Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Hazards Of Commercial Air Travel

Twice this week, the IFR Pilot ventured to the Home Base in an effort to conduct night takeoffs and landings to become night current again. Mother Nature foiled the plans both times.

Monday evening, all went well until it was just about time to pull Mike Hotel out and fire up the engine. Next thing you know, it's freezing rain outside. Mind you, a full weather briefing had been obtained and there was no rain forecast until well into Tuesday morning. Oh well, at least it started raining before we were in the air.

Wednesday evening, the IFR Pilot was confounded by what appears to have been a frozen door lock. For the life of me, I couldn't get the key into the lock. I could unlock the upper deadbolt, but not the lower door knob. Tried to warm it but didn't have the right equipment in the flight bag, nor did any of the airport bums, so I swore and went home with my tail between my legs. There is now a bottle of lock deicer in my flight bag.

Saturday, Mike Hotel heads in to the shop for a WAAS upgrade. Hopefully, everything will be back in time for a scheduled trip to the Southern Methodist University Air and Space Law Symposium, which begins February 21. If you're in the metro Dallas area and want to grab an adult beverage around that time frame, shoot me an e-mail and we'll see if we make it happen.

Finally, be careful about what writing implements you bring aboard, they could cause lots of consternation. From a NASA ASRS form:
Level at 33,000 feet...a strong odor similar to paint thinner was detected by both pilots. Cockpit crew initiated a fume checklist. After securing mask and goggles, cockpit crew established communications with flight attendants. The number one flight attendant reported that he also smelled a strong odor and a flight attendant in the aft of the aircraft also reported an odor. Since we were not able to determine the source of the strong odor, and considering that all of the flight crew reported noticing the smell, the flight crew determined that an emergency should be declared, followed by a divert to ZZZ. After declaring the emergency, ATC cleared the flight to turn 180 degrees for vectors toward ZZZ. As the aircraft was in the turn, the number one flight attendant called the cockpit and informed the crew that the source of the fume-like odor was identified. Apparently, two children sitting in First Class had just begun to color with ink markers. The flight attendant reported, without a doubt, that the smell was coming from the ink being applied to the paper. This was verified by the other flight attendants working the flight, as well as by a pilot in uniform commuting to work. The number one flight attendant reported that the marker is printed with a warning to avoid use of the marker at high altitudes, or in confined spaces....

ATC was then informed that we discovered the source of the unusual odor, and that the situation was now safe and under control. We rescinded the emergency declaration and requested vectors to continue the flight on to our destination. We landed on time, without incident.
(From Callback Issue 337.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

An Uncomfortable Day

Long-time readers know that the IFR Pilot's office has a breathtaking view of BKL. For those that don't know, and those that need a reminder, here's the view, captured via camera phone (the new BlackBerry Pearl, in blue, thankyouverymuch):

Yesterday, however, the view wasn't so great. Or pleasant. It was still breathtaking, but in a fundamentally different way.

See, while most other folks were reading about the British Airways 777 that landed short at Heathrow, folks on the North Shore had their own parochial aviation disaster. Wednesday evening, at 7:24 p.m., a Beech Baron took off from BKL, and promptly went down into Lake Erie. With water temperatures hovering just above freezing, the pilot, assuming he could have survived the impact, would have had a heck of a time not perishing from hypothermia.

So, yesterday was spent watching out the window as the United States Coast Guard attempted to locate the wreckage and the pilot. By the end of the day, news reports confirmed that the pilot had perished in the accident, and that his body, still strapped into the fuselage, had been located.

As you can imagine, it was rather eerie, watching the Coast Guard vessels and helicopters combing the waters of Lake Erie immediately north of the IFR Pilot's office. They were there when work started at 8:00 a.m., and they didn't finish until well after 4:00 p.m.

The throngs of media that had been gathered most of yesterday at the foot of East 9th Street are all gone now. It was overcast and crummy most of the day yesterday; today, it's bright and sunny. But there's still a pall outside my window, even though flight operations continue at BKL unabated.

Remember when you go home tonight to kiss the one you love.