Thursday, November 5, 2009

Management vs Crew

Learning about your profession is a must no matter what you do. As you progress through the different categories of flying, be sure to know the rules and regulations associated with that level. With regards to management, you may find it challenging at times handling the additional pressure during the busy season. In an ideal world, aviation would much more profitable and everyone would do well. Due to the high level of competition and competitive pricing, carriers must maximize productivity of their employees.

Taking a step back and looking at it from both sides, you will find more creative ways of completing each task. I find it too often that the pilots are only thinking about it from a single point of view. Management needs to make money in order to provide you with employment. Instead of creating a challenge for them, focus on what you can do to make the operation run as smooth as possible. People make mistakes and it's important to know the regulations in order to prevent any challenges from arising. Informing dispatch the "day of" isn't acceptable and being proactive by keeping eye on your time is much more appropriate. If you see a day that won't work, due to duty time or any other snag, be sure to speak up and prevent the company from looking bad.

Fly safe and keep it rubber side down.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Moving forward

I know it's been a month since my last post. I'm in the process of transitioning into a multi IFR position and will be adjusting the content on this blog. As I move through my career, this is a reflection of what I've learned and accomplished.

Even though I know most of the pilots at the new company, I feel it as a major change in my life. Upon returning from sim training, I've entered into a new world of flying. The new working environment has been a challenge as it's much slower paced and I'm not liked by everyone. If you ever move to another company and jump ahead of people waiting in line, you will experience the same emotions.

Coming from a single pilot background, it has been a change in mindset and procedure. The operation is much more regulated and responsibilities have been divided. Since I'm new to this type of flying, I've become a first officer. During sim training, I was fortunate enough to work with an excellent captain who was patient with me. At the same time, we still had our discussions with regards to my responsibilities. Single pilot ops, you obviously do everything associated with the aircraft. Becoming a first officer is a challenge because you now have to listen to someone else, as they are the pilot in command. I feel with my background that my ability to make decisions allows me to bring valuable experience to the table. I have felt resistance from captains as they feel that my decision making is more of a conflict than a benefit. I'm not looking for any special treatment yet I'm not going to response well to captains with attitude. Two crew flying is a team effort with each pilot having his own way of doing things. Working together may not always be a smooth operation yet I hope I can pull my weight and provide excellent service.

This was a heads up to those who may transition soon. You will find it's best to remain quiet and keep your opinion to yourself. Fly safe and keep it rubber side down.


Friday, September 18, 2009


As I open with another story, I want you to see the importance behind this topic. Last week I had a trip which took me from our base to a remote strip to pick up eight guys. With them and their gear I was to fly them south approximately three hours. The strip is 4000ft long and 100ft wide. The challenge at hand was a heavy load out of a sand box. I have flown eight guys and gear out of this strip before but I didn't take into account the extra 1000lbs of fuel. I figured that since it was the end of their holiday that the food and drinks would be done and maybe a few fish for another day. Well to my surprize they had more than what they went in with. Also I didn't check with the boss to see if we did a station stop back to base to re-fuel, avoiding the issue initially. When you get into a busy operation, these details will slip your mind. You will haul some big loads out of these little strips and your confidence of doing it again will be high.

As we went down the runway, I knew it wasn't going to work. I aborted half way down and we bounced our way along the sandy roller coaster. It was my first time this year getting stuck as I tried to turn around in the sand. After booting everyone off and getting the plane out under its own power, I re-loaded them and gaver another try. This time I was starting from the soft end but I had a slight head wind in my favor. As we neared the end of the runway at 70kts, the last bump we took got us airborne but we weren't going to clear the trees. At this point your heart is racing and your mind is screaming at you to stop. I threw it into reverse and hammered on the brakes. This was a no go! Booting four guys off and calling for a C-206 to pick them up seemed to be the most viable option as they didn't want to leave any fish behind. Even on the take-off with less passengers I got my right main into some sand and it dragged me in. With the required correction which increased the drag on the aircraft, it was a tight finish to say the least. Having the stall horn screaming at you and a minor heart attack as you just clear the trees really makes you think twice about your choice of profession.
This is the actual strip.

This could have all been avoided if I asked some important questions prior to my departure. Lack of planning and preparation made this trip a learning experience that I will never forget. You don't forget these days as you work your way through your nine lives. Fly safe and keep it rubber side down.


Monday, September 7, 2009


This topic came to me and I felt I should write about it. I've noticed that some people in general have a poor attitude. I'm not sure why they remain negative, but it seems to just happen. With how small the aviation industry is, it's extremely important to remain positive no matter what the circumstances. The way in which you react to passengers, co-workers and management will determine how well you fit into the organization. I use to become very irritated with my flying gig as I wasn't progressing as quickly as I wanted too. As I built my experience and moved up the latter, I found myself becoming more content. Most people want to make it to the top right off the bat. They lose site of what really matter: flying. We fly with passion and do what we love. It doesn't necessary matter what you are flying as long as you can find some joy in the activity. I know guys who were planning on leaving the company with a definite plan to make the airlines and end up finding themselves in a slow down. You have to be happy with today as tomorrow will be now then. If you are unhappy, people notice and with that said, if you can't find some happiness in what you are doing, STOP. It won't be any different tomorrow as it is today. It was just a thought that I wanted to expand on. Fly safe my friends and keep it rubber side down.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Job hunt

Many pilots are currently unemployed. I feel for those who are, as I understand the challenges at hand in today's job market. Getting out there meeting people and networking through my flying friends has kept me flying through the ups and downs. Here are a few things I do to stay in the loop:

1) Email - I email my resume on a monthly basis to company I have a strong interest in. Don't waste time emailing every company if you don't actually want to work there. There is nothing more frustrating than finding a pilot with the qualifications, to find out they aren't interested. Why did they apply in the first place?

2) Facebook - I use this tool to my advantage. I have hundreds of pilot friends who use facebook and it's a fantastic way of keeping in touch. On many occasions, I have found work through this network. If someone new comes into your organization, get their email and see if they are on facebook. You never know when you may find work and besides its FREE.

3) Road Trips - I have done three road trips in my time flying. It has been great for building a network and getting your name out there. Get a business card from the chief pilot and follow up. Even if they shut the door on your face, if you get the card, you have an in.

These are just a few different ways to find work. If you want to be a professional pilot, look the part and be organized. I like to put my resume in a file folder with my cover letter on one side and the resume on the other. Also, when you purchase business cards, put one in there too. This will show your level of professionalism.

Dress appropriately. If you are looking for a bush flying job, DO NOT show up dressed in your whites. Everyone there will look at you funny and will have a good laugh. If you are looking for a co-pilot or captain position with a larger company, you may want to wear a shirt and tie. Dressing the part will allow to potential employer to imagine what you will look like in their uniforms. Ensure you have taken the time to freshen up and smell nice.

Every time you meet someone new, they will evaluate you within the first thirty seconds. Take the time to ensure you come off as a positive and responsible pilot. Smiling and having a pleasant personality will put you on top of all those who put in minimal efforts.

As I said before, these are just a few ideas which will better aid you in your hunt. Good luck, fly safe and keep the rubber side down.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Keeping Current

To start off this story, I had just been upgraded and was flying all three types that our operation ran. I was in the in between stage as I transitioned onto our largest aircraft. The one aircraft I flew the least was the C-206. I learned a lot flying that aircraft as I had the best of times and the worst. The aircraft was always requiring attention and really flew like a big truck. It's acquired an unpleasant name, the "crowd killer." It seats six: one crew and five passengers. If you ever fly one, it drops like a rock if you lose the cooling fan out front.

This particular day, I was flying into the worst strip we go into. It's 2000ft long and 75ft wide. It has a drainage ditch at the West end and is always saturated. With obstacles at each end, it's a lot of fun. I had just got back from a trip and another came up in the C-206. It would be an easy flight, two passengers out to the lodge. We jumped in and away we went. I had flown the aircraft enough to be comfortable into all the strips but it had been a few weeks since I had flown it. On our way out, the sun was shinning and we were cruising right along. As we approached, I could see a rain shower moving in. As I paralleled the runway I could see it was going to be a wet one. Since I hadn't flown the aircraft in some time I wasn't properly set up on the approach and to top it off, it was raining. Bad idea from the get go but I knew this guy tipped and I figured it would be no sweat getting the job done. As I came in, I floated half the runway before touching down. I immediately applied full power and went for the overshoot. I then yanked the aircraft out of the mud and back into the air. At that point I was out of room. I banked the aircraft to the right to miss on coming trees. Fortunately I was able to build speed over a swamp off the end of the strip. I should never have attempted to land the C-206 in those conditions. Being unprepared can cost you. I was lucky, so take note, not all are so lucky. Everyone who gets into this type of flying will experience these situations. I don't care who you are, you will at some point put yourself into a very troubling situation.

Set high standards for your profession. When you're low time you will have the tendency to do what the other pilots are doing. If they are flying in poor conditions, then you will as well. I feel it's important for senior pilots to step up to the plate and set appropriate standards. What you do influences all those who are of lower time and of less experience. I'm very verbal about my view on the weather and I will question those who push themselves into poor conditions. Work as a team, as we are all in this together. Safe fly and keep it rubber side down.


Saturday, August 1, 2009


When should you abort take-off? How far down the runway until you know you aren't going to make it? These are important questions to ask and I'm here to answer them.

I enjoy throwing a story in to illustrate that even with my time, we still can get ourselves into difficult situations. I was flying into a forestry strip which is 2000ft long with obstacles at either end. The strip is located on top of a mountain so density altitude is an important factor to take into account. I was flying a Caravan and hauling five passengers and gear out. Fortunately, it was around 10am and we weren't in the heat of the day. The ground was wet and the west end was soft.
After loading the aircraft, I fired up and started on my first attempt. For some reason, I was unable to produce full power and therefore aborted. Upon inspection, everything seemed to be in order so I tried once more. Again, I was unsuccessful and aborted the take-off. I called via a satellite phone to the office to talk to the boss. He asked if I had the inertial by-pass separator out and to close it. It's a flap that moves into the air intake to help prevent dirt from entering the engine. This adjustment of the airflow reduces the available power. Upon closing the separator I was finally able to get the aircraft to produce full power. On my next take-off run, I had full power but the aircraft wasn't gaining enough speed. Now remember the strip is only 2000ft so your decisions need to be made quickly. At 70kts, which is the rotation speed, I had to abort the take-off as I knew I wouldn't make it. Hammering on the brakes and putting the aircraft into full reverse I was able to stop just in time. I knew I had to do something different if this was going to work. A trick of the trade used often, which isn't in the POH, pilot operating handbook; on the back track, as you turn the aircraft around, apply full power so that the aircraft's engine is at top speed as you finish the turn. Also you will be moving at that point and can sling shot yourself around the turn. Having momentum without using any runway up is a benefit for obvious reasons. On this final run, I hit the corner really moving and gaver the juice. As I built up speed I knew it was going to be close, and it was, as the "oh shit feeling" came on strong. On the caravan, you take-off with 20 degrees flap. On this last run, I left the flaps up until I had built up some speed then deployed them. Another trick I use on occasion is to throw down another 5 degrees before you run out of runway. It will give you a little boost to help you pop over the trees. Now this isn't a recommended procedure, and you should have someone experienced with this procedure to properly demonstrate it. This was an exciting trip and to top it off, on my return I had to file IFR, instrument flight rules, as the weather had moved in and I was unable to fly back visually.

Having so much stacked up against me, it's important to learn something from these situations. My aircraft wasn't overloaded but with the strip condition and the higher altitude, it made the take-off a challenge. With regards to knowing when to abort there are some indications to look for.

1) At the half way point your nose wheel should be off the runway. You want it just off the strip to reduce drag and not to high that the wings are slowing you down.

2) You can feel the aircraft start to lift slightly as it's almost ready to lift off. You want this by the time you are 1/2 to 3/4 of the way down. This should give you enough time to get the aircraft off into ground effect and climb out to avoid the obstacles.

3) Winds are extremely important, take-off into wind whenever able as this will greatly reduce the ground roll.

4) Strip condition - again if there is a soft end, take-off from the hard surface first as there is less resistance and you will be able to gain more speed in less time.

5) If you know it's going to be tight, back track the entire runway and at the end when you turn around, ensure you have full power as you finish the turn. This will sling shot you down the runway as you are carrying momentum around the turn. Take note, if you are flying a single engine Cessna, make a left turn at the end. You will be using the asymmetric thrust to your advantage.

These are just a few strategies that I have used in the past and still use today. Fly safe and keep it rubber side down.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Don't forget the gear!

I remembered an interesting story and I figured there was a lesson to be shared. Back in my instructing days, I was training a fellow who bought a high performance aircraft and needed a check out for insurance. I had flown with him before and found it challenging to say the least. Being so young at the time, he really didn't want to listen to me. I would continually drive home the importance of cockpit check as the likelihood of him using a checklist once solo, was nonexistent. When operating an aircraft with retractable gear, it's important to establish solid checks from the get go. I still remember the "BBGUMPS" brakes, belts, gas, undercarriage, mixtures, props and switches. Just saying it puts a smile on my face as it has been drilled deep into my head.

As I was saying, this gentlemen was a challenge and whenever I brought up the checks, I would receive a response such as, "I don't know how people can ever forget, I have an ultra-light and I haven't forgot the landing gear." His ultra-light only has a retractable nose wheel. One day, while doing circuits, I gave him a simulated engine failure. During the entire procedure I continued to give pointers to see how he would handle the situation. He did a fantastic job right up to the point when I took control! In the overshoot, I looked over at him and asked, "what did you forget?" He looked around the cockpit and couldn't figure it out. I then asked, "what's the one thing you would never forget?!" His language was colourful to say the least.

We have all had those instructors who have allowed us to make mistakes without jeopardizing safety to drill home the importance of the lesson at hand. I still find it interesting when an employer considers instructing time as low value time. With my instructing background, I believe the contrary and you should as well. For those who haven't had the privilege to experience instructing, as an instructor you learn how to deal with multiple personalities and different skill levels. You become an excellent communicator and it can be very exciting or down right scary at times. As I fly with different pilots on occasion, I can see who has had a professional instructor and who has had a time builder instructor. Unfortunately, the latter generally is a poor communicator and lacks the necessary confidence. Marginal hands and feet skills can also be an indicator.

For anyone starting out, I recommend instructing for a year. If working a ramp job or flying and getting your feet wet are the options, it's easy to choose. Also the PIC time will help you greatly down the road. Fly safe and keep it rubber side down.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pushing the weather

I know I'm getting myself into a touchy area of flying but it's the point of my blog. Too many low time guys get themselves into hairy situations without any practical training or know with all to get themselves out of it. Refer to the accident reports to justify my previous statement.

I'm here to provide you with some solutions to exiting dangerous situations. My focus is based around single engine and light twin aircraft as this is what most low timers will start out on. Also this information precludes to not only bush flying, but also flying privately and instructing.

First of all, I strongly recommend getting some IFR training. This training has saved my butt more times than I can remember and especially if you aren't flying very often, it's always good to have it in your back pocket.

Many pilots are familiar with "get home-i-tis" and it's very important to recognize it before it's too late. I will admit I have been in situations where I think to myself, "if I just go a little lower, I will pop out and see what I'm trying to see," or "I know so and so made it in, I should be able to as well." At that very moment, sound the alarms. This attitude and thought process will kill you! Always fly the aircraft in your comfort zone as this will allow you to maintain your situational awareness and a high level of safety.

I can't stress how important it's to monitor what the weather is really doing. I know this sounds obvious but more times than not, many pilots will continue further into the weather hoping it will improve. Unless you know the route like the back of your hand; nine times out of ten, you are taking the first step towards an accident. Normally, if the weather is worsening, you are heading towards a system and the likely hood of it improving is slim. On a side note, those pilots that know the routes have a tendency to push themselves a little more and a little more every time. I don't know how many accident reports I have come across where a fifteen thousand hour guy has thundered it in pushing the weather. It's an unfortunate event and we must all learn from it. Always, and I mean always remain in your comfort zone and don't deviate. Over time, you will become more familiar and your zone will expand with each hour flown. I'm sure many of you have heard the saying "there are old pilots, there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots." The quote still holds true today, so learn from the mistakes of others.

Ok lets say you get yourself into the soup and become disoriented. At that very moment, keep cool and get on the instruments. We all have had some basic instrument training and these situations would be an IDEAL time to use it. You have two options at this point: one, you can turn around. This is what I recommend. Two, you can continue. If you choose to continue there are important questions you need to ask yourself without much of a delay.

How well do I know the route and what obstacles are ahead of me? Should I be climbing? I would much rather fly a little higher with limited forward visibility and the ground in site, than be tree top. Have I reached the half way mark? Is there another airport that I passed along the route that I can return to? What's the weather at my destination and what type of approach aids are available? Am I current with IFR procedures? And finally, what kind of instrumentation do I have available?

These questions need to be answered in the matter of a seconds depending on how familiar you are with the route. You can't fly in the soup for too long without knowing where you are. If you are unfamiliar, I can't stress the importance of maintaining a safe altitude. If your well above the obstacles, you will be more relaxed and able to focus on the solution to the challenge at hand.

I know to some of you this information is new and I'm pleased I have been able to share it with you. Fly safe, and keep it rubber side down.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Getting Stuck

Generally speaking, one will get the aircraft stuck once a season. Fortunately I avoided the dreaded occurrence this spring! I feel it's as important to talk about how to avoid getting stuck as it's getting one's self un-stuck.

How do you avoid it? Here are a few things you should do to prevent the situation:

1) Training - During your aircraft training, ask the trainer to go over the tow points. Also flying into the strips during your training with someone who knows the strip will save you many headaches down the road. I find being pulled with tow straps wrapped around the main gear will work best. Never pull a stuck aircraft by the nose wheel. The nose gear is not designed to handle the stress of pulling it free.

2) Airstrip Operator - When you finally hit the real world, you will find it a challenge to keep up on the weather and strip condition during the busy season. Strong thunderstorm activity can leave an area completely saturated and miss them all together. It's good practice to check with the strip operator for an in depth weather report and strip condition. Having your questions made up prior to the call will allow you to gain more info. The strip operators aren't normally pilots and therefore may not be sure of what you are looking for.

3) Co-workers - Many times you will be flying all day and won't be sure what the other pilots are doing for the day. While you're out and about, make radio contact with them to see if they have been to the strip yet, or if they know of anyone who has gone in there yet today. The strips change daily, so the most current info is best.

4) Weather reports - Keeping an eye on the weather systems can improve your chances greatly. Watch each Front closely and take note of its route of travel. It may seem like it's not along your route but mother nature has been known to throw a fast ball now and again.

If you are unfamiliar with a strip, weather its paved or not, get a briefing from a co-worker or someone who knows the area. With how quickly the weather can change, you will want to be knowledgeable about the route and strip.

When flying over head, I suggest you fly as low as possible without jeopardizing safety. They teach you to fly at 1000ft above ground level (AGL) but at that height, there is less detail. When flying the strip, keep a close eye on areas of darker soil or standing water, these areas love to eat airplanes. If you can find a side that is dry, plan to stop on that side of the strip. I will normally take a light tail wind in order to stop on the hard dry surface. On the departure, this will help you again because you will be able to accelerate the aircraft that much faster.

I once took a C-206 into a new strip; they were in the process of building it. It's a long strip with rising terrain at either end. It has a clay surface which makes it pretty solid when dry or a little rain. Well I went in there one day and it was pretty wet, well it was soaked. The info I received was that the strip was wet but still do able. Gotta love it when they are more interested in getting out of camp than their own safety. Upon landing the aircraft, it became was very difficult to control. I got it stopped but I was STUCK! The tires were in deep and I had used half the runway up. There wasn't an option of back tracking the runway to use the full length, the strip was un-usable. I loaded my one passenger, got two guys pushing on each strut as I gave her the juice. As I started down the 2500ft and I couldn't get the speed up. I started rocking the aircraft controls to get the nose wheel out of the mud and finally got the aircraft airborne. It was too late though so I banked the aircraft towards and accelerated down the service road. As I accelerated the aircraft in between the clearing I was able to build enough speed to out climb the terrain. I still remember looking over at my white passenger and giving him an evil laugh. I felt a rush of empowerment which ran through my veins.

Many of you reading this, you will still get yourself into similar situations. Learn from them, as pilots are similar to cats we aren't guaranteed nine lives. Fly safe and keep the rubber side down.


Not taught in school

I have now been flying in northern Canada for the past three years. As I continue to build my experience, I would like to share my stories in hope others don't make the same mistakes.

It was definitely nothing they teach you in school. It was my first summer and I was flying a C-172 from Fort Mac to a small community north. The trip would take me roughly three hours to complete. I was flying an RCMP officer who needed to pick up a broom and a bat as evidence for a court case.

To start the day off, I woke up and my car was covered in a nice thick layer of snow, the wet stuff, so you know it will stick to your under-powered Cessna. I got to work at 5:30am and the computers were down so I got a half ass weather brief from the flight service guy in Edmonton. His advise was to hang out and wait, but I had to go, we needed that broom and bat! We get airborne and I'm right into it. I was flying just above the trees until I was about 50 miles north when it started to clear up. I followed the river valley north; what I could see of it, and than continued direct once the weather improved. Upon landing I got to work chipping the ice from my wings as the RCMP officer went to town. On the way home, the weather conditions hadn't improved and the visibility was very marginal with low ceilings.

I know what your thinking, why did he go flying? At the time, having only a few hundred hours and feeling the pressure from the officer, I choose to go. Many low time pilots will get themselves killed doing the same thing I did. Here are a few tips to better prepare yourself for a similar situation:

1) ALWAYS know your route - what I mean by that, know your altitudes along the route. This is best done on a sunny day when you can focus on what obstacles may be an issue. Find the highest point along your route and than add a buffer. Also keep in mind, during the winter months when its cold, add additional attitude to correct for the Altimeter error.

2) Briefing - the Flight Service guys know their stuff, believe them. I know it's going to be a challenge to deal with your passengers but you need to stand your ground. Learning to say "No" will become easier and easier as your experience builds. Find out about the weather along the route and what's coming up next. Call people in the town you're are heading too, especially if there isn't any weather available.

3) Your equipment - DO NOT take an aircraft with little to no instrumentation into marginal weather, PERIOD.

4) You - unless you know your terrain and are comfortable, don't take off. It's a lot easier wishing you were flying rather than wishing you were on the ground.

For those pilots reading this, please take note, Cessna's don't like ice, nor do they perform very well in it. Also on my return, I choose to take a short cut and a radio tower passed off to my right above me. Make a plan and stick with it. Good luck to all, fly safe and keep the rubber side down.