Friday, March 09, 2007

Back to where we started

FL270 over the last few hills before we are in the flat lands again. It has been great to see all the variety of scenery but it will feel nice to get back into my neighborhood. At least now an engine failure means trying to glide to an airport as your worst issue. Out in the mountains it is more if you can make it to the airport and not have to go through the mountain chain that is in the way. Ever since we got close to OCS (Rock Springs) the terrain yet still high above sea level was pretty much a plateau so the last real mountains we saw were around Salt Lake City. 2 summers ago I flew sched flights in the BC coastal mountains and everyday the view never got old.

Iowa. Straight roads that go on for days. I read an autobiography by Rev. Robert Schuller. In my mind he is more of motivational speaker that uses Jesus as the base of his stories. Anyway he always said you can go anywhere from nowhere, he grew up on a dead end road that had no name and now has tons of books published and millions of loyal viewers of his TV show The Hour of Power. Well that dead end road with no name was in Iowa so I think of him leaving here for California...his first great idea if ya ask me :) I have never been to Iowa, but it appears it is full of farmers. So it goes without saying that like most prairie folks I am sure they are super people. I just prefer mountains :)

What you are seeing on this screen caused myself and the co-pilot to laugh and eventually tears came rolling down our cheeks. We had been flying already for 4 hr 30 minutes and with a 0400 wake up we were a bit on the tired side of things flying towards the sun. So what was so funny ? The co-pilot was eating some Dad's cookies and having a coffee when I saw a town that would normally show up on the map in Quebec. So I said to him, look a nice french town in Minnesota, called BLUE EART ! Not funny I guess when you weren't in that mind set but we laughed for about 5 minutes and it hurt afterwards. The town is Blue Earth obviously but the map restricts so many characters and if you say it with a Qubecois accent...well I don't have to justify why I thought it was funny but it was :)

The mighty Mississippi River. I waited to long to get this shot so it doesn't look so mighty as narrows to a vas deferens width. The city located on it's banks to the east if La Crosse, Wisconsin. The city began as a French Fur trading post...bringing the theory to life that it actually might be Blue Eart ! When I think of the Mississippi I think of Memphis and muddy water, sweltering heat and humidity but then I think of all the history that has taken place on it and well, it still reminds me of the south :)

An all too familiar picture on this blog. Just passing south of Toronto Pearson en-route to Ottawa. On the lower right side of the airport is the terminal area. The new wing opened up recently and they are beginning to tear down old terminal 2. Basically what they are doing is making one mother terminal with 3 branches, which makes a lot more sense then 3 independent ones.

The CN Tower standing beside the Skydome (now known as the Rogers center...with my Blackberry bill each month I can see how they can afford it). I remember back when it opened way back in the 80's and I was in Toronto but just watched the opening ceremony on TV. Just to the right is my former second home. I have been lucky to get such a variety of flying this year, last year I spent almost every other day at CYTZ (Toronto Island). Now I posted about the Mayor and him being anti airport and the fact he was elected just to kill the proposed bridge to the island. This photo shows you just how short of a hop it is across. But because he spoke up for the rich folks of the downtown core and the island residents they put a diesel chugging ferry in its place to carry people and cars 200 feet.

Back to the grind so to speak. The grind would never describe my job but some usual destinations give me that feeling. But then the best part of flying is that nothing is ever the same twice (unless you are like certain people I know who ave seen it all before). Take this morning for instance. Ottawa to Toronto, hold 3 hours and then back to Ottawa. That has easy coffee drinking and relaxin all over it. There was a cold front forecast to move into Ottawa by early morning but when I woke up I do as I always do and look outside to see if the forecast from when I went to bed is accurate. Well it was suppose to be dumping snow and visibility down 3/4 of a mile but it was high overcast. So either the front is still as strong and has stalled out or the low is filling up and has lost energy. So I get to the airport and check the weather and the worst case scenario in Toronto was a Prob 30 (30 percent chance that this could happen) of 3/4 of a mile in light snow vertical visibility of 800 feet. Minimums are 200 feet and 1/2 a mile so I thought no problem even if the worst case scenario occurs. We had a light load so I took as much fuel as the max take off weight would allow and we left for the Big Smoke. As soon as we switch over to Toronto Center which is about half way we start hearing other airplanes get holding clearances and then we get a time to leave Simcoe VOR (which is an arrival gate where everyone from the East enters Toronto. We basically had to add 20 minutes to get there so we pulled the power right back and we ended up cruising at 140 knots just to make the time work. Then as we approached Simcoe the controller told us they were switching runways and they were not sending anymore planes in till they cleaned up 24R. Then he gave us the new weather... 3/8 of a mile heavy snow ceiling 200 feet with an RVR of 3500. That would be no problem on the previous runway or runway 23 as the minimums are 200 and 1/2. But in the fall Canada adopted what is called an approach ban. Basically the RVR (runway visual range-measured by electronic instruments to determine the landing area visibility in feet) we needed was 4000 feet and since it was 3500 we couldn't even shoot the approach. So we received a hold clearance and expect further clearance time of 30 minutes. Since we pulled the power back for quite sometime already we had only burned a fraction of our fuel load. We entered the hold at 140 knots with a fuel endurance till tanks empty of 9 hours and 21 minutes. Basically we could hold as long as our duty day would allow, what an amazing plane. We ended up holding for about 5 turns in the hold (probably a record for me) and the winds were right off the nose on the inbound leg so not much of a drift correction but our outbound leg was 20 seconds long ! This was only my second time in 2 years having to actually hold. Kinda makes you think what a waste all IFR training is on practicing it. Just hop in a sim and save your money.

What the picture is of above is about 10 sweepers that made one pass down 24R to clean it and they were done amazingly fast. There was almost a moment of disaster as a hot shot Citation X driver was cleared for take off on 24L and started to pour the coals to her as he lined up on 24R with the sweepers about half way down. Tower was paying attention and told him to abort and he quickly turned around and went for the right runway, I mean left one :) You wonder how that can happen but just prior to this the tower was sending planes off 24R and ours and his clearance was 24R. But just before he moved up to the line they had give him 24L for take off. There was nobody holding for the other side and 24R appeared clear because the sweepers were down the runway a mile or so. He was also not from here (N registered) so that could have added to it. I was going into Boston not too long ago and was on the visual for RWY 32 which is the small one at the far south side of the field. I got asked twice if I had runway 32 in sight and this was after I was already cleared for the visual ! There isn't anything else in the world that makes you second guess what your doing then someone with a radar scope asking where you are going twice ! I had the landing chart out and visually confirmed twice and with the RNAV approach I was for RWY 32. I mean the only other option was the 10,000 foot runway located a mile a way so I figured I was doing the right thing. Those pictures are to follow shortly.

After it was all said and done here is what it looked like on radar. I swear the holds were better then they appear on this shot :) It only took an extra 40 minutes to get to our destination but the front blasted through in a matter of minutes and when we did the ILS we broke out at 800 feet and the vis was good. We took an extra 40 minutes like I said but only burned the same amount as if we had gone regular speed which I keep thinking was weird but if you burn 50 percent less fuel and take twice as long then it makes sense. Next is our flight to Boston.

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