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Toronto Tour W/story Of My Crash In 2000 (80 Pics)  
User currently offlineCytz_pilot From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 569 posts, RR: 0
Posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 2 days ago) and read 32767 times:

As a precaution, this is a very long-winded way to talk about a 45 minute flight, as the entire story does span over 10 years. But, in my defense, it's part of my recent attempt to document, in writing and pictures, various parts of my life to eventually pass on to my son and his future family. I have relatives who I never got to know very well, and have long since lost the chance to sit with them to ask them about their lives...I hope that my family never has to feel the same regret when I'm gone. So, I present this photo tour of downtown Toronto, and Toronto City Centre Airport, along with the story of how I abandoned a dream of flying for a living after a horrible accident. Hopefully, it's not too confusing to keep track of the shifting timeline.

In October of 2005, my wife Amy and I moved from Toronto to California to settle down and have our son. Amy hails from a small Yosemite mountain town called Mariposa, CA, and we settled in the region so that she could be closer to her mother. A few months after the move, we had our son, Sage. From that point on, I worked at a small but higher-end marketing company building websites and doing graphic design. The job was a great find, considering that it was located in a small town where jobs of any prominence were scarce.

A few months into 2008, after a little more than 2 years in California, we finally admitted the fact that our lives had grown stale. I had gotten rather bored in my job and in the rural area in which we lived, having lived all of my life in large cities. There is something about living in a small town that is hard to process to for a city boy...I often found myself restless. Also, my job was starting to get to me. It had slowed down considerably with the economy what it was, and overall, my life was just boring me. It turns out Amy felt the same way.

It took some deliberation, but we finally agreed to move to Portland, Oregon. Amy was born just across the Columbia River and most of her father's family still lived there, including her brother and his family. Job prospects were better, and it would be a more open and exciting place to raise a toddler. I gave a few months notice at work and we prepared to move out of the state. I began to plan the freelance web/graphic design business that I had build in my head over the past few years.

One big bonus was that because I was leaving my job near the end of the year, we could easily make an extended trip out of our planned Christmas trip to Toronto. We booked a flight that would have us there from December 16th to January 7th (over 3 weeks), and then we would move about 4 days after returning. However, this trip report is not about that particular flight. A couple of months out from our trip, I got back in touch with an old friend of mine whom I went to flight school with back in 1998-2001. We had done our ground-school in the same class and trained with the same instructor. After we both received our licenses, we did a number of cross-country hour building flights before I stopped flying. He is now a commercial pilot who was just finishing off his instructor rating, and he offered to take us up on a flight - just like old times. I was so excited, as it started to bring back memories of my 3-year stint as a budding pilot.

I have been fascinated with aviation since I was a kid. I had originally started flight training with the goal of being a airline pilot, but I stopped in 2001 for a number of reasons. First, I couldn't really afford to continue training (I was laid off from a lucrative job), and my eyesight was getting worse to the point where within about 3 years I wouldn't have passed a Canadian commercial medical. But the final kicker was that I barely survived a crash in early 2000 and was not near as comfortable with flying an aircraft as I had been previously. The last time I flew as PIC was about a year after that crash.

Even though I had always thought that flying was my ideal profession, I gave up on the dream and took up another focus in life. I lived in England for a year and I met my future wife, we settled in Toronto where we got married and she finished her BA, and the rest of the story is as I mentioned above.

It was kind of funny that the prospect of a short flight with my old flying friend was the part of the trip that I was looking forward to most. At this turning point in my life, it was somehow comforting to focus on a part of my past that I never got the chance to fully embrace the way I had always hoped. It made me wonder how different my life would have been had I been able to continue. Where would I be today?

We arrived safely in Toronto, and enjoyed the first week. Unfortunately, we had to cancel the first booked flight due to weather that weekend, but we rescheduled for the following weekend. My father offered to watch Sage for a few hours that day to allow Amy and I to go by ourselves.

We picked up Zia on the way down to Toronto City Centre Airport (CYTZ) and boarded the ferry to the airport. Everything at that airport had changed since our old flight school had gone out of business, and Porter Airlines had moved in in its place. There were now ferry boarding terminals where before I remembered shivering in small, slightly heated shelters waiting for the ferry in the cold winter.

Once over there, we walked over to the flight school where Zia was finishing off his training. I realized that this school had absorbed much of our old flight school's property, from training props to posters, and even a handful of Cessna 172Rs that had been bought brand new in 2000. In fact, I believe I even logged a couple of PIC hours in the plane we were scheduled to fly in.

The aircraft came back from its previous renter, and since it still had enough fuel for our flight, we headed right out to the tarmac. I had my camera ready and I caught as much as I could, driven by both nostalgia and aviation fascination. Back when I was flying, I was too focused on flying and took very few photos of aircraft, the airport and my flights. But, now that I had a digital SLR, I wasn't going to waste a single cool shot. Here's my first volley of photos – each one can be clicked on for a larger image hosted on my website:

The flight school overlooks the hangar...here's a Columbia 400!

A Pilatus PC-12

A Cirrus SR20

Amy pre-flight

Looking back at Aerocentre West

Another Cessna 172

Our Cessna 172R, C-GGPQ

Amy and myself with Golf Golf Papa Quebec

Another 172 with the Toronto skyline in the background

A Cessna Caravan – these things are bigger than they look!

The Pilatus PC-12 departing for the active runway

Zia doing the walkaround

Zia did the walkaround and we eventually packed into the small Cessna and started the engine. Since Zia was now proficient in the right seat, I got to take the left seat. He asked if I wanted to take the controls and get us to the runway, and I gladly obliged. The rudder was much stiffer than I remembered it.

The run-up was quick and we were soon taxiing into position on Runway 26. At this point, as always, I was hit with a memory that I will never be able to shake. I was taking off from this runway after a touch-and-go when I was involved in my crash. My engine failed about 100 feet off the ground and I was forced to ditch in the lake beyond. Zia asked if I wanted to do the take-off, but I declined.

In my mind, I remember that night like it was yesterday, as I have gone over it so many times in my head for the past 9 years. It was April 15th, 2000, and I had been a licensed private pilot for about 6 months. I had aced my flight test and received my school's highest mark of the year. I immediately went on to train for my night rating, and flew through it pretty quickly. It wasn't long before I was doing my last 2 experience flights before getting rated – about 2 hours of under-the-hood instrument training, and another hour and a half of solo flying time. I was booked in C-GNLU, a Cessna 172N that was a popular aircraft with the school. In fact, a few days before the flight, this aircraft was snapped by one of our flight instructors. The caption provides a hint of the events to come in just 2 days.

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Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Mike Johnson

For the first of the two flights, Zia came along to observe, since he was doing the instrument part of his night rating. I was under the hood (which was a device you wore like goggles to prevent you from seeing out the windscreen - you only could see the instruments) from takeoff until coming back into the Toronto City Centre control zone. With my instructor as my VFR eyes, I had done some maneuvers out in the Toronto practice area at Greenwood, ON, and completed an instrument approach into Oshawa Airport. With the instrument portion of the rating complete, I landed, taxied in, and my instructor and Zia got out. I was congratulated on a great effort, and since I still had enough fuel for the rest of my flight, I just kept the engine running and taxied back out and took off into the circuit. The circuit, for those who don't know, is a continual circuit of the airport. You take off, circle around, and land. After you touch down, you can do a touch-and-go, which is just hitting the throttle again and taking off immediately.

It was a Saturday night, and there was no other traffic in the pattern. The city had finally started to warm up after a long, cold winter and today had reached about 14 degrees C. The Toronto Maple Leafs were playing a home game at the newly-opened Air Canada Centre, and I could see the bright spotlights shining towards the sky as I droned methodically around the circuit.

The first touch-and-go went without a hitch. I flared a bit too long on the second landing, but quickly had the flaps up and full power was again applied. Right when I lifted off, I felt a slight shudder which I guessed had been a small gust of crosswind, and started my climb. At about 100 feet off of the ground, the engine noise suddenly changed, it sounded as if the power had been reduced almost to idle without any input from me. Momentarily stunned, I pushed the nose down as the stall warning horn started whining at me to do something about the impending stall condition. At first, thinking it might be carburetor icing (although rare with a wide-open throttle), I put carb heat to hot and looked ahead. I was just about at the end of the runway and far too high to put it back down. There was nothing ahead but the expanse of Lake Ontario (Toronto Harbour was behind me). I concentrated on locking the airspeed on best rate of descent, although it was pretty much futile being that I was so low. I then broke the cardinal rule of an engine failure right after takeoff...landing straight ahead. I turned slightly towards the shoreline and Ontario Place thinking that it would be easier to swim to shore if I needed. I quickly radioed a mayday to the tower, and told them I had engine trouble and was probably going into the lake. A stunned silence came back, and then something was asked, but I didn't hear. I was only about 15 feet above the lake at that point, and I just shouted back over the radio, I'm going into the lake! I started to flare about 6 feet off of the surface, and in desperation pushed the carb heat to cold again hoping to gain enough power to stay there a little longer in ground effect. But seconds later the stall warning horn started blaring again, and a few seconds after that, the plane stalled and the nose dove into the cold water.

The impact was like nothing I could ever describe, with a deafening roaring noise and rush of water caused by the 1,800 pound mass slowing from 45 mph to a dead stop in a less than 2 seconds. My head whipped forward and my glasses were flung from my head, disappearing into the darkness underneath the control panel. The aircraft settled and thankfully stayed right-side up.

I sat there for a few moments in a stunned stupor, unable to believe what had just happened over the last 20 seconds. Adrenaline was still pumping through my veins, and that gave me mental clarity. Following the standard ditching procedure, I took off my belts and opened the window. What happens is that when the aircraft starts to sink, water will flow in through the windows and equalize the inside and outside water pressure, allowing me to open the door. However, since there was no hinge holding the window in place, I opted instead to just climb out the window. I stepped into the cold lake and my feet found the wing strut. I was told that the water temperature that night was only 3-4 degrees above freezing, but I didn't feel it. The adrenaline kept me from it, I think. Unfortunately, the one part of the ditching procedure that I had to skip was the life preserver, since there wasn't one on the plane.

I grabbed hold of the trailing edge of the flaps and stepped entirely out onto the strut, and now I was about waist-deep in the water. I heard an emergency siren start to wail from behind me, the airport had now declared an emergency and I knew that at that point they had informed the Toronto Police's Marine Unit. Every now and then, a small plane operating at YTZ ends up in the lake, and I considered it good luck that the pilots & passengers of the last few crashes in recent memory were safe and sound after being rescued by the Marine Unit. Ditchings are an occupational hazard at small airports surrounded by water, so there are plenty of emergency procedures in place for the ditching of an aircraft.

I glanced around, but without my glasses on, I found it hard to figure out just how far I was from the shoreline or the airport. I decided against trying to swim for it, since the shore was on the other side of the aircraft and I felt that it would be too far of a swim, since I'm not a very proficient swimmer. I planned to stay with the plane, and hopefully it would stay afloat until the rescue boats got there. My backup plan would be to swim to a lighted harbour marker buoy, which marked the entrance channel into the harbour, which looked to be about 150 feet behind me. At least there I could hold onto something.

I stood there, listening to the ducks that were surreally swimming nearby, quacking to themselves. I noticed, after a few minutes in the water, that my legs were starting to go numb. However, I didn't have enough time to worry about it as the plane lurched forward, beginning to sink. I pushed backwards away from the plane and began to paddle towards the buoy on my back, as that is my strongest swimming stroke. As I slowly paddled away, I watched as the tail lifted up, anti-collision beacon still flashing (hadn't turned off the master switch), and disappeared under the surface. I managed to get onto my front so I could see ahead and continued to paddle toward the buoy.

I reached it shortly thereafter, but was surprised to find that while there were handholds on the buoy, they were further out of the water than I thought they would be. I would have to propel myself out of the lake a ways to reach them. And so, I tried 4 times, blindly grabbing at the handles after trying to push myself high enough. All 4 times I missed, although the second time I had felt the handle with my fingers. After that, I had to deal with the fact that my legs and body were getting too numb to try again – I was going to end up drowning myself if I kept trying. My last resort was to get onto my back so that I could remain floating with a minimum of effort. And so my head dipped into the cold water and I settled onto my back. Thankfully, the lake was smooth and calm that night.

Staring up into the night sky, the reality of it hit me...I had no other ideas, no way to get myself out of this. I didn't know if I'd be able to stay floating long enough to be rescued. My mind snapped into the realization that I was only a few minutes away from death.

If anyone has ever questioned the whole life flashing before your eyes thing, let me tell you by experience that it is indeed true. A whole array of images went flying through my head...I saw flashes of family, friends, and my then-girlfriend. I have heard that this phenomenon is due to sudden, impending death, when your soul or karma begins to quickly unravel itself from your physical body. I'm not sure about the truth of that, but I do know what I experienced.

After concentrating on that for a minute, my mind made one last, desperate push for preservation. My survival instinct kicked in and reminded me that if I could try again to reach those handholds, maybe I could make it through this. I struggled to right my almost completely numbed body and, with my last burst of energy, propelled myself up and out of the water. I don't know how much I missed it by, but 2 centimetres or 2 feet...it didn't matter. I missed it. My body dropped back down and I slipped, drained of energy, under the water. It was over. I didn't have the energy to push myself back to the surface. It happened on its own, of course, as I floated back up over about 10 seconds. It was pure luck that I surfaced facing in the direction I did – as I opened my eyes, I saw, about 200 feet away, a boat. I took a deep breath, and with that, I was able to bob back into a floating position on my back. And then, I yelled like I've never yelled before. And I kept yelling. Even when my face was illuminated with a searchlight, I kept yelling. I only stopped when I felt hands grab me, pulling me aboard a rescue boat.

As I mentioned, I was not able to take off from this airport again without remembering those events. However, before I knew it, we were about 600 feet off of the ground, and turning onto the upwind leg. The engine was running perfectly in the crisp, cold air. I turned around, and true to my nature, started snapping photographs again as we continued our climb up to an altitude of 2,350 feet over the shoreline. The view below was as familiar as it was breathtaking. The sun was beginning to set, and as we turned north, to the east of the downtown, the silhouette of the city was simply stunning.

After turning onto the Upwind Leg – what a view!

Still climbing

Turning downwind, climbing up to 2,350 feet

The western part of the Toronto Islands

More of the Islands

I love this city

Looking towards the docklands and East Toronto

Sunset reflecting on the lake

Sunlight on the control panel

My view...brings back memories

Sunset over the docklands and the inner harbour

Looking cold

Silhouetted city

Down there, within the downtown core, was the hospital where I had spent the night after my accident. I was raced there after being transferred to an ambulance on shore, and the paramedics aboard the ambulance worked to cut off my clothes and begin warming me up. I was, as I was told, hypothermic and probably only a minute or so away from going into shock and drowning. By the time I reached the hospital, my body's natural heater had begun to kick in. I spent the next few hours in an emergency room bed, shivering and vomiting uncontrollably as my muscles worked overtime to warm my core temperature, and my stomach tried to expel the litres of dirty lake water I had swallowed. When I finally did recover from the hypothermia, I spent the rest of the night there and left with my parents the next morning, fully recovered.

When I returned home, I was extremely unsettled. I had the longest shower I've ever taken, getting the pungent odor of Lake Ontario water and my own vomit out of my skin and hair. I got about 3 hours sleep after that.

The next week was a tough one. My glasses were still in the plane at the bottom of the lake, but I had a pair of prescription sunglasses that got me through the next week. My boss kindly offered me the week off with pay to recuperate and get everything done that I had to. By Sunday evening, my full name was announced on the TV news, despite my flight school promising to keep my name out of the media. The next morning, a TV crew was at my door. I agreed to an interview, and it went well. The way they edited it made me sound like I was an incredible pilot for surviving 'a living nightmare.' The day after that, I did a phone interview with CBC Radio, but I didn't get the honeymoon treatment the second time. After going through the story, I was asked multiple times what I thought the cause of the crash was, even when I insisted I did not know the cause. I was then asked for my opinion about the goal of various advocacy groups who were concerned about the safety of the airport in close proximity to both island and shoreline homes. I was told by a co-worker that I gave an very intelligent answer to an inappropriate question, but I was shaken. I was not going to be used as a poster child for groups who wanted to close my airport. I passed further invitations for media interviews.

During that week, I had to account the story many times – to friends and family, to the Toronto Police, my flight school, the aircraft insurers and Transport Canada. It was tough reliving the crash time and time again, but necessary. The hardest part was distancing my then-girlfriend. She was terrified of flying and hated the fact that I was a pilot, I knew if I told her what had happened, she wouldn't be able to take it. I made an educated guess that since she avoided the news, I could keep it a secret. That lasted a few weeks, but she caught on when I hadn't mentioned flying in awhile...which in itself was unusual. She took it as good as she could I guess, but I really didn't know what was going on in her head about it.

The next Wednesday, the aircraft was secured by divers, and floated into the Western Channel (between the airport and the mainland) to be lifted out of the water, tail-first, by crane. The clip was on the evening news, and the damage did not seem extensive from the clip I saw on the TV news. A hole in the lower cowling was the only indication there was of anything wrong. I have a big photo from the newspaper of them pulling the plane out, but it's in storage right now – otherwise I would scan it.

I was at the airport when the NTSB was doing tests on the aircraft. The cowling was removed and they did a series of engine tests. The result was that there was both no solid indication that I had done anything wrong, nor was there any solid indication that there had been anything wrong with the aircraft or engine. The investigation did not proceed past 'unknown cause,' since there were no fatalities. And so, I was left with the fact that it was just meant to happen...no procedure, process or action could have prevented the crash. That made it all the tougher to get in a plane, 3 weeks to the day from my crash, and finish my night rating.

The aircraft I was in to finish my rating had an engine issue where it idled roughly when sitting still. This scared the crap out of me even though I had flown that aircraft with that problem many times. But, I was able to push ahead and get my last 45 minutes of solo circuit time to finish my rating.

Unfortunately, C-GNLU was written off and scrapped. While there wasn't significant airframe damage, it was over 20 years old and the avionics were unsalvageable after being underwater for 4 days. Many of the other students and instructors were disappointed, as NLU was probably the best 172 in the school...always ran well, had few problems, perfect flight characteristics. I had done my first solo, and my flight test in her. She sat for several months in the hangar with the engine & wings removed, before finally being fully dismantled and sent to the scrapyard.

The plane we were flying in that day was much newer, a Cessna 172R less than 10 years old now. We continued our circuit around the city, and when we got west of the downtown core, the lighting was once again good to shoot.

Queen's Park and University Ave. down below

Simply stunning

We flew over the University of Toronto, where Amy graduated when she was 4 months pregnant with our son. We weren't in a good position to photograph the house where we lived during our time there, but I asked if our second circuit could be a bit wider.

Robarts Library and the University of Toronto grounds

Wider view of U of T and Varsity Stadium

Over the Harbord Village neighbourhood

As we proceeded south, we got a gorgeous view of the downtown. I'll let the pictures do it justice.


CN Tower, Skydome/Rogers Centre, Union Station and downtown

Wave to the tourists on the CN Tower!

Beginning the turn over the harbour

We then overflew the airport at about 2,300 feet. Shooting straight down, I got some really unique angles on YTZ.

The Aerocentre ramp, note the orange medivac helicopter

Ramp and Runway 26/08

Wheely wheely high – pun intended

Q400 parked at the Porter Terminal

Toronto Inner Harbour

Hello T.O.

After doing that, Zia offered the controls and I took them. I followed his instructions and kept it level as we started into our second city circuit. After the accident, Zia and I had done this a lot. We split the cost of cross-country time building flights by my taking one direction, him the other. During the flights, we operated similar to that of an airliner's 2-pilot setup, with one of us taking control of the aircraft, and the other navigating and doing radio calls. Because of this, we basically doubled the amount of experience we got on every flight. We travelled all over Ontario, to Windsor, London, Kincardine, Kingston, Ottawa, Muskoka, and even down to Rochester, NY for dinner.

However, the flight which really sealed my fate as to giving up flying happened in December of 2000. We decided to do a bit of a multi-leg jaunt, Zia from YTZ-Peterborough-Lindsay, a stop for dinner, and back. I would take the night portions of the trip.

The weather wasn't great but it wasn't awful either. Zia made several course corrections between Peterborough and Lindsay to avoid the snowy patches in the area. We made it to Lindsay and settled for a dinner at their airport restaurant, a popular spot for Toronto-based private pilots to fly in and get a bite to eat.

The weather, when we departed, was exactly the same as it had been earlier in the day except that it was now night. To think now that we didn't even consider...now that it was night, how were we supposed to avoid the snow clouds?

About 12 minutes out of Lindsay, I noticed that the lights of the town we were passing were a little fuzzy. Curious, I flipped on the landing light and my heart skipped a beat. We were in cloud, with snow flying at us. As I was starting to internally panic and fear that this time I wasn't going to make it out, Zia calmly reached over and flipped off the landing light. “Turn around?” “Turn around.” I did a textbook instrument 180 and 3 minutes later, we flew out of the cloud and snow and returned to Lindsay. We talked to Flight Service over the phone, but a snow line had recently formed off of Georgian Bay, and it would not be possible to get back to Toronto without going through it.

Stuck in the small town of Lindsay in a motel wasn't bad, but I ended up missing 2 ½ days of work before the weather cleared enough to get home...and even so, it wasn't the greatest trip with low ceilings and light flurries. We tied down at YTZ about 15 minutes before a snow squall went blowing through.

All through our time in Lindsay, and after that, I couldn't get out of my head the feeling of fear I had when I saw I was in cloud. It terrified me. I think it had finally caught up to me that I did not feel safe or confident behind the controls of an aircraft any more. I ended up flying as PIC only 4 or 5 more times after that, before I let my hours slip, and slip, until I was no longer certified. Shortly after that I was laid off from my job, so it became impossible to get back into flying even if I wanted to.

Now, back at the controls, it was a little tougher than I remembered to keep things under control, but my height kept within 40 feet of our assigned altitude, and I didn't make any mistakes bigger than that.

The Don Valley

Zia again took the yoke as we came around the city circuit again and I took photos down in the direction of our old place, which was a basement apartment in a large century home in The Annex.

The Annex

Our old home, see the arrow!

More of the Annex, lots of homes we will never be able to afford

The Annex in relation to the downtown

Bloor and Spadina area

We circled mid-town quickly to space ourselves for an approach into Runway 33.

University College in the foreground, Amy's college at U of T

Bay St. and the Manulife Centre

The Manulife Centre and mid-town

The Rogers Corporate Offices

East of downtown

I took the controls again, for the rest of the flight. I ended up overflying my crash site to the west of the airport, but I didn't look down or think about it. Even though I needed reminding of the landing speeds, I put it down on 33 pretty well.

We taxied in, and the sun was 15 minutes from setting. The city and airport basked in the golden sunlight, even though the temperature was well below freezing. I couldn't believe how beautiful everything looked that evening. I took numerous photos of the airport, both on the tarmac and outside.

A Cessna 150 taxies by

On terra firma again

Zia secures the 172

Amy wishing she was back in California

Last rays of sun for today

Cold-looking airport

Our plane being shut down for the night

Another 172

C-GGPQ in the golden sunset


Porter Airlines ramp

Nose-first view of GGPQ

Sunset silhouettes

A Cessna 172 wobbles into the air with a crosswind

Ah memories...

Porter Q400...wanted to photograph it leaving, but it took too long

Goodnight Caravan

Hangar full of small aircraft

Dusk in Toronto

Ferry passenger loading terminal...thanks to Porter Airlines

Historic terminal from passenger boarding ramp

Q400 approaching behind a Dash-7 with a missing prop

Far off, blurry view of a Q400 about to touch down

Ferry leaving the TCCA


The ferry loading ramp

Amy walking back to our car

View of the ferry docks in the Western Channel

Toronto City Centre Ferry heading back to the airport

It made me happy that Amy had been there and was able to see the life that was so much part of my soul for those 3 years. It's funny how things work out the way they do. For those 3 years, flying was my focus, it's all I wanted to do in life. Then my life almost ended in a freak flying accident and I was left feeling unsure. After my flying days ended, it took a while to find a focus again, but as soon as I did, I met her.

For the past few years, I have had a job and a life that I was bored at – especially when I compare it to the supposed exciting life of an airline pilot. But now, on the other hand, I have much more than I did back then – I have a wife that I love and a son that I adore. And by moving and starting a new life, we were about to reach out and try to grab the life that we wanted the most for ourselves and our son.

Shortly before I left my job in California, I told my boss that I was scared about our future, and whether I'd make it in building the dream life we wanted. I was feeling doubts about my ability to provide for my family...I was questioning whether we should be moving at all. I was scared that my business would fail, that we would regret ever leaving familiar territory. She forwarded me a note by e-mail, one of those inspirational notes we all get by the boatload over e-mail, but it was one sentence and I'll remember it until the day I die. It read: “In order to get what you've never had, you have to do something you've never done.” Whenever I'm nervous or scared about life, I try to think about that.

The move to Portland has so far been a success. All three of us are thriving here, and I've been making decent money in my new freelance career. I am becoming a better father and spending much more time with my son, Amy is focusing on furthering her education with a Masters degree, and Sage is just, well, loving life.

I don't believe that dreams ever die, they just get re-prioritized. I have revised my dream, and it is pegged for the day I retire, about 30 years from now. On that day, I will begin building an ultralight in my garage.

And I will be a pilot again.



(P.S. in a totally different tangent - the photos that I took were among the last photos I took with my Nikon D40x. It was nicked off of our Continental Express flight when coming home from our trip, either by a passenger or dishonest airline employee. It was stuffed way under the seat in front of me, and in trying to get my squirming son, his car seat and our carry-on off the plane, I overlooked it. 20 minutes later, after running back to the gate, it was gone. Never turned up at lost and found. Luckily I had transferred these pictures onto a CD for Zia, and was able to get the photos back.)

[Edited 2009-04-22 23:48:59]

[Edited 2009-04-22 23:53:17]

15 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlinePlateMan From United States of America, joined May 2007, 925 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Thank you for sharing that story, what a story. Really glad you were rescued and made it safely.

"Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain
User currently offlineAlespesl From Czech Republic, joined Jan 2004, 586 posts, RR: 2
Reply 2, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

fantastic TR. U really made me miss Toronto where i have spent numerous months with my GF who was studying there and i have lots and lots of memories for this city, which will stay in my heart forever. Toronto is great, lots of culture, fun stuff to do......

I flew in and out of YTZ many times when Air Canada Jazz used to operate flights to/from YOW. Studying in YHZ and wanting to visit my gf in Toronto, I always chose to fly via YOW to YTZ. love this airport so much.

Thank you

User currently offlineSAAB900 From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2007, 492 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Thank you for an amazing read! It sounds like you had somebody watching over you that night! This is one of those TR's that you just say "wow" to after you've read it! Those photo's really are amazing! Thanks for sharing it with us!


User currently offlineAFKL From Netherlands, joined Feb 2008, 219 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Quoting SAAB900 (Reply 3):
Thank you for an amazing read! It sounds like you had somebody watching over you that night! This is one of those TR's that you just say "wow" to after you've read it! Those photo's really are amazing! Thanks for sharing it with us!

Dave summed this up very well that I have very little to add! Amazing, yet terrifying story. Thank you for sharing!


ALLARD. First flight: KLM DC-10, LLW - AMS.
User currently offlineCrimsonNL From Netherlands, joined Dec 2007, 2155 posts, RR: 26
Reply 5, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Thank you for sharing this amazing story, I'm glad you got out okay.

I wish you the best of luck with your career and future flying!


Always comparing your flown types list with mine
User currently offlineJayDub From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 6, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

One of the best, if not THE best report I've ever read on here. Great stuff.

User currently offlineBZNPilot From Belgium, joined Feb 2006, 291 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 32767 times:


This is, hands down, the best trip report I've ever read. It was more than a trip report--it was actually a report about many themes of life. The story of your crash, the impact it had on you, and your present life and the changes you have endured, as well as pursued, was truly inspirational. On top of all that, the photos from your flight around Toronto were absolutely stunning. The city, the lighting, the views of the campus...just gorgeous.

Thank you for sharing your experiences. This is one report I will undoubtedly return to...for both my aviation fix and bigger life lessons.


User currently offlineLouA340 From Canada, joined Oct 2005, 387 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 32767 times:

Thank you for sharing this trip report. It is definitely the best I have ever read.
The story was amazing and the pictures were also stunning. You really did have a guardian angel watching over you that night.
I'm actually hoping to start flight training out of YTZ in the near future. It really will be a stunning airport to fly out of.

Thanks again for sharing.


User currently offlineLHR777 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 20 hours ago) and read 32767 times:


Thank you. That was truly an amazing, inspiring read. Your photo's are fantastic too.

Honestly, I wasn't too sure about this when I started reading it. My first thought was "whoa, this dude is gonna give us way too much personal information!"

...but then I carried on reading, and it sucked me in. I was visualizing you bobbing around in the lake. I've been in Toronto in Jan/Feb for the last 4 years or so, visiting friends out east in Whitby. I always try and get down-town, and I'm really fascinated by the Island airport. I'd love to fly from there sometime. Of course, I also know how bloody cold it is at that time of year!

I wish the best in life for you and Amy and Sage.

Best wishes, David

User currently offlineCytz_pilot From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 569 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (7 years 1 month 1 week 14 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Thank you for the kind reviews everybody! I'm certainly glad you all found it interesting. Everyone I know loves hearing the story, and it was my number 1 most effective tool on first dates up until I met Amy. Yes, she got the story on our first date too.  Smile

Quoting Alespesl (Reply 2):
I flew in and out of YTZ many times when Air Canada Jazz used to operate flights to/from YOW. Studying in YHZ and wanting to visit my gf in Toronto, I always chose to fly via YOW to YTZ. love this airport so much.

It really is great, the view, the calm atmosphere (compared to Pearson). I remember back inearly 1999, when I was training, there was an Air Canada pilots strike. Well Air Ontario, who had a different pilot union, was still flying. They moved some of their domestic routing to YTZ to avoid picketing. I have photos from when there were 3 or 4 Dash 8's at a time lined up on the tarmac, running a sort of Rapidair service to Ottawa and Montreal and it was quite a sight at this sleepy airport. I wager it would look similar now with Porter's expanded operations.

Quoting BZNPilot (Reply 7):
the photos from your flight around Toronto were absolutely stunning.

Let me tell you, I've been a photographer for 15 years and sometimes you just get 'those' days. This was certainly one of them!

Quoting LouA340 (Reply 8):
I'm actually hoping to start flight training out of YTZ in the near future. It really will be a stunning airport to fly out of.

I wouldn't want to sound like a wet blanket but consider having a life preserver handy if you do start! Aircraft don't require it operating it out of that airport, but being able to float in a legs-to-chest position would have doubled the time I had before hypothermia set in. Other than that, it's a great airport to fly into and out of. Nothing like coming back from the practice area and seeing the downtown.

Quoting LHR777 (Reply 9):
Honestly, I wasn't too sure about this when I started reading it. My first thought was "whoa, this dude is gonna give us way too much personal information!"

Ha ha! Believe me, I could have beefed it up a lot more. I just thought it was pretty long as it was.  Wink

Thanks again everyone!

User currently offlineRunway23 From US Minor Outlying Islands, joined Jan 2005, 2371 posts, RR: 32
Reply 11, posted (7 years 1 month 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Chris - amazing trip report - the best one I've read here in years. Great detail, pictures and writing style.

Glad to see you made it out alive and got all you wanted out of life!

User currently offlineBrusselsSouth From Belgium, joined Aug 2001, 633 posts, RR: 5
Reply 12, posted (7 years 3 weeks 3 days 14 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Hi Chris,

What an amazing report ! Thank you for sharing your story. I was worried when I read about your crash (very well written by the way, I could almost live it as if I was there), but I'm glad everything turned out fine. It was interesting to read about your questioning about life too.

Oh, and your pictures are fantastic !

Be safe


User currently offlineWatewate From Canada, joined Nov 2000, 2284 posts, RR: 1
Reply 13, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Thx for the great report! You have a real talent for writing; ever considered being a writer for a travel magazine? You do a great job allowing the readers to visualize your surroundings.

Btw, great pics. As a waterfront resident, I hope they never shut down the airport.

User currently offlineCytz_pilot From United States of America, joined Dec 1999, 569 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (7 years 2 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Quoting BrusselsSouth (Reply 12):

Quoting Runway23 (Reply 11):

Quoting Watewate (Reply 13):

Thank you for all of your kind comments!

Quoting Watewate (Reply 13):
ever considered being a writer for a travel magazine?

Wow, that would be a dream job, unfortunately I don't have any credentials for that sort of thing. Writing professionally has always been an option in my mind though, so who knows.

Well I'm glad everyone enjoyed my work - I've got another trip report coming in a week or so. Not nearly as interesting a story but about twice as many pictures.  Smile

User currently offlinePumaknight From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (7 years 2 weeks 3 days 18 hours ago) and read 32767 times:

Huge story... a really compelling and well written story.

Thank you for sharing and I am glad that you were okay and are flying again.

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