Happy Birthday George!

aviation, Flying Is Fun


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. 


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


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.

A special day

aviation, Flying Is Fun, photo

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.

Another picture in the wild

Flying Is Fun, photo


I loved this picture as soon as I saw it in the viewfinder.  Vintage Wings of Canada’s WACO Taperwing watching the sun come up in the hanger at the Toronto Aerospace Museum.  One of the best parts of being a volunteer there is the chance to roam around before the public shows up.

I’m honoured that Vintage Wings of Canada saw fit to include this their online article “Eye of the Beholder”.

Heavy man, heavy


Crawler Road Kennedy Space Center

As NASA looks to replacing the aging shuttle fleet, there appears that they might have a serious weight issue.

Their new Ares V cargo launch system will (when combined with the transporter and launch tower)  weigh in at a hefty  10.9 million kg.  The problem is that the crawler road may not take the load.  The shuttle in comparison is "only" 7.7 million kg.

I took this picture when I visited the Kennedy Space Center a few years ago and we’re talking a serious piece of road work here.  6.8 km long and 40 m wide and made up of special river rock, any work to make it capable of bearing a higher load would be very expensive indeed.

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Good to know if you’re flying to Denver or Minneapolis



NOTAM : Notice to Airmen. A notice containing information (not known sufficiently in advance to publicize by other means) concerning the establishment, condition, or change in any component (facility, service, or procedure of, or hazard in the National Airspace System) the timely knowledge of which is essential to personnel concerned with flight operations.

NOTAMs will be in force to keep aircraft away from the upcoming Democratic and Republican conventions.  Ignore them and you might just have some company.

(found at at the always excellent PointNiner blog)

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White Knight 2



The Rollout of Virgin Galactic’s White Knight 2 which will carry the reusable space module into orbit.  Sir Richard Branson and Burt Rutan are seen under the right empenage.

Sometimes technology is particularly beautiful.

This week in flight training.


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


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.

Decision time



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!!