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.


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.

August 7 – Brantford and Hamilton

Our Monday morning found us continuing as tourists in Brantford. Very near where we were staying with my niece, Lyn, was an historic site of the First Nations people, H.M. Royal Chapel of the Mohawks.

The chapel was built well over 200 years ago while Canada was still a British Colony. There is a tomb erected to the memory of Thayendanegea, or Captain Joseph Brant, Principal Chief and Warrior of the Six Nations Indians. He served with the British Army and died at Wellington Square, U.C. in 1807. The tomb also contains the remains of his son, Ahyouwaighs, or Captain John Brant, who fought with the British Army in the war of 1812.

Around that time, Burlington was then known as Wellington Square, Upper Canada. The hospital in Burlington, Ontario is named the Joseph Brant Hospital. 

Nearby was also a Residential School in quite a state of disrepair, however, there appeared to be some restoration going on for the entrance of the building.

We just had to go to Hutch’s restaurant on the Hamilton Beach on Lake Ontario. Hutch’s is an iconic fish and chips restaurant that has been around since 1946. I used to go there on my bicycle in my early days as a very young teenager. That was when Hula-Hoops were the greatest thing on earth.

The old wooden restaurant is long gone but they managed to save the sign and it’s now on the new restaurant. Inside, the place is still as crowded as ever and the fish and chips still tasted pretty good.

Our time in Ontario was coming to an end so we had to make an important stop on our journey. We visited the cemetery where my parents are laid to rest in Burlington and also visited the cemetery where Valerie’s parents are laid to rest in Hamilton.

Tomorrow we fly.


August 6 – Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum – Hamilton

It was quite a full day today. We went out to the Brantford Airport early to get the airplane ready for our journey westward. After we topped up full fuel and add some oil it was then off to Hamilton, the airport where I learned to fly 50 years earlier.

Here is a view of the final approach to the runway where I had my first solo flight in a Piper Colt on July 19, 1967.

High on my list of priorities was to visit the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum. I had contacted them the day before to arrange for parking so we ended up with VIP parking in front of the museum. The on-duty marshaller guided us in and we were met by the museum’s Chief Pilot, Leon Evans. 

Pictured with us in front of the Avro Lancaster bomber is Leon and also James Bradley, the son of the founder of the CWH Museum, Dennis Bradley. 

There is quite a nice restaurant at the museum and many of the volunteers and pilots were just finishing their morning coffee. Leon arranged for one of them to be our guide, a nice follow, John, just retired from Air Canada. John ensured our access to the aircraft and other areas that would normally be restricted.

I had planned for this shot of the Lancaster with the Canada Flag hanging out of the pilot’s cockpit window for quite a while and was really pleased that it all came together.

In July, 1977 I flew from Hamilton to Goderich to see this Lancaster that had been on display, and neglected, for many years. With me was a student, Eric Grove, who had been a World War II pilot flying the Lancaster. Eric had been shot down over Germany, bailed out and was a prisoner of war for quite some time. After many, many years away from aviation Eric was now enjoying his training to obtain a Private Pilot Licence.

I took several photos that day, July 22, 1977, of this Lancaster prior to its restoration. On this day in 2017 I presented copies of those photos to the museum, and those photos are now on-board the Lancaster in the aircraft library.

The cockpit was rather small and required a bit of gymnastics to get seated without bumping any levers or switches.

Valerie made her way forward to find the “passenger compartment”.

Not the quietest seat on the airplane; note the hearing muffs and the lack of insulation on the cabin walls.

John escorted us to see several aircraft being readied for flight.

During World War II, many of these aircraft, the Consolidated Canso  were based in Victoria, BC at Patricia Bay, as maritime patrol aircraft searching far out across the Pacific Ocean.

Canso – Canada Flag out the cockpit hatch

Canso – John seemed so proud to be sharing the day with us.

Valerie was taking care of the photos. Note the B-25 Mitchell in the background along with a Harvard.

Valerie got a ride back to the museum on the “mule”.

Model of the Avro Arrow

F-86 Saber

Hawker Hurricane

Spitfire – one of my favourites

It was nice to see that the museum recognized also catered to their “Little Visitors”.

Back at the coffee shop we were talking to several of the volunteers and one person seem vaguely familiar, his name as well, Marc Ploffe. It turned out that I had met Marc many, many years ago when I was at the Mohawk College and we were both in the Mohawk College Flying Club. Small world.

It was time to head back to Brantford so after thanking the great folks at the museum we headed out. The big hangar on the right is where I worked as a flight instructor in the late ’70s.

After takeoff I circled around the Hamilton airport for an overhead view to show Captain Waypoint where I had learned to fly.

The evening was enjoyed sharing a family dinner with my niece Lyn and Randy, and also my brother Eric and Joanne and Valerie’s brother Bill and Provie.


August 5 – Ottawa (Rockcliffe) to Brantford, Ontario

The morning weather had changed significantly with mostly clear skies and some fair weather cumulus clouds.

After a good weather briefing we departed Rockcliffe airport flying  VFR to the village of Cumberland, just 12 miles down the Ottawa River. We lived there for five years so it seemed like a good idea to take a look at the neighbourhood and the house where we used to live. The new owners have added a pool; that sure would have been nice during the hot Ontario summers.

ForeFlight showed a much better picture than yesterday.

We filed IFR at 10,000 feet to Brantford. The cloud tops were at 6,000 feet later increasing to 8,000 feet so we were in the clear but there was a 25 knot headwind.

After passing Toronto ATC cleared us down to 3,000 feet and were bouncing around below the base of the clouds. 

Rocking and rolling on the approach to Brantford with strong gusty surface winds making the approach and landing challenging. We appreciated our earlier practice at Abbotsford on windy days.

Tied down at Brantford for a couple of days visiting family.


August 4 – Weather Delay in Ottawa

The afternoon weather in Ottawa seemed like a normal hazy summer day, with sunshine and lots of cumulus clouds. However, the situation in southern Ontario and at our destination in Brantford was quite different. A major system  was moving across the Great Lakes with heavy rain, strong winds, hail and lots of lightning. I called Flight Service for a weather briefing and considered going to Kingston. However, after hearing of a tornado watch in the area the decision was easy to stay on the ground. This gave us the opportunity to spend a little more time in Ottawa.

After checking in to the Lord Elgin we visited the National War Memorial, viewed the locks at the Rideau Canal and strolled through the elegant Chateau Laurier Hotel.


Later while having dinner the winds picked up quite a bit and it started to rain; the storm from southern Ontario was now reaching Ottawa.

August 4 – Parliament Buildings of Canada in Ottawa

We made it to Parliament Hill. After visiting the ten provincial capitals and their legislature buildings for a photo with our Canada Flag we flew to Ottawa to visit the National Capital. Our photo was taken by a Parks Canada Ranger with the Canada Flag that has just traveled across the country in the last month.

Mission Accomplished!

Rather than going in the main entrance, we went to the side entrance for the Senate. The security guards were expecting us with passes pre-printed with our names. We felt kind of special. A nice young woman kindly escorted us to the Office of the Speaker of the Senate to meet with the Chief of Staff, Mr. Stuart Barnable for our appointment at 10:30. This wonderful reception had been arranged by, David, the son of the Speaker whom we had met in the hotel in St. John’s.

Mr. Barnable welcomed us and provided an overview of his office and the buildings on Parliament Hill. He was very proud to show us a small wooden box containing the Canada Flag that had flow atop the Peace Tower on Canada Day, July 1st. Look back now I should have taken a photo with that flag and our flag that had just completed its journey across the country.

Then it was a VIP guided tour of the Parliament Buildings with one of Mr. Barnable’s Special Assistants, Jeremie. He provide a great tour and wonderful insights  at the Senate, then the House of Commons, the Library, up the Peace Tower to see the clock, then finally the Memorial Chamber, the chamber respecting Canadian losses in military conflicts.

Directly behind the flag is the seat for the Speaker of the Senate. Behind the Speaker is the tallest chair for the reigning Monarch and then their spouse.

The House of Commons is much less elaborate than the Senate. 

Jeremie was a great help getting around the Parliament Building and past all the visitors waiting in line. We felt very special.

Jeremie pointed out features that we would have missed otherwise. In the photo above are paintings that depict the last two Monarchs and above them on the upper gallery are paintings of their respective spouses.

The Library.


We are near the top of the Peace Tower and the mechanism for the clock.

In the Peace Tower, on the Mezzanine floor is located the Memorial Chamber. This Chamber is dedicated to the Canadians fallen in battle throughout Canada’s history. The book above lists airmen who gave their all. It includes the names of two airmen named Leroux. One I believe was my father’s first cousin, and I am unsure of the other.


August 3 – Canada Aviation and Space Museum

One of our most anticipated planned stops was to visit the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa. Kevin Psutka kindly provided transportation and was our personal guide in the museum. Kevin was the previous president of t the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association and for several years provided leadership for that great organization.

Here’s a sampling of the many aircraft on display:

Avro Arrow
I couldn’t resist having a photo since the aircraft carries my initials.


Avro Lancaster Bomber
I first saw this aircraft in 1968 when I was here with the Air Cadets.

de Havilland Beaver
Here is a remarkable Canadian aviation icon; the de Havilland Beaver Serial Number 1. I flew this type of aircraft on amphibious floats when I was with Transport Canada in Vancouver.

MacDonald Douglas CF-101 Voodoo
Kevin was in the Canadian Armed Forces as a fighter pilot and he flew this very CF-101 on operations.

Douglas DC-3
When we lived in Ottawa my son, Chris, was in Cubs and for one of their outings we bicycled to the museum along the Ottawa River Parkway. There were various fun activities, we watched an aviation movie then slept overnight in the museum. We could pick any place for our sleeping bags so we chose under the wing of this aircraft. It was a real fun experience for a bunch of little boys.


August 3 – Fredericton to Ottawa, Ontario (Rockcliffe) – RCMP Stables

On the way to the Fredericton airport this morning we made a diversion to the Legislature Building for a photo with the Canada Flag. Again, the photo was kindly taken by our taxi driver. There had been a “technical glitch” with one of my SD memory cards so this was a retake.


 The weather was marginal VFR with some broken to overcast conditions along the way so we were again IFR at 8,000 feet. The conditions in the Ottawa area were 2,000 feet broken and since Rockcliffe does not have an instrument approach procedure we flew the Ottawa RNAV (GNSS) RWY 32 approach. When we brok out at around 2,000 feet I cancelled IFR and proceeded to Rockcliffe VFR.

 Waiting to greet us was a friend and colleague from my days in Ottawa at Transport Canada and more recently from the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA), Kevin Psutka. Kevin was the previous President of COPA and he became our guide and host for a couple of days. Thanks Kevin.

After lunch with Kevin it was on to the RCMP Stables to see where the horses for the Musical Ride call home.


It is likely not well known but there is an interesting museum at the stables.


The groomers and riders are regular RCMP officers and most have very little or no horse experience. 

 I couldn’t resist a photo when I saw the name of this horse. 

 All chores are done by the RCMP officers including cleaning the boots after being in horse *&%$. 

 They didn’t want me to take a photo of the horses faces just in case they are used on covert operations and need to remain incognito.