Tuesday, 15 December 2015


I’m still waiting on the report from my doctor. That should be forthcoming soon, judging from the fact that the surgery has just called me for my credit card details (gulp, just don’t ask how much this is costing me).

After that it’ll be up to Transport Canada to decide just how crazy I am.

In the mean time I’ve come to terms with my enforced grounding, although I will be honest and say that I probably sulked for a good few days after getting the official “we are suspending your medical” letter.

Anyways I’m taking this time to do something for me, something I’ve been considering for a while but the timing has never quite right.

Yep, I’m going to pay someone to attack my eyeballs with a laser!

Friday, 4 December 2015

The call

So yeah I got a phone call from Transport Canada, Medical Department within 5 minutes of my conversation with JD.

As I’ve mentioned (many times) I don’t like talking on the phone, but I had to bite the bullet and pick up. We had a brief discussion of what the actual issue was (I’m taking Antidepressants). He asked for a bit of history, timeline dose etc.

Basically the jist of the conversation was that if I was no longer taking them then flying was fine. So once I stopped taking them I could resume flying. I expressed my concern that I would possibly be taking these long term and thus the “wait until you are off them” approach might not work.

I went into the conversation with a certain degree of na├»ve optimism. I know I’m fine, quite frankly I’m probably doing better than I have in years and any side effects I may have are in no way an impediment to flying. So I was kind of hoping, again rather naively, that this would just be an exercise in paper collecting and form filling

This optimism was lost when he started talking about “concern about the use of these drugs in pilots”, “evaluated on a case by case basis”, “possible to initially regain medical with ‘as or with copilot’ restriction”

My heart was in my mouth as I asked what I needed to do next.

Looking at it reasonably, I was completely unrealistic in my thoughts as to how this was going to pan out. I can see that of course Transport Canada are going to be cautious, with a conservative approach. I have to face up to the reality that the time frame I’m looking at might be measured in years and not months.

Now I’ve had time to reflect, I can accept this. The only thing that annoys me is that they might give me the “with or as Copilot” endorsement. To be honest, if I’d wanted that then I needn’t have told them anything in the first place. I can do that right now, even with a suspended medical. The whole point of going through this was to be able to fly, properly. No fricken endorsements.

So much responsibility rests with the pilot to self-monitor. I suspect there are more than a handful of people, who given my situation, would have just kept their mouth shut and kept on flying.
A small part of me feels like I’m being punished for being honest.

Anyways, it is too late now. I’m on Transport Canada’s radar and now I have to deal with that
They need a report from my doctor with the following info

·         Background
o   Start date
o   Symptoms
o   Treatment
o   Compliance
·         Medication history
o   Side effects
·         Current symptoms (symptom free?)
·         Response to treatment
·         Prognosis ( best estimate)

Luckily for me my doctor is 100% supportive and willing to write whatever I need. She also suggested that we include

§  Not a danger to myself or others
§  Flying has positive impact on mental health
§  No side effects that would affect ability to operate plane

She also wants to add that I may be on the medication “for the foreseeable future” to force them to assess me long term rather than just suspending my medical while I’m taking them.

So now the report is currently being worked on. Once it is ready we will fax it to Transport Canada. I’ll let you know what happens next

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

I need help

I’m not joking, I honestly had no idea how to go about informing Transport Canada about any of this. Bearing in mind that one of the manifestations of issues was a high level of anxiety associated with making and receiving phone calls, well phoning up a random government office and saying “Hey, I’m crazy*, just thought you should know” wasn’t really an option.

You might think the obvious place to deal with my Medical certification issues would be the guy who signed me off as fit in the first place. The Civil Aviation Medical Examiner or CAME. Well, maybe but there are a few issues with this.

Firstly, I’m not even sure I remember who that was. For those of you who think this sounds weird, some context might be in order. Most newby pilots, who don’t have any significant health issues, see getting their Class 3 medical is just another hoop to jump through. I didn’t actually pay much attention to the whole process. I made an appointment, turned up, was prodded a bit, peed in a cup and then eventually I got a piece of paper in the mail.

Secondly, what I do remember from the process of booking and attending the CAME’s office doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence. Although the Dr. himself was fine, the other staff not so much. I remember having language barrier issues both on the phone and in person. I recall there being a great deal of confusion because I had to pay. I also remember that they gave me the wrong information on the phone about what I needed to bring (good job I’d done some research beforehand) and then both RTH and I suspect that they were the ones that messed up the data entry which led to my certificate going to the wrong address.

So while it wouldn’t have been difficult for me to figure out who to call, it was a lot easier for me to put it off.

I just needed some help to start the process and that help came from an unexpected source. I’d attended a Transport Canada Safety seminar with my pilot buddy E. The subject matter was interesting, winter streamers and lake effect snow. As part of the sign in process I’d checked the box for “please sign me up for some newsletter or the other”

A couple of days afterwards I got a call from JD the safety officer who ran this particular seminar. I’ve chatted to JD before, so we at least know each other. It turned out that he couldn’t quite make out my email address. I gave him the correct one. We exchanged a joke or two as to how I adopted this particular address (I use the localflighteast one for all flying related stuff) and made polite conversation.

I’m not sure why the little voice in my head chose this time to be useful and say “hey LFE, he’s a SAFETY officer” and put the idea into my head that maybe he would be someone who would at least have a contact for me. But I’m very glad it did

I bit the bullet and said “Hey JD, you might be able to help me with something……”
I explained the situation, told him I didn’t know where to start but I wanted to get flying again and would appreciate even just the contact details of someone to talk to.

Well JD, in his infinite kindness simply replied “no worries LFE, I’ll stroll over to the medical department and get someone from there to call you.

He did

And they did

And the contents of that call, next post

* I'm allowed to refer to myself as crazy! I also encourage friends to do the same. Humour is really the only way I can deal with this and believe it or not, inappropriate stuff like referring to my therapist as my "crazy doctor" is actually a sign I'm getting better

Friday, 27 November 2015

Where do I begin?

I know where I’m not going to begin, at the moment I’m not really into sharing the path that led to my being diagnosed with and treated for depression.

Maybe another time.

At the moment just accept it for what it is. I have Depression and am receiving treatment for it. Part of that involves being on medication.

Now I’m lucky in many respects, firstly I don’t appear to be having much in the way of nasty side effects. Those that I did have went away fairly quickly. And also I live in a country that has a reasonably progressive attitude towards SSRIs.

Intellectually I had read all the transport Canada Blurb on their website and knew that it wasn’t impossible to maintain a Class 3 medical and take them. But now I’m faced with the reality of dealing with Transport Canada and, well, emotionally I’m having my ups and downs with it.

As soon as it became obvious that I was going to need help with my depression, I grounded myself as PIC.

I did a little right hand seat flying, but I was always brutally honest with the person in the left hand seat. I didn’t do any takeoffs or landings with them either.

I flew with Bob, to keep my hand in, again in an email I was very upfront about what was happening with me. No solo flying but an hour with an instructor was just the thing!

Bob, bless him, took it all in his stride, completely unfazed as usual.  He also helped me out of a situation that was killing me inside.

My parents were due to visit (it had been nearly three years) and I desperately wanted to take them flying. I was so eager to show off my newly acquired piloting skills and it was devastating to think I wouldn’t be able to. I mentioned this in passing over a coffee with Bob.

“No problem, stick em in the back and I’ll fly with you” he said. And he did. With the added bonus that my parents got to meet the famous Bob himself.

But now I find myself in the situation where I’ve done the right thing by grounding myself through the rough times, but I’m feeling better. Much better. Even if it is “better but on medication”

I want to fly again, solo even. And I know to do that I need to involve Transport Canada.

The question was…….where do I even begin?

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Why I haven’t been posting much.

I don’t want this blog to die but I’m acutely aware that there hasn’t been much in the way of activity recently.

Two main reasons for this, both actually linked.

An inability to fly and an inability to write.

Before I explain, I need you to know that writing this post is difficult, mostly because I’m just not sure how to even start.

So let us start at the very beginning

My name is Localflighteast and I suffer from Clinical Depression.

I’m not alone out there, there are millions of us. Sit down on a bus or a train and the chances are that at least one of your fellow passengers will be in the same place as me.

And I’m one of the lucky ones, because when my depression became bad, I had support. Support from family, friends, coworkers, medical professionals and employers.

And now, months later I’m at a stage where I’m finally getting my head around my diagnosis and coming to terms with my treatment options. I’m also finally discovering the ability to write again.

I’m also in a good enough headspace that I can consider getting airborne again, having self grounded myself for nearly six months now.

I’m about to start the process of becoming certified medically fit to fly and thought I’d document the process because I know for certain I’m not the only one out there that is facing this, or will face it in the future.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Leaving on an aeroplane.

Not much in the way of flight blogging at the moment. I’m going to be away for a good while,check out here to see why….

Monday, 10 August 2015

Pilot decisions made part two

Now that I’ve figured out that I have enough fuel to get to Edenvale, I need to figure out the routing. It is not the hardest place in the world to get to but there are a few curveballs to deal with.

For a start, I’ve got to negotiate my way out of the Island’s airspace and exit to the north. This requires a small detour through Buttonville’s zone. I’m not too concerned by this; I’m becoming more and more comfortable with dealing with various ATC services. It’s taken me a long time but I’ve gradually come to see them as the human beings they actually are. The intimidation factor is gone.

My plan is to use my IPad and GPS unit for primary navigation, but I’m a little wary. I’ve had issues with the two of them not liking to talk to each other. I know the Bad Elf is functioning just fine, I’d used it for geocaching the week before but Foreflight doesn’t seem to like it, sometimes refusing to track my position. As a backup I carry paper charts with the route marked on it.

As a further “backup” and to be honest a general way of making my life easier, this is a pleasure flight after all, not a Nav exercise, I pick a route which pretty much feature crawls the entire way. I follow the DVP road to Buttonville , once clear of their zone I pick up the 400 highway and follow that to Barrie. From Barrie I anticipate being able to see the airport.

The use of Barrie as a waypoint is a good choice for many reasons, even though it takes me slightly out of my way. It’s a very noticeable town on the edge of the lake, a good visual landmark. It also helps with the next issue I have; negotiating my way through a narrow corridor.

Following the 400 means I have to thread the needle between the controlled airspace of CFB Borden on one side and the Cookstown Parachute drop zone. I should be Ok though if I hug the highway but keep on the west. I’m good. Carrying this all the way to Barrie before I turn to Edenvale means that I won’t inadvertently cut the corner and infringe on Borden.

My final decision is to get flight following.  Sometimes flight following can be a bit of a pain in that they may try to “control” you a little more than you’d like but on this route, they are an extra pair of eyes keeping me out of the danger zone.

Now I have figured out what I’m going to do, now the most nerve wracking part. I’ve got to run it past Bob. Although I’m not expecting an instructional flight here, I just need a qualified pilot in the front seat but we have agreed to meet a few minutes before hand to go through my plan and make sure we are both on the same page.

Post three will follow.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Pilot decisions made part one

I’ve always second guessed my abilities in this regard, always unsure, always seeking a second opinion and probably leaning on Bob and RTH a lot more than I should have in this regard.

Which is why I am inordinately proud of myself at the moment. I managed a flight of (for me) epic planning requirements.

The back story is that my parents are visiting from the UK and I was eager to, well basically show off, and take my parents for a flight. A proper flight to another airport for the proverbial $100 hamburger.

The first snag; for various reasons that I won’t bore you with, I can’t fly PIC at the moment.

The first solution; Bob very kindly agrees to be some “right seat ballast” or my radio monkey as I kept referring to him! Great, but that leads to

Snag two, I’ve got 4 adults in a 172, I'm pushing the payload limits.

OK, let’s crunch the numbers and come up with solution number two. If I get the S model plane, I can carry 24 gallons of fuel.

That’s not ideal but it is doable. I decide on a destination that is about an hour’s flight away. I pick it for various reasons. It has a nice restaurant, I’ve been there before (albeit not as pilot flying), it has ample parking and self-serve fuel available at a reasonable price.

The latter is an important consideration, as although I’m confident that 24 gallons is plenty to get us there with a decent contingency, it certainly isn’t enough to get us back. I’m going to need fuel for sure. This is really the first flight I’ve done where I’ve had to actively make fuel decisions. Normally I fly with full tanks, giving me at least 5 hours in the air. This time I have to think about the “what ifs?” Another factor in my destination choice is that I know there are at least 3 other airports close by, all of them within fuel range and all of them selling 100LL on the minute chance that Edenvale is out.
So now that I’ve figured out the fuel stuff and am happy that I’m not going to be another “too much air in the tanks” casualty, I need to figure out how we are going to get there.

Another post….

Saturday, 8 August 2015

What I signed up for

Today I wandered down to the airport, crossed over using the new pedestrian tunnel (something which cuts about half an hour off of my journey), signed out a plane and did my walkround.

After settling my passengers in, I went through my usual safety spiel (something I no longer feel self-conscious doing) and off we went to Edenvale (CNV8).

An hour’s flight was followed by a leisurely lunch. A quick splash of fuel to get us home and away we went.

The winds aloft minimal, the journey back pretty much the same length as the one there. An approach over the city with a fantastic view of the CN tower and downtown core. Culminating in an uneventful landing and home.

This is what the two and a half years of angst and self-doubt were about. This is what I signed up for.

Who gets to do stuff like this?!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Are you sure that you have a license?

These are not words that any PPL holder wants to hear from any instructor. But unfortunately for me those are the exact words I hear from the guy in the flight suit, frowning over me and the controls.

Luckily I’m in a simulator and my excuse that the F18 I’m currently wrestling with handles a tad differently to my usual Cessna 172 seems fairly valid to me.

I think the instructor is joking……maybe.

Anyways, some context RTH and I were here, sat in reasonably lifelike F18 simulators practicing taking out some targets before we were let loose on each other in a dog fight.

The session itself was a lot of fun, you start with a quick familiarisation session in front of a standard PC, getting used to all the buttons and the general handling of the F18. I quickly realised just how much trouble I was going to be in. Even turning an F18 is all kinds of messed up. You roll until the horizon is now at 90 degrees and then yank back on the stick. A technique that Bob actively discouraged in the cockpit.

In the briefing room itself we are introduced to some advanced combat techniques (like try to keep the enemy in front of you!) and various warning noises you are likely to hear. Stall warnings, missile lock and so on.

Let’s just say I heard most of them, an awful lot.

Stalls are funky, I discovered (purely by sloppy energy management) that an F18, much like a Cessna, will start to fall out of the sky when you pull a steep turn at 50 knots.  Luckily I was at a ridiculous height when this event occurred.  You recover from a stall by afterburner-ing out of that sucker! Again, this combined with sloppy energy management mean that I flew one combat engagement purely on after burner and reached Bingo fuel in about 2 minutes.

Briefing over, we confirm our chosen call signs for this mission. RTH has gone for something relatively benign based on a forum name he uses. I’m cognisant of the fact that everyone who comes in here is probably “Maverick” or some other TopGun character. I mean I can see why and I don’t want to buck the trend or anything here. So I settle on a variation derived from a conversation about only way they could make the much hyped TopGun2 watchable.

I was indeed Zombie Goose for the duration of this mission.

So how did Zombie Goose do?

I won’t lie to you. It wasn’t pretty. RTH managed to get his first kill in while I was still figuring out how to switch my radar on.

Eventually I lost count of how many times he managed to remove me from the sky but I managed to get him a total of 3 times.

Once with missiles, one with guns and once with my wingtip. Okay so technically that last one took me out too! Oh yeah and I managed to G-LOC into the ground at one point as well. Oopsie.

I may not have been great at shooting down planes but I did manage to both shock and awe the mission controllers in other ways though.

Namely by my wide and varied use of ummm, shall we say, more colourful language.

I guess nothing changes.


Friday, 24 July 2015

Improving safety

Flight safety is everyone’s top priority. In general pilots tend to be risk-averse and conservative in nature. Sure there are always a few idiots but in general we prefer to keep our planes intact and ourselves alive.

There have been many studies carried out in many different countries and many millions of dollars spent all with the singular purpose of improving flight safety.

In the light of such extravagant expenditure I feel it is only right that I do my bit. So I have carried out my own study, based on direct observations of a number of years and I’m pleased to tell you that I’m now in a position to report my findings.

The single most effective way of ensuring a safe and uneventful flight is………..

To remove all instructors from aircraft effective immediately.

You see I have noticed a direct correlation between there being an instructor on board and the likelihood of the engine mysteriously quitting on you!

Ok, you got me. This might be my not so subtle way of complaining about the fact that I was happily in the circuit, after a reasonably good flight in which I’d easily demonstrated my ability to land the plane after an engine failure. I was quietly contemplating my last abomination of a landing (seriously out of practice) and how I was going to claw the next one back when I see Bob’s hand dive for the throttle. I’ve never managed to win the hand slapping battle-of-the-throttle, so I resign myself to the inevitable, trying to get it on the runway in one piece.

I manage, but it wasn’t pretty.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Normal pilots don’t do this….

… I grumble as I set up my HASEL check for the airwork that Bob has persuaded me to attempt.

Secretly I’m a little bit proud of the fact that even though it may well have been 6 months since I last attempted one, my steep turn was easily within test standards. I’m even prouder of the fact that although I’m about to attempt the dreaded stall, I’m not scared. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it but the fear has most definitely gone.

I pull back on the controls muttering “normal pilots don’t do this. They take off, fly to airports. Eat pancakes and then come home. None of this stalling crap”

Bob doesn’t seem to care about “normal pilots”; JPM is a tad more sympathetic, reminding me gently of just what a none event a stall actually is in this plane. I’m half expecting Bob to tell me that I recovered too early but it seems that he’s satisfied.

We move on to the next manoeuvre. Just as it has done so many times before, the engine mysteriously quits and I’m left mulling over my choices of field.

There are a fair few likely candidates around. Bob shrewdly makes me state very clearly just which one exactly it is I’m aiming for.

The approach is by no means perfect but I recognise relatively quickly that I’m too high and widen out my approach to accommodate.

We make it easily. Again not bad considering that I reckon I have, at best, a fifty-fifty track record on my forced approaches.

Happy that I seem to have remembered just how to fly one of these things, we head home for the circuit.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Tigger takes flight.

I haven’t flown in the left hand seat for a good few months now. It isn’t until I firm up plans with Bob to get me back and current again that I realise just how much I’ve missed it.

Despite the heat of the day (a hot and humid 30 + degrees) I barely notice the discomfort until we climb on board and Bob comments “Welcome to the Cessna greenhouse!”

It takes me a few minutes to get into the flow of things, I’m too used to the view from the right hand seat and my checklist doesn’t flow as easily as it once did. I don’t care though, just unbelievably excited to be back behind the yoke again.

I give a mental chuckle as the hot, finicky fuel injected engine takes what seems like an eternity to kick over and start. Idly I’m wondering what’s worse, having to faff around with carb heat or the inevitable summer vapour lock.

Anyways we get her started and I talk to ground, glad to realise that my radio work is still as sharp as ever, despite my jaunts to unicomed airports and their casual conversations over the airwaves. As we taxi to the runway Bob gently chides me for riding the brakes. I, of course deny all such knowledge of that particular action whilst sliding my feet surreptitiously down the pedals.

I’m already having a blast and we haven’t even left the ground yet. We line up and I smoothly advance the power. I check that we are generating full rpm and apply the slightest bit of back pressure on the controls. It is summer and I need to let her come up and off the runway in her own sweet time.

She does and we climb away, my face beaming as we leave the runway behind us, I reach down and then the grin temporarily fades a little…

...”crap…no rudder trim!” I curse, reaching for a control that isn’t there.

“right rudder” Bob reminds me as we yaw away.

“yeah, yeah I guess I’m going to have to use my legs then” I laugh.

As we head out to the practice area, I’m like a kid in a candy store. “Weeeeeeeeee!!! This is fun”  I’m bouncing up and down like Tigger and its getting hard to tell where my enthusiasm ends and the bumps of day time thermal heating begin.

Obviously Bob decides he’s had enough of this overabundance of enthusiasm and sticks me under the hood.

Guaranteed to shut me up!