The “Toronto” Connie gets her paintjob

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Painting Connie CF-TGE

Bob Bogash of Seattle’s Museum of Flight updates the rebirth of the ex-TCA (Trans Canada Airlines) Constellation Super “G” that spent so many years rotting away near Pearson Airport outside Toronto.

I’ve posted a few times on the back and forth struggle that resulted in the airplane leaving Canada (that’s how Bob and I started our correspondance).  Managed to get some photos as she was being dismantled

Super Connie

She looks a lot more beautiful now.

The birth of an airplane

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Jon Ostrower is, by far, the best and most respected aviation blogger writing today.  In just over a year he’s become the go to guy for breaking news.  His site is one of the first I check every day. 

Jon started putting videos up on what he calls “Movie Monday”.  Today’s selection is the first of a five part documentary released in 1996 called the 21st Century Jet.  It follows the design, manufacture and flight of the Boeing 777.  As Jon writes:

This is one of the single most valuable public historical tools for understanding Boeing, its recent history and its philosophy on innovation and risk. From a personal prospective, this documentary served as a model for my coverage of the 787 program that you see here. Embedded inside this movie are important lessons for the 787 program, as well as the context for understanding the global design and supply chain.

Each section is just under an hour but very much worth your time whether you have a love for aviation or a desire to understand how large projects work.  Personally, both aspects appeal to me – one as a hobby, the other being what I do for a living.

Grab a beverage, sit back and enjoy!

21st Century Jet – Part I(click to open in new window)

A special day

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avilland DH87B Hornet Moth (C-FEEJ)

I dropped into the Toronto Aerospace Museum today just to see what was going on and to see if any projects had been planned for me while I’ve been travelling.  Luckily, I brought my camera.

Today we took possession of a 1956 de Havilland DH87B Hornet Moth that has been purchased from George Neal, a member of the museum.

A sad and happy day 

Mr. Neal (middle) flew his airplane in for the handover and it was truly a special and bittersweet day.  Here, he poses with Claude Sherwood (museum CEO, left) and Paul Cabot (curator). The Moth may never fly again as it’s scheduled to go on permanent display.  Mr. Neal, at the tender age of 90, sold the aircraft to finance a project where he’s building a Hawker Fury.  He’s a member of the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame (inducted in 1995) and holds the distinction of being one of the first Canadian pilots to be qualified to fly the RCAF Vampire, our first jet fighter.  Neal’s testing and demonstrations of aircraft such as the Beaver, the Otter, and the Caribou, allowed them to be successful around the world . He retired in 1983 as Director of Flight Operations of de Havilland Canada.

The day was superb, the winds were light and George performed a perfect landing in a perfect example of this rare airplane.

New lows in airline cost-cutting

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Forget about the captioning from some wag over at FARK, the picture is supposedly legit.  Passengers on a CRJ flying from Guilin in the south of China, to Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province were asked to lend a hand when the airplane had mechanical trouble before it could reach the gate.

I fully expect to learn that this was a stunt or hoax picture but it gave me a good laugh after a brutal week at work.

The slide into mediocrity

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air travel sucks Although I’m usually lucky enough to get business class when I travel to Europe, domestic travel is always in cattle class.  In order to help dull the pain, I pay a fair amount of money every year to for a "Maple Leaf Club" card with Air Canada.  This allows me to use the lounge and executive class check in facilities.  It’s been a good deal but I’m starting to think about whether it’s worth renewing next year.

I got to the airport in Toronto this morning with plenty of time to check in, go to the lounge and then wander down to the gate.  Or so I thought.  There were about 30 people in line waiting for one harried Air Canada agent.  I finally got through and heading off to go through security.  It was hell but that’s not Air Canada’s fault.

Got into the lounge without problem and immediately noticed a few things:

  1. Coffee machine out of order
  2. Real glass glasses had been replaced with plastic.  Not only is this wasteful but it sure sends an incredibly cheap message to your best customers.
  3. The entire lounge was messy.  Lots of staff standing around, just no one doing anything.  Where are the supervisors?
  4. The men’s room (usually a treat when compared to the standard terminal facilities) was out of toilet paper and messy.  Hello?  Doesn’t anyone check these things on a regular basis?

The flight was fine.  Flight deck was unusually chatty which is always a good thing.  Watched Caddyshack and had a good laugh and saw some incredibly high thunderheads which were stirred up by Hurricane Ike.  Left rainy Toronto and landed in sunny Vancouver.

Air Canada, you’re letting the beancounters ruin what was once a proud, great airline.  You’re sacrificing decades of goodwill to save a few bucks.  I know times are tough but you need to think these things through.  And don’t even get me started on your Jazz affiliate pulling all the life vests off their airplanes.  Somehow the phrase "penny wise and pound foolish" is stuck in my mind and won’t go away.

7 Years On

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September 11, 2001.  9/11.  There’s no forgetting the shock of that day.  Seven years on and aspects of the events are as fresh today as they were as I sat watching CNN.  The initial confusion that was slowly, terrifyingly coalesced into the realization that the United States was being subject to a coordinated attack unlike anything ever seen before (or since).

The eventual number of causalities was not record setting (as cold as that sounds) but the instruments of their deaths marked a paradigm shift in how we viewed commercial airline travel.  The glamour, excitement and just plain fun of flying, in an instant, was destroyed forever.

Patrick Smith is an airline pilot (767) and author who also writes columns for SALON and is a frequent contributor in the forums over at Airliners.net.  Today he posted a very poignant remembrance of that awful day.

On the Tuesday morning when everything happened, I was deadheading from Boston to a work assignment in Florida. My airplane took off only seconds after American’s flight 11. I had watched it back away from gate 25 at Logan’s terminal B and begin to taxi.

Forced to land in Charleston, South Carolina, he joined other bewildered people to watch as the second plane hit the World Trade Centre:

I’m watching the video of the second airplane, shot from the ground, apparently with somebody’s camcorder in a kind of 21st century Zappruder film. The picture swings left, picks up the United 767 moving swiftly. The plane rocks, lifts its nose, and like a charging, pissed-off bull making a run at a fear-frozen matador, drives itself into the very center of the south tower. The airplane simply vanishes. For a fraction of a second there is no falling debris, no smoke, no fire, no movement. It’s as though the plane has been swallowed by a skyscraper of liquid. Then, from within, you see the white-hot explosion and spewing expulsion of fire and matter.

Finally, tragically and unbelievably, the towers collapse

To me, had the airplanes crashed, blown up, and reduced the upper halves of those buildings to burned-out hulks, the whole event would nonetheless have clung to the realm of believability. But it was the collapse — the groaning implosion and the pyroclastic tornadoes whipping through the canyons of lower Manhattan — that catapulted the event from ordinary disaster to pure historical infamy. As I stand awestruck in this shithole airport restaurant in South Carolina, the television shows the towers of the World Trade Center. They are not just afire, not just shedding debris and pouring out oil black smoke. They are falling down. The sight of those ugly, magnificent towers collapsing onto themselves is the most sublimely terrifying thing I have ever seen.

In the ten-second bursts it took them to fall, I knew something about the business of flying planes was changed for good. And pilots, like firemen, policemen, and everyone else whose professions had been implicated, had no choice but to take things, well, personally. Four on-duty crews — eight flight officers in total –- were victims. They were disrespected in the worst way, killed after their beloved machines were stolen from under them and driven into buildings.

Captain Smith then goes on to reflect on how the world of air travel has changed:

People ask now, “What’s different?” Maybe I’m more philosophical than many of my peers, but at heart the changes aren’t the quantifiable kind: security, cockpit doors, baggage screening and the like. It’s more sinister and intangible — something that can’t be armored, upgraded, or fenced in by razor wire. It’s a state of mind — a state of disappointment and anger. Anger to have had our planes so brazenly stolen, coworkers fooled, killed, and thousands more thrown out of work. What drives it home are the same pains and inconveniences now faced by everyone: long lines, angst and unpleasantness in the terminals.

I can’t see how it be summed up more eloquently than that.

Spanair crash in Madrid kills over 100

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 © Javier Guerrero/AirTeamImages.comA Spanair MD-82 (similar to the one pictured) crashed on takeoff in Madrid Spain today and reports are now saying that over 100 people were killed.  The airline stated that a total of 166 pax and 9 crewmembers were  on board.

Spanair is owned by SAS and the aircraft was destined for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.  The Boeing MD-82 (built by McDonnell Douglas) first took to the skies in 1980 and hundreds are still in service, the majority operated by American Airlines. Earlier this year, AA grounded its entire fleet of MD-80 series airplanes to check for hydraulic problems.  Though there is no official word on what caused today’s crash it only makes sense that this one area that will receive special scrutiny.

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This week in flight training.

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Busy week in the Private Pilot License training.

Flight Instruction

Spent an hour in the air on Thursday morning.  The day dawned rainy and overcast but it cleared up just a few minutes before we took off.  Steve let me handle the entire taxi and takeoff which gave me a chance to really feel how the steering and rudder control works.  In flight, I concentrated on the rudder and started to get good control.  Just like driving a car, the secret is small corrections all the time.  Once established in the training area, we worked on climbs and descents.  Every airplane has optimum speeds, power setting and attitudes for different scenarios.  I have to know everyone of them for the exams and the goal of this flight was for Steve to demonstrate, me to practice and try to get a feeling for each one.  For those keeping count, that gets me up to 3.7 hours out of the minimum 45 required.

Ground School

Thursday evening was Class 3 in Ground School.  Information about types of airspace, radio procedures and flying in different weather and altitude conditions.  Lots more things to memorize.

Serious Fun

Installed Microsoft’s Flight SiControllermulator X yesterday.  Along with 747’s, floatplanes and fighters, they also have the Cessna 172 like I fly at the club.  Amazingly realistic!  The instruments are identical and the characteristics appear to be authentic.  Only problem is, controlling the airplane using the keyboard is nothing like the real thing.  A solution is at hand by purchasing and installing a controller that looks and acts like the control column in the Cessna.  I’ll try and pick one up this week.  It’s so easy to get engrossed with this program.  I’ve already “flown” a number of circuits from Brampton Airport and I even accomplished a take-off from Downsview ending with a landing at Pearson International.  Ok, that’s not really realistic because the chances of me landing at YYZ in anything but an emergency situation are really, really slim.  Landing is where you really run into the limitations of keyboard control but I hope the new controller will take care of that.

Busy, busy, busy.

Great News for Canadian Aviation

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imageBombardier announces the official launch of the new CSeries with a Letter Of Intent from Germany’s Lufthansa for 60 aircraft.  The plane will be built in China (fuselage), Northern Ireland (wings) and Mirabel and St. Laurent Quebec (cockpit, aft fuselage and final assembly).

The CSeries is positioned to fill the need for smaller, fuel efficient aircraft in the 110-130 seat range.  It will be powered by the revolutionary Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan engine.

Initially announced in 2004 as a concept, this announcement moves it from the drawing board to the manufacturing floor with the attendant creation of more jobs in a sector that is going through some very rough times.  The CSeries promises to be the right airplane for these times of high fuel prices and lowered expectation for airline load factors.  Airbus, Boeing and Embraer will have some catching up to do.

Quotes from the release:

“Today is a great day for Bombardier, our customers, our employees, our shareholders and our suppliers. I am proud to say that we have met our business plan objectives: a technologically advanced aircraft family, a strong pipeline of orders and repayable investments with governments and agreements with key suppliers. With the latest in system technologies and aerodynamics, the CSeries family of aircraft will revolutionize the economics and network strategies for airline operations in the 100- to 149-seat commercial market. It is another example of our commitment to designing and manufacturing innovative aircraft that will ensure our continued industry leadership,” said Pierre Beaudoin, President and Chief Executive Officer, Bombardier Inc.

“At Lufthansa, we are committed to a balance between commercial success, environment and business policies oriented toward sustainability,” said Nico Buchholz, Senior Vice President, Corporate Fleet, Lufthansa. “Our initial evaluations of the CSeries family of aircraft and discussions with Bombardier over the last few months have evolved and made us believe that the CSeries family of aircraft clearly meets our stringent requirements for sustainable fleet development, both in terms of environmental and commercial requirements, and flexibility for the future. We are proud to be a part of its launch.”

Both the announcement of the launch and the decision that a significant amount of manufacturing and assembly will be done in Canada bodes very well for the future of aviation in Canada.  Bombardier Aerospace is truly a Canadian success story built on the de Havilland Canada company which was formed 80 years ago.

2.7 Hours

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image I’m now up to 2.7 hours of actual flight time.  That’s spread over 3 flights with my instructor who continues to be extremely patient while he pushes me through the training course.

Yesterday, we spent 1.3 hours aloft while he attempted to instill the concepts of level flight.  Flying straight and level sounds easy but there are so many things that effect an aircraft in motion that my head was spinning by the end of the lesson.  The idea is that the pilot has to learn to fly the airplane without relying too much on the instruments.  If you’re staring at all the dials, you can’t keep a lookout for other aircraft and other things that you could hit and certainly ruin your day.

Our training area is just north of the Brampton Flying Club and starts at the Caledon gravel pits.  Getting there, you have to observe minimum levels so you don’t piss off the residents and maximum levels so you don’t stray up into the area of the sky where the big boys fly as they approach Pearson International Airport.  Cessna 172R + Boeing 767 = big piles of smoking debris all over the countryside.

I’m learning how to fix the horizon to a point on the windscreen to ensure that we fly without gaining or losing altitude.  This allows me to spend more time scanning (which is done by dividing the windscreen into 6 imaginary quadrants that you scan by looking at each of them in quick succession).  Pretty straightforward when you’re at cruising speed.  Of course, everything changes when you change the power settings.  Speed up and the nose pitches up and your horizon reference changes.  Slow down and it changes once again.  Turning has its own reference points and, of course, everything changes when you combine a turn with a change in altitude.  I have to know how to maintain my altitude (or change thereof)  and heading in all these situations and it all comes with an understanding of how the Cessna handles and hours of experience.

All aircraft have a magnetic compass and most have a heading indicator controlled by a gyroscope.  In level flight, the magnetic compass is quite accurate and the heading indicator has to be manually set before take-off and every 15 minutes or so during flight.  So why not just use the magnetic compass?  When climbing, descending or turning (banking), this instrument becomes very unreliable.  That’s when the heading indicator takes over.  In a climb, the magnetic compass points to a more northerly heading than the actual direction of flight.  When descending, it errs to the south.  Corresponding errors are encountered when banking left or right.  Sometimes the errors are huge.

My brain had turned to mush as we headed back to the aerodrome so I asked Steve to handle the landing to give me time to sort things out and concentrate on what he was doing and how the aircraft was responding as we did.  Good thing.  We were on final to Runway 33 when some Bozo (BTW, rest in peace Larry Harmon) decided he would take off at the same time.  Steve calmly responded as we watched for the departing runway in time for us to continue the landing.  I would have gone absolutely crazy so it was a really valuable lesson.  Things happen quickly up there.

So only 42.3 hours (minimum) to go before I can qualify for a qualification flight.  Next scheduled flight – next Saturday.