Nettie Turns 100

My brother Johnny pointed out that today would have been the 100th birthday of my grandmother Nettie – born Наталка Потягайло, or Nataltka Potjahailo, on March 19, 1915.

Nettie died 16 years ago, but she lives on in our memories. Here she playing the mandolin in a duet with my father on Christmas Day, 1995:

And here she is as a member of the mandolin orchestra in Fort William, Ontario as a teenager (she and her cousin Stella are in the far left in the front row):

Mandolin orchestra, Stella and Nana at left of first row

Here’s my favourite story about Nettie. She was visiting us here on the Island in the early 1990s:

About the second or third day, I came down for breakfast and noticed that she was putting cream and sugar in her coffee. This was unusual, as I’d always remembered her taking her coffee black. When I asked her why she’d changed she told me that she’d been drinking coffee black for 60 years and had never tried it with cream and sugar. Earlier that year she had and, much to her surprise, she said, “it just tastes a lot better.”

ICAO, ICARD and 5LNC: How those 5-letter aeronautical waypoint codes get their names...

Remember ALLEX and ELSIR and the Fish Points, two rabbit holes I fell into earlier in the week?

Well part of my struggle for coming to understand this world of aeronautical waypoints has been my weak knowledge of aeronautical terminology and regulation in general.

In this regard I was aided greatly by the notes from the The 8th Meeting of the Asia/Pacific Aeronautical Information Services – Aeronautical Information Management Implementation Task Force (a branch of the International Civil Aviation Organization, or ICAO) which makes reference to the following terms:

  • International Codes and Routes Designator, or ICARD, an effort to “develop and maintain a common database of facilities and services required for international air navigation within the EUR/NAT region.”
  • 5LNC, or “Five Letter Name Codes,” codes “used for the identification of significant points for ATS routes and designators for ATS routes.”

So ALLEX and ELSIR, it turns out, are 5LNC – five-letter name codes. These codes, says the document, play the following role:

Where a significant point is required at a position not marked by the site of a radio navigation aid, and is used for ATC purposes, it shall be designated by a unique five-letter pronounceable “name code” This name code designator then serves as the name as well as the coded designator of the significant point.

These codes need to be unique and they need to be pronounceable – the “name code designator shall be selected so as to avoid any difficulties in pronunciation by pilots or ATS personnel when speaking in the language used in ATS communications.” This makes sense, as so much of the role of these codes is to be spoken over scratchy-sounding radios. That’s why ETHAN is unlikely to become a 5LNC.

But where do the five letter name codes come from? I found the answer to that buried in a screen shot inside an ICAO manual about the ICARD maintanance system:

ICAO 5LNC Explanation

“The 5LNC codes,” says the manual, “are drawn from a set of pre-defined five letter combinations generated by ICAO and the FAA in the 1960s. This list was then split and distributed to the various ICAO Regional offices throughout the world.”

The ICAO has a very helpful public GIS system that allows exploration of the ICARD and 5LNC systems; and it turns out there are a pleasant number of 5LNCs right here in the Charlottetown area, including NOVIP, VOLUG and HOWLE:

5LNCs in Charlottetown

ICAO also has a public downloads pages for the ICARD system that lets you dump all the 5LNC codes allocated to a given country. Which is how I know that Canada has GOATS, TUSKY and ZASER in our hands.

5 Days of Airplanes over PEI

I took the overflights of PEI data that I visualized earlier for an 18 hour period and extended the visualization to include the last 5 days of overflights. Here’s what it looks like:

Five Days of Planes over Prince Edward Island

Here’s the same data, but converted into a KML file and loaded into Google Earth, with altitude as well as latitude and longitude used to draw the tracks:

Five Days of Planes over Prince Edward Island (in Google Earth)

In this image, the intensity of the shadow clamped to the ground tells you something about how frequently a given path has been followed.

Here’s the KMZ file that you can load into your own Google Earth to see the data from different perspectives.

It Snowed Again

My friend Ray took this photo of 100 Prince Street this morning. As you can see, it snowed again. For almost 24 hours.

The key thing to notice in the photo, though, is that the first 2 or 3 feet of the front roof are all but completely cleaned of snow, the result of roof raking every couple of hours on Sunday. Fortunately, the wind took care of the back roof rather effectively, so I needed to spend far less time there than the last time around.

The photo is deceptive: our house isn’t actually blocked in by snow, as there’s a partially-cleared sidewalk between the two snowbanks.

But there’s still a lot of snow.

Snow on 100 Prince St.

Retirement of the Fish Points

Hidden away in an obscure circular that appears to have been released in early 2014 by Gander Control is notice that a group of waypoints know as the “fish points” are to be deleted:

Fish Points

I’ve been puzzling over how aeronautical navigation waypoints get their names; it would appear, if this retirement of the “fish points” is a guide, that that are simply made up, using some sort of arbitrary theme, while ensuring that they don’t sound like other waypoint names, something reinforced in this Nav Canada circular on the same topic that reads, in part “New names to de-conflict with other similar sounding fixes on the NAT” (NAT being “North Atlantic Tracks”).

The challenge now is to connect the waypoint codes with their associated fish species. Some, like SCROD, and OYSTR and CARPE are obvious. Others, I have no idea.