Happy Birthday George!

aviation, Flying Is Fun

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Yesterday, I spent a most enjoyable day helping to celebrate the 90th birthday of Mr. George Neal.  I wrote about Mr. Neal a couple of weeks ago and his contribution to Canadian aviation and it was great to see so many people come out to a party at the Toronto Aerospace Museum.

Greetings from the Premier of Ontario, Prime Minister of Canada and Lieutenant Governor of Ontario (on behalf of the Queen) were given.  A cake was presented and a general good time was had by all.

I spent a few hours helping set things up and one of my tasks was to work on a Powerpoint presentation that played throughout the festivities.  Made up of pictures of Mr. Neal and his aircraft, it also contained transcripts of emails from wellwishers from all around the world.  Most poignant were those from ex-military pilots who credited the de Havilland Caribou with saving their lives in Vietnam. 

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de Havilland Canada built the DHC-4 Caribou for the US Army where it was designated as the CV-2.  With the remarkable STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) capabilities developed for the Beaver and Otter, the DHC-4 was ideally suited for operations in jungle conditions where “runways” were hastily hacked out of the fast-growing vegetation. George Neal was the test pilot for the prototype and production models and the pilots credit him with demonstrating the incredible properties that convinced the Army to purchase more than 170 airframes.

A live auction was held for the chance to go flying with George in his vintage Chipmunk.  I seriously considering getting myself an early Christmas present but the bidding for this once in a lifetime opportunity quickly outstripped my budget.

The chance to celebrate a living legend does not come very often.  It was an honour to be a part of this happy occasion. 

Just catching up

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Busy couple of weeks with travelling, election watching and just general “work is a bitch”’ stuff. 

I really hope that I’ve finished the last business trips for 2008. By the calculations over at FlightMemory, I’ve flown 24 times (not counting the flying lessons) and I’ve logged:

  • 39,263 miles (63,188 kilometres)
  • 106 hours in the air

This makes 2008 my busiest year yet.

Speaking of flying lessons, the travelling put a real damper on my time so I’ve just cracked the 10 hour threshold which leaves me at least another 10 hours before I can solo and a total of 35 to go until I can go for my license.  I also got way out of sync with the groundschool schedule so I restarted the entire course this last Thursday night.  Hopefully I can go all the way through this time without a break.  Luckily the Brampton Flying Club allows you to take the course as often as you want.

The economy may be tanking but that only means that my company becomes much more aggressive in the pursuit of new business.  I then get called on more often to provide product support for presentations and tenders and that’s on top of the day-to-day problems that require my attention.  Very tired at the end of the day.  Today (Saturday), for instance, I’m working on a system upgrade from home.

I’ve only been to the Toronto Aerospace Museum a couple of times in the last few months so projects are starting to build up.  I should be there today but no such luck.  Next week for sure.

The historic US elections this week kept me glued to CNN and the net when time permitted.  You all know which way I was leaning and I’m still overjoyed at the outcome.  Watching the Republican party bring out their knives afterwards has been fun as well.

Now comes the long slide into winter.  Lots of things to keep me occupied so I don’t think I’ll be suffering from cabin fever.

Decision time

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It’s time for me to get off my ass and take the plunge.  I’ve decided that I’m going to begin the process of getting my private pilot’s license.  Of course this would have been easier, and a whole lot cheaper, if I’d done it 40 years ago but I’m not getting any younger.

My passion for aviation is out of control.  Working at the Toronto Aerospace Museum, attending aviation society meetings and just generally loving being in the air lead to one conclusion.  I need to learn how to fly.

The poor suckers who are going to be tasked with teaching this old dog a neat trick are the unlucky instructors at the Brampton Flying Club.  Located about 1/2 hour from home, they’re a long established operation so they must know what they’re doing.

The process isn’t cheap and probably isn’t that easy.  Basically, it’s 15 week ground school through 45 hours of both instruction and solo flight plus a medical and finally an exam.  At the end of it all hopefully I’ll end up the proud owner of a license.  No plane, just the license.  I don’t want to know what even a very basic Cessna would cost.  Renting one costs just over $100 for every hour that the prop is turning.

Ground school starts in July.  I hope to take the introductory flight this weekend.  Wish me luck!

UPDATE: 1pm tomorrow and it’s off into the wild blue yonder!!

More travel – this time for fun.

aviation, Flying Is Fun

The trusty suitcase has hardly had time to air out but it’s time to hit the road again.  This time, however, it’s for fun – not business.

I’m off to Ottawa Thursday morning to attend the Canadian Aviation Heritage Society annual general meetings. CAHS is the oldest and largest organization in the world dedicated to the celebration and documentation of Canada’s flying heritage.

This year’s meetings have some really special events that I’m looking forward to attending. Thursday night, we’re off to the Canadian Aviation Museum for a BBQ and behind the scenes tour.  Saturday, it’s on the bus to Vintage Wings of Canada in Gatineau Quebec to see the country’s largest collection of privately owned classic and warbird aircraft.

We got a sneak peek at one of the aircraft when they flew their De Havilland Fox Moth into Downsview for the Wings and Wheels Festival.

De Havilland DH83 Fox Moth

It’s nice to be flying for fun for a change.

Out of storage

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Went to the museum yesterday for the annual general meeting.  Democracy is a wonderful thing until personalities get involved.  It was, to put it mildly, a rather tense gathering. But that’s not the reason for this post.  The first thing that caught my eye was something that finally made its way out of storage.

Canadair Cl-41A (CT-144) "Tutor" trainer

The Canadair CL-41A better known as the Tutor trainer.  Made famous by Canada’s Snowbird precision aerobatics squadron, the Tutor taught thousands until it retired from active service in 2000. 

Our Tutor, registration 114618 went into service on the 8th of January 1971 and spent most of its working life with the 2 Canadian Forces Training School at CFB Moose Jaw Saskatchewan.  I’d heard we had one but it has been tucked away in a remote storage building that we’ve been asked to vacate. 

 Here's looking at you

One of the most distinctive features of the Tutor is the nose mounted anti-collision light.  Years ago, when we had a cottage on the Trent River near Campbellford, we were treated to a display by the Snowbirds as they practiced overhead.  I’ll always remember one particular manoeuvre that had them flying low in formation with all their noselights on.  Never thought I’d get this close to one.

Crappy Christmas Carols Continue

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Today’s entry comes from that famous group “Average White Broads“.  Bonnie, Patti and Robyn get you into the holiday spirit as only 3 middle-aged Ohio housewives can.  Seems the Broads – hey! they started it – haven’t done much since this came out in 2005 but the website is still intact.  I guess they reached their peak with this one and are having trouble coming up with something to top it.

How about learning a little more about them?  From their site, here’s their answers to the question, “One thing you should know about me”.

Bonnie:

I was accepted into stewardess school the same day my boyfriend proposed to me. I chose marriage. That was 33 years ago and I’ve just about almost never regretted the decision. I am an orange belt in karate, but please don’t attack me because I probably don’t remember any of it.

 

Patti:

I absolutely adore handbags. I have a closet full of them. Be forewarned – if you carry an adorable handbag to one of our gigs, I may jump off the stage and try to buy it from you – or if you look like I could run faster than you, well, let’s just leave it at that.

 

Robyn:

I think life in general is very amusing and I’m much smarter than I let on. I speak fluent English. Smart people frighten others so I pretend I’m not intelligent. I’ve fooled many people. No, really, my favorite class in college was Transformational Generative Syntax.

I don’t know what they’re smoking in Ohio but Robyn should take a step back from the bong.

Please make it stop

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FINAL FINAL UPDATE:  Mats can go golfing.  The New York Islanders won their game in a shootout and the Leafs are out of the playoffs.

UPDATE:  Ok, so they beat Montreal in what was a very entertaining game (desperation brings out the best) but they now have to hope that the New York Islanders lose on Sunday.

Those lovable losers the Toronto Maple Leafs have a mathematical chance of making it to the Stanley Cup playoffs.  They have to win…someone has to lose….blah, blah, blah.  At the sake of being run out of town, I hope the Leafs lose to Montreal tomorrow night and this whole mess is over with.

 The Leafs, who haven’t won the top prize since 1967, are one of a number of mediocre teams that have a chance because only the truly dreadful teams fail to make the 2 month playoff series.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment owns the team and they have more money than sports knowledge.  The Air Canada Centre is filled every night so there’s really no reason to spend money or time worrying about how good the product is that they put on the ice.  John Ferguson Jr. is General Manager and the only virtue he brings to the job, as I see it, is to do exactly what the suits in the boardroom tell him.

Fine players like Mats Sundin (shown in the picture – sorry Mats) are wasted when teamed with rejects and has-beens.  No player development, no young prospects, no chances.  The only hope of making anything better is to miss the playoffs and deny MLSE the additional revenue that those games bring.  Hit ’em where it hurts.  The bottom line is the only line they understand and something has to be done to give the long suffering fans at least a chance to relive the glory of the past.

‘Nuff said.

A Volunteer’s Diary

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Attended a meeting at the museum last night to discuss display content and layout.

I’ve been at the same “paying” job for over 28 years and I was wondering if I really knew what business life was like outside my cosy experience.  Granted, a volunteer group is hardly indicative of the real world but I was surprised how many similarities there were.

The meeting started late as participants wandered in.  Keeping the focus on the agenda was damm near impossible as side conversations and tangents bloomed from every part of the room.  Cellphones rang and were answered. Obvious longstanding tensions between certain members played out and, based on the responses of some of the players, came no closer to resolution than they ever have. Some people did all the talking, some people listened and others didn’t.  After 2 + hours we adjourned and left wondering if anything had really been accomplished.

The parallels with my real job were unmistakable.  I go through the same process nearly every day.  I’ll take some small comfort that, in the event I lose this gig, I can fit into the general business population without a lot of retraining.

Lancaster Restoration

Quick shot of the Lancaster restoration team hard at work.  The amount of time and dedication these volunteers put in is amazing.  My projects are measured in days, weeks and months.  Their work takes years.

Truthiness, Cruiselex and Flee-ancee

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The American Dialect Society has released it’s 2005 Words of the Year list.  The winner is Truthiness which is defined as ” The quality of stating concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true”. The word was first used by Stephen Colbert on “The Colbert Report”.

Other words singled out are:

  • Cruiselex – Refers in general to anything Tom Cruise said or did during his year of serial melt-downs.
  • Flee-ancee – Coined in reference  to runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks but just as useful for Julia Roberts.
  • Holiday Tree – The politically correct replacement for a Christmas tree
  • Lifehack – To make one’s day-to-day behaviors or activities more efficient.  For examples of lifehacks, see the excellent site Lifehacker.

The entire list is available in PDF format