30 June 2011

Dubai to Seattle with Al Hepburn Part 6

We arrived here in Laos after an uneventful 1 hour trip from Bangkok.

At Bangkok, there was a media extravaganza on arrival. Two busloads of fans to great the intrepid pilot, then a party in the evening with hundreds of guests, including a representative from the Chinese Embassy (see photo).

We saw the Grand Palace (really, a whole collection of palaces) yesterday morning, but I think some of the food at the party must have disagreed with me, so I took the rest of the day off, and had a small meal in the Italian restaurant (only customer) last night. Pretty well back to normal today, but now Wei has the bug, so it's not only round-eyes who are affected.

Our missing Jep charts finally caught up with us from Reykjavik (have been using my year old ones up to now). It took 1 1/2 hours to drive to the DHL service centre to pick them up, and we never left the city.

The handling bill at Bangkok was the highest so far ($3,500). After this, $1,500 a landing in Russia is going to look like a bargain. For any Scotsmen, the real challenge is to fly around the world and not pay a single handling fee. I doubt if that's possible, except in a real long range airplane, or maybe a balloon.


28 June 2011

Dubai to Seattle with Al Hepburn Part 5

We had a trouble free ride from Agra to Calcutta. In view of the concerns about high oil temperature, we climbed over the airport at Agra before proceeding on course. However, all we saw was a couple of very brief excursions above the redline and this is normal according to the ops manual, so we are putting it down to high ambient temperatures. Socata, the manufacturer of the airplane, do not seem to be concerned.

The weather enroute was better than expected, with only isolated buildups above our level (FL270). So apparently these cloud charts are a bit pessimistic.

As we joined the localizer, tower advised us that there was "heavy rain over the field". Sure enough, we touched down in decent weather and rolled out into a waterfall. We sat in the airplane on the ramp for half an hour before anyone came to meet us.

I'm rather glad we're only staying one night here. The place is like a big, overpopulated trash heap. Quite a jolt to the senses.

Off this morning to Bangkok, where apparently there will be a big media extravaganza. Looks like the weather should be similar to yesterday, with isolated thundershowers forecast. Let's hope they don't get the one on arrival right over the field.


26 June 2011

Dubai to Seattle with Al Hepburn Part 4

We are waiting to see if we can get a new oil temp. probe. Also, since it is the weekend, we cannot get any permits approved to go any futher until tomorrow. We tested the engine on the ground today, and everything was normal. We plan to head towards Kolkuta tomorrow, but stay over the airfield for 10 minutes or so before proceeding enroute. Meanwhile, the dreaded monsoon seems to be advancing. Today, it looks like we might have made it as far as Patna, or even Kolkuta with a bit of luck. The southern alternative, through Sri Lanka and across to Puket does not look like it would have been very nice today either. Stay tuned.


25 June 2011

Dubai to Seattle with Al Hepburn Part 3

Well, here we are in Agra, and all set to visit the Taj Mahal this morning.

It has not been an uneventful trip, but contrary to expectations, weather has not been a major issue.

I forgot to mention in my last report that Wei had no charts beyond Europe. The are apparently resting in the Hotel Borg in Reykjavik. After thinking of the alternative, we decided to press on with my 2010 vintage charts. It has not so far been an issue. The only glitch was that our filed airway through Pakistan was not on the chart, but thanks to the Garmin 750, we had airways defined in the database.

Our brief look at Muscat in the morning revealed quite mountainous terrain, without the high rise architecture of Dubai. They have oil in more moderate quantities, but much more minerals. As usual, we had delays getting out of Muscat. The flight to Ahmedabad (VAAH) was uneventful. On arrival, we had to go through the international terminal. There was a minor problem because we had invited along a friend who was not included in our permit for Agra, our next destination, which is a military airport. However, the handler was able to fix this.

Departure required us to go out through the domestic terminal. So we wound up with a very close run thing getting in to Agra before they closed.

Crossing Jaipur, we had an indication of high oil temperature. The gauge was fluctuating, and I suspect a sensor problem, but this has still to be resolved.

On arrival at Agra, we found the ILS (the only approach for which we had an IAP) was unavailable. Fortunately, it was good VMC, so we just did a visual approach. The main feature of the trip in the dark to the hotel was the incredible traffic. This has to be the definition of anarchy. But we arrived unscathed.

Stay tuned.


23 June 2011

Dubai to Seattle with Al Hepburn Part 2

Dubai was rather interesting, but the whole place is kind of like an oversized American theme park. Construction is evident everywhere. Virtually the whole place was built within the last ten years. Took a desert safari where they take you out and drive you around the desert in SUVs. There are dozens of them out there driving around the dunes which are composed of very fine wind blown sand.

Our departure was delayed by lack of action on the part of the client, and (sorry Trevor) by a glitch in Eurofpl. The locals insisted on adding "R" to the equipment codes, despite the fact that we had G there already, and when did that, we got some kind of weird error (R added and not something or other), which forced us into manual filing. That took a while. Eventually, we had an uneventful flight down to Muscat, arriving after dark. No language problems, because all the controllers are Brits, US etc.

As far as we can see in the dark, Muscat is a lot more interesting and beautiful. We don't know whether we will get out tomorrow or not. Lots of convective cloud with out destination VAAH just on the edge of it. Stay tuned.


20 June 2011

Dubai to Seattle with Al Hepburn Part 1

Well-known (at least to Flight 8 members) globe-trotting pilot Al Hepburn of Pembroke, Ontario is off on another adventure and the Flight 8 blog will be posting updates from Al as he does his trip.

Al explains the trip:

The proposed route is Dubai – Muscat – Amehabad, India – Agra, India, Kolkuta, India – Bangkok – Vientanne – Ho Chi Minh City – Hong Kong. At this point, there’s a big question mark on whether my client, Wei Chen (his website) will be able to fly in to China. He has apparently located a Chinese pilot to help him do this. I was not interested in flying in an environment where ATC was not in English. After China, the plan is to proceed to Seattle via Sakhalin, Russia – Petropavlovsk – Anadyr and Anchorage Alaska. Wei’s main objective appears to be publicizing his trip. He has several publicity events set up that cannot be missed. No harm in hoping, I guess.

There’s a well known quote by Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet: “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft agley (often go wrong)”.

At this point, the major challenge appears to be getting through the monsoon in India, which sounds kind of scary. You can get an idea of the weather in close to real time by looking at this website.

Remember, India is Z+5.5 hours. Although I intend to use Eurofpl to file the flight plans, there is no real-time tracking available in that part of the world, though Wei does carry Spidertracks which provides tracking to those with whom he is in contact.

The other challenges are the Indian bureaucracy, and what will happen in China. If I’m off the program for 10 days while Wei is in China, Carolyn may come out to Hong Kong to join me. Since Russia is now a known quantity, the bureaucracy there does not loom so large as it otherwise might.

The equipment, by the way, is a TBM 700, which cruises around 275 knots at FL270, and at a stretch can fly 1500 nm.

So, I’m off to Dubai tonight. I’ll send a progress report when there is some progress to report. Wish me luck. Stay tuned.

Al Hepburn

Leavens Aviation Closing

Leavens Aviation, in business since 1927 as an air carrier, aircraft manufacturer and more recently as a parts supplier and engine overhauler will be closing on 31 August 2011. In a recent e-mail to customers the management explains the move:


June 15, 2011

Dear Valued Customer:

As you're probably now aware, Leavens Aviation Inc. has decided to wind-up its operations. After 84 year in the aviation business this is, of course, a very difficult decision but one which we, as a family, felt needed to be made.

Our initial plan had been to wind-up the Parts side of the business and, under different Leavens' ownership structure, keep the shop side of the business going. That, unfortunately, couldn'tbe accomplished.

However, our Propeller, Accessory, Hose and Cable shops appear to have found a new life. two of our long-serving employees (George in Propellers and Harry in accessories) have acquired the shop tooling and equipment and are looking to make a new start in partnership with Quantum Aviation. I hope that you'll hear news from them in the very near future.

Also, we've been able to sell our Engine shop tooling and equipment to the Brampton Flight Centre and I hope thatyou'll hear news from them in the near future as well. Between now and then, however, we still have a few engines on the shelf, deeply discounted and ready to ship. Please review the attached Engine Sheet and let me know if you have any interest.

As to our timeline, we've conditionally sold the Mississauga building and are working to be moved out by August 31, 2011. (We'll still be available after that point, cleaning up our books and records and winding-up the financial side of things.) We're busily selling-off all of our parts inventory and appreciate all of the support that you all have shown during recent weeks. We still have quite a bit of inventory, and some real bargains, remaining.

Thank you all for your business and support over the years and for your many kind words during the past few months. If anyone requires advice on whereto turn for alternate supply sources, please don't hesitate to ask us.

Sincerely yours,

Jeff, Lea Anne, Heather & Bruce Leavens
Leavens Aviation Inc.
(905) 678-1234 ext 211


The company website does not currently reflect this information, but a call today to the company confirms that it is accurate and that the website will be updated soon.

15 June 2011

CYOW Noise Management Committee

Cessna 150


Single engine light aircraft like this Cessna 150 draw a high share of noise complaints at Ottawa’s International Airport.

I attended Ottawa International Airport Authority’s Noise Management Committee meeting 7 June 2011. There is good noise news and bad. First the good news, Ottawa really does not have a noise problem. There was a increase in complaints from 55 in 2009 to 81 in 2010. At the same time there was a small increase in aircraft movements from 129,773 to 132,322. For every 1000 aircraft movements there are .61 complaints. I don’t have statistics for other airports but I am told that this is low in comparison with other major Canadian airports. As one would expect the majority of complaints come from residential areas, particularly for departures to the north that fly over the city off runway 32. Complaints generated by noisier aircraft like First Air’s now retired Boeing 727s have dropped. First Air replaced their B727s with Boeing 767s which are significantly quieter. Still military and noisier civil aircraft such as the older Boeing 737s generate some complaints. The airport is considering modifying its noise abatement procedures to limit the times of day when these noisier aircraft (Chapter 2) can operate. Such a change would be voluntary for Military activities.

The bad news is that many complaints are generated by light flight training aircraft operating on runway 04-22. Unfortunately the flight schools based at the airport chose not to attend the meeting. To mitigate this noise the Airport Authority is asking flight training and itinerant aircraft to turn crosswind after takeoff from runway 22 along Merivale Rd. I saw no reason why this could not be done to help mitigate noise. It would have been helpful if the based flight training operators had been at the meeting to comment on the proposal. My concern is that itinerant pilots likely would not know which road is Merivale Rd.

It was noted that there are a couple of repeat noise complainers, particularly about light aircraft. This is likely true at all airports. Nonetheless, if we can make safe small changes to our flight paths and practices to mitigate these complaints we should do so. circuit-cyow

This figure shows current flight paths in blue along with the noise sensitive area in red. Following Merivale Rd. rather than over the noise sensitive area will not be difficult. Instructors can easily show student pilots the preferred routing to avoid noise complaints. This will move the downwind leg of the circuit farther from the airport and potentially increase risks if an engine failure occurs.

The other unusual complaint is generated by police aircraft. The Airport Authority obviously has no responsibility for this noise, although they do log the complaints. It was suggested that the police consider installing a quieter muffler system similar to those in use in Europe.

Interestingly there was also a discussion of the language used in Noise Abatement procedures, particularly, turbo-prop vs Turbo-jet. Apparently some more modern Turbo-fan aircraft do not believe the noise abatement semantics applies to them?

We light aircraft operators can do our part to mitigate aircraft noise that disturbs our neighbours. We certainly don’t want to see the Airport Authority give up on the north field and close it just because of noise we can control. Let’s do our part!

04 June 2011

What Happened To The 2011 Classic Air Air Rallye?

After attending the 2010 edition of this small airshow I noted that despite the perfect weather that attendance was poor. Probably only 500 spectators showed up on the Saturday of the show when I was there.

In that previous blog posting a number of theories were bandied about as to why the public were a no-show for the Air Rallye. These included the high price ($20 for adults), the economy, that the Air Rallye conflicted with the Central Canada Exhibition (Super EX), the level of disorganization at the Air Rallye, weather that was perhaps too nice, that the Air Rallye was too small and dull and also competition with the free and much larger Vintage Wings Open House and Airshow that was held at Gatineau Airport on the 4 July and which 25,000 people attended plus another free Gatineau Airshow in September that drew 15,000 people.

It looks like Flightworks, the group that has put on the Classic Air Rallye, has somewhat answered the question and also announced their plans for 2011. They say:

"The 2011 Classic Air Rallye"

We've been planning some changes for the Classic Air Rallye for the future. Not all these changes could be implemented for this year, so for 2011 only, here's what's happening."

"With the growth of the Vintage Wings show just across the river in September so close to our August date, the competition for resources - participants, volunteers, media, etc - was becoming too great. Therefore we decided to change our date to the beginning of the airshow season, in early June. The only date the Museum could accommodate us on this year was the June 18th weekend. This of course is the same date as the newly revived Hamilton show. So clearly we wouldn't be able to run the same sort of CAR as in previous years."

"So, for 2011, Flightworks is cooperating with the Museum in staging the Capital Classic Wings and Wheels show on June 18th. This will attract a large number of classic and collector cars, the reenactors, supported by an increased participation by fighting vehicles from the War Museum, and fly-in aircraft. There will not be a formal flying display, but pilots will as usual be welcome to participate and display their aircraft. And we'll be back on the first weekend in June 2012 with the full event."

This year's Wings Over Gatineau airshow will again feature a Canadian EAA convention, the Snowbirds and of course the Vintage Wings fleet. It will be held on 17 September 2011 and is in commemoration of Canada’s First and Second World War Victoria Cross Recipients. As in the past admission will be by donation.

The Classic Air Rallye indicates that they will have a regular airshow next on 2-3 June 2012. It will be interesting to see how that event pans out and whether the new date, as far from the Gatineau shows as possible, will bring the crowds back. My own guess is that even with that date spread, that they are still competing with Gatineau for price and that the past $20 admission for the Classic Air Rallye will have to come down to $10 or less if they are to draw a serious crowd to the event in 2012.

RAA Unveils New Website

The Recreational Aircraft Association, based in Breslau, Ontario, has recently uploaded a new website.

The organization has had several different designs over the years, but this new one, created by George Gregory, is a very simple and clean layout and makes good use of attractive photos.

Have a look at:


03 June 2011

New in Ottawa Skies

It's orange and it makes a very different sound than the S-76A that it replaced on 7 May 2011. Almost everyone in Ottawa has probably seen the new AgustaWestland AW139 that is now operating from the Ornge base at the Ottawa International Airport, since it is hard to miss.

The two crew, 15 passenger aircraft is used in the medical evacuation role by Ornge, the non-profit foundation that runs Ontario's air ambulance service. Their original aircraft were Sikorsky S-76s, at first on contract from Canadian Helicopters and later Ornge-leased. The new AW139s are bigger, faster and louder than the S-76s they replace and also have more range.

Originally an Agusta-Bell joint venture to produce a new Twin Huey-sized medium utility helicopter, the first 54 built were designated AB139s. Bell dropped out of the project and Agusta continued on its own. After merging with the UK company Westland to become AgustaWestland in July 2000, the later build aircraft were designated as the AW139.

Like the similar-sized Bell 212 Twin Huey, the 139 is powered by twin Pratt and Whitney Canada PT-6 powerplants. These are the PT6C-67C version, however and put out 1,531 hp per side, propelling the 14,110 lb gross weight aircraft to a maximum speed of 193 mph. The aircraft is fairly clean for a helicopter and features retractable nose-wheel-configuration landing gear that gives it that higher top speed, a useful asset in medevac flying.

The 139 has a fully-articulated five-bladed main rotor that gives it a very different sound compared the four-bladed S-76 it replaces. It is definitely louder than the S-76 in flight, although the sound is nothing like the sharp bark of the old two-bladed Twin Huey, it is more like a slowly building whir when approaching.

The AW139 has been very successful with a wide range of customers, from the Bulgarian border police to the Lebanese Army. The 139 is the right size for medevac as well as SAR, executive transport, off-shore oil rig support and military troop-transport use. In fact an enlarged derivative, the AW149, was announced at the Farnborough Air Show in 2006 and is being actively developed.

The 139 is built in Italy and also on a second production line at the AgustaWestland Aerospace plant in Philadelphia.

In Ornge service the 139 is being deployed to seven bases. For this mission Ornge is acquiring eight aircraft, leaving one spare, which will be located in Toronto when it isn't needed elsewhere. The Ottawa base was the third to receive their 139, after Sudbury and London. The aircraft at the Ottawa base covers eastern Ontario including Algonquin Park, from Mattawa in the north, to Hawkesbury in the east, Cornwall in the south and Kingston in the west.

The Ornge 139s have special-configuration medevac interiors that include attendant seats that can swivel and traverse, allowing the paramedics to work on patients with unstrapping. The swivelling stretcher installation, that includes a lift and lower mechanism, permits much easier loading and unloading of patients and reduces the potential for paramedic injuries.

The AW139s belonging to Ornge will be a familiar sight around Ottawa and indeed most of Ontario this summer. They are hard to miss with their bright orange paint schemes, with their distinctive sound.

* AgustaWestland AW139 higher resolution photo