Flying Victoria to Ottawa, the slow way

(Or: So you're tired of airliners and want Excitement, Adventure, and Really Wild Things?)

NOTE: All text and images © Copyright 2003 James Strickland. If you ask me nicely I will probably let you use any image you like (and I may also send you a higher resolution version), but please don't copy them without asking first. Email me at user name "james", domain "". (Just put an @ between the user name and domain name. Believe it or not, if I spell it out here I'll be bombarded with spam.)

You may be interested in more recent photos, including aircraft photos. There is also a set of aerial photos of Victoria. I do this for fun, but if you want to help me cover the costs of the web site and camera equipment, I won't stop you. :-)

Bombardier Global Express: typical cruise Mach .85, 6500 nm range. Definitely NOT the slow way. (Photographed at North Bay, Ontario on July 1, 2003). While a Global Express has 16 times the range, is 5 times faster and seats (typically) 4 times as many people, it does burn fuel at 60 times the rate and costs roughly 1500 times as much as my plane initially did. :-) Plus, you're so high up you don't get nice photos such as these:

Note that all photos on this page are links to larger (higher resolution) versions. You will need to look at the larger images in many cases to see details or to get the full effect. Try it with any of the above photos. There are hundreds more after the Summary section - you can page down or use any of the links in the table to see the details of a particular flight.


NOTE: the magneto timing was way off (too early), and brought back to spec, at the annual inspection in December 2003. The plane now flies about 5 knots faster. That may not sound like much, but over 20 hours that makes a 100 nautical mile difference - on, presumably, the same fuel burn. Or, put another way, the trip would have taken roughly one hour less time in each direction and cost about $160 less in fuel.

Date Point of departure
and destination
In English Air time
Great circle

Fuel burned
Fuel cost Fuel burned
(US gallons)
Burn rate
US gph
28 June CYYJ-CYXC Cranbrook, BC 3.2 307 92.9 1.10+GST $109.34 24.6 7.7
28 June CYXC-CYQL Lethbridge, AB 1.2 116 arrived after hours, left early - no fuel available
29 June CYQL-CYXH Medicine Hat, AB 1.0 84 69.0 1.155 $79.70 18.3 8.3
29 June CYXH-CYQR Regina, SK 2.5 235 69.9 1.17 $81.78 18.5 7.4
30 June CYQR-CYBR Brandon, MB 2.0 184 66.0 1.14+GST $80.51 17.5 8.7
30 June CYBR-CYQK Kenora, ON 2.2 217 63.2 1.151 $72.74 16.7 7.6
30 June CYQK-CYQT Thunder Bay, ON 2.0 216 62.4 1.162 $72.51 16.5 8.3
1 July CYQT-CYXZ Wawa, ON 1.7 184 57.0 1.02+GST $62.21 15.1 8.9
1 July CYXZ-CYYB North Bay, ON 2.3 240 69.5 1.14 $79.23 18.4 8.0
1 July CYYB-CYOW Ottawa, ON 1.7 169 parking too expensive, no point in getting fuel
1 July CYOW-CYRO Ottawa (Rockliffe), ON 0.2 8 53.1 1.07+GST $60.80 14.0 7.4
Total eastbound 20.01 19602 603.0 $698.82 159.53 8.0
29 July CYRO-CYOO Oshawa, ON 1.8 167 67.5 1.03+GST $74.40 17.9 9.9
7 Aug CYOO-CYVV Wiarton, ON 1.3 107 44.0 0.99 $43.56 11.6 9.0
7 Aug CYVV-CYZE Gore Bay, ON 1.1 92 39.5 1.05+GST $44.37 10.4 9.5
8 Aug CYZE-CYTJ Terrace Bay, ON 2.9 255 92 1.00+GST $98.44 24.3 8.4
8 Aug CYTJ-CZUC Ignace, ON 2.0 186 no fuel available
8 Aug CZUC-CYHD Dryden, ON 0.5 47 81.2 1.09+GST $94.71 21.5 8.6
8 Aug CYHD-CYPG Portage-la-Prairie, MB 2.4 215 77.0 1.053+GST $86.76 20.4 8.5
9 Aug CYPG-CYQR Regina, SK 2.6 249 86.6 1.19 $103.05 22.9 8.8
10 Aug CYQR-CYQL Lethbridge, AB 3.1 318 108.0 1.00+GST $115.56 28.6 9.2
10 Aug CYQL-CYCG Castlegar, BC 2.3 190 73.7 1.128+GST $88.95 19.5 8.5
10 Aug CYCG-CYYF Penticton, BC 0.9 78 32.0 1.10 $35.52 8.5 9.4
11 Aug CYYF-CYCW Chilliwack, BC 1.3 94 no need for fuel
11 Aug CYCW-CYYJ Victoria, BC 0.7 66 too happy to be home to taxi over and get fuel!
Total westbound 22.9 2064 7704 $860.004 203.7 8.95


  1. Air time is the time from lift off to landing, rounded to the nearest tenth of an hour. Air time does not include time for engine warmup, runup, or taxiing. (In a logbook "flight time" does include this time; typically "flight time" = 0.3 + "air time"). The fuel consumption per hour figures, therefore, are a bit inflated because they include the total fuel consumed but not the total time the engine was on. They also do not compensate for large climb requirements. The figures will be pretty close to the cruise book values, however, assuming the descent was efficient (generally the case).
  2. The direct great circle distance from Victoria (CYYJ) to Rockliffe (CYRO) is 1937 nm. The eastbound total came remarkably close to this figure! Westbound was noticeably longer because we went to Toronto. Note that the actual distance travelled was greater than the sum of the great circle distances, due mainly to Lake Superior. For example, CYZE-CYTJ required going almost to Sault-Ste Marie, then following the shore of Lake Superior to the north, then west, rather than flying dozens of miles away from shore across Lake Superior.
  3. There are 3.785 L in a U.S. gallon, and as of the time of writing about 0.72 US dollars in a Canadian dollar. So, $1 Cdn/L translates into about $2.72 US per US gallon.
  4. Total fuel burned westbound was 701.5 L plus an estimated 68.5 L on the last day. Total fuel cost was $785.32 plus an estimated $74.68 for 68.5L.
  5. The higher consumption rate westbound is a combination of get-home-itis :-) and the rather more rational "spend less time in a headwind than in a tailwind" strategy. i.e. it makes sense to go slower with a tailwind so that you can enjoy it for longer; it makes sense to go faster against a headwind so that you suffer through it for less time.

I didn't include landing or parking fees in the table above - it's already chock full of information, and relatively few places charged such fees. Landing fees were charged at Wawa ($8.56) and Ottawa International ($14.99), and parking fees were charged at Thunder Bay ($12.34), Rockliffe ($85/month, including $20 for club membership) and Oshawa ($6/day). I also went through about $30 of engine oil, plus the unaviodable maintenance issues at the end (e.g. replace vacuum pump - not cheap).

Air time on a commercial jet from Victoria to Ottawa would be about 4 hours eastbound and 5 hours westbound, except of course that there are no non-stop flights between the two cities. So, add another half hour of air time for stopping off in Vancouver or Toronto. Plus another hour of walking around the terminal, another hour waiting, plus a half hour taxiing around. :-)


When I was "building time" for my commercial license in 1993, I flew from Vancouver to Ottawa and Toronto in a rented Cessna 172, to visit relatives and friends. I remember having quite a feeling of accomplishment at the time. Aside from being stuck in Winnipeg for one day, and having to divert to Duluth due to bad weather in Sault Ste Marie, the flight had proceeded with almost no weather delay, and the plane had performed flawlessly.

Thus, after buying my first plane (a 1962 Cessna 172) I was eager to try the same trip. (FWIW, I bought a 172 as a learn-what-it-is-like-to-own plane, with reasonable maintenance and insurance costs. What I'd really like is a pressurized twin, but the costs involved are astronomical.) My plane, however, encountered its first difficulties right away, with a dead battery, broken mixture cable, poor radios, and a transponder that no longer reported altitude correctly, or, in fact, at all. With all the avionics issues I decided to rip everything out and put some awesome new avionics in, so the trip would be a treat. That process took almost three weeks longer than it was supposed to, and cost almost 3/4 the cost of the airplane, but the end result was totally awesome. (Did I mention the word "awesome" yet? :-) )

I planned to go in early July, at the first hint of clear weather over the mountains. Perfect weather was available at the end of June, so I left a little early. I had it incredibly easy - almost zero cloud all the way to Wawa. After that there was some cumulus which I decided to stay under, which meant about 4 hours of being bounced around at about 2000 feet above ground.

So, let's start the bombardment of photos.

Eastbound day 1, flight 1: Victoria - Cranbrook

A couple of minutes after departing Victoria International, off the right side is "Sidney spit", on Sidney island, which is just east of Sidney. :-)

On the left you can see what it looks like inside at the same point - the instruments show wings level, 10 degrees nose up, altitude 1900 feet, heading 050, climbing at 500 feet per minute. The MX20 display shows the active portion of the flight plan in pink, with the next portion in blue. It's only 4.8 nautical miles to the first waypoint. The first waypoint is Stuart Island, marked as "VCSRT" on the VFR chart. One of the standard departures from Victoria International is to fly to Stuart Island, not above 1500 until approved (there was no conflicting traffic, so my altitude restriction was cancelled prior to this shot). After Stuart it's time to talk to Victoria Terminal, at which point I asked for 9500 feet. Note also the island just to the right of the flight plan which has the airport marked "ORS" on it. You'll see that in the next picture.

A few more interesting things to notice: there is no connection between the altimeter setting on the altimeter and the MX20, so in some shots you will notice them being different and the altitude reported varying. The altimeter is of course the primary reference. Next, you'll see the MX20 reporting 72 knots groundspeed - I believe I was maintaining the best climb speed of 80 knots at this point, which would mean I was facing a headwind of 8 knots, not surprising because I'm still almost on runway heading (runway 09). Track (Trk:) also may differ from heading, due to wind. Of course, the heading indicator may not be set accurate to 2 or 3 degrees. The NAV/COMM is showing the Victoria outer tower frequency (119.1 MHz) is active, with the inner tower (119.7 MHz) on standby, as I recently switched from inner to outer. The GPS/COMM is showing navigation info, specifically the estimated time to the next waypoint - three minutes and 58 seconds.

Ok, now that I've explained what just about everything means, I'll be much less verbose in future. It's cool to be able to take a picture to record exactly where you were and what the conditions were at the time.

On our right is Orcas Island, complete with nice airport (comforting to have while flying over the islands!). Orcas is one of a group of islands in Washington state called the San Juan Islands.

Now, about 15 minutes later, on our left, is a view to the north which includes Abbotsford airport (the triangular-looking thingie). The U.S.-Canada border is very close to the south side of Abbotsford airport - I am in U.S. airspace at this point, although it's administered by Canadian controllers due to the proximity to Vancouver, BC.

Finally, after 40 minutes, I'm at 9500 feet approaching Mount Baker (which rises to 10800 feet, so I'm actually crossing to the north of it :-) ). Only 244 nm to Cranbrook (2 hours and 22 minutes estimated)... Note the clever transponder which records flight time and automatically turns reporting on and off - as soon as airspeed surpasses 40 knots it starts counting and starts responding to radar, and when airspeed decreases below 40 knots it stops counting and stops responding to radar (to avoid ground clutter). Since the plane can't fly slower than 40 knots - well, at gross weight stall speed with full flaps is 46 knots, so at a light weight who knows, maybe it's close to 40, but I digress - and you never taxi that quickly, this is an effective way to make life simple for pilots! Never again will I forget to turn the transponder on at the start of the takeoff roll. :-)

Miscellaneous mountain photos:

Manning Park - I crossed the border back into Canada a few minutes prior to this photo.

And on up to 11500 feet to comfortably cross the mountain range west of Penticton. Just prior to this point I had refamiliarized myself with mountain up and downdrafts - flying at best rate of climb speed and full throttle while seeing 0 fpm on the VSI is ... educational.

Back down to 9500 feet in the valley over Oliver, south of Penticton and north of Osoyoos. This area is very dry, in fact it is a desert - except where the fields are irrigated, of course.

Clouds! These are the first clouds I had seen anywhere close to me, quite amazing for flying over the mountains in the late afternoon! The terrain here looks much more inviting - green and all that. It may not be as "pointy", but it still counts as mountainous, with valleys down to 1500 feet ASL and peaks to about 7000 feet ASL. (Both figures approximate.)

Lower Arrow Lake, which is part of the Columbia River (don't ask me how that works, it's a continuous body of water, how can it be both a lake and a river at the same time? :-) ).

Castlegar and thereabouts. Note the huge hill impinging on the approach south to Castlegar airport. The Canada Flight Supplement "Castlegar VFR Terminal Procedures Chart" shows a hatched area north of the runway which says "CAUTION: Castlegar IFR Descent Area 3000-9000 ASL" and "Acft on inst apchs may use high rates of descent". No kidding! The airport is at 1624 feet. As you'll see later, the approach from the south is also quite interesting.

One of the towns in the valley from Castlegar to Nelson.

Nelson, BC and a mountain peak east of Nelson. Nelson is a very cool little town, especially from the point of view of a pilot; it is one of the few places in the world where you can walk downtown from the airport in 5 minutes.

Approaching, above, and looking beyond Kootenay Lake.

On my way down, down, down, to Cranbrook. I chose Cranbrook because there is a valley which gives about 20 nm to descend from altitude, and the airport itself is still relatively high - 3082 feet. It's another 10 nm to the mountain range to the east, although as you'll see that was not enough room for a 172 to get up and over directly!

I really am in Cranbrook, see? :-)

Eastbound day 1, flight 2: Cranbrook - Lethbridge

As mentioned above, there is not a lot of room to gain 5000 feet - not for a 172, that is. I ended up angling back southeastward, hoping to be able to make it over top, but failing that just going through the valley. Note the "poor man's GPWS" feature of the MX20 - it will pop up a little warning in the top left of the display whenever there is terrain higher than you within 5 nm. Cool, eh? Note also the GPS/COMM showing the nearest airport feature - one can rotate the knob to go through a list of the 20 nearest airports. CYXC is Cranbrook, so you can see I'm 11.4 nm away from Cranbrook.

What do you think, am I going to make it over? :-)

Mountains to the left of me, mountains to the right of me...

That one on the left is pretty cool. You can tell, because of all the snow. Har de har har.

It doesn't look so bad up ahead - plenty of space to gain more altitude, especially if I can keep it in this updraft...


Yet despite all the rugged mountaintops, there are plenty of forced landing areas. It would probably take me twenty minutes to glide down there, giving lots of time to point it in the right direction! btw, I apologize for the interior photos being out of focus - it wasn't until the trip back that I realized I had to use manual focus to get it right. Auto-focus just isn't up to the task, for some reason.

Nearing the end of the mountains!

Really near the end of the mountains! Honest. It's time to start down - I had gone up to 11500 feet again for the last range, and now I'm heading down very quickly - yes, for a 172 (especially an early one), 127 knots counts as "quickly".

The "foothills". Note the funky early-'60s pitot tube with a cover which is held up by the airstream.

Slightly flatter terrain, wouldn't you say? And what's this? It looks like a wind farm.

More typical scenery, including another set of wind-driven turbines. I think this is Cowley Ridge, or maybe Vision Quest. I'm not sure. Interestingly enough, Calgary's C-Train (light rail transit service) has a long-term contract for electricity which is wind-generated. The marketing slogan is Ride the Wind!

This is the closest I could get without deviating from my route and altitude. Oh well, you get the idea.

Irrigation by rotating pipeline - quite common in the area. Speaking of which, isn't that Lethbridge up ahead? Yay!

Eastbound day 2, flight 1: Lethbridge - Medicine Hat

Ok, I must admit I did something very stupid. For various reasons I wasn't able to start day 1 until late in the day, which meant I arrived in Lethbridge after the fuellers had gone home. That's not the really stupid part; the really stupid part is that I decided I wasn't comfortable leaving everything in the plane or shlepping it all to a motel via taxi, and with the time it would take to do that and come back... it just seemed simpler to sleep in the plane. So I did. Or tried to, anyway. This explains why I was able to leave at 5 in the morning local time. Nice sunrise, though.

You'll note I was planning on going to CYYN, which is Swift Current, Saskatchewan. I decided it would be prudent to stop at the next major airport, however, which was Medicine Hat, Alberta. Remember, I had not refueled in Lethbridge.

The ESSO retailer in Medicine Hat is a flight instruction/charter outfit named Bar XH Air. I asked and apparently the "Bar" has to do with cattle branding, and XH comes from the airport code, namely CYXH. Anyways, I had a couple of hours to mill about, as no one would be in until 8:00 local time. Fortunately, there was an interesting discovery at the airport.

No, not that! There were plenty of prairie dogs, and not coincidentally a hawk circling above. The hawk actually made a warning pass, scaring the heck out of me. All of a sudden there was a wooosh, very loud and very close. Shortly afterward I looked up and saw the hawk climbing away, so I'm pretty sure that's what it was.

Yes, that's it, a fleet of Jetstreams, at least two of which look suspiciously like they used to be Air BC Jetstreams. That's Air BC as in part of Air Canada, sort of, but what is now part of Air Canada Jazz. (The only companies making money in the airline business are those that repaint airplanes!) Anyways, I thought it very interesting because I remember when they were in service flying at Vancouver International when I was first learning to fly - ten years ago. Note the silver tape covering up pitot tubes, engine air intakes and so on.

Addendum: I looked up the registration history for C-FBIP, C-FCPF, C-FBIJ, and C-FBID and they all are ex-Air BC.

Eastbound day 2, flight 2: Medicine Hat - Regina

I left Medicine Hat, to continue out onto the prairie. Contrary to some people's belief, there are a lot of different patterns on the prairie. The scale of regular patterns alone can be breathtaking, as in the shot on the right of a field being harvested.

Lakes are also interesting things - many of them seem to be salt lakes.

Well, here is Swift Current.

...and Swift Current airport.

I couldn't help but notice this massive salt lake at Chaplin, SK.

The scenery out the other side is interesting - it's pockmarked with little lakes.

Ok, now we're getting close to Regina - that's Moose Jaw airport in the distance. Since it was a weekend the airport was closed! This might explain why. Yes, the military only works Monday to Friday.

On downwind for runway 26 at Regina, with an Air Canada Airbus 320 about to depart. On the right side of the picture is the Shell.

Speaking of which...

The Regina Aerocentre was wonderful - I was marshalled in, and the line crew guy arranged for a hotel with a free shuttle pickup. I had decided that what I really needed was sleep. Granted, the fuel price was not cheap, but it wasn't totally outrageous either, parking was free, and I got a clean windshield in the bargain. :-)

Eastbound day 3, flight 1: Regina - Brandon

Leaving Regina, eastbound.

Not surprisingly, it's flat for quite a ways.

There's a prominent clearing in a straight line which is not an electrical transmission right-of-way, nor a highway construction area nor an abandoned rail line nor a turf runway :-) nor... I couldn't figure out what it was, but a reader suggested it could be an underground gas line.

What this is, however, is clear. This is a straight road. I mean straight. It almost looks as though it is superimposed on the image.

Coming up on the Saskatchewan/Manitoba border. Note the GPS/Comm is set to display a CDI ("course deviation indicator"). I'm close enough to on course that there are no dots visible - I'm 0.077 nm off the centreline, with 97.1 nm to go. The Nav/Comm is showing I am on the 142 radial from the "YDR" VOR (located at Broadview, Saskatchewan). Yes, the radio actually decodes the Morse code audio for you! Decadent or what? Anyways, this tells you where the following three interesting (I think) shots were taken.

Likewise, the "multifunction display" and timestamps lead one to the conclusion that the interesting triangular town is Moosomin, SK.


Interesting colouring on the fringes of this lake.

Downwind right for runway 26, Brandon.

You have to look at the large version of this one - there were a couple of prairie dogs scampering across the taxiway. By the time I took the picture you could only see one, and it was almost off the taxiway.

Fill 'er up. Brandon Flying Club provides Esso fuel, a pool table, and a large hangar complete with cat. My plane was actually owned by the Brandon Flying Club in the late '60s and/or early '70s - I'm not sure, the on-line records don't go back that far. I do know there is a Brandon Flying Club sticker on the inside of the cowl access door, and it looks vintage. :-)

The Brandon VORTAC, located right on the field. A VORTAC is a co-located VOR and TACAN. A TACAN is a military navigation thingie, a VOR is a civilian one. A VOR transmits two radio signals whose phase difference depends on your bearing relative to the VOR. That's about as much as I can say, because that's about as much as I understand. :-)

Eastbound day 3, flight 2: Brandon - Kenora

On the road again, I just can't wait to get on the road again. Or, actually, above the road again. That's the Trans-Canada highway down there.

A big lake on your left, a big city straight ahead.

Straight ahead 20 nm, that is.

I guess it is not a fast-flowing river...

Portage-la-Prairie, MB. It's ironic I took pictures of the town in passing, because I would spend the night here on the way back.

CYPG, the Portage airport, site of initial flight training for the Canadian military.

On the outskirts of Winnipeg... you can see Winnipeg International in the distance.

Lo and behold, here we are at Winnipeg.

Did you notice the three Hercules on the apron in the closeup shot? The eagle eye will also notice the runway which is closed while it is being repaved.

Winnipeg West. I think the regular tree-lined streets are interesting.

A closer view of downtown, and of one of the largest rail yards I've ever seen.

More Winnipeg...

Another large rail yard.

Ok, now this really is the edge of Winnipeg.

Only 100 nm to Kenora...

There is very little population between Winnipeg and Kenora.

Lakes, lakes and more lakes.

Kenora, at last.

Kenora airport is east of town. Probably my worst landing (a veritable bounce) was at Kenora, although to be fair the conditions were not very easy either. There was a wind of 10 gusting to 20 knots (roughly and IIRC) that was almost directly across the runway.

Eastbound day 3, flight 3: Kenora - Thunder Bay

Ok, now we are really in a sparsely-inhabited area, and aside from this one road near Kenora we are a long way from any road (or airport) as well. It's either trees or water. Engine, don't fail me now.

See? I'm not kidding. Oh, btw, sorry for the camera shake.

Lakes, wonderful lakes...

And, um, more lakes.

Neat colouring in a stream, round about 100 nm from Thunder Bay.

Half an hour later, a road! A road with one lane over a bridge being reconstructed.

Now we're getting close to Thunder Bay. Notice the railroad crossing - I mean, railroad crossing a railroad! Look ma, no switches!

I've been cleared to join downwind for runway 30. Basically, head for the Bowater plant and turn before you hit the mountain. :-) (Nice bug splatters on the windshield, eh?)

Ok, fool, put the camera away, you have to land the plane now. You're too high. (After all my bitching about the speed of 172s I should compensate by extolling one of their virtues, namely that they are small and have a low approach speed. Thus there is very little momentum, compared to larger and/or faster planes. Combine this with 40 degree flaps and a high approach can be turned into a steep-but-on-target approach very easily. My older 172 also has the wonderful feature of manual flaps - just yank on the lever and the flaps are out, right now. Cool!)

Welcome to Thunder Bay. Please remain seated with your seatbelts fastened until the plane has come to a complete stop and the captain has turned off the... engine.

I survey the scene, while waiting for a ride to the hotel.

Eastbound day 4, flight 1: Thunder Bay - Wawa

Uh oh. Fog. Then again, it didn't take long to lift. Remember, the timestamps are Pacific time, so that's not 3:45, it's 6:45 local.

A 737 caught just as it was rotating.

A 172 with a clean windshield!

Miscellaneous Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources aircraft.

The port.

The flight plan is: CYQT (Thunder Bay) - CYSP (Marathon) - CYXZ (Wawa). Sort of. Following that route would take me too far out over the water; I just entered the route as a rough guide to follow the north shore of Lake Superior.

Heading east early in the morning makes photography difficult. Looking down works ok, though - these are islands on the way.

And on the other side, you will notice water as far as the eye can see.

Some cool-looking low cloud and islands - and the Kimberly-Clark pulp mill at Terrace Bay.

Visibility is good in places, restricted in others. :-) (These pictures were taken 19 seconds apart - i.e. we're looking different directions at about the same time.)

Cutting the corner - note the nice tailwind - better than 15 knots, I think.

I thought this little island looked neat - it gives you an idea of the type of rock typical to the area.

More scenery on the coast, just prior to going inland.

On the way to Wawa - there is little evidence of human influence aside from a bit of logging.

Wawa - town to the north, VOR to the south of the airport.

The famous goose - well, semi-famous, anyway. The wing strut in the lower left of the picture shows I took this from inside the plane - the highway and visitor centre is right beside the airport. If you look closely at the highway sign you can see it says "WAWA Population 3700".

Eastbound day 4, flight 2: Wawa - North Bay

Leaving Wawa - the terrain is relatively rugged and, on the direct route to North Bay, almost completely uninhabited.

A paper mill.

Flying at 5500 feet with a tailwind, no turbulence and a few puffs of cumulus below. Alas, it was not to last - the cumulus layer filled in to a point where I thought it would be prudent to stay below it - at 3500 feet, no tailwind, with turbulence. Damn.

Actually it doesn't look bad at all here - I don't know, maybe I could have gone on top. It did fill in more later, though. btw, that's not Speedy Gonzales kicking up dust on that logging road, it is in fact a logging truck which managed to hide behind the hill before I could take a picture of it.

Typical scenery.

Atypical scenery - this is the only road, aside from logging roads, that I saw, and we're still 100 nm from North Bay.

Tantalizing patches of blue...

More lakes... coming up on Wanapitei Lake, north of Sudbury.

The aforementioned Wanapitei Lake - say that name three times quickly.

More rugged scenery on the way to North Bay.

A fellow long-distance-in-small-plane traveller who I had heard on the radio on the way to North Bay.

One of four vintage British fighter jets (Hawker Hunters), now privately owned by a group called "Northern Lights". This plane appears to have been registered in Sweden previously. I don't know which air force it was originally built for. I saw this group of planes leaving Victoria International once and they are LOUD! Actually, as the group was leaving I saw one of them returning, complete with full fire response. I could hear the alarm going from across the field. I was watching a business jet on final for 09 and couldn't believe my eyes as I saw it pull up and go around. Then the Hunter landed downwind (winds were light) on 27, complete with drogue chute. I guess something caused them to declare an emergency, although everything was fine in the end.

One of these planes is not like the other...

A fuel truck and a VOR. btw, North Bay has an absolutely ginormous runway (10000 feet) and yet is an uncontrolled airport (there is a mandatory frequency).

Eastbound day 4, flight 3: North Bay - Ottawa

Leaving North Bay - the town is to the southwest. I departed on the measly 4000 or so feet remaining :-) on runway 26 from taxiway H.

Ummm... lakes and trees? You know, I'd really rather fly a twin...

Deviating a bit to go around CYR-511, the restricted airspace near Petawawa.

A very big dish.

More lakes and trees.

And now we hit upon farming and mining (gravel?) and forestry.

A couple of pleasing bridges, one of which includes a hydroelectric dam.

Ok, now we're getting close!

Gatineau, and the Champlain bridge.

Ottawa from the air. I don't have any pictures of Ottawa International because I decided it was time to put the camera away and concentrate on flying!

Eastbound day 4, flight 4: Ottawa - Ottawa

Ok, let's see, parking at the Shell or Esso was $outrageous/day ($30?), parking at the Ottawa Flying Club on the grass in the field was $40/week, and parking at Rockliffe Flying Club was $65/month plus $20 for membership for a month. (But wait a second, now that I look at the OFC web site it claims only $70 per month - yet the staff on duty said there was no monthly rate...grrr). Rockliffe is very very close to Ottawa International, in fact one is still in the Ottawa zone when the controllers turn you over to the Rockliffe frequency. I made the mistake of going right away, as it was July 1 (Canada Day!) and Rockliffe was ridiculously busy. There were, I think, 4 departures and 3 arrivals in the time between when I first tuned the frequency and the time I touched down. Crazy, in a way, and yet if one follows procedures everything works.

The eagle-eyed among you will notice some vintage airplanes parked over by the big gray hangar on the other side. That big gray hangar is the Canada Aviation Museum.

Groundbound: Ottawa, Toronto, Kingston

Much visiting and some ground travel ensued for the next month. This isn't the place for such photos, but I thought I'd show these three; the first is right beside highway 417 near Kanata, a tree I must have passed a hundred times before but this time I went to the parallel two-lane road and took a picture. I like it, and it's my website, so nyah-nyah. The picture of a VIA train is there because that's how I got to Toronto - no weather worries (in fact I wouldn't have been able to fly that day - look at the background!), no parking worries, and cheaper than flying my own plane, even discounting maintenance. Besides, the train can travel 1/4 of the way in the time it takes me to drive to the airport and get the plane ready. (FWIW I am a big fan of rail, and think that North America should learn some lessons from Europe; high-speed rail is a better solution than short-haul airline routes, and frees up airport capacity for what airplanes do best - routes longer than, say, 600 km, including trans-oceanic). Last, is a former Coast Guard ship now used as a bed and breakfast in Kingston, the Alexander Henry. Yes, I like ships too, although I have no qualifications in that regard. :-(

Westbound day 0: Ottawa - Oshawa

Ok, what is this all about, counting from zero? Well, the plan was to visit Toronto again for two nights and one day, so it's not fair to start counting until we left Toronto. It's a good thing, too, as you'll see from my weather difficulties described below. :-(

The view leaving Rockliffe, which includes good views of Hull and downtown Ottawa.

The Ottawa Valley.

Kanata south "high-tech" business park. (-ing lot.) This is all new since I left home.

A low tech business park.

On the way - once again, it becomes mostly lakes and forests, although there are still some open fields. I'm off-course because the pink line is the direct route from Rockliffe, and I had to fly a few miles northwest after departing Rockland. I suppose I could have hit "Direct to" on the GPS at that point, but really it doesn't make that much of a difference.

Bombing along at 4500 feet all the way...

Like I said, the terrain is not entirely friendly to airplanes in distress, but I've seen worse!

"Cleared right base runway 30, report over the Wal-mart." I said I wasn't local, he said "report 3 miles east"; by the time I got close it was obvious where the Wal-mart/Home-Depot/Megamall reporting point was. No, the Wal-mart is not on any maps or in the CFS.

The north side of the airport, where the plane ended up parked for quite some time.

After exploring Oshawa, we took the GO train into Toronto. (Followed by the subway and a streetcar, for the full Toronto rail experience. :-) )

Anxietybound: Toronto, Toronto, Toronto, Toronto, Toronto, Toronto, ...

I was beginning to think I had become the houseguest from hell; my friends in Toronto let me stay while I waited out a "stationary low" which remained annoyingly stationary. Most days it was a question of whether the fog would lift and the low clouds would be high enough in time to get out before the thunderstorms arrived. Ugh. Fortunately I gave up early and sent my family ahead on a commercial flight. My wife reported overcast all the way to Winnipeg that day. Of course, she was above it and I was below it!

In case you think I'm being overly dramatic or conservative, consider the following sample (Ontario is UTC-4 in the summer, so 1600Z is noon local):


METAR CYVV 031400Z 10003KT 1SM BR VV010 21/19 A2999 RMK FG8 SLP155= 
SPECI CYVV 031435Z 11002KT 1 1/4SM BR VV009 RMK FG8= 
METAR CYVV 031500Z 12003KT 1 1/4SM BR VV009 22/20 A2999 RMK FG8 SLP155= 
SPECI CYVV 031534Z 12003KT 1 1/4SM BR BKN009 OVC012 RMK SF6SC2 VIS NE-S 4= 
SPECI CYVV 031534Z CCA 12003KT 1 1/4SM BR BKN007 OVC012 RMK SF6SC2 VIS NE-S 4= 
METAR CYVV 031600Z 12004KT 1 1/4SM HZ BKN007 OVC018 22/20 A2998 RMK SF5SC3 VIS NE-S 4 SLP152= 
TAF AMD CYVV 031550Z 031524 12005KT 1SM BR OVC008 TEMPO 1517 3SM BR OVC020 PROB30 1517 2SM -TSRA BR 
FM1630Z 14010KT 5SM BR OVC020 TEMPO 1624 1SM -SHRA BR PROB40 1624 1SM TSRA BR 


METAR CYXZ 031400Z 04002KT 2 1/2SM BR OVC007 19/18 A3001 RMK ST8 SLP165= 
SPECI CYXZ 031430Z 02002KT 6SM BR OVC010 RMK ST8= 
METAR CYXZ 031500Z 36004KT 6SM BR OVC010 19/17 A3000 RMK ST8 SLP162= 
METAR CYXZ 031600Z 03002KT 10SM OVC010 20/17 A3000 RMK ST8 SLP162= 
SPECI CYXZ 031606Z 36004KT 12SM OVC012 RMK ST8= 

TAF AMD CYXZ 031507Z 031524 36005KT P6SM BKN030 TEMPO 1524 5SM -SHRA BR OVC010 PROB30 1824 2SM TSRA BR BKN015CB 


METAR CYYZ 031400Z 10004KT 4SM BR SCT016 OVC110 21/20 A3000 RMK SC3AC5 SLP159= 
SPECI CYYZ 031418Z 13005KT 4SM BR SCT006 OVC017 RMK SC3SC5= 
SPECI CYYZ 031444Z 13006KT 4SM BR BKN007 OVC015 RMK SC6SC2= 
METAR CYYZ 031500Z 11005KT 4SM BR BKN007 OVC020 22/20 A3000 RMK SC6SC2 SLP159= 
SPECI CYYZ 031525Z 08006KT 4SM BR FEW008 BKN026 OVC088 RMK SC2SC4AC2= 
SPECI CYYZ 031540Z 09005KT 5SM HZ BKN009 OVC025 RMK SC6SC2= 
METAR CYYZ 031600Z 12007KT 5SM HZ OVC010 22/20 A3000 RMK SC8 SLP159= 

TAF CYYZ 031512Z 031512 11005KT 6SM BR SCT006 OVC025 TEMPO 1517 3SM BR OVC006 
FM1700Z 09010KT 6SM -SHRA BR OVC020 TEMPO 1721 2SM -SHRA BR OVC009 PROB40 1721 1SM TSRA BR BKN008CB 
FM2100Z 14010KT P6SM -SHRA OVC020 TEMPO 2104 1SM SHRA BR OVC005 PROB40 2102 3/4SM +TSRA BR 
FM0400Z 08010KT P6SM OVC020 TEMPO 0412 1SM -SHRA BR OVC005 PROB30 0612 1/4SM FG VV001 

For those that don't know how to read aviation weather reports and forecasts, the summary is: very low clouds and terrible visibility in Wiarton, with the forecast being for periods of at least as bad weather with a 30% or 40% probability of really nasty weather (thunderstorms).

Many days were terrible along my intended flight path but half-decent in Toronto. The humidity and temperature combination, however, was just gross; some days were 30 degrees with relative humidity greater than 90%. I believe the word they used was "muggy".

I was a frequent user of the TTC subway. Alas it's difficult to take a picture of a driving cab in use, as the glass is mirrored. The overall effect can be called artistic, though. :-) This photo was taken on the Yonge line where the subway runs in the open for a while north of Bloor.

btw, as if the weather woes were not enough to worry about, I also saw plenty of reporting of the worst forest fires in B.C. for fifty years. I knew that once I got to the prairies I'd have to decide what would likely be the least smokey way to get across the mountains.

Westbound day 1, flight 1: Oshawa - Wiarton

So, after an hour and a half getting to the airport, and a half hour of double double checking that I was all prepared, I called ground and they let me know that someone had just recently gone north and turned back. Wonderful. I said I had talked to flight service and, well, if it isn't ok, I'll be back. As it turned out it was not bad - I was 1000-1500 above ground, with good visibility under the clouds. And then, at Lake Simcoe, there was a large bit of blue sky visible!

I was following a direct route to Wawa, which would take me along the east shore of Georgian Bay. Along the way I crossed by Barrie-Orillia and Midland airports. Alas when flying this low you have to talk on the mandatory frequency of every airport you come across on the way...

Flight Service had said further west was likely to be better (at this point the low was centred in Quebec, so we were dealing with the trailing edge of the system), so at Georgian Bay I turned left and headed along the other shore of Georgian Bay. Cool geology, eh?

Have they turned that hillside into ski runs? Looks like it. Now that I think of it, I do remember Toronto people talking of skiing at Collingwood. Further, this must be the northern part of the Niagara escarpment - of course! It runs from near Niagara Falls up to Tobermory. In Hamilton they call it a mountain. People in Ontario are funny. :-)

According to my map, this is Meaford. I was hoping to get the name of the town from the water tower, but decided I was already low enough. :-)

Looking not too bad up ahead - if it keeps up like this I'll be happy.

Owen Sound (Billy Bishop) Regional Airport. Billy Bishop was a WW I ace who was, you guessed it, born in Owen Sound.

That's either an auto recycler or someone who is really tough on cars.

Owen Sound, Ontario.

Wiarton Airport. No, the ground doesn't really slant like that, it's just me. :-) The guy who looked after the fuel at Wiarton was really nice, and the price was the lowest of any on the whole trip!

Westbound day 1, flight 2: Wiarton - Gore Bay

Ok, it was going to be funny - the housefly was right at the end of the airspeed needle, so I was going to say this was an "airspeed bug", but, well, it moved before I could get the camera.


Still not looking too bad, in fact it's looking absolutely fantastic to the west - or is it?

More cool-looking shoreline.

Shortly after this I ran into some low (500 feet?) stratus. Thanks to a report from a 182 which had just crossed north of Tobermory, I climbed up through a small hole in the layer just before the point at which I would have had to decide to turn around and go back to Wiarton. I didn't take any pictures during this time, as I thought it was rather important to concentrate. By the time I took the picture it was looking much better, but you can still get an idea of what I'm talking about.

Joy oh joy, the first time I've been above about 1700 feet AGL all trip! It looks good all the way to the other side. That's Tobermory on the right.

I think that qualifies as towering cumulus, or at least the start of it.

Hmmm, not so hot straight ahead. I'm starting to get tired of this.

Cool views, though. That's the Chi-Cheemaun ferry loading on Manitoulin Island before heading back to Tobermory.

Don't panic, that's the view out the left side window, not straight ahead.

Ok, I think we'll park this thing at Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island, the reports from further west are not encouraging.

Gore Bay airport in sight, right across this little bay.

A Gulfstream I. Mmmmm, nice. Unbelievably loud, though.

I'm waiting in line for fuel. :-) The G-I will be turning to its left, so I am not going to be blown away.

The airport manager was incredibly friendly. He helped me move the plane to the pumps, did the fuelling, helped me move the plane to a tie down and tie it down, phoned for a B&B (a couple were sold out), and handed me the keys to the courtesy car (for which I left a "donation" to cover costs). Someone has a sense of humour: "TIME TO SPARE....ARRIVED BY AIR".

The view from the B&B room.

Westbound day 2, flight 1: Gore Bay - Terrace Bay

This is what the land at Gore Bay looks like - they didn't have to do much preparation before putting an airport there. :-) The tie-down area is just natural rock.

I had to wait for a CJ1 before taxiing out. The CJ1 stopped just at the entrance to the apron and the FO got out to check that the right wing would clear a wire. The captain was nice enough to announce on the radio why he was waiting there, as he could see I was right there. I suggested he needed a high wing, and he gave a good-natured response. :-) After all, we Cessna pilots have a sense of humour, right? :-) (Somehow I suspect the fit and finish in a CitationJet is a bit beyond that of a 1962 172.)

I left on the downwind - here's a view down to the apron.

More cool scenery.

Here's my fuzzy flight plan. It's a long way.

Neat-looking islands.

A high layer appeared on the way to Sault-Ste-Marie - it was based at 8 to 9000, which is plenty high enough for me. :-)

Attractive road patterns.

Bar River airport

Near Sault-Ste-Marie - but to the north.

Just before venturing out over Lake Superior - just a little ways offshore, you understand, so as to not have to be underneath the low cloud. I climbed up to 6500 feet.

Hmmm, I do NOT like this headwind*. Or the fact that the land has low cloud everywhere.
* The airspeed indicator shows 100 knots, which at this altitude would mean a true airspeed of roughly 110 knots; yet groundspeed is shown on the MX20 as 86 knots. Ignore the altimeter. :-) Sometimes it's hard to fly and take a photo at the same time.

Did I mention cloud? I decided to climb up to 8500 feet to get over this bit of cumulus which stuck too far offshore for comfort.

Forget about Wawa, it's barely VFR - IIRC it was 1200 feet overcast, and there are hills near the airport. I suppose if I have to I can, but they promised me better conditions further west... (I'm a bit nervous, because if I have to come back 50 nm I'm starting to eat into my comfortable VFR fuel margin).

Still the same story - hanging a few miles off the shoreline.

Ok, Terrace Bay has been and still is reporting a decent ceiling, and I can see under the cloud, so there should be no problem - time to get down.

Self-serve; there are two people who look after the airport, and the one that was there was on crutches. So, she explained how to turn the pump on, I did the fuelling, then reported to her. I was expecting the fuel "cabinet" to be locked - most are - but this one just has latches!

Westbound day 2, flight 2: Terrace Bay - Ignace

The cloud was reasonably high, allowing for 3500 feet eastbound, although higher and smoother would be nice - especially for a nearly 300 nm leg! I had a new experience leaving Terrace Bay - I had to look up how to use a "Dial-up Remote Communications Outlet" (DRCO) - key the microphone 4 times (hold down for 1/4 second, no more than 1 second between clicks). Then you hear the equipment dialing, a recorded voice that says "Link established", then the radio operator. I guess it's a whole lot cheaper to have a dial-up line than a dedicated line!

Ok, let's do the same trick - there are plenty of big holes to come back down through if climbing above doesn't work out.

Ah, 8500 feet and suuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmooooooooooth! It looks pretty bad looking along it, but as you can see the holes are frequent and large.

An open-pit mine.

Well, let's see, the closest airport is Thunder Bay, 62.2 nm away!! The next closest is Ignace, 63.7 nm ahead.

Ok, there are lots of logging roads, anyway.

You know, Ignace is sounding like a good place to stop - when you gotta stop, you gotta stop, if you know what I mean.

Westbound day 2, flight 3: Ignace - Dryden

No photos on this half hour flight, but trust me it looked a lot like the previous leg. When you gotta go you gotta go, and when an airport (such as the one at Ignace) has no bathroom facilities... (the building was completely locked, and there was no phone)

Westbound day 2, flight 4: Dryden - Portage-la-Prairie (Southport)

Ok, when do I get my beautiful blue skies to fly in? I hope it will be nice over the prairies at least. I hope to make it to Brandon...

It was nice to leave the somewhat-anxiety-provoking northern Ontario terrain for friendlier forced landing sites. (Do I sound worried about this? If you fly with me you won't hear it, but denying the possibility of engine failure doesn't make that possibility go away, and if one is to be prepared one has to think about it.)

Winnipeg again, this time at only 4500 feet.

Passing Winnipeg International, first we see a departure...

...a plane holding...

...and then an arrival.

Back to the agricultural prairie, with occasional town.

Ok, now all along I was planning on talking to flight service for an update on the line of thunderstorms in Saskatchewan heading east. Well, I called after passing Winnipeg and was told that the thunderstorms (with tops to 45000 feet, gusts to 60 knots and hail) were now about 30 nm west of Brandon, moving east at 25 knots. I was about an hour from Brandon at the time. Do the math. I landed at Portage-la-Prairie...

...which, as you can see, is a military training airport. It's open to the public, however, especially after hours as the only people around are the maintenance workers. Speaking of maintenance workers, that hangar is Stevenson Aviation, an aircraft maintenance training institution.

I wish I could remember the name of the guy who helped me out, as he was very nice... anyways, he suggested that more should be done to encourage people to stop by, and that clearly there weren't a lot of people doing so. Take a look at the very nice tiedown rings - if you can find them!

Slingsby Fireflys (official site) in the hangar - and, at the suggestion of the aforementioned nice guy, a Cessna 172 in the hangar.

He put the truck in as well. Ironically the concern for hail made me feel better - that I wasn't just a "weather wimp".

Portage was actually at the southern end of the line of thunderstorms, so supposedly it was much worse to the north. As it turned out there was no hail and little rain, but one almighty wind beforehand, some pretty darn dark skies and quite a lightning display.

The power at the airport was knocked out, except for the tower and runway lighting, which are on a backup generator. The hangar lights were out, though, so the maintenance crew's coffee break grew rather long. After a suitable period they decided it was time to call it a day. One of the guys offered to drop me off at the motel, something I greatly appreciated. As it turns out he had recently moved back from Victoria.

Westbound day 3, flight 1: Portage-la-Prairie (Southport) - Regina

A nice riverside park on the way to the airport. The airport was completely abandoned, as it was Saturday.

Leaving Portage, above the highway and rail line.

A short freight train - just one engine.

Passing Brandon I called Brandon radio, who told me lightning strikes and hail had been reported to the south. Oh, wonderful. Well, it looks bad to the south, but ahead and to the north it's quite good.

Another relatively short train (I count 65 cars, two engines), near the winding river I called "Funky" on the way eastbound. :-) I thought it was neat to recognize the same piece of land, so I took a picture to record where I was. btw, in case you're wondering why the 030 radial is always shown, well - I never bothered setting the OBS to anything else, because the radio shows the radial you're on and I was never actually intercepting a radial, just using it as a secondary reference. I am now a spoiled GPS user. :-)

A few miles of low cloud - no worries, plenty of visibility over, through, and on each side.

The road seems to have affected the two parts of the lake. I saw this sort of thing a number of times.


The road seems to have affected the two parts of the lake. I saw this sort of thing a number of times.

Assorted interesting prairie scenes.

A fast and low approach to Regina. The controller asked me to keep the speed up and head for the threshold - I kept up cruise speed until about a half mile final, way low (100 feet), then brought the throttle way back, bled speed off, got full flaps out as soon as I could, landed 31, taxied off on K. I mention this because it's unusual and also because I thought I did a damn fine job. :-)

Look familiar? :-)

After I landed, this Jetprop DLX and friendly German couple arrived. (Check out the "D-" registration!) They waited in the lounge while the jet fuel truck returned from the main terminal (fuelling an Air Canada A320, unless I'm mistaken). I suggested it would be nice to go 250 knots instead of 100 and he suggested that I got to see a whole lot more beautiful scenery than he did. Both statements are true - they're two different kinds of flying. Still, I'd trade with him any day. :-) They had most recently come from the NWT, btw. Quite a tour - the mere concept of flying your own plane across the Atlantic is of course foreign to the puddle-jumper pilot.

This Mirage (specs) was conveniently parked in front of the terminal so as to allow me a direct visual comparison between the turbine conversion and the original!

The Pilot's Lounge and horizontal resting apparatus. Alas they close for the night, otherwise it would be the perfect hotel!

Speaking of hotel, here's the pool that forms the centre of the Best Western Seven Oaks Inn in Regina. I stayed in this hotel both eastbound and westbound.

In case you're wondering, I stopped in Regina despite blue skies because supposedly there was a thunderstorm on its way. Hard to believe, but then they're the ones with radar and they were right before!

Westbound day 4, flight 1: Regina - Lethbridge

Ok, I'm getting really sick of travelling. Let's get home, damn it!

I had a very frustrating experience trying to talk to someone at the Regina Aerocentre. I called Westwind (the Regina Aerocentre operator) at the number I saw in the yellow pages. After 12 minutes of being on hold and being transferred around (to the maintenance hangar, for one), I ended up asking that they call me. All I wanted to know was their hours! I had neglected to check before leaving. I didn't receive a call, so I called again, and after another five minutes of runaround learned that there would be someone in at 4 am. Well, I arrived at a quarter to 5 and there was no one there. I used the phone at the front entrance and was promised that someone was already on their way and would be there "in ten minutes". Twenty minutes later I started waving my arms madly at the vehicles I could see airside. The first guy said he couldn't let me in, but he would get the commissionaire to come over. I showed the commissionaire my license and pointed out my plane and so on and he let me in. I still managed to leave at sunrise.

This looks like another salt producer, somewhere between Regina and...

...Moose Jaw.

This doesn't look like prime farming territory. There's Chaplin Lake again.

Cool, eh?

What are those rectangular objects in that lake?

The Trans-Canada highway, and a train, again.

Not flat.

A small bit of badlands. Note that it's 22 Celsius at 6500 feet. That's about 4000 AGL, so it's about 30 degrees on the ground. If you look at the previous photo of the engine gauges, you can see the oil temperature is on the hot side. Believe me, I kept a close eye on it!

There is some debate as to whether rectangular or circular is better. :-)

More crinkly bits.

I just love the scenery of southern Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Except for this part. I did have fair warning passing Medicine Hat, however, that there were thunderstorms to the south and the possibility of some nastiness across my path.

I'm quite low here, getting close to Lethbridge.

I saw lightning flashes to the southwest, and it doesn't look all that wonderful to the north either. Ok, I'm really ready to land now.

This flight was the one which burned the most fuel. I was at maximum allowed power at 5500 feet, and burned through 28.6 of 36 US gallons. That left 7.4 US gallons, which translates into another 50 minutes or so at high power setting, arguably an hour at "normal cruising speed" (7.2gph@2300rpm@2500feet), or about an hour and 20 minutes at maximum endurance. The legal requirement can be found in section 602.88 of the Canadian Aviation Regulations, which states that for VFR daytime you must have sufficient fuel to "fly to the destination aerodrome and then to fly for a period of 30 minutes at normal cruising speed". So, even though this was at the edge of my personal comfort limit, I still had double the legal requirement remaining. I guess I am pretty conservative in this regard - the thought of running out of fuel scares me, especially if it ends up as a notation on my tombstone - I mean, really, I would just die of embarassment!

Westbound day 4, flight 2: Lethbridge - Castlegar

The terminal forecast for Lethbridge had the convective stuff just passing through from 13-15Z (IIRC) - that's 7:00 to 9:00 local. The sky was pretty much clear again by the time I was refuelled - oh, and the plane had to be refuelled too. I spent twenty minutes on hold for the FIC so I decided I would file my flight plan by radio. I don't know what was going on with the phone line, but twenty minutes on hold is just absurd, unless you believe that "time to spare" line. Anyway, here is my custom (and fuzzy again - darn, I didn't get it in focus) flight plan: fly to a point 5 miles north of the border at 114 West longitude, then straight to Castlegar.

Why? Well, there was a NOTAM which looked like this:

494102N 1144039W 494104N 1141213W 491633N 1141208W 491725N 1142655W
TIL 0308251900
Hmmm, the last I checked 41-16=25, so that's a 25 nm swath north-south. Yikes. I marked the area on my map. So, it's either fly to the north (towards more forest fires inland) or to the south (between the big fire in Canada and whatever fires there are in the U.S.). The weather was good on the southern route and not on the northern, so the choice to me seemed obvious.

So, I climbed up to 10500 feet, in preparation for the first bit of particularly high ground. The oxygen rule in Canada requires supplemental oxygen for any part of a flight above 10000 feet that is more than 30 minutes in duration. So, just as I did 9500-11500-9500 eastbound, I did 8500-10500-8500 westbound so as to meet the letter of the law. btw, I honestly can't recall whether there was a mismatch between the altimeter setting for the altimeter and the MX20 at this point, or whether I'm 200 feet high just because I'm anxious. Probably the latter. :-( I never said I was perfect...

The first set of mountains.

That display looks awfully red! Note that I'm a couple of miles north of track, because there's a dip in the peaks there. The more clearance I can get over the mountains, the better. I'm still 9 miles south of the NOTAM zone.

Mountains (duh!)

Coming up on the first valley.

The first visible fires. Note the plane way below - it looked like it was a fire scout. I called Cranbrook radio to double check there were NOTAMs for this area, and to report I was seeing a fire and what looked like an aircraft flying low over the fire areas. I kept an eye out, and later saw a four-engine tanker aircraft flying below me. Cool, but unnerving. Well, I mean, if the area was not NOTAM'd off, then I did nothing wrong, right? It seems likely these fires started quite recently.

Almost at Kootenay Lake - more fires visible, plus smoke in the distance. Visibility above it all is excellent, however.

I just love that "moving map", which usually reflects reality. :-) I of course also have my officially-sanctioned VFR chart out and at the ready. The paper chart contains town names that aren't in the MX20 database, for one thing.

There's a lot of smoke in that valley...

...and where there's smoke there's usually fire.

This is the closest you can get to a straight-in for runway 33 at Castlegar. After passing the hill in the foreground you have to turn right and basically follow the highway as it winds its way along the hillside, all while continuing a rather healthy rate of descent. It's a pity I was on my own, or I could have gotten some really nice photos.

Westbound day 4, flight 3: Castlegar - Penticton

Ok, I have made it all the way to Castlegar (almost half way across B.C.) before noon! Could this be it? Could I dream the impossible dream? Could I actually make it home today?

No. Sorry. I called flight service, expecting to hear "yup, it's clear over the mountains" but instead heard that the lower mainland is chock full of nasty stuff, and it's only getting worse and heading my way. What the !@#$%^&*() else is new? :-)

I decided I would at least make it to Penticton while the weather was decent. Here's the closest you can get to a straight-out departure from runway 33 at Castlegar. :-) Straight out until that mountain looms ahead, then turn left.

Proceeding up Lower Arrow Lake. Fortunately this is almost exactly the right heading for Penticton, so I just have to climb high enough to make it over that hill straight ahead.

Woooooooooooooah, Momma! 1600 feet per minute up, at 7000 feet!!! It felt like I was in an elevator. This lasted for a good fifteen seconds or so - long enough to grab the camera, anyway. I decided I might as well pull up to slow down so that I stayed in the rising current longer, and to be sure I wasn't going to get sucked down (what I presume was) the leeward side!

The first hint of the increasing cloud cover to the west.

A bigger hint.

Time to start heading down towards the valley south of Penticton. I aimed for a spot about 10nm south of the airport. It was shortly after this photo that I experienced a very brief but very powerful incident of clear air turbulence. All of a sudden everything which was not belted down hit the roof. I was belted down, but not tight enough, apparently, as I definitely felt my head hit the roof. Mind you, I'm not that far from it normally. After the obligatory vocalization of surprise (I believe I kept it clean, actually, I think I said "WOAH!") I picked up what had fallen on the floor on the co-pilot's side (CFS, maps, camera) and put them back on the seat, lest I have to deal with something getting stuck behind the rudder pedals. Now that would really ruin your day.

Peek-a-boo, I see Penticton.

Housing on Skaha Lake, south of Penticton.

Still flying northwest toward the hills, to get lined up with runway 34. Using the "1000 feet for 3 miles" rule (3% glideslope) makes it easy to plan the final descent when you start so far out. Having a GPS which tells you the exact distance to the airport makes this really easy. Who needs an ILS? :-)

One of Central Mountain Air's Beech 1900D's.

Canadian Helicopters' base in Penticton.

The Penticton terminal building.

I decided to stop fighting it, and just try again tomorrow. Time to tie it down. There's a neat place called the "SkyTel", where you can stay in a room which overlooks tie-downs near the south end of the airport.

Just some normal afternoon cumulus.

But wait - there's more. There was a torrential downpour just prior to this photo. It's hard to see rain in a photo, but trust me, it was raining. Why do you think those people are carrying a boat over their heads? :-) So, the reports of (yet another) thunderstorm line heading my way were not exaggerated. I was on the ground 3 hours before the storm arrived.

Westbound day 5, flight 1: Penticton - Chilliwack

Yes, I'm an early riser. When flying in the summer it is usually a good thing, so that one can avoid the results of daytime heating. I used the airplane as a pseudo-tripod - even though the tripod was in the plane, now that I think of it!

It was light by the time I left. There looked to be fewer clouds to the north, and the overall layer seemed decently high - not the ideal I would like, but acceptable.

Penticton lies between two lakes, the aforementioned Skaha Lake to the south, and Okanagan Lake to the north. The picture on the left includes the point at which the Ironman Canada triathlon starts.

I probably should have tried this shot with flash - oh well. Anyways, the MX20 is telling me what is obvious if you look outside - I'm flying up a valley between two mountain ridges!

Time to turn westward! Look at that - a hole in the cloud!

Mind you, there is still some low cloud below me.

Look at that - the Fraser valley is within range. Well, if you set the range to 100 nm, anyway.

I'm glad I'm not further south. Here I am abeam Princeton.

The mine near Princeton.

Well, cloud-shrouded mountains make for good photographs, anyway.

But I especially like the clear patches, personally.

The cloud almost looks like an ocean washing up on the peak of that mountain.

It was not looking all that good up ahead. I had to decide whether I would continue direct and hope to stay over top of the cumulus up ahead and be able to see through it on the other side - tricky, since it looked like it might go up beyond 12000 feet or so. Or, I could head a bit to the right, towards Chilliwack and go over top where it seemed a smidgen lower. Or, I could hope to get into the Fraser valley and stay under the cloud. I headed towards Hope/Chilliwack, saw a hole in the clouds and decided to duck down..

Does 1000 feet per minute count as "ducking"? :-) btw, the attitude indicator and heading indicator are showing erroneous readings, as the vacuum pump failed about 10 minutes prior to this point. I'm glad I wasn't IFR having to do partial panel on one engine over the mountains in cloud... shiver. (The vacuum pump is not a requirement for day VFR. The old Aeronautics Act was much simpler on this topic: for day VFR you need an airspeed indicator, altimiter, compass and clock, period.)

Down, down, down... really quickly... don't worry, the engine temperature stayed well within normal operating range.

Ok, so it looks like it's not all that great underneath - in fact I had to go down to about 3000 feet - but at least I'm finished with the mountains!!! Nothing can stop me now!!!

Ok, maybe not "nothing". I was just past Chilliwack when I ran into a rain shower sufficiently intense that I could not see, well, very much. In particular, I could not see Sumas Peak, which goes to about 3000 feet and is made of rock which could hurt. If you can't see it you can't avoid it. Well, legally anyway - in theory the MX20 showed me exactly where it was, and I "knew" conditions were better just a few miles away in Abbotsford. And I was below IFR altitudes, so I wouldn't run into anyone. Except maybe another fool trying the "VFR into deteriorating conditions" thing. It took me about two seconds to discount that idea and start a turn back towards Chilliwack airport. Training is a valuable thing.

The sky looks ok to the east, anyway.

Note that the ground is dry but the plane is quite wet.

Westbound day 5, flight 2: Chilliwack - Victoria

And now the ground gets quite wet too - I was sitting in the plane, warming up and phoning my wife on the cell phone when the rains came. She could tell I wasn't exaggerating about the rain intensity :-) although I do admit an aluminum hull can make a rain shower sound particularly intense.

I nearly bought this Bonanza in January, but decided that, while it would be wonderful to do 160 knots and it was a nice plane and all that, it was a bit of an irreversible decision - it would probably not be easy to resell, and at some point I really want a twin. The fact that it's still on sale 6 months later, for significantly less than when I was looking at it, makes me feel that I made the right decision. Although, damn, it would have been nice to go faster than 110 knots!

There's the aforementioned Sumas Peak. It may still be raining but the visibility is good.

The Vedder Canal, and the view up ahead. The low cloud is thinning out.


Abbotsford airport, on the Monday following the airshow. There are still many planes which have not departed, including what looks like the entire Snowbird team.

Heading out over Georgia Straight. There's an overcast at about 5000 feet, I was at 4500 feet.

Stuart Island arrival for 09 - fly from Stuart Island toward the ferry terminal, join downwind left.

Home! I could kiss the ground! I could but I won't. :-)

I spent a half hour scrubbing bugs off the leading edge, cowl and wing struts, while I waited for my wife to pick me up. Here are the before and after shots.

Geez, you leave a hangar for a month and a half and flowers start growing in the cracks!


The "worst fire season in 50 years" in B.C. has only gotten worse. As of Saturday, August 23, according to the Globe&Mail:

Some of the major fires burning in B.C. on Saturday:
Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park: Southwest of Kelowna. Estimated at 190 square kilometres. About 250 firefighters, 109 pieces of heavy equipment, and 13 helicopters building guards to try to contain it. Estimated 203 homes destroyed by fire Friday evening and overnight.
Vaseux Lake: South of Penticton. Estimated at about 10 square kilometres. About 58 firefighters, with more sent Saturday morning, 19 pieces of heavy equipment and three helicopters building guards to contain it. Not burning near any structures on Saturday.
McLure-Barriere: North of Kamloops. Estimated at 256 square kilometres, 60 per cent contained. About 1,105 personnel, 156 pieces of heavy equipment, and 12 helicopters fighting it.
McGillvray-Niskonlith Lake: West of Chase. Estimated at 76 square kilometres, about 30 per cent contained. About 285 firefighters, 141 pieces of heavy equipment and 10 helicopters fighting it.
Venables Valley: West of Kamloops. Estimated at 67 square kilometres, 20 per cent contained. About 200 personnel, 46 pieces of heavy equipment, and five helicopters.
Ingersol: Kootenay region near Nelson. Estimated at 27 square kilometres, 40 per cent contained. About 104 firefighters, 11 pieces of heavy equipment and four helicopters.
Togo: In Washington State, about 700 metres from the B.C. border, south of Grand Forks. Estimated to be 21 square kilometres in size. About 904 U.S. firefighters and about 30 Canadian firefighters battling it.
Hells Gate: Near Boston Bar in the Fraser Canyon. Estimated at about 80 hectares. About 35 firefighters and five helicopters fighting it.

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If you want to encourage me, feel free. :-)