26.10.13

Photographic mode

Sometimes when you get up crazy early in the morning, you can't help but think that its one of the downs of being a pilot. An early flight's annoyance is usually multiplied by lack of sleep, colder weather and a lack of life on the streets until you get to the airport, then you also get to see a number of airport staff who are counting red-eye hours to get home.

However, once in a while you get a rare opportunity to see something you should stop for. Not a car wreck or a lunatic screaming down the streets, but something so beautiful you have to stop in your track and stare in awe at. Maybe even take a photo!
This photo was talking at dawn at Queen Alia's new terminal. I had to stop and snap it.

15.8.13

Indian Independence Day

If the world was a fair place, India, the world's second most populous country, should be the world's second largest economy, and the second largest by area. However, it is not. It is the seventh largest by area and the ninth by GDP.

One of the benefits of my travels, is that I got to witness countries from the privilege of my hotel room and still manage to join in on their events. Today is India's 67th Independence day, and I am spending it in New Delhi. The bus drive from the airport to our hotel took a considerably longer time, due to the strict policing of the streets and basically every route the bus took was blocked. A few turns around the block finally softened one police official enough to give in and allow us access to the route blocked for buses.

This security measure while a mild inconvenience to our crew highlighted the security procedures being followed amid tensions with pakistan. This was reflected in Manmohan Singh's speech and you can find the text of what I saw as subtitling on TV earlier today.

India a nuclear country, with nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers and a GDP of $1.87 Trillion, is far from the dreamy phoenix rising from the ashes that you see on CNN. The GDP per capita is around 1,500 USD which is around a third of that of my country of Jordan and 30 times less than that of the US. This means that while the GDP and the economy are huge, the population is even greater. 26% of Indians are still illiterate, which amounts to 287 million people, which is much better that the 88% at the start of the 67 years of Indian independence but leaves much to be desired.

Statistics also tell that India loses its 30% of its human development when inequality is factored in, Jordan for example loses 19% and sweden around 6%, so inequality is a real issue in a country that still has issues with untouchables and castes.

The country has 700 million people with no access to sanitary toilets and a railway company that allows employs people to collect human waste dropping on it's tracks. It is a far-cry from where I was blogging last week, the country that India gained independence from: the United Kingdom.

The view from my hotel doesn't reflect the facts on the ground and it takes effort to stay grounded to the facts.
View from Le Meridien New Delhi

Happy Independence day India!

5.8.13

Ask A Pilot - Aug 5th - Thrust Reversal

To continue our series on questions to be answered by yours truly, I have picked up a question to delve on this week.

Is there a reverse option in the airplane? I swear last time we flew I felt the airplane going backwards, or some other reiteration of the question.

I get asked something like this at least once a month.

There are two separate things at stake here.

Almost all commercial airplanes have reverse thrust, which is a function of the engine. It is one of the methods used to slow down the airplane on the runway, usually early in the landing roll when other factors limit the effectivity of the friction brakes. Therefore, pilots land at idle thrust and usually immediately after touchdown they engage the thrust reversal mechanism. You can sometimes hear a loud roar of the engines, which is the engines going in full reverse.

On jet engines, the mechanism is used to direct the airflow around the engine and back in the opposite direction. This is helpful when trying to slow down an airliner from speeds reaching 280 Km/h, to speeds that allow us to maneuver on ground. It's not always necessary, though.


This first video is a test of the reverser opening and closing on one model of engine, and the next is an older technology that used air buckets to dissipate and redirect engine energy.  You can also see the other moving parts of the wing that help slow the aircraft down. Spoilers on top of the wing and flaps and slats on the bottom. The reverser deploys around 1:45.


The Second part of the question is concerning the "pushback", aircrafts that park near terminals almost always need something to push them back and usually turn them to a favourable direction to start their trip.

Here is a sample of one such solution, a "pushback tractor" lifting and pushing back the airplane.


So, as far as I know most pushbacks are conducted using trucks and aircrafts do have reversers but for slowing down and stopping and not for pushback.

P.S. There was a time when engines were sometimes mounted on the rear of the aircraft, and high on the empennage and it was at least allowed to use reversers to pushback, however most modern airliners have wing-mounted engines which would ingest debris from the ground and damage the engine in high thrust-reversal settings.

Stay tuned for more questions answered, get in touch and ask questions through radi@radiradi.com and

1.8.13

Green Party of Jordan, Why Parties in Jordan cease to exist

I was reading with great interest the news about the formation of "The Green Party of Jordan," and I was really tempted to contact those in charge and sign up. However, the effectivity of parties in Jordan is usually dismissed as feeble and at best luxuria.

Let's start this post by admitting the obvious, people are partly to blame for most of the spiral decline in Jordan. There is adamant general complacency that lets people look at the situation from afar without ever thinking how they should change it.

There is a general culture that is prevalent which discourages young people from being involved in politics, there is an instilled fear of talking about public policy, even if it severely affects the people involved. Granted, this fear has fallen to record lows recently, but try to let someone sign a petition that asks the parliament to withdraw confidence from the Prime Minister, then you will realize how rampant it still is. This caused people to follow the general march to "safer" choices in a fledgling democracy, independents and people with public service backgrounds are the main components of the parliament, closely followed, or maybe even preceded by the tribal choices.   

The tribal alignment of the populace causes great mayhem in Jordan, whether in university "wars" or in public resistance to a government that has people from the "wrong regions" or not enough from the "right regions." This is also true in elections, people generally vote for someone from their tribe, region, area or even governorate.

Parties are also to blame, few -if any- of the parties have mature political programs, none of them propose budgets, or even have a decent following. With the notable exception of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), no party can amass more than a few hundreds in any of their events. The IAF which is the Muslim Brotherhood's (MB) political wing proved once and again that it can arouse the marching sentiments of a few thousands on any given friday, preferably after a prayer.

Jordanian parties are mainly one of two kinds, first there is the one-man-show institutions, created solely for the perpetuation of the ideology or popularity of a single person, usually an ex-government individual. Second comes the extension of a regional phenomena or ideology, such as the IAF being an extension of the Egyptian-started MB and supported ideologically by it, or the various reiterations of the Ba'ath Party whether supported by their counterparts in Syria or Iraq in their peaks. I personally know people who were educated in Syria or Iraq on scholarships because one of their immediate relatives was a member of the Ba'ath.

Jordanians have long doubted the fairness and transparency of elections, but polls also show that Jordanians doubt parties' motivation and usually support the party only as an extension of their support of it's leader. People also simply refuse to believe that a party can grow to such a level that it will hold the power to form a government or the higher leadership will allow them to do that.

I believe the Green Party of Jordan is a step in the right direction, environment is a very important issue, so is the need for fresh blood on the political arena. I am looking forward to talk to their leadership.

Peace, Out

26.7.13

Questions I get asked as a pilot (2)

This week was quite interactive for me, finally! My website and my blog have been getting more correspondence lately, and I have to say I am delighted.

Tonight's post comes as a continuation of last week's, since the feedback has been positive and I got asked a few questions that I will address in this post and over the coming posts

+Atharv Khatod asked me "How often do you fly a month?"


Blocks, the origin of the term Block Time
This has to be an "It's all relative" answer, personally, I work for an airline that has suffered of a shortage of pilots over the last years and this year things are finally stabilizing. Regulation vary by region and by airline and in many cases according to union contracts.

Pilots are usually credit by the block hours, roughly meaning from the time the "blocks" are removed and the aircraft starts moving and engines are started to the time the aircraft stops and "blocks" are inserted around the wheels.

My outfit follows the maximum of 900 Block Hours a year, but -unlike a misguided executive in our company once wrongly assumed- this does not equal 900/365= 2.45 hours a day!

First we are allowed 8 days off a month, in 12 months this is 96 days free of duty in addition to 36 days of annual leave. This means we get 132 days free of duty per year, so we should be able to operate for 233 days a year. This is the at the extremely low end for airlines. Most airlines guarantee anywhere from 140-190 days free of duty per year, some airlines are known to have guaranteed 243 days.

A block hour is not an accurate indicator of how much you get to work, on a regular day you start working an hour or more prior to the flight's time of departure, which is the time you need to conduct briefings for your fellow crew and to check the flight plan and your planned route and the weather forecasts. Sometimes your flight gets delayed due to many reasons, maybe there is some congestion at the airport or maybe there is a shortage of the necessary equipment to get you moving. Also, you usually have to perform a few post-flight duties as well.

Therefore, the industry came up with another method of measuring work hours, the Duty Time. Anytime you are required by your outfit to report for a duty a timer starts and it ends when you have no more duties to perform, this is therefore more representative of your actual effort. My airline allows a maximum of 190 duty hours in any 28 consecutive days and 60 duty hours in any seven consecutive days, these are basic requirements of the European Regulators.

Americans do things a bit differently, their maximum is 1000 hours a year but have different ways to calculate their monthly maximums.

A pilot in my airline will be in one of three major groups (fleets), since pilots can only fly one set of airplanes at a time.
  • We have the wide-body fleet which can manage to fly the maximum while doing three flights a month which are long-haul by definition, and so get to spend a greater deal of time at their homes, and a greater number of days abroad. They can expect anywhere from 4-10 days abroad and a minimum of 16-18 days free of duty every month. They usually fly a single sector each duty, sometimes they fly 2 in a short-turnaround. The average sector length is around 8 hours.
  • Next comes the narrow-body fleet with their short-to-medium-haul which allows for a higher number of duty days and sectors but with a variety of turnarounds and night-stops and layovers. They can expect 2-6 days abroad and 10-14 free of duty a month. They can also expect to do more than two sectors in certain situations, but usually two is the norm. The average sector length is around 3 hours.
  • The Regional Jet is the last group in our airline, these are the toughest jobs to do, they fly many short sectors, fly back-to-back sectors and sometimes fly up to 5 or rarely 6 sectors in a single duty. The can expect a couple of night-stops a month usually for a couple of hours a night and they get around 8-10 days free of duty a month. The average sector length is around 1 hour.

Finally, I can say I get to spend more free time in Amman than most professionals I know, the fact that it's sometimes on the backside of the clock is more due to my bidding and requests than my profession. However, most professionals I know can clear their schedules on short notice for important engagements that arise, that's not my case. 

I still wouldn't trade it for the world

Do you have any questions you would like a professional pilot to answer, if so, contact me: 
+Radi Radi  
radi@radiradi.com  

24.7.13

Top Questions I get asked as a pilot (1)

Every pilot has their own list of top questions they get asked whenever people know they are pilots. I have received my fair share of those questions and I wish I could just post a FAQ and have people look at it instead of having at me. Hey, that's an idea:

Don't you get scared? Despite how many times statistics prove that air transport is the safest mode for travel, people still associate pilots with airline accident and crashes. There are valid reasons, people rarely get to see the positive side of when things go pear-shaped.

I have not seen any coverage in Arabic networks of the SouthWest 737 in LaGuardia, because while the nose wheel assembly collapsed, people rarely get to see when a crash landing lets all the passengers walk away and the fatality count is 0.



However when people die the coverage in the media multiplies exponentially, and therefore airplane coverage is synonymous in our region with crashes and fatalities.

An average airline pilot's training is so detailed and intensive and maintenance is so exhaustive and thorough that I feel confident that we are in a safe profession. In my airline, it takes a great deal of hard work and practice and you get subjected to a number of training program that allow you to be proficient well before the need arises. Most of the time, I am never even bothered by operating a flight, yet still, some times its a tasking and stressful job.

Do airplanes have horns? This is one of the more humorous questions I get asked, and for the first few times I couldn't help but laugh when I got asked. It shows how little the general public know about our profession, and I always marvelled at what use would a horn be. Definitely not for collision avoidance, no one would be able to hear it, for one thing, and even if we did it would be too close. We have special equipment that show us where other traffic is and we have Air Traffic Controllers to keep us separate.

It won't help with scaring away animals or birds, if the animal isn't afraid of the noise of your engine, a honk won't help. The public, however, tends to draw comparisons between driving cars and flying planes and they can't seem to stop it.

Yes, however, we do have a horn, we use it to summon ground crew, because you can't expect them to be connected to the aircraft all the time since they have other duties. It usually is located in the nose-wheel well area.

It sounds something like this in Boeings:


Do you have any questions you would like a professional pilot to answer, if so, email me: +Radi Radi  radi@radiradi.com or 

22.7.13

14,000 Miles Through The Air

Once in awhile, you run into an out of copyright book that you haven't heard of before and that is worth reading, this time the book was 14,000 Miles Through The Air by Ross Macpherson Smith. Sir Ross is an aerial ace, a pioneer pilot and the first Australian in a British aircraft to fly from London to Australia thereby winning 10,000 pounds, this book is about the adventure he partook with his brother Sir Keith and their mechanics.

The book takes you through 135 hours of flying in 28 days -illegal in my modern day career- and covering 11,060 miles. There are also the trials and tribulations from landing in newly created aerodromes to taking-off from atop of Bamboo mats.

The book is fascinating not only because of the pioneer spirit that exudes from the authors words, but also because it gives a glimpse into the history of aviation and the history of their route.

The flight had 24 stops along the route, most notably for me was their stops in Cairo, Damascus, Ramadie and Basra. In between these ancient cities were overflights of Gaza, Jerusalem and the River Jordan with Medjdel Airport having a notable mention as a previous post for Ross. Aerial photography and film survive from that flight, some of the Pyramids, some of the Suez Canal, some of Jordan River, and  contrast we can spot. Australian Screen provides us with this video:



The city in the beginning is Gaza after the first World War, then we see the snake that was the river Jordan, and later is the crew of the Vimy photographed in front of their machine in Ramadie, Iraq.



Looking up on the interwebs I found a flight from London Heathrow -different from Hounslow Heath Aerodrome as Sir Ross called it in the book- to Darwin with a single stopover in Singapore, it takes 19 hours 35 minutes to get there. Meaning that, less than an a century after the 1919 flight- commercial travel is now more than 30 times faster than private travel was in the heydays of aviation. Not to mention the difference in the ride.

They flew Vickers Vimy which -true to its era- a bomber with little facilities either to accommodate passengers or to help pilots navigate or even relief them from their duties.

The same aircraft is still preserved in Adelaide, Australia, the terminal destination for the Smith brothers

I strongly recommend this book if you have an interest in travel blogs or journals, or in the early days of visual aviation. I got the book on my kindle and it was out of copyright so I got it for free, it is around 250 pages of good post-victorian description.

15.7.13

What to write..

For some reason I keep insisting on blogging and writing, although this blog has proven time and again that consistency is not my strongest virtue, but something always itches me to keep writing.

For today, I will not attempt to divulge some great thesis or dissect some new theory, but I will however attempt to talk a little bit about my beloved Jordan.

Any follower of the news should marvel at how Jordan managed to sniff a breeze from the "Arab spring" and expel all the negative effects of it. The demonstrations reached a few thousands but then calmed down again, though in certain parts of the country, they are still adamant if not large or numerous.

Why did Jordan manage to maintain its cool while the map around it is annoyingly bothersome? The borders of Jordan include Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Israel. If you have ever watched the news, you will know that the "neighbourhood" isn't very friendly. If you expand the radius a couple of hundred miles then Lebanon and Egypt come in focus which isn't good news either.

Yet somehow the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Jordan aren't mobilising like their counterparts in Egypt and Tunisia, the liberals and the leftists have no foothold in politics like in Syria and Lebanon and Iran's operatives in Jordan are, if anything, useless.

There are a number of theories I heard recently and all have valid points:


  1. Complacency: People in Jordan don't object to the status quo so much. Sure, they would like better incomes and more freedom, maybe even an election that doesn't smell or that lets you choose a Prime Minister or the Mayor of Amman, but if the price to get those thing is civil unrest for years like Egypt or even a war like Syria or Libya, then thanks, but no thanks.
  2. Lack of organization: Other than the MB, there is no other party that has any sort of popular base that can lead in any post-revolutionary government. Jordan has few if any exiled dissidents, and pragmatically speaking, the leadership was smart enough to allow all types of qualified people some role in government in its many changes and reiterations. The other backbone of political organisation which is organised labor in all its forms, is either nonexistent or again in the hand of MB. Who will ever lead in a situation of civil disobedience or revolution? I can't think of anyone

    People also look at the outcome of elections in Jordan and they can't help but be discouraged. MPs are either elected because of a tribal or ethnic setting or because of some financial setup that allows him or her to "acquire" votes based on immediate or future compensation for the electorate.
  3. Divide and rule: The population is so used to racism that any talk of any regime change or "Constitutional Democracy" will almost certainly result in the same response. A shameful exhibition of who will rule? Will the Palestinians accept an East-Banker to rule? Will the Southerners accept a person from the North to rule? Don't you know how people in Jordan are?
In conclusion, I don't know how long people will wait till reform comes to Jordan, but it seems to me that people aren't in a rush to see anything changed.

Peace, Out

19.3.13

The Atlantic Interview

The unspeakable has happened, an interviewer went rouge and published a series of attacks by King Abdullah on so many fronts that for a few seconds, I checked to see if April's fools day came earlier this year.

The series of interviews published by The Atlantic have echoed through all the political scene in Jordan. His attacks have ranged from attacking his own family to attacking Assad, Erdogan and Morsi. He attacked his own GID better know as mokhabarat. He said they conspired to keep west bankers from being represented. He diverged to the loyal tribes of east bankers, the term dinosaur was used to refer to tribal elders and it already caused a mass wave of social media comedy and contention.

The most affluent and well-to-do were also served a dishing when he attacked residents of West-Amman -where he and I both live- and said they spread rumors to undermine him. The Muslim brotherhood was also in the cross-hairs, he even went as far as saying that he was for constitutional democracy, as long as didn't hand over power to people who will do the duty of swearing on the Quran but will internally have ulterior motives.

This argument is very disturbing because the westernized soldier-made-king believes that he can judge the intentions of the people and not their words and sayings. He was also worried about his blood pressure -ask Rania- when he keeps changing governments, it goes through the roof. Well, I have a solution, let the people decide and you can keep your blood pressure under check.

He managed to also give the population the recipe for change, he said Hashemites won't shoot their people and if half the population were to swarm to the streets, he would leave. I say someone pretty soon is going to call his bluff, but that's just me.

I believe the interviewer did a fine job of presenting an uncensored interview. He came later on record to tell us that he has tapes of all these instances and that the Royal Court can't just shrug off the interviews.

Thanks for giving me an interesting birthday!



3.3.13

Smoke Away!

Jordan is the only country I know that voluntarily reduces duty on cigarettes. Recently, lobbyists for the tobacco industry sat with government officials to reduce duty on cigarettes, citing REDUCED SALES as a reason to get government  to agree.

The ploy used by tobacco lobbyists used is to presume that trafficking of illegal, not taxed cigarettes is main reason why the sales dropped. They even had figures on hand to cite for the officials about how much trafficking was going on.

I believe if the problem is so statistically provable then either there is corruption on the border control customs teams, or maybe the tobacco factories or importers themselves know they are selling behind the backs of the customs which is more probable in my eyes.

If, however, there is a genuine drop in sales of tobacco, not just the taxed or tariffed packs then the long term results in reduced costs of medical care and productivity of the general populace will out-way the cost of lower revenue. This government is however obsessed with raising the revenue that they will buy anything private sector will feed them.

The pack of the major best-selling brand is now at 1.40 JOD which is almost exactly 2.00 USD, that should teach more kids to smoke and make it even harder to quit for those who want to. Financial cost has been proven to be a major way to allow people to cut down on their habit. I have a feeling that since smoking is a revenue generator, officials are quick to dismiss way to make it harder for people to start smoking or to quit.

P.S. I am a smoker but I want the general good not just saving 10 JOD a month on my smoking bill.

Happy Trails,
Radi


1.3.13

Trip down memory lane (1)

I have spent a great deal of my free time trying to explore new areas while travelling, yet I haven't found a land so underutilized as Jordan's nature reserves. At the risk of repeating myself, RSCN do a fine job of maintaining Jordan's reserves, while Wild Jordan -their business arm- maintain a number of facilities where people can stay and enjoy those reserves.
Jordan has maintained that it has the largest percentage of any country dedicated as nature reserves (4%) and I wouldn't argue. I was looking through my digital photo album and found these amazing pictures taken on site in Azraq Nature Reserve.

Many people won't believe these locations are in Jordan, but I was there and I enjoyed it I will be talking about these trips further here on my website. Till then feel free to explore their website and book a stay at one of their many sites.




Happy Trails,
Radi



27.2.13

The Recurrence

 This sight is familiar to me and many of my colleagues around the world. The moment before you leave the hotel is bittersweet to me, I enjoy exploring the world and I enjoy what little time I get to spend abroad.

I cherish the thought of going home to my wife and I usually can't wait to get there; a part of me still wants to prolong the stay or wish for a longer layover or vacation. Recently I have adopted a new ritual, as I end my travel I find my self  singing John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane". Tacky, I know!

This particular photo was taken in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was on vacation there with my wife during our anniversary trip to the far-east. I took this picture because it seemed so surreal and yet at the same time so familiar. The room entrance with the closet on one side and the bathroom on the other, and then the room proper with a bureau on one side and the bed on the other. 

Variables include color schemes and materials, but the basic layout is the same. I have hundreds of moments where I woke up trying to remember where I was and on which side of the bed the master light switch was, even moments where I try to figure out what time is currently displayed on my phone and whether the phone switched to roaming time or maintained Amman time. 

Every recurrence of this scenario makes me more fond of my traveling and more fond of the career I chose for myself. 

Happy trails
Radi

25.2.13

Trying my hand at writing again

Once upon a time, I used to write. I enjoyed it, it relaxed me and I got a couple of pieces published. They were my pride and joy and I even thought it will bring closer to having a book published soon.

Then, life happened, hobbies fall by the wayside, career takes over. I substituted with this blog for a while, and then that too stopped happening.

Life was generous recently and I got back to my writing, check this out My Wi-fi - Writing.Com. Review it if you wish on writing.com or on here.

I'm trying!

9.2.13

Between a rock and a hard place

I have tried to maintain an objective stance when it comes to the politics of Jordan. There are mainly two clear schools of thought when it comes to the situation in Jordan, and I tend to see-saw almost daily between the two extremes.

On the one hand the corruption in Jordan is rampant. All Jordanians are in the know of many public official who are career civil servants and have salaries which have peeked at around USD 2,000 - 3,000 after 30 years of service, yet somehow they own multi-million dollar investments, homes and cars and have household yearly expenditures in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The cases are many but the names are known, and they have been clearly given a carte blanche or some sort of immunity or amnesty. The problem, according to many observers, is connected to the palace institution and therefore cannot be unraveled without endangering the whole regime.

The public is at wits-end and rising inflation, taxation and cost of living is not helping. Security apparatuses and intelligence departments can deal with so much resentment before a Bouazizi pops-ups and turns some region or another of Jordan into a Sidi Bouzid. Jordan is different but you can not take the country out of its regional context.

The most affected people in these price-hikes are the people who traditionally have been the back-bone of the security regime; the military and the public security. They will learn sooner or later that defending a series of governments that have shown no empathy towards them might not be the best idea.

On the other hand, no one can tell what an escalation in demands by the public will mean, some fear the schism between West-Bankers "Palestinian-Jordanians" and East-Bankers "Original Jordanians." (I do not prescribe to these labels, in fact, I detest them, but there is only one way to confront the issue, and that is, straight on.)

This schism, many assume, will not allow a transition in an era post-regime, and therefore the status quo, according to them, is the lesser of two-evils. They are quick to point that the regime is continuously fueling these prejudices and is the main beneficiary of such divides. Also, years of tribal stances and even tribal in-fighting have not left any politician with any sort of legitimacy to allow a post-regime move.

Parallels to Syria are quick to be dismissed, as one commentator insisted, because the regime does not have a sect or a faction to fall back on. Parallels to Egypt and Tunisia are dismissed even further because there are no respected public institutions that people can rely on in their struggle to equality. I have yet to see an institution like the UGTT of Tunisia or even SCAF of Egypt.

The way forward should not necessarily be revolutionary, it might be a reaction to a continued presence of the people, their movement and their demands. Though at first the movement going on in Jordan should agree on a certain level of demands and work towards it, to allow institutions to form.

On a related note, the recent elections have only proved to me that people need more awareness before the process can mature to allow for a parliamentary government and maybe move forward on constitutional amendments.

God Bless our People.