Feature Vid - “David & Ethel” I was chatting with a few ladies in the Fairmont Hotel’s Absolute Spa, when one of them said, “You should interview my 86 year old grandma! She’s meeting her 91 year old boyfriend in the International Arrivals tomorrow at 3:00pm.” I couldn’t believe me ears, “A 91 year old boyfriend?” I’ve heard of 16 year old boyfriends, 30 year old boyfriends.. but 91? This had to be a good story! It was 1939 and WWII had officially started following the invasion of Poland. Both France and the British Commonwealth had declared war against the Nazi invaders. Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) needed a safe place to train their pilots and ground crew, so they chose the Canadian prairies. Between 1939 and 1945 thousands of RAF troops would train in remote locations across Saskatchewan. One of the largest bases was located in the small farming community of North Battleford, and that’s where the story unfolds. He was a young, 21 year old aviation engineer with the RAF. His job was to train pilots on the procedures of ‘blind flying’, an essential skill when navigating through thick clouds or rain. She was a 17 year old prairie girl, still living with her parents (who were actually from Britain). Her family missed the old country and was excited to welcome the hundreds of tea loving troops into their sleepy community. Although Ethel had her share of strapping young lads to choose from, it was David’s charm and English wit that captivated her heart. They spent close to three years together, skipping rocks in the summer and snuggling by the fireplace in the winter. It was a time of promise and a new future for both of them, that was until David’s post was relocated to England. Although it brought tears, the War’s end was uncertain and Ethel was forced to stay behind. They continued to write, but responsibilities toward their families and careers had taken a priority in both their lives. Eventually they followed separate paths. But fate works in mysterious ways.. It was 1999. Ethel and her husband were touring England when Ethel noticed a shockingly recognizable street address, it was David’s. Surprisingly enough, her husband convinced her to place the call. The three of them met and ended up spending the next few days together. Their reunion must have sparked an age old flame, because when they returned to Canada her husbands first remarks were, “I have some competition, looks like Ethel found a new boyfriend.” Ethel commented on how kind her husband was to her from then on. It was Ethel’s husband that kept in contact with David over the next few years. Together they shared old war stories and memories of the past. But fate took yet another turn when Ethel’s husband unexpectadly passed away. David sent his regards and waited for Ethel to greave, but he couldn’t wait any longer. After a few months he suggested a visit to Canada. David and Ethel have been ‘friends’ (as Ethel puts it) for a couple years now. David now enjoys six months of the year in Canada, serenading Ethel as she makes his favourite dinner, Roast Beef and Yorkshire Puddings. I would like to thank David and Ethel for allowing me to share their beautiful fairytale. I didn’t know what to expect when approaching this story, but like most great things in life.. they arrive unexpected.
“Day 72 - Air Canada Tour” There are thousands of mandatory checks and procedures that are conducted before every flight. Some of these procedures, like the loading of cargo, can be viewed from the departure gate - while majority of the others will forever remain a mystery.. until now! I had only one week remaining at YVR when I received the call I had been anxiously waiting for. Air Canada had paired me with pilots, Bill and Howard, who were preparing for Flight AC034, a Boeing 777 on route from YVR to YYZ (Toronto). Our mission, unveil the mysteries of the “Pre-Flight Process.” Did you know: YVR is Air Canada’s second largest hub in North America, with over 720 ‘ramp’ (or ground crew) employees and 680 active pilots. The employee bus arrived at the Air Canada Operations Building, just quick ride from YVR. It was in the lobby where I was greeted by the generous smile of Captain Bill Keith. I knew the day was going to be good when Bill began to crack jokes with the dozens of comrades in passing. He seemed to know everyone, but I guess that’s what happens when you work somewhere for 30 years. I was actually surprised when we met the second pilot, Captain Howard, and Bill had never met him before. Supposedly, due to flight schedules and the volume of flights, it’s a common occurrence. “That’s why the Pre-Flight Process is so regimented,” Bill said. You couldn’t help but noticed how everything Bill and Howard did had some sort of synchronization to it - from studying the Flight Plan in the Operations Building, to inputing the Flight Plan into the planes FMC (Flight Management Computer), every task required a specific finesse, and a specific way of communicating (most of their dialogue spoken in Alphas, Bravos and Echos). Although I was able to boil my adventure down to a short 5 minute clip, the entire Pre-flight process took just under two hours. I give credit to Captain’s Bill and Howard. It’s not easy to have a camera in your face, especially when you’re trying to do a job that requires so many steps. To give them a break, I made continuous trips to the Ramp (the area around the plane) to capture the action on the ground. Air Canada’s YVR hanger have 18 Boeing 777 that fly around the world daily. The 163 pilots that fly these planes are among Air Canada’s most senor staff. It was an honour to be welcomed by Bill, Howard and the rest of the Air Canada family. A tremendous amount of pre-flight work goes into ensuring the safety of passengers and their luggage. After watching the pilots synchronized performance and the ground crews seamless organization, I’ll never look at flying the same.
Quickie Vid - “How NOT to leave YVR” Donald is 76 years old and is still cruzing around YVR causing trouble, just as he did 60+ years ago. I asked Donald what his most memorable YVR moments were. It took him a few minutes to respond, probably because he had to filter a few out.. but he did provide one story!
Quickie Vid - “Fairmont Cake-Off” I was bragging about my cake decorating skills when the Fairmont’s Executive Chef, Geoff Carkner, overhead my conversation. The next day I was invited to challenge the Fairmont’s Pastry Chef, Bernadette Tow, to a cake decorating competition! The Fairmont Vancouver Airport will be launching a gourmet line of cakes ‘to-go’. So next time you want to surprise that special someone at the Airport, forget about the roses, buy a cake! Don’t worry though, I won’t be the one decorating them! However, if my trademark cake-decorating skills are what you’re looking for, make a special request.. I’ll do it.
“Feature Vid - Declare Your Goods” If you’re like my girlfriend, and are returning from a vacation abroad, your bag is probably filled with souvenirs. Did you know that you’re legally obligated to declare any food, plant, animal or related items when you arrive into Canada from out of country? I’m a little embarrassed to say, but I had no clue. I visited Mexico a few years ago and purchased an antique picture frame from one of the many tourist-trap markets. The man selling me the frame said, “you’ll have no problem bringing it across the boarder, we sell them all the time”. What he didn’t tell me was that his antique picture frames get confiscated all the time as well. But then again, how would he know. I arrived into Canada and as luck would have it, was randomly selected for screening. The CBSA (Canada Boarder Service Agency) Officer searched my entire bag and removed the picture frame. “Did you know this is prohibited?”, he said. He pointed to the small worm-hole markings scattered throughout the frame. According to him (and Canadian guidelines), it was a sign of infestation. He asked if I would like to keep the art-print inside and I accepted his gesture. He broke the frame, removed the art-print and handed it over. I was completely furious, but at the time wasn’t thinking of the bigger picture. In 2003, it was estimated that the annual loss of revenue caused by invasive alien species in Canada was around $16.6 billion. Not only that, but those potentially contaminated items could have posed a serious risk to plant, animal and human health. Here are a few things I learned on my recent visit to the CBSA Agriculture Inspection Room: 1). FOOD: must display an authentic Canadian stamp of approval or certificate 2). PLANT: must display a Plant Protection Import Permit (usually attached) 3). WOOD: must be free of bark, insects or evidence of insect activity 4). SAND: not allowed to import sand Just remember, don’t take the retailers word. Make sure you visit: www.beaware.gc.ca
Feature Vid - “Snow Removal Training” The weather can be unpredictable here on the West Coast of British Columbia. An unexpected snow storm could put passengers and aircraft at risk of an accident or delay; which is why it’s important that YVR’s ‘Airfield Emergency Services team’ is prepared to combat the coming winter months. YVR’s Airfield Emergency Services unit consists of a handful of highly trained emergency response professionals. They are not only trained to provide ‘first on the scene’ services (fire and rescue), they also cut the airfield grass in the summer, clean runways and taxiways year-round with their street sweeper, and remove snow in the winter. All these tasks play a massive role in the safety of passengers and aircraft. It was 10pm. I arrived to a bustling work-yard, flooded with the sound of loud diesel engines and flashing lights. Fifteen massive vehicles stood running, anxiously waiting for the first night of Snow Removal Training. Inside the double-wide trailer (Airfield ER Headquarters), the group was divided into two teams, the Runway Team and Taxiway Team. They meticulously studied their routes, timing and formation. The energy was high, and everyone was excited start. All it took was the word ‘go’ the teams were off to their vehicles. I was paired with David Costa and his trusty Dump Truck (now converted Salt Truck). We were a part of the Taxiway Team and positioned last in formation. The role of David’s truck is to spread salt (distance of 50ft) across the taxiways. This prevents ice from forming and snow from sticking to the taxiways. I liked driving with David. Not only was he the only one willing to entertain a camera in his face, his enthusiasm for his job was contagious. He told stories similar to that of a military veteran, “where the snow was as thick as Santa Clause’s beard, visibility was no more than than 10ft, where his machine ran for days on end without stopping, and where he was put up in a neighboring hotel just so he could sleep for six hours and come back to work and do it all over again. He told all these stories with a massive grin, and enough passion to melt the snow with his heart. I had a great time working with the men and women of YVR’s Airfield Emergency Services Team. Seeing the team in action during the rainy months was one thing, but I’d love to work a ‘real’ shift once the snow falls.
Feature Vid - “Ruffled Feathers” What happens when you combine an airport with a major avian highway? Some ruffled feathers perhaps? YVR is located within one of North America’s busiest migratory highways of Snow Geese. Between October and April hundreds of thousands of Snow Geese will vacation on the West Coast of North America (between BC and Mexico) to escape the cold winters of Russia and Arctic Canada. While most Snow Geese pass through YVR’s airspace and continue South, thousands rest on the shores of Sea Island while on route. Unfortunately, this causes major concern for the aviation community, wildlife groups and for the birds themselves. According to Wikipedia, 65% of all bird-strikes are nonhazardous (to humans that is). Strikes most often result in death for the birds. The total world wide costs from bird-strikes is around $1.2 billion dollars. Those costs include repairs, delays, rescheduling flights, fuel, accommodations for passengers, reports and airport fees. Luckily for the Snow Geese resting on the shores of YVR’s Sea Island, they have a little more protection. YVR is one of the only airports in the world to provide a 24/7 Wildlife Control Program. The goal of the program is to prevent bird-strike collisions by encouraging the geese to proceed south. How does YVR encourage these geese to continue on their migratory path without ruffling too many feathers? With the help of some interesting tools. Check out the recent video of my tour with YVR’s Wildlife Control Team.
Feature Vid - “Your Dream Job?” Ever wanted to work in the world of aviation? I’ve had a number of Live@YVR friends ask about jobs in the aviation world. Being that this is a new industry to me, I was interested in finding out as well. I asked numerous airport workers how they landed their jobs. While most new staff had been hired based on a degree, trade certificate or past employment; the majority of older staff had been adopted through employment with retired airlines. The Maintenance Workers, those responsible for maintaining the functionality of the airport and its services, require a trades ticket (mainly electrical, millwright or plumbing). The Baggage Handlers require training provided by the employer. The Air Traffic Control position is open to anyone, you don’t need a degree, you just need to make it through NAV Canada’s intense examination and training process. With over 24,000 jobs in YVR, it’s very difficult to provide a list of all the prerequisites and qualifications that are needed. But, according to BCIT’s, Aerospace Associate Dean, Jack Baryluk, there are three mandatory skills-sets required for every job, “attitude, attitude and attitude.” - and now that I’ve witnessed the organized chaos of an airport first hand, I can understand what he’s referring to. BCIT’s new aerospace campus, is the perfect starting point for anyone interested in the performance of aircraft. They offer six highly specialized programs from their state of the art, 285,000 sq ft. satellite campus, located on Sea Island (footsteps away from YVR). Here students can specialize in aircraft electronics (avionics), aircraft structures, general maintenance, engine maintenance, commercial pilot training and airport operations (management of airports). The best part is, many of these students enter with with no prior experience of aviation. The youngest student I met was 18 years old, the oldest was well into his 50’s. While there are many ways you can enter the world of aviation, I would suggest simply visiting a airport. Look around, determine what aspects intrigue you the most. Don’t be afraid to ask questions either. Many of the pilots, flight attendants, ground crew and maintenance workers would be more than willing to share their stories. I’ve been asking people to share their stories for the past 80 days and haven’t been turned down once. PS - I would like to dedicate this posting to a live@YVR friend who has been supporting this project from the very start. Thank-you 1rainywish! Good luck on finding your future in aviation.
Feature Vid - “The De-icing Crew” I was walking through the maze of hallways on YVR’s forth floor, which primarily consists of airline and retailer corporate offices, when I stumbled across a sign that read “Aero Mag 2000”. Something struck me a about the sign and I walked right into the office. It was a small office, there was a receptionist to the immediate left and a row of three offices straight forward. There were glorious pictures of deicing trucks hung all over the walls. I noticed two gentleman chatting in an office, so I just walked in and asked, “what do you guys do here?” 20 minutes later I was out on the airport apron, driving a massive, brand new deicing truck. How cool is that!? What is deicing? Deicing is defined as the removal of existing, snow ice, frost, etc., from a surface. In the case of YVR, deicing is performed on the planes body, tail and wings. Deicing can be accomplished by mechanical methods (scraping, pushing), through the application of heat, by applying dry or liquid chemicals (such as glycol), or by a combination of these different techniques. YVR and Aero Mag 2000 work together to combat the task of deicing planes. This process is extremely important, yet most people don’t know it even exists. I have to send a special thanks to Stewart McIntosh who welcomed me into his office and, without appointment, toured me through his entire facility. Thanks man. It was one of the best spontaneous experiences I’ve had here at YVR.
Quickie Vid - “YVR’s School Program” YVR’s school program welcomes hundreds of kids to Vancouver Airport each year. When I found out that I would be leading my very own class, I threw on my Drill Sergent boots and began to brush up on my drills. I wish my school had these field-trips when I was a kid, instead we toured the old-folks home and the Port Alberni Fish Cannery. But despite the fact that this was a field-trip, my goal was to make sure that these young pupils ‘earned’ their pilots wings. YVR’s school program is open from Sept to Nov of each year and is provided at no charge (however, it’s only open to Grade 5 students). For more info visit: firstname.lastname@example.org.