Tuesday, October 4, 2011

YYZ and the Emirates A380

As you can probably imagine, I get a lot of traffic looking for info on the Emirates A380 and its comings and goings at YYZ. This is just a quick post to help those folks find what they're looking for and hopefully get a great view of her.

The Emirates A380 flight to and from YYZ is always identified with the same flight numbers.

  • Dubai to Pearson (arriving) is always EK 241 - also referred to as UAE 241
  • Pearson to Dubai (departing) is always EK 242 - also referred to as UAE 242

These flights are (generally) scheduled for the same times on the same days each week, which are Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Arrival is usually somewhere between 3:00 and 4:00 PM on these days and departure will be around 10:00 PM the same day.  That said; always check the status of a flight you are really interested in. The flight may be running late, early or even cancelled for that day. It's easy enough to check online and even setup a flight alert so you know if something changes.

Here's one of many ways to check on the flight (using flightstats.com). Just make sure you are looking at the correct date on the flight, since this link gives you a history of past flights as well. The one at the top is most likely the one you want to look at. Also, note that the flights sometimes don't become active too far in advance, so you're best off to check for the flight on the day it should be scheduled:
UAE241 - Arriving at YYZ
UAE242 - Departing from YYZ

I know this isn't the most complicated or detailed post I've ever posted, but hopefully it will be useful for someone out there!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Runway Usage

I see quite a few people planning outings to YYZ and one of the common things I see is the plan to use the Wendy's location (the approach to runway 23 goes right overhead). I agree that this is an excellent location, but just be aware that there is no guarantee that landings will be over your head here all the time.

Runway usage is primarily based on wind direction. That means that, if the wind is blowing in a different direction, they may be landing aircraft in a different direction.

My advice would be to keep an eye out while you are on your way to the airport and try to spot some aircraft to see which direction they are landing in. Chances are, if the weather is not unstable or stormy, they will continue to land in this direction for a while. This will tell you if it's worth while going straight to the Wendy's location.

The good news is that there are a few different options if they are not landing in this direction. Have a look at my spotting tips map before you head out just in case the Wendy's location doesn't work out for you. You can still enjoy a great spotting trip, even at a different location.

Good luck, and happy spotting!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Aircraft Lasering - A Growing Concern

Some people call it a prank, others call it mischief... but Transport Canada classifies it as a Security Concern in the same category as bomb threats, sabotage, hijacking, theft and vandalism. This type of attack is a serious threat to aviation safety, and the frequency of occurrences has been on the rise. In the last several years, incidents of aircraft lasering have increased at an alarming rate all over the world. The graph included here shows a very simplistic view of the increase in lasering incidents in Canada from 2004 to 2010 (based on data from Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System - CADORS).

I am but a humble aviation enthusiast who spends a lot of time at Toronto Pearson International Airport. I am also part of an organization that works with Peel Regional Police, the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, and the RCMP to improve and increase safety around the airport. My interest in aviation and airport security has driven me to write this in an effort to "spread the word" about the growing risk of aircraft lasering attacks. During the course of 2010, there were more than 40 aircraft lasering incidents at Toronto's Pearson Airport alone!

Understanding the Risks & Dangers

One of the obstacles in fighting aircraft lasering is trying to get people to understand the risk, and take the problem seriously. There are a few key points that need to be understood:

1. The lasers used in the majority of these incidents are not the little red laser pointers you use to point to slides in your presentations or to play with your cat. They are significantly more powerful and are generally green in colour. These lasers are most commonly used by astronomers to point out objects in the sky and align their telescopes. Unfortunately, some people have now started using the lasers in a negative way.

2. There are a few major safety concerns with these incidents
  • distraction of the Captain and/or First Officer during a critical point of a flight, such as take-off, climb, approach and landing.
  • temporary visual impairment from the light (much like looking at the headlights of an oncoming car at night and then seeing spots once it has passed).
  • illumination of the cabin of the aircraft, making it very difficult to read instruments or to see outside (much like driving at night with the interior lights on in your car).
  • although far less likely or frequent, temporary and even permanent damage to the eyes can occur if the distance is short enough and the laser is powerful enough.
3. Because of the nature of the incidents, they occur when an aircraft is close to the ground (i.e. take-off and landing) and at a level that allows the laser to hit the cockpit of an aircraft. These points in a flight generally carry the most risk and allow the smallest margin of error, so any distraction or interference greatly increases this risk.

What is being done about it?

If convicted of pointing a laser into an aircraft cockpit, the offender could face a $100,000 maximum fine under the Aeronautics Act, imprisonment for up to five years, or both. This is indeed a serious problem, and it needs to receive equally serious attention with equally serious consequences. Unfortunately, it does not seem to receive the attention it demands.

Only one person has been caught and convicted of aircraft lasering. Let's examine and understand the message that is being conveyed with the sentence that was given in that case:
  • A person broke a law that has a maximum penalty of $100,000 and/or 5 years in prison.
  • This person plead guilty to breaking this law, and the reason he gave was that he was just having some fun.
  • Not only did he laser a commercial airliner, but when the police helicopter flew overhead to have a look around, he lasered them too.
  • There has been a significant amount of concern about this behaviour, as well as the extremely small chance of catching the people doing it.
  • The sentence that was finally given to this person was a $1,000 fine and the confiscation of his laser pointer.
He endangered the lives of dozens of people on the aircraft and who knows how many people on the ground, but $1,000 should cover it. Sounds a little ridiculous, right? Because it is ridiculous! If this is the kind of example we are making of those who break this law and endanger human life, you can expect the numbers of instances to continue to climb.

If you witness an aircraft lasering incident, report it to your local authorities with as much information as you can provide (location, time, people involved, license plate numbers, etc...).

Thank you for reading.

Monday, October 5, 2009

YYZ North Fire Hall Tour

YYZ North Fire HallFor the most recent adventure, I was able to participate in a fantastic tour of the North Fire Hall at YYZ. This would have been a great tour regardless of the guide, but Firefighter Andy was incredible!

The tour began with a jaunt around the control room. An introduction to Andy was followed by an orientation and an explanation of the function and purpose of the various pieces of equipment in the half-moon shaped control room.Striker 4500 and 3000 Following this, it was out the door onto the tarmac where the Oshkosh Striker 4500 waited for us (a.k.a. "Red 3"). The machine was massive, and looked as though it belonged either in a war, or perhaps in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. This monster is 8 wheel drive, holds 4,500 gallons of water, has a couple of joystick-controlled water turrets and a thermal imaging camera.Striker 4500 Cab Although this vehicle is controlled and operated by only a single person, the "cockpit" seats 5 people wide but is reminiscent of a fighter jet (except for the steering wheel). Andy was kind enough to fire up the engine for us, and it did not disappoint! It sounds pretty much the way you would imagine it would sound by looking at it, but it FEELS even better. His demonstration of the engine brakes was the best massage I've ever had. I'm also still seeing spots from the lighting demonstration.

Though I did not want to leave the Striker 4500, there were other exciting things waiting for us inside the hall. Another Striker 3000, a smaller pumper truck, and an emergency response vehicle that seemed to have grown a little old and tired in the eyes of the firefighters.Small Pumper and Chip TruckStriker 3000 It was actually suggested that it would make an excellent french-fry truck. In addition to all of these exciting pieces of equipment, I also saw the biggest washer/dryer combo on the face of the earth! Throughout this tour, we were continually reminded where we were by taxiing and landing aircraft, as well as the screeches of the falcons living next door at the Airport Wildlife Control Center.

Miami Heat Taxiing  Falcons, Falcons and More Falcons  CanJet Getting a Tow

As exciting and fun as the tour was, there were sobering reminders of what these people have to deal with on a regular basis. Whether it be a person who has fallen and injured themselves, or an Air France A340 with 300 people on board that has careened off the end of a runway, make no mistake... these people are heroes. Thank you for the fantastic tour, Andy... and thank you YYZ Fire and Emergency Services!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why I Love Wednesdays

Some people love Fridays, but I would take a Wednesday anytime. Am I crazy? No (at least I don't think so). I'm a plane spotter! If you're looking for some action and enjoy planes, come to YYZ on a Wednesday afternoon and make sure you bring your camera. I frequent the airport and the majority of times I'm there on a Wednesday because of the fantastic line-up of arrivals. Yesterday did not dissapoint, as usual.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pearson Airport Spotting Locations

I seem to see/hear a lot of requests for spotting locations around Pearson, but I haven't really found any good tools to help people out when they're looking. It would seem that there are a lot of folks who enjoy watching planes but don't visit the airport often enough to know where to go (or how to behave). This prompted me to put together a simple Google map to show where a few locations are. I think I've covered at least one location for every commonly used approach, but there are certainly more to come. I've also included some of the more prominent features within the airport (terminals and such).

Here's what I have come up with for my "Spotter's Helper" map. If anyone has suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments and I'll try to add what I can.

View YYZ Plane Spotting in a larger map

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Halo Airways A380

Ok, I'll first admit that this airline does not actually exist (obviously) and even if they did exist they probably wouldn't be using an A380. But hey, a dude can dream, right? This is just a little Photoshop jobby that I put together for a wallpaper on my laptop. Hope you like it!

Can you imagine what the inside of this aircraft would look like?!?!