Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Our amusing Canadian friends

The Canadian Rockies last summer, flying YEG-SEA.

You know what makes flying in Canada interesting? Like Vincent Vega said, it's the little differences. Actually, that was in reference to visiting Europe and flying to Canada is a far stretch from that...but there are still small, amusing things that tell you that you're not in Kansas anymore.

In the US, you contact ATC by using your airline callsign followed by the flight number, spoken colloquially - for example, 2448 becomes "twenty-four forty-eight". In Canada, the controllers speak the flight number phonetically ("two four four eight"). Yesterday, though, we were Horizon 333. In the States that'd be "three thirty-three." In Canada it should've been "ABC three three three" but every controller went to the other extreme and called us "ABC triple three."

In Canada, you automatically contact departure control after taking off, rather than wait for the Tower controller to hand you off, as in the States. I'm pretty used to this now, but the first time I flew out of Edmonton, I totally forgot to contact departure. We were on the Edmonton Two departure, which calls for runway heading and a climb to 7000 feet...and we level at 7000, still on tower's frequency, me with a dopey grin on my face, and the captain looks over and asks "You gonna contact departure anytime soon, bud, or are we gonna fly east at 7000 'till we run out of gas?" Yeah, I felt about 2" tall.

In Canada, controllers and pilots alike use the phrase "check remarks" where we'd use "roger" in the States. But it doesn't end there. Canadian controllers - particularly Edmonton Center - have some annoying need to get in the last word whenever possible. Example conversation:

Us: Edmonton Center, ABC 333 at one-five thousand feet climbing flight level two three zero.
Them: ABC 333, good evening, maintain flight level two four zero.
Us: Climb & maintain FL240, ABC 333.
Them: Roger, ABC 333. Ride reports at FL240 have been good.
Us: Check remarks.
Them: Roger.

They do that all the time. You give them a check remarks or roger, and they'll respond with a totally superfluous "roger."

Well, if those things don't convince you you're in Canada, just visit a bar in Edmonton and try to breathe. They smoke like chimneys...or rather, like Europeans.