Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Call Sign Charlie

On Christmas morning, I got a fantastic surprise. Lance and Liz had organized with Colin (their friend, who owns a plane restoration business) for me to fly one of his planes while I was in Victoria, B.C. For several days afterwards, however, the weather refused to cooperate. With more snow that I've ever seen in Victoria, each day brought new precipitation and grey, overcast skies. Finally, on the 31st, I awoke to find the sun shining through the clouds. Barely able to contain myself, I called Colin to check on his pre-New Year's Eve plans. He good-naturedly agreed to meet Liz and I at the airport for a flight around the island.

When I saw the call sign for the plane, "Charlie Foxtrot Tango Papa Quebec", I was secretly relieved that Colin and I had agreed that he would operate the radios (I was unsure whether I needed to have a radio operator's license) as I doubted I could get that mouthful out in any sort of competent order.

Before we kicked the tire and lit the fire, Colin gave us a tour of the planes his company is currently working on restoring (for private citizens). They were amazing!!

As I started to turn a light shade of green, Colin promised that if I came back in the summer, he would take me up in one of the Chinese fighters, below, for some loops and rolls around the mountains.

He also mentioned that one of his partners could do my sea plane certification (about a seven hour course). I can't think of a prettier part of the world to get sea plane certified in, so that's now been added to my list as well. (Anyone else? I'm sure we could get a group rate!)

Once the tour was over, we were ready to get going. Colin gave me a brief overview of the TAC (or Canadian equivalent thereof) for the airspace we'd be flying. As I climbed in, I had to smile at the Cessna's seats, which were covered in a faux lamb's wool. Only in Canada, eh?

We took off from the Victoria airport, CYYJ, and cut through a mountain pass to follow the island North towards Nanaimo. I had deferred to Colin as to our route, so it was ironic that he had ultimately suggested we fly to the small town where my Mum was born.

The views were incredible. Flying over the water, we stayed at 1500 feet most of the way. We caught a few good gust of mountain turbulence, but it only added to the experience.

As we flew, we could see the Rocky Mountains of Washington State off to our right, and passed over boats, logged trees, and pulp mills. Now, if only we'd seen an Orca, it would have been the complete B.C. experience! :-)

The run up to Nanaimo took about twenty minutes. A controlled airport, Colin announced our approach and then told me to stay over the water as long as possible to keep the noise down for the neighboring houses. As I lined up for my first landing on a snowy runway, he teased me that there was a lot of pressure to show him and Liz what I could do. Fortunately, snow = grease, and it was a soft landing. We taxied around and took off, this time climbing to 2000 feet.

The flight home went all too quickly. Colin pointed out some of the lakes and rivers, including where they do sea plane training and the mountain over which he'll roll the Chinese planes at the apex for an "inverted view" of the backside of the mountain (below).

Although I'm sure flying in B.C. is pretty when the trees are all lush and green, the snow on the mountains in the reflecting sun was breathtaking.

As we cut through a different mountain pass to line up for the downwind, it was clear why the West coast is some of the most challenging instrument flying in the world. Very little margin for error with mountain peaks on all sides!

Soon we were swooping over the boats in Sidney harbour, a place I have seen from the ground countless times, on final approach for Victoria. It was much cooler to see it as PIC, though!

Our flight was the perfect end to my 2008, although I hope to be doing a lot more flying in Canada in the near future...


At January 13, 2009 at 8:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

greaser on snow? you musta had a superb instructor!

At January 13, 2009 at 8:21 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous.

Is it possible to get a commercial Seaplane rating with them?

Also, do they have any multi engine seaplanes that I could get a rating in?


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