A Bus Across America

The inspiration for any travels I’ve taken with Oliver as a father flows directly from a trip I took as a son in 1980: my father and I got on a Greyhound bus in Buffalo, New York the spring that I turned 14 and traveled across the country to San Francisco, down to San Diego, across to Tucson, El Paso and San Antonio, up to Tulsa and then home. Along the way we had many adventures, including renting a car from Skip’s Rent-a-Wreck in Arizona so that we could head off into the desert:

Oliver is now the same age as I was in that picture.

A Train across Slovakia

Six years ago today Oliver and I were on a train running across the top of Slovakia, from Kosice to Bratislava, midway through our 2009 father-and-son trip to Europe.

On the Train from Kosice to Bratislava

It was a crazy, wonderful trip, the first one we took together, just ourselves.

After three days in Kosice we spent a quick 24 hours in Vienna with our friend Til, and then were off to Nuremberg (highlight: PLAYMOBIL FunPark), Paris (highlight: Le Pure Café) and London, where we had a quick Thai supper with our friend Jonas before jetting home:

Dinner with Jonas

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.