October 15 – Victoria, British Columbia – Vimy Flight

Today was to be a special day to meet up with the Vimy Flight at their final stop in Victoria, British Columbia. Their replica World War I aircraft have had a very interesting year, from flying over Vimy Ridge, France for the 100 year celebration of the battle at Vimy Ridge, flying across Canada including Parliament Hill in Ottawa, us meeting up with them in Brandon, Manitoba at the Commonwealth Training Plan Museum, and now at their final event in Victoria.

We had another easy flight from Abbotsford to Victoria and as usual parked at the Victoria Flying Club. The Club has been around since before World War II and has conducted flight training since then.

After parking at the Victoria Flying Club it was a short walk to the BC Aviation Museum. There is no taxiway access to the museum so you have to park your aircraft nearby on the apron and walk to the museum.

Vimy Flight aircraft on display

BeBe Bilic giving the final presentation to the group at the museum. 

Larry Ricker Pre-flight inspection

 

Bob and Larry Ricker met the crew that we met in Brandon

On the final flight Larry carried our Canada Flag that has been across the country this past summer

The final flight for the aircraft – will be sent to a museum

October 5 – Tofino, British Columbia

Today we flew from Abbotsford to Tofino, Long Beach Airport, on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

We had tried on June 29 and were unable to get here for our Canada 150 Kick-Off because there was fog all along the west coast of Vancouver Island. When that fog settles in sometimes it lasts for days. We might have missed getting here for the Kick-Off but I guess you can say we made it to our Touchdown.

 

Approaching Long Beach Airport

Long Beach Airport

 

parked at the terminal for Long Beach Airport

Orca airways 

Transportation thanks to Charles.

Charles Champenhet gave us a ride to the beach and was our photographer what a nice young man

 

 

 

Pacific Ocean gently rolling in. The sand here is so fine and clean and packs real hard. Some beaches near here are often used for mini-flyins. The guys with tail draggers meet up and have a beach BBQ. Sounds like fun but not the kind of operation suitable for the Turbo Arrow.

Departure from Tofino on climb-out heading for Port Alberni

 

On our way to Port Ablerni. Here is where the situational awareness is enhanced with the amazing display of terrain. The red X means “You Die Here”

flew to Port Albernie (CBS8)

Garmin GNS 530 enhances situational awareness with terrain feature

new runway extension fully paved

B737 conversion to waterbomber

first in the world 

aircraft from Southwest Airlines

August 18 – Boundary Bay Airport – Air Cadet Graduation

This summer the Air Cadets on the Flying Scholarship Program were training at three airports in the Vancouver area; Boundary Bay, Langley and Abbotsford. Their graduation ceremony was together  held in the big hangar at Boundary Bay Airport with all three groups combined. The reviewing officer was Lt. Col Mike French, Commander of 431 Air Demonstration Squadron – Snowbirds!

Two Canada 150 aircraft prior to the graduating ceremony.

Matching tail decals.

Bob and Lieutenant-Colonel Mike French with the Canada Flag at Boundary Bay Airport.

The Colour Guard marches past during the graduation ceremony.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mike French had the honour of cutting the cake with the graduating pilots.

Bob and Lieutenant-Colonel Mike French with the Canada Flag and the graduating class of new pilots at Boundary Bay Airport.

Lieutenant-Colonel Mike French was very helpful folding the Canada Flag.

A warm sincere handshake from the Air Cadet top brass.

August 12 – Abbotsford Air Show

Today was our family day at the Abbotsford Airshow.

My son, Chris, and his family attended the airshow for the first time. Brodie was getting around OK but Hudson still needs the comfort of his mother’s loving arms.

Valerie walked a mile or two keeping track of Brodie.

Brodie was watching to make sure that no one was getting past security.

Valerie and Brittney at the airshow. Little Hudson saw airplanes for the first time. Next year he will be walking around.

I thanked Brodie for a job well done and invited him to be my wingman.

Staff Sergeant Major John A. Buis from the Burnaby Detachment of the RCMP helped me with the Canada Flag. This good officer has flying experience on the Piper Arrow from years past at flying school at Langley. His watchful eyes were on our technique as we folded the flag and everything must have been OK since he gave us his approval.

The Snowbirds gave another amazing performance. Nine training aircraft performing together right in front of the crowd.

 

August 11 – Abbotsford Air Show

We are now back at our home airport and have the next three days to enjoy the Abbotsford International Airshow.

The ABBOTSFORD INTERNATIONAL AIRSHOW is designated as Canada’s National Airshow and is Canada’s premier aviation festival.

The President of the Abbotsford Airshow, Jim Reith, was also an Air Cadet in the 60’s. In 1968 we met on a training course at the Canadian Forces Base Borden (then known as Camp Borden) about 100 kilometres north of Toronto,  Ontario. The six week Technical Training Course had 100 Air Cadets from across Canada. Jim and I were in the same class together for the course and hung around in the evenings with a few other guys. 

For the first two weeks we had a photography course learning how to capture images use a large press camera, the Speed Graphic which uses 4 x 5 sheet film. They are the kind of cameras that one sees in old movies from the 30s, 40s and 50s. After shooting it was into the darkroom to develop the film and make 8 x 10 black-and-white prints. That was so cool for me being taught by military photographers; I thought it was right up my alley.

Jim went on in the military and had a career as a pilot in the RCAF and later with Air Canada, while my career as a pilot was with Transport Canada. Last year we met up again for the first time since 1968 in Camp Borden and our conversations seemed to pick -up where we left off. I am looking forward to working with Jim on the airshow.

I usually have the Turbo Arrow on display in the General Aviation section at the airshow. Taxiing out I couldn’t resist stopping on the flight line for a shot with the Snowbirds. I guess the Arrow could be Snowbird #13. The paint scheme looks good, I just have to figure out how to install the smoke system.

The CF-188 Canada 150 Jet had arrived yesterday and was parked on the hot side so I thought that was a good opportunity for a photo with our Canada Flag. I will probably get a few more this weekend but had to take advantage of this early shot.

A lot of business are participating in Canada 150 celebrations and this mobile food wagon, the Double Decker Diner, was getting ready to feed the crowd.

The Friday airshow is a evening/twilight show followed by fireworks. Valerie looks like she is ready for the evening and all she needs is a red blanket.

The CF-188 flew in the evening show and one interesting thing they did at the end  of the show while on the landing roll out was the pilot lowered the arresting hook creating a shower of sparks. I really don’t think the wear on the hook will create any operational issues since Canadian aircraft don’t land on Aircraft Carriers. Once back at the flight line the ground crew carefully inspected the aircraft to make sure all is well for tomorrow’s airshow.

August 10 – Medicine Hat – Air Cadets then to Abbotsford, British Columbia

Today we fly the final leg of our Canada 150 Journey, from Medicine Hat, Alberta to our home airport at  Abbotsford, British Columbia. The Abbotsford International Airshow is on August 11, 12 and 13 so we wanted to arrive sometime today to be able to have our aircraft on display for the airshow starting tomorrow.

As is normally the case, the airshow performers have a practice session on the day before the show. For Abbotsford Airport, there was a NOTAM (notice to airmen) indicating that the airspace will be closed for three hours this morning starting at 10:45 PDT for practice sessions for air show performers, so that meant that we needed to arrive before 10:45 or would have to land at some other airport like Chilliwack and wait until we could go to Abbotsford.

This summer British Columbia has had very hot dry weather and the worst fire season on record. Most of the southern half of the province is filled with smoke. I started planning for this leg last evening, checking the forecast for this morning’s departure from Medicine Hat, the enroute weather, and the weather for this morning’s arrival in Abbotsford. I had called the Abbotsford Control Tower last evening and informed the controllers of our plans for this morning; departing Medicine Hat early enough to arrive in Abbotsford before the airspace is closed. They are a great bunch of folks in the tower and I have worked with them for many years since my aircraft is based at Abbotsford. They were very understanding and said they would be very accommodating for our arrival this morning.

 With forecast light winds from the north-west and clear skies, I figured we would fly above most of the smoke at 12,500 feet and take about 3 hours and 15 minutes to reach Abbotsford, and to make it all work we needed to depart Medicine Hat before 08:30 MDT.

So I filed a flight plan to depart at 08:20, cruise VFR at 12,500 feet where we would be in the clear, direct to Abbotsford. If I had planned IFR there could have been airway routings that would have taken us longer to get to Abbotsford and we might have arrived after the airspace closure time.

The Air Cadets arrived on time at 08:00, we chatted for about 5 to 10 minutes regarding our trip and my being an Air Cadet and on the same course 50 years ago that they are on this summer. Today, some were in ground school, some were scheduled on training flights and one cadet was taking his Private Pilot Flight Test. I encouraged all of them to continue flying and perhaps consider a career in aviation.

We wished them success and then it was time to head out to the airplane for a photo with the Arrow and the Canada Flag.

With all that taken care of it was now time to start the day’s flying. This morning we had good summer prairie weather with light wind on departure and all along our route of flight to Abbotsford. There were several NOTAMS with restrictions for airspace closures to allow the water bombers a chance to deal with the forest fires. Our cruise altitude was above their airspace so there was no conflict. The Arrow had been fuelled yesterday and pre-flighted earlier this morning, so we were ready for engine start at 08:15. Everything went as planned and we took off at 08:23 MDT.

It was nice to look over the open prairies with blue skies above, knowing that soon conditions would change making the flying more challenging. The Garmin GNS 530W GPS was updating our position as we went and calculating our ETA. During the climb out from Medicine Hat it showed 10:57, not good. After we leveled off and accelerated the GPS updated our ETA to be 10:38, now we felt real good!

The haze layer ahead was now quite visible and by the time we reached Lethbridge you could see the smoke and even began to smell the smoke at 12, 500 feet.

A little further along we were over the Rocky Mountains and the visibility decreased considerable with the smoke filling the valleys.

The flight continued uneventfully as we headed westward. I usually contact the ATC Centre for Flight Following and on this leg I was talking to Vancouver Centre. After passing the Princeton VOR we were handed over to Victoria Terminal for our arrival into Abbotsford. It was so comforting to be greeted with a “welcome home, Bob” as we began our descent. Ryan Van Haren, the controller, had noticed “Arrow 150” on the radar and had been following us for quite some time. Ryan is a very experience pilot, an aircraft owner and one of the guys that started the BC General Aviation Association. He has so much enthusiasm for aviation that it is just overflowing.

The Abbotsford weather was marginal VFR with light winds and with very little traffic the tower controller cleared us for a straight in approach for Runway 25.  It felt good to touch down on a very familiar runway.

While taxiing in I contacted Kamloops FIC to close my flight plan and was again greeted by a friendly voice, this time Bob Houldsworth. I first met Bob at the Vancouver Flight Service Station in the late 80s when we both worked in the same building, he as a weather briefer and me as an Inspector with Transport Canada. We had a brief chat on the radio, perhaps our last on the air as Bob will be retiring shortly.

After flying 462 nautical miles today in 3 hours and 17 minutes we arrived in Abbotsford at 10:40 PDT, with five minutes to spare before the airspace was closed. 

Mission Accomplished!

August 9 – Thunder Bay to Fort Francis to Brandon, Manitoba to Medicine Hat, Alberta

To-day turned out to be the longest flying day of the trip and the most challenging with regard to weather.

When flying a significant trip such as this one, it is very import to keep a broad perspective of what is going on and to maintain a high level of situational awareness. Pilot’s can sometime get caught up in the event and develop “Get- Home’Itis”. When there are weather issues and airspace issues to deal with you have to check many sources of information to put the full picture together. Only then can you make a decision to fly or not. My conscious is sitting beside me. I know when I have made the right decision to fly when Valerie still wants to fly with me.

The early morning weather at  Thunder Bay certainly didn’t look the best and when I called the Flight Service Station they gave us a weather briefing informing us of the line of significant weather between Thunder Bay and Brandon. The weather was moving to the north-east so we planned our routing to the south of the main part of the weather system. The first leg was to Fort Francis.

We figured we would have some challenges along the way so I selected a few alternate airports that were available such as Atikokan and a little further north lies Dryden and Sioux Lookout.

The weather conditions were marginal VFR for our easy departure westward. Shortly after takeoff we passed some very interesting low level clouds that looked like ploughed fields. I wondered how smooth of a ride you would have if flying just above the tops of the clouds.

Sure enough we caught up to the weather as forecast and we could see significant large cloud formations on our route requiring us to stay at low altitudes and make major deviations around the weather. About 40 nautical miles east of Fort Francis there were heavy rain showers to our left and right and just as shown on ForeFlight there was a gap of about 10 nautical that was wide open with good visibility. Our way was clear. 

It was nice to get past that line of weather and start preparing for our arrival in Fort Francis. Just across the boarder lies the city of International Falls and their airport can be seen off to the left in the distance. Just three miles to the north lies our destination airport of Fort Frances. 

The airport is uncontrolled so all pilots fly a standard arrival procedure and make standard radio call. The system works on the principal of see and be seen. I heard on the radio that another aircraft was also inbound so we flew our arrival procedure, landed and exited the runway without delay. As expected the aircraft, a Pilatus PC-12 landed and parked near us.

After a quick stop to freshen up, check the weather and file a flight plan we were ready for our departure to Brandon. Fort Frances has a single runway with no parallel taxiway so we required a long backtrack to get in position for takeoff. The PC-12 was also getting ready to go again.

ForeFlight still showed the significant weather all along the route from Thunder Bay to Brandon.

Not too long after takeoff from Fort Francis we climbed to 10,500 feet hoping to fly in better weather conditions and more direct to Brandon. That wasn’t going to happen.  We had to make some deviations around the large buildups and could see that this cruise  altitude and routing wouldn’t work.

It’s interesting to note that in July on our flight eastbound we crossed the Manitoba / Ontario border about 20 nautical miles north of here near Shoal Lake. On this flight westbound we will be flying through the United States for about 20 nautical miles in the state of Minnesota. This time we cross the border when we fly from Ontario to Minnesota then from Minnesota to Manitoba!

By the time we reached the Ontario / Minnesota border we had to begin our descent to get under the weather so down we went to end up at 2,500 feet. Our new cruise altitude had us flying safely at about 1,500 feet above ground level; lots of room to spare. It didn’t take long to get past the Lake of the Woods and the myriade of small lakes and islands. We were now back on the prairies.

South of Winnipeg the clouds were quite low as well until we crossed the Red River which you can see here flowing to the north toward Winnipeg.

Off to our left were rain cells and open skies to the right.

Normally I fly using the autopilot and have relatively straight tracks from departure to destination. For this leg there was considerable weather to avoid requiring many deviations to remain in good visual flying conditions and you can appreciate how much we had to deviate from our desired track by viewing our actual track from ForeFlight.

https://plan.foreflight.com/s/track/EFD41D58-B88C-423D-9217-33FF22F942CC/

Brandon

We had been following the adventures of the Vimy Flight as they were working their way westward across the country. It was great to met up with the Flight at the Commonwealth Training Plan Museum in Brandon. Their aircraft were in the hangar and it seemed like they really belonged there.

A little maintenance at the museum their aircraft seemed right at home

The maintenance crew had a wonderful place to work their magic and seemed so right in such a nostalgic place.

My Captain Waypoint met with their Vimy Bear and they had a good chat.

  Later they went flying and Captain Waypoint said that Vimy Bear really enjoyed the flight when Captain Waypoint did loop-the-loop! 

Off in the corner was a Link trainer so Captain Waypoint did a little recurrent training then successfully completed his check ride.

Since there is no restaurant at Brandon airport we had planned ahead and brought along a Subway sandwich for lunch.  All the poor weather was now behind us. From Brandon westward the weather improved  the further we flew west.

We had stopped at Regina in early July and had the maintenance shop, Prairie Flying Service, work on the landing gear. As we flew past Regina I call the shop on the radio to say hello to the mechanics, thanking them for helping us make a safe and successful trip across Canada.

All across the prairies there are small airports that were built during World War II. 

After the war most of the airports were dismantled and the runways torn up and removed. Many  of them are now converted back to their original use as farmland.

 Although now fading away, there are still some visible signs of where the old training airports once were, playing their part in freedom.

We arrived in Medicine Hat airport and joined the circuit following a couple of training aircraft then after landing tied down at Super T Aviation. They are quite a going concern at that airport and I especially wanted to visit this airport to meet with the Air Cadets that are training there this summer.

We spoke with the folks at the flying school and the officer in charge of the Air Cadet, telling them of our trip and plans for meeting tomorrow morning for a discussion and a photo with the Canada Flag. They agreed to have the cadets at the airport for 08:00 to make it all happen.

After flying for over 900 nautical miles and a total of 9.1 hours in the air it was time to call it a day. 

One of the flight instructors at the school had previously been on my Flight Instructor Refresher Course so it was nice to meet up again to see how he was doing and talk a bit about the course. He kindly offered to give us a ride to the hotel.

Tomorrow we make it home to Abbotsford!

August 8 – Collingwood to Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay

The weather for the leg from Collingwood to Sault Ste. Marie was forecast to be good VFR flying conditions. The flight along the Bruce Peninsula and past Manitoulin Island was quite pleasant seeing all the small islands and lakes, however you could see some weather off in the distance along the next leg of our journey.

 Nearing our destination we came across two lake freighters on their way to the locks at Sault Ste. Marie on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Perhaps these ships may have recently been in Hamilton at the steel mills. 

After contacting the control tower at Sault Ste. Marie airport we were cleared for a straight in approach to Runway 30. This stop was planned to be a quick fuel stop then on our way to Thunder Bay.

A check of the weather revealed that indeed there would be some weather for us to contend with. From the GFA (Graphical Area Forecast) we could see that there was a cold front to cross prior to Wawa and there may be some thunder storms along that front. That meant that we were unable to go IFR and risk the possibility of being in cloud and encountering weather conditions beyond the capabilities of our aircraft.

We took off and not too far north of Sault Ste. Marie we could see that this leg was going to present some challenges. The initial portion was flown at relatively low altitudes due to the weather conditions.  Just north of the airport along the south east shore of Lake Superior there is a Wind Turbine Farm stretching for about 10 miles. It looked very similar to what we had seen the other day along the north shore of Lake Erie.

For a significant portion of the flight there was considerable clouds sometimes above us, sometimes below us, sometimes both. Good VFR conditions prevailed.

It is always important to have what I call “tactical” weather information for the area where you are currently flying, and “strategic” weather information for an overall picture of the weather that lies ahead so you can make critical in-flight decisions.

The weather improved as we neared Thunder Bay but you could still see more significant weather off in the distance.

We landed at Thunder Bay and taxied in ending up parked in the same spot as on our trip eastbound. 

That was enough flying for today. It was time to head to the hotel and  relax.

August 8 – Brantford to Niagara Falls to Collingwood, Ontario

It was time for us to head home to British Columbia. The trip has been safe and enjoyable seeing many parts of Canada and catching up with old friends and relatives. So now we face the adventure and the challenges as we head westward.

Randy gave us a ride to Brantford airport then we loaded the Arrow, checked the weather, filed a flight plan for our departure, and were on our way. The plan was to see some of the Niagara Peninsula, circle Niagara Falls, then head to Collingwood for brunch.

Southern Ontario, like many other parts of Canada, is big on harnessing the energy of the wind and sun to generate electricity. The north shore of Lake Erie has been developed extensively and has a significant number of Wind Turbine Farms and solar panels in the area south of Brantford. I wanted to see the installations and take a photo or two.

ForeFlight has a feature on the Maps page where you can turn on the display of “Obstacles”. When I activated that feature I was quite surprised to see how many windmills there were in such a small area. I used to fly with my students in this area on low level navigation training flights but I would be very reluctant to do so now.

Although the Wind Turbine Farms are marked on the VFR navigation charts it is really quite un-nerving when you see them for real out the window. I descend to a safe altitude of several hundred feet above them to get an appreciation of what it’s like flying over them. Not a real good feeling.

Seeing the blades turning gave an eerie feeling like something was down there trying to get me.  

There were fields and fields of solar panels. I wonder how these solar panels appear, and what affect they have on a pilot’s vision, when the sun is low on the horizon causing significant reflection; could be quite blinding and unsafe.

We approached the Niagara Falls area with caution. The Canada Flight Supplement has a very specific and detailed procedure for all pilots to follow to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. I headed for the 420/QEW waypoint,  while listening for other aircraft and making the required radio calls.

The procedure for sightseeing around Niagara Falls is to turn on all your lights and fly a clockwise pattern as depicted above, not below 3,500 feet and not any faster than 130 knots. 

We heard and saw many other aircraft in the vicinity. There were several commercial helicopters conducting aerial tours below us and a couple of flights departed from the Niagara Falls International Airport across the river in New York State.

It truly is amazing flying over a world class site.

The little red boat in the river is the “Maid of the Mist” tour boat and it goes right up to the Horseshoe Falls. It’s an experience you will never forget so be sure to bring a water proof camera to capture your memories. You can also take the “Journey Behind the Falls” tour and see the power and feel the thunderous vibration of the immense curtain of water of the Horseshoe Falls. We did these trips several years ago and our children still talk about them.

After a few trips around the pattern we departed westward along the south shore of Lake Ontario toward Hamilton at the west end of the lake. Our routing took us by the steel mills in Hamilton and the Burlington Skyway Bridge.

Collilngwood was next on a northbound flight at an altitude to see and appreciate the farmlands and features of southern Ontario. 

With the Runway 31 in sight from several miles back I was expecting an easy arrival with a straight-in approach. The airport was much busier than anticipated as I later found out there are two very active flying schools and an active general aviation community. I identified the arriving aircraft and joined the procedure for landing on the active Runway 31.

By this time we were starting to get a little hungry and had picked this airport as the restaurant, “Airport Cafe”, had been recommended by someone in Brantford. Well, we ordered a nice breakfast and I have to tell you it was the best breakfast we have ever had at a small airport. We would definitely recommend this restaurant and look forward to the day when we can enjoy another amazing meal.