt. Don’t get me wrong, we love to get dressed up for a night out, but it is nice during this intense summer heat that for the most part, we are all just interested in staying comfortable and cool, rather then showing off our new threads.

5.) A quick boat ride to the rest of the world. With 32 daily ferry departures (the ferry terminal is a quick 5 minute bike ride away) to Hong Kong’s Central Ferry Terminal, right outside the Central MTR station, virtually every corner of Hong Kong is a short hop away. Hong Kong is known for one of the best public transit networks. The ferries, subway (MTR), buses, mini buses, and trams are more then enough to cover the city and outlying islands are more then enough to cover the city and its outlying islands, and for a low price. Of course, if time is of utmost importance, taxis are quick, and very affordable. All of this makes heading to downtown Hong Kong for a movie, dinner, shopping, the horse races, or just visiting friends an absolute breeze.

Before my wife an I moved to Hong Kong, we had no idea what our living situation would be, or where it would be. But I must say we are villagers. We love our small community, and love that we can have that big city life after a beer or two on the ferry downtown. You could say we have the best of both worlds. At least in our eyes we do. And of course if we really need a change, we can head over to Hong Kong International Airport and hop on a flight to virtually any corner of the world.

20120813-145154.jpg

20120813-145240.jpg

20120813-145256.jpg

20120813-145317.jpg

20120813-145434.jpg

Typhoon’s and Flying


Well it’s 10:54 PM here in Hong Kong and I’ve been listening to the wind rattle the windows for most of the evening. The day started out like any other, except we knew there was a typhoon to contend with at some point. There was a level one warning on Saturday night, which we had to consider as we had plan’s for Shawna’s birthday downtown. Intense typhoon’s shut down the inter-island ferries here in Hong Kong, and we were not going to risk being stranded downtown with our two young puppies at home. But after a quick check of the surface analysis charts, and with the typhoon centered more then 500 kilometers away, off to the W hotel we went. But we couldn’t avoid our first typhoon for long.

So after most of the day being nothing more then a windy rainy day, I decided a quick bike ride into town would be doable, but not for long. We needed milk after all. Rolling into town I noticed quickly that virtually everything was shut down. The two local grocery stores and McDonalds were the only businesses that remained open. Everything else, including the ferry to Hong Kong island was closed. Now at level 8, this Typhoon means business.

So back to the house with no milk (sold out). The wind has done nothing but increase for the last few hours, peak gusts reported at 125 kms/hr. Which has resulted in most everything on our roof top being rearranged by the wind, despite my efforts to store everything. The dogs sure don’t like all the noise. They have a hard time peeing on the roof with nothing in its original place and rain coming from all directions. But after four trips to the roof, finally comfortable enough to take care of business.

After a quick search online, it appears most flights are delayed at least an hour, and in some cases much more. Typhoon’s can create several hazards to flying that result in such delays. So I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at them.

Here I am the next morning now, the aftermath of the Typhoon. Last night saw the Typhoon warning increase to level 10, and peak winds reaching 180kms/hr. The airport reported gusts as high as 66 knots. The airport was shut down for several hours last night, with several flights effected for most of today and tomorrow as well. Locally in our village, many trees have blown over, but thankfully, no damage or leaks in our village house.

So back to the point of this post, the hazards to flying. Typhoons typically bring a few major hazards to the pilot faced with flying near them.

One, the wind. With the above mentioned wind speeds, its not hard to imagine that these winds can create conditions outside many aircraft’s operating limits very quickly. Even with a cross wind 30 degrees off the runway, it’s not long before a 60 knot total wind velocity has created a crosswind component out of limits, both landing and taking off. Wind such as what I have attached below also creates wind shear, which is basically large sustained changes in wind direction or speed. This can be both performance enhancing (wind shifting from a tailwind to headwind) or performance degrading (a shift from a headwind to a tailwind). The latter is generally of most concern to us as pilots. Our aircraft here at Cathay Pacific, as well as the Hong Kong International Airport have sophisticated equipment to predict and report wind shear. However, wind comes and goes faster then most weather phenomena and this is where the hazard exists. Sometime we do not get a predictive wind shear warning (that is a wind shear ahead type of warning) and we can be faced with actual wind shear warnings. These situations call for a disregard to all ATC instructions, and even TCAS avoidance measures, and require a prompt, and swift reaction to the wind shear. I find most of the aircraft I have flown, from the Metro, to the 747, we are taught to establish maximum available power, and a maximum nose up attitude (often just below a stall pitch angle) and to leave the aircraft in the configuration it is in until a positive climb is established. That is to say, flaps are not to be retracted until a safe airspeed and climb has been established (flaps of course assisting in lift), while the gear remain down until a climb has been established as well. The idea being that a “bounce” off the ground is better then a scrape (in very general terms here). In most cases with wind shear in a forecast or reported, pilots elect to hold if fuel permits, or simply divert to a nearby airport.

Which brings us to a second hazard. Diverting to an alternate is a regular occurrence in the airline world, however when facing a typhoon, alternates may be up to several hours away. Typical flights into Hong Kong use Macau or Shenzen as alternates. But as this typhoon last night, and virtually all others have adverse weather affecting area for several hundred miles in all directions from the center of these phenomena, finding a suitable alternate can be difficult. The nice thing about this type of weather is that they are well forecasted, so generally hours before a crew even wakes up in Europe to fly to Hong Kong, dispatchers have determined suitable alternates for such a flight. This however will never replace the responsibility the pilot has to double check all he weather information available prior to a flight, and to continue with weather updates while enroute. Fortunately through datalink systems in the 747(and most modern airlines) we are only a few simple key strokes from receiving all the weather we need when in the air. It looks like (via our company web site) that most flights were using Kaohsiung, on the island of Taiwan as an alternate. This is about an hour away, much further then Schenzen and Macau, which are both less then 20 miles from Hong Kong. Flights were also generally given at least 30 minutes additional fuel for potential holding. This of course can be supplemented with a more economical fuel burn through flying slower, as well as f course adding additional fuel if payload permits. My policy is generally you can only have to much fuel if you’re on fire. Pilots in situations like these are generally more comfortable looking at lots fuel in the tanks, more fuel means more options.

The final major hazard to consider is the rain. Rain produces lower visibilities, and damp or wet runways degrade aircraft braking performance. Hydroplaning is also a concern for aircraft if the conditions are right. Certain techniques can help with hydroplaning, but poor braking can rarely be avoided until a runway dries up. The poor visibility as a result of heavy rain is a concern for obvious reasons. However the 747 like most modern airliners can land with very low forward visibility. Rain on a windshield can also produce an optical illusion that we are higher then we actually are, due to the way light refracts through water. This of course can lead to hard landings, but wipers and rain repellent assist with this hazard.

So as I have thought of everything I can regarding typhoons and flying, and now that I have re arranged our roof top patio furniture, I leave you with some pictures of the last 24 hours.

Enjoy, and fly safe, or at least have someone fly safe for you 🙂

Back to Amsterdam Thursday!

20120724-163919.jpg

20120724-164005.jpg

20120724-164019.jpg

20120724-164032.jpg

20120724-164059.jpg

20120724-164044.jpg

20120724-164052.jpg

The Last of Something Great


I remember dressing up for Hallowe’en when I was younger, it was almost always as a pilot. Whether I would wear my dad’s old uniform, my grandfather’s old leather flying helmet from his open cockpit bi-plane flying of the 30’s, it was usually something to do with flying.

Well this past Hallowe’en, 2011, like usual, I dressed up as a pilot. Because I had to go to work. This day of northern bush flying in my Fairchild Metro was going to be my last. I had given my two weeks notice, landed (excuse the pun) that dream job overseas, and in 6 short days, I would be leaving Canada for what my wife and I are planning to be a very long time. (Of course we will come home to visit, but we are starting a new life in Hong Kong from this point on).

I put on my uniform for the last time at Perimeter Aviation, my home airline like it were my home team in Hockey. When I became a Captain when I was 25 my grandmother at the young age of 89 years young, gave me a gift. They were the captains epaulettes that my grandfather wore on his retirement flight after a 30 year career at Trans canada Airlines (became Air Canada). They had been sitting in a dresser for about 40 years,waiting for someone else to take the honor and privilage of wearing these bars. He put those 4 bars on each shoulder that morning of December 8th, 1968, just as I was the morning of October 31st 2011. I wondered to myself when I would put them on again. Chances are at Cathay Pacific I would become a Captain again within 10-15 years of joining the airline, so these were among the first things I packed when I loaded my bags with my belongings for a new life in Asia. With the promise to myself that when I once again make Captain at my new airline, I would put those old worn out bars on my shoulder again.

The morning trip was an uneventful, routine round trip to Northern Manitoba. Good weather, flying with a First Officer who was very good at his job, which makes mine much easier. My old bosses at Perimeter were among the best I’ve had. They gave me my choice of flights for that day, knowing I would want to make it as memorable as possible. So I chose an easy run to the north in the morning, but for the evening I chose the courier run to Brandon and Dauphin. About a 2 hour round trip, it was the best flight to bring people along. So, with very little argument from my boss, I had a seat reserved for my mom, dad, mother in law, and beautiful wife. Shawna (a great chef) made picnic sandwiches and salads for everyone (including our regular passengers, the ones I wasn’t related too) and even packed a 6 pack of personal bottles of Champagne. Obviously we saved mine for after the flight.

The flight was memorable to say the least. My dad was plugged in to the cockpit intercom with my sisters headset, so we could chat the whole flight. The second leg of the trip took us right over Shawna’s family cottage, where we spent a lot of time in the summers. So clearly I needed to “buzz” the property at a few hundred feet and 300 miles an hour. After all, when would I ever get the chance to do that again?

We landed back in Winnipeg, with what I would call one of my better landings. I felt like I needed to impress my family you see, so I tried awfully hard to make that landing a nice one. My dad was emotional, and so was my sister who landed a few minutes after me on her flight from Northern Manitoba. But everyone was happy. Especially me. My 6 years at Perimeter taught me countless lessons on how to be a better pilot. It gave me over 4000 hours of valuable experience which got me to where I wanted to go, my dream job in Hong Kong. I sat in those airplanes on the hottest of summer days, and the absolute coldest of winter nights. The hottest my cabin air temperature ever reached was +46C on the ramp before we could start the engines, while the coldest temperature I ever flew into was -56C with the windchill on the coast of Hudson’s Bay in February. But I left there with no regrets, and the fondest of memories. What has happened since that day has been an amazing journey, that will only continue as we live our new lives in South East Asia, I can only guess what will happen next.

One thing I do know, I was lucky to have those 6 years in Northern Manitoba. Great people, and great memories.

20120525-165444.jpg