Now, here's the second part of my trip to Canada, first part can be found here.
After getting from Calgary to Whistler via Banff, Jasper, and Sun Peaks near Kamloops, the next flight of my trip was going to take place, and one I was really looking forward to. Having only flown on the "standard" birds before, I was very excited to experience another form of flying soon: a scenic 30 min flight around the Whistler area on a floatplane operated by Whistler air.
YWS-YWS (Whistler Green Lake Aerodrome)
de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Turbine Otter Floatplane (C-GEND)
June 10th, 2008
ATD 1700 PST
ATA 1730 PST
We were picked up at the Whistler Hilton by the shuttle van of Whistler Air about 30 min before departure. After a short drive to the Green Lake, we went down to a small dock with 2 DHC-2s and 1 DHC-3 waiting for passengers. In the small office next to the planes, we had to fill out our names for the passenger manifest. Shortly afterwards, a guy named Ian introduced himself to us as our pilot and assigned us our seats (heavy people to the front, light ones to the back). Legroom in that plane was REALLY tight, some people had slight diffuculties to get themselves into their seats. After getting a safety briefing by Ian, it was time to go! We had to taxi over almost the whole lake as the wind was blowing from the land over the dock. Finally, the engine spooled up, the water was rushing by the floats and, after a short run, we became airborne.
The first thing that amazed me was how much of the wind conditions one actually can feel in such a small plane. It was indeed the first time that I really could notice how much corrective control input by the pilot is necessary! We climbed up to 7,500 ft and headed in a southeasterly direction close to the mountain to the glaciers of Garibaldi Provincial Park to do some sightseeing of the mountains, where my girlfriend managed to do some nice pics of glaciers and frozen mountain lakes. We then made a right-hand turn towards the west and overflew Chekamus Lake. Another right hand turn brought us then back to a north-by-northwesterly course to the east of the Green Lake and already approach has started . In the approach phase, we met some light turbulence and some gusts of wind, but landing was smooth. The thing I noticed most was the fact, that the pilot actually applied some thrust shortly before landing. If someone knows: is that a specific necessity when flying a floatplane or did he just want to get a little closer to the dock to have a shorter taxi time?
Unfortunately much too early (though some people having become rather white in their face would probably tend to disagree ), we had to get off the plane again, said good-bye to Ian and thanked him for the nice ride. The same van driver (do you get driving lessons in Canada before getting a licence ?) brought us back to our hotel, and one of the highlights of my Canada vacation was over.
The next days, I made my way to Vancouver with a two day stop in Victoria. However, finally the awesome Canada vacation was over and it was time to fly home to Zurich. When we booked our flight in January, we got booked on AC 130 leaving YVR at 9 am. However, checking our flights and aircraft some weeks before departure, AC 130 was shown as non-existent flight by AC's homepage. Thus, as written in my outbound trip report, I got a printout of my e-ticket at the AC ticket counter in ZRH, which showed the YVR-YYZ leg as AC 142 departing at 8 am. So we had to get up early... Our tour manager of the trip from YYC to YVR told us we should be at the airport 3 hrs before departure. However, I only smiled at that remark and said 2 hrs should be sufficient for us. She then said well, 3 hrs is what her company tells her to say because one should always with people needing 90 mins finding the right check-in counter.
As travel day arrived, the wake up call came up at 4:30 am on the phone and 2 mins later on the cell phone. In some state between sleeping and being awake, I managed to do the usual morning stuff and push the remaining clothes into my suitcase. At 5:30, we got our breakfast bag at the concierge (thank you, Coast Plaza!) who then called us a taxi to the hotel entrance and in no time we were on our way to the airport. About 20 min later and 30 bucks poorer (nevertheless rather cheap for a taxi, I must say!) we arrived at the AC check-in hall in the domestic terminal. Queuing up was a bit unnerving because the queue got longer and longer but two agents went to their brake nevertheless and only one counter was open. Furthermore, a pair with two children had to start to empty their stroller AT THE COUNTER, open their bags, stow all their stuff and so on! Can't they do that at home?
When it was our turn, a slight problem arose as the YYZ-ZRH leg was in the computer, but somehow not linked correctly to our reservation such that the baggage tags were printed only to YYZ. The agent managed to fix it finally, and we were checked in to Zurich. We then ate our breakfast bags from the hotel (muffins, an orange, and OJ) and proceeded through security. I did what I always do to avoid beeping and was already happy managing passing security again without problems when an officer ran into my way and told me to stand on some black mat on the floor and to spread my arms. He called it a "routine secondary check". Whatever. With that shallow feeling over the pants and shirts, they probably won't discover a terrorist... After browsing through the shops a bit, it was time to go to our gate.
Boeing 767-300ER, star alliance colours
June 14th, 2008
STD: 0800 PST // ATD: 0755 PST
ATA: 1520 EST // ATA: 1520 EST
I was a bit sad about the rebooking to the 8 am flight because with the new flight numbers, the 9 am flight would have been a B77L which would have meant another new bird for me. Alas, boarded the good ol' 767 and took my seat. The pilot came on the p/a while taxiing and said an on time arrival in Toronto was expected. Without any wait, we came to the runway (no info on that) and were airborne after a short take off roll. The IFE was switched on and "Horton Hears a Hoo" was my first movie selection for the return flight - or so I thought. The screen turned black after making my choice and didn't respond to any input. However, I was not the only one being unhappy with his IFE. In fact, over 60% of the screens didn't work, and so an orgy of resetting started. Finally, after 3 system resets, I could start to watch my movie - for thirty minutes, when they had to announce another reset (at this time, the F/O was already running around in the cabin and messing around with the system). Finally, after 2 more resets, everyone was happy with his IFE. Everyone but me! No movie selection worked, the moving map didn't work. I finally managed to get the audio player into function - and suddenly everything worked again. One has to find the one working selection to get the other stuff into function, obviously.
Having made bad experiences with the buy-on-board food on the outbound leg, I didn't buy anything this time and had just another orange juice and later a diet coke. There were 2 rounds of water distribution during this flight. After nearly 4 hrs in the air and taking a route over northern Montana, North Dakota and Michigan to Toronto, we landed (if the moving map was correct till the end) on one of the 33s in YYZ. Short taxi to the gate and we were off the plane.
We then strolled around the domestic terminal to find a place to have a bite to eat, preferrably some pizza which we finally found close to gate 144 in "Giovanna's Pizzeria and Trattoria". However, no European would ever call such a snack-bar a pizzeria. However, the pizza slices were not bad and very filling. Afterwards, as I wanted to ged rid of my last 10 dollars, I went to a souvenir shop and bought a typical tourist-style mug to drink my tea out . Unfortunately, the Canadian triathlon mugs were sold out and I had to take a Canadian fast food mug (some mugs with funny motives). As I had already noticed after checking in in Vancouver, due to the problem with the reservation, our frequent flier numbers hadn't made it onto the YYZ-ZRH leg of our boarding cards, so we stopped at the customer care counter to get it fixed before heading upstairs to the international connections. What astouned me a bit was, that there is no passport check and exit control. Is that unheard of in Canada? When leaving a country here in Europe, you always have to pass an emigration/immigration officer...
However, we were waiting at gate 174 for boarding time which finally came.......and passed. With 30 min delay, boarding was finally announced and we were allowed on board of
Boeing 767-300ER, new colours
June 14th, 2008
STD: 1800 EST // ATD: 1905 EST
STA: 0805+1 CET // ATA: 0845+1 CST
Shortly after boarding, the captain came on the intercom and told us that the originally planned a/c has gone tech and we had to wait for our catering which had to be unloaded from the original a/c and brought to us. Finally, the people having C and D seats had to stand up and come over to the F|H aisle to allow better stocking of the mid galley. After about one hour sitting on the tarmac, we finally pushed back, made a short taxi, a rather long take off roll, and we were on our way back home.
Routing was eastern coast of Ungava Bay, then up to 63°N over southern Greenland, south of Iceland, Irish sea, Birmingham, London, Paris, Dijon, ZRH (read off the moving map). Watched "Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters)" as soon the (this time working) IFE came online, an Austrian movie winning the Oscar this year about a group of KZ inmates having to fake money for the Nazi regime, a movie I can recommend! Dinner was a choice of chicken or beef, I had the beef. Both meals were accompanied by mashed potatoes, carrots, a bread roll, some strange white salad I couldn't identify, and a chocolate mousse (the best of the whole meal). Again, like on the outbound flight, everything rather tasteless. Then the cabin lights were turned down and I tried to get some sleep, however, having started in Vancouver, it was around 6 pm in my personal feeling of time, so every try to sleep was futile... Thus I watched another movie, this time "Dave". Rather funny as always, but nothing to write home about. When passing London, lights were turned up again and breakfast service started. The muffin was acceptable, and I had some OJ and black tea with it. I no time, the trays were collected again and we descended into a cloudy, cool Zurich. A southerly approach, probably upsetting some rich folks living on the sunny shores of Lake Zurich (locally called the Golden Coast) who want the aircraft noise again back in southern Germany where it had been until some years ago! Landed on rwy 34 and taxied to the E dock. After getting off the plane, the skymetro took us to immigration, which was a breeze, and baggage claim. Fortunately, our bags made their journey as well and we went to Zurich Airport train station to drive home to our respective appartments.
Final remarks: when working again nice IFE, again rather tasteless meals, and the flight attendants could work on their friendliness and their attire. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the flights and hope to make some more trips soon!
Thanks for reading,