Into the Ice

This March I had the pleasure of being the pilot for a research expedition to the ice just east of Greenland, led by the Institute of Marine Research.

We landed onboard the Norwegian Coast Guard icebreaker KV Svalbard in Tromsø, then steamed west for roughly 750nm to the West Ice. We were close enough to the coast of Greenland to see land in the distance most of the time.

Our objective was threefold.

1. Locate Harp and Hooded seal breeding patches.

2. Place GPS markers around the patches. This would make it easier for the fixed-wing asset responsible for aerial photography to locate the seals. The pictures from that is used to count the seal pups.

3. Staging. Flying transects through the patch where the researchers note the age of the pups. This is possible due to how fast the seals grow over a limited period of time. Harp pups are left to fend for themselves after 12 days, and Hood pups after 5.

We only had 6 days in the ice, so we were quite busy when the weather was on our side. Unfortunately the last round of staging had to be cancelled due to extremely poor visibility and low ceiling.

Though a short trip, it was a really nice experience, and I would like to thank all those who participated.

Article in Aug/Sept 2018 issue of Vertical Magazine: Into the Ice

For the Right Reasons

There is no getting away from the fact that being a pilot looks very appealing to many. And judging by the pictures I share it looks like a dream job on the surface. What isn’t as apparent though is the hard work most of us put in to get where we are. Even less apparent is the large number of fellow flight school students who fail to achieve their perceived dream. They are no different from the rest of us, just as bright (or even brighter perhaps) and just as good. So why do they leave the industry before reaching their goal? Continue reading

A Typical Winter Day

For those of you that care about such silly things, I thought I’d walk you through my day today. If you are a pilot this isn’t going to be interesting at all, so go surf on YouTube or something.

Saturday and we only had one flight scheduled. The job was picking up personnel that would do maintenance at a telecom site. Pax with internal cargo only. Needless to say they wanted us to be airborne by first light, so we didn’t exactly get to sleep in, not that I am able to anyway.That being said first light today was about 0820 am, so not exactly an early start to begin with.

I usually start off by getting my kit ready in the helicopter and browse through the aircraft documentation so that all that remains is a preflight and adding some fuel. This time of year I pack a lot of cold weather gear in case we get stranded somewhere inhospitable. The documentation was fine and no changes to the configuration of the aircraft was required. Typical changes to configuration are the cargo baskets and whether or not the dual-controls should be installed.

Photo 24.01.15, 10.22.38

Pre-flight planning was next on my list. Checking Notams and weather I quickly realized that the weather could be factor for today’s flight, and snow in particular. Visibility-wise we need at least 800m, which is really quite bad and also impose a speed restriction of 60 kts, meaning we wouldn’t be getting where we were going very fast. The forecast was for visibility down to 300m, which isn’t unusual in showers of snow. My only hope now was that the showers were few and far apart.

Photo 24.01.15, 15.14.22

Statens Kartverk

Departure was delayed in order for us to check some webcams enroute when the light was sufficient to make out anything on the cameras. Trip distance was only about 32nm if we’d be able to cross a mountain pass, 50nm if we had to go the long way. In the picture on the right you’ll see a screen capture the map service we use to get obstacle information. This information is also available to us on our iPads, along with our company database that we also share with our competitors. When we are flying our loadmaster use paper maps as our primary means of navigation, but the iPads and GPS’ add good situational awareness for us pilots as well as an added redundancy. Continue reading

Welcome to my new blog!

Getting a blog was the last thing I thought I’d ever do. And to be honest the idea still does not sit well with me. But seeing the response I have been getting on Instagram, I figured this could be another way of sharing my passion for vertical flight.

For now I have decided to focus on three areas: Sharing news I find interesting from the industry, career pointers, and an insight into my everyday life at work. The views expressed in this blog are my own, and does not reflect the views of my company or any other entities.

– Tom