Monday, March 24, 2008

The Bag Run

Above the Weather, Early Morning.

My cup of Earl Grey tea is slightly on the strong side as I sit and sip in Melfort's quite clubhouse. My King Air 200 manual is open in front of me, but my eye's are constantly wandering to the windows. Outside an early spring snow fall has obscured the visibility down to less than a mile, casting the early morning world (well my world anyways) into a pleasantly gloomy state. The flakes are big and getting blown into a fast dance, it's a little memorizing.

The NDB approach brought me within sight of the field just thirty minutes ago, after a short and enjoyable flight from Saskatoon. My fears of heavy icing due to the 0º temps and a forecast for a mix of rain and snow were gratefully unnecessary. The flight was completely ice free.

The landing was made amid soft two inch drifts that weren't even felt through the Cessna 402's gear and peddles. The cargo was soon unloaded and the flight plan closed. Now I start to run through my daily routine of sitting in Melfort, which is not my normal run but lately I have been filling in quite a bit.

The routine consists of a cup of tea and a nap or some reading while hanging out at the little clubhouse/terminal at the airfield. Then it's down to the bakery where I get the most fabulous cinnamon bun and a cup of coffee and do some more reading. After my fingers are sticky and I'm starting to buzz from the caffeine, I head to the apartment for some more sleep, reading and maybe some television. Usually there is a short walk somewhere in the day and possibly some window shopping. Around 5 PM I head back out to the airport to again load up about 500lbs of bags. Soon the power comes up, followed shortly by the landing gear. Then I'm riding air back home.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Well, I'm back in the right seat. Making radio calls and flipping switches. However this time it's in the Cessna 402. No, I didn't get a demotion, I'm doing line-in-dock with a new hire who's going to be another captain on the C402.

He's a fine pilot and is doing a very good job. He's actually flown on 705 machines (airline category planes), been a chief pilot and has over 7000 hours. I feel a slight bit funny showing this guy the ropes with my 1500 hours of experience. But I also feel lucky that he isn't anything difficult to fly with and isn't making a bunch of mistakes, because we are filed under my license number today. He has 50 hours of line-in-dock to do, just as I had 7 months ago. I will be flying the majority with him for those hours. That'll be alright, it's always nice to have some company on those long days in the middle of no where.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Just Too Cold

Watching the -37ºC sunrise as I drive back home to bed.

The past week was one of getting up sometime between 0400 and 0500 every morning. Going through the usual hygienic routine, then it's a bagel, boots and outside...

And that's where things began to change, Monday morning was a blizzard, the drive to work was harrowing to say the least. Once I was there though I was lucky enough to have my plane in the hanger where I got to do a warm walk around. But soon after had to cancel my flight anyways, due to low vis and 30 to 40 mph direct crosswinds at my destination, which was a 3100' strip with patches of ice. Not really inviting.

By Tuesday morning the blizzard had died down, leaving behind frigid -35ºC temps. As I drove into work that morning (in my wifes vehicle since mine wouldn't start) I knew that I'd be canceling the flight because we don't fly any of the companies piston planes at or below -35ºC. Unfortunately I was still required to show up at work, make the decision and tell the passengers.

Wednesday warmed up to -34, unfortunately my destination was sitting at -38. Same thing therefore, canceled.

Thursday I finally got to sit in the plane. The normally soft and comfy seat felt like I was sitting back in my high school plastic chair twas so hard, thanks to a couple of days of sitting outside. The engines fired up nicely though, thanks to the Tanis heaters and tents that go synonymously with winter and I proceeded to taxi the plane to a secure spot to do my run-up. Bare of any seats in the back of my plane to do a cargo run, I worked down my after starts and taxi check list. About half way through the list, the cold weather started to show it's dislike for mechanics and as I set my heading indicator. The push-to-set button stuck in and I was left without my HI which was also coupled to the autopilot.

Lord Almighty, I said.

And walk-in to get maintenance, which tell me it'd take a while to fix. My fourth cancellation in a week. Makes ya feel a little useless.

Friday morning comes along, I'm sleeping in bed. My cell phone is quiet. I am happy.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Quiet Morning

I'm in the North, at least 60 miles from the nearest civilization. Level at 8000 feet and flying even further northward. It's early morning, still dark. The radios are eerily quite, I'm thinking I'm the only one up here this morning so far. The air is so quiet broken only by the noise of the twin 325 horse powered Continentals, droning on and on till you don't really hear them anymore. I'm hearing a faint howling scream every now and then. I don't know if it's in my mind or the wind rushing 195 mph past the cabin. But it defiantly sets even a lonelier feeling to the already empty plane. I'm flying single pilot today and my lone passenger is snoozing in the back, all light are out except for the warm glow of my instruments. It's almost spooky. My comfort is the warm blast of heat off the forward heater, blowing on my legs from under the dash, along with my lite up instrument panel. 160 NM to go.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Frozen Digits

It's a beautiful winter morning as I traverse the skies at 6000'. It's -24ºC up here and colder down on the ground. The earth is peacefully frozen down below me, covered in a white glow from the full moon's shine across the white landscape. The early mornings offer this calm quietness, well, once you're airborne and have a warm blast of heat blowing across your toes. My fingers are now thawed out and my back is relaxed after tensing it, to ward off the cold. Another hour of this goodness until I'm landing on a snow covered runway and freezing my digits all over again tenting and plugging the airplane in for a cold day's wait in La Loche.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Smooth Air

Looking for a Clear Path in the C402

I'm up at 16'000 feet, just finished enjoying a cup of coffee and a cookie. The sun is beating through the window and the scattered layer of clouds 10'000 feet below offer glimpses of a beautiful Autumn afternoon down on earth. It's relaxing.

I've forgotten how relaxing it can be when you get up high above the bumps and weather. I got checked out on the Cessna 402 about 3 months ago and that has been the only thing I've flown in the past two weeks. Although I really enjoy the plane and the challenges of single pilot IFR, getting a break from flying in the weather down at 6'000 feet is nice. The low rumble of the turbines and smooth upper atmosphere are great for putting a guy in a mentally and physically
relaxed state. Unlike what I was trudging through just yesterday with the C402 that provide a little to rough for a few of my passengers and I ended up with a collection of used sick bags in the back. Not to mention a queer smell for the rest of the trip!

Anyways, time to start thinking about the final descent of the day, it's only a few minutes ahead...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

And The Sun Stood Still

The sun is below the horizon as we lift off the treated gravel of Points North Landing on our home bound leg. As we climb through 9500 feet the sun reappears as a bright orange ball. It sits on the earth's far line for the rest of the climb not moving an inch. But within two minutes after leveling off at FL240 (24,ooo') time catches up with us and the sun drops away out of sight. Now the sky will take the slow shift to the nights darkness, but not without a spectacular show of fading colours chasing the sun over the Western horizon. I guess it's good morning China.