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Across Canada YEG-YYC-YOW-YVR-YEG Part One

Wed Jun 12, 2002 8:39 am

Across Canada YEG-YYC-YOW-YVR-YEG – Part One

Well, it was a great time that I had on that trip!  Big thumbs up I was scheduled to be at a conference for the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA for short) in Ottawa. The whole thing, in fact, turned out to be better than I expected, particularly the service by Air Canada, which was my airline of choice for the whole trip. I should also mention that I had an opportunity to do some aircraft spotting with a member from from Ottawa.

I must apologize for being so late to come up with this trip report, as I haven’t had the time until now to do them. This trip report will be in three (3) parts. Just trying to do it all at once would be WAY too long. So, read on……..

Note for those unfamiliar with Canadian airport codes:
YEG = Edmonton (where I live)
YYC = Calgary
YOW = Ottawa
YVR = Vancouver
YUL = Montreal (didn’t go there, but it’s mentioned in places.)
YYZ = Toronto (same as YUL)

May 13, 2002

Flight AC8482 YEG-YYC
Sched Dep 7:00 am – Arr 7:45 am
Actual Dep 7:00 am – Arr 7:43 am
Dash 8-300 (C-GETA) The Spirit of Fort Nelson

Flight AC1184 YYC-YOW
Sched Dep 8:55 am – Arr 2:39 pm
Actual Dep 8:58 am – Arr 2:50 pm
A319 (C-GAPY)

I awoke at 3:30 am, after a fitful 5-hour sleep. Yes, I had to get up that early, since there was no telling how bad the lineups to security can get in the old north terminal, which can be horrible because there’s usually only one out of two security gates open in the old terminal even in peak periods, and the entrance to the gates in that terminal is a bit narrow! At least I wasn’t going to have to worry about going through Toronto Pearson International (YYZ) at all! I went through YYZ both ways in 1999, and it wasn’t exactly fun, I can tell you that. I had to catch AC8482, which was a Dash 8-300 to YYC departing at 7:00 am.

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Photo © Dave Mills

It was partly cloudy, but mostly clear and quite cool, only a few degrees above freezing as I got in the cab to get to the Hotel Macdonald to catch a Sky Shuttle van to YEG at 4:45 am. The trip to the airport was uneventful, and as I arrived at 5:25 am, there was almost no lineup at the AC counter, which was great. I had no problem in getting my boarding pass after presenting my email itinerary/ticket and photo ID. I checked in my suitcase, but chose to keep my black backpack with me. Even though my backpack is a bit large, I usually have no trouble stowing it away, even on a Dash 8.

I went through security after a breakfast consisting of a black coffee with sugar, and a tasty egg and bacon sandwich with tomato slices in it at the Harvey’s and killing time by checking out the observation deck on the upper floor in the north terminal. There wasn’t much to see at YEG, since it was still pretty early in the day. But I did see a Canadian North 732 in old CP colors. The line into security was building fast, but I managed to be one of the first few people in line.

There’s one thing about YEG that I find hideously inconvenient – while Air Canada’s mainline flights are all in the new south terminal, all Air Canada Jazz flights are at the other end, which means anybody connecting at YEG has to go through security before getting on another flight if their trip involves a mix of regional and mainline flights! I’ve seen people get lost trying to find their Jazz flights and vice versa because they’re not familiar with YEG. And this is also why the security lineups are often so bad at YEG in both terminals. At least when the central hall is opened next year in 2003, the security is supposed to be more streamlined, thus reducing the lines.

Going through YEG’s security itself was also interesting, if not inconvenient. I had my backpack through the X-ray machine twice. That’s right – twice. Why? The security guy, who was a black guy in a Jamaican-style rasta ‘do, in a very professional manner, couldn’t quite figure out what the hell that small thing in my pack was. So, I volunteered to take out all my electronic equipment, which was a calculator, a Pentax Espio camera – and a small vibrating alarm clock. OK, this sounds hilarious, but it’s not what you’d think it’s for!! – I’m hard of hearing, so normal alarm clocks are useless to me! I find this pretty amusing, actually – you should see their faces when I tell them that! The security worker managed to see that “small thing” was actually a miniature telescope, which fits in my palm and looks like a binocular with the other half missing. I really didn’t feel miffed or annoyed, since the more thorough the procedures are, the safer passengers would feel, especially in the light of 9/11.

At no time did any of the security people act rude or overly arrogant during the entire trip, even the guy who put my pack through twice, and nor was I singled out for a random search. But they were a pretty thorough bunch at YEG, and there were a lot of people with laptops in the lineup – often people on business trips, obviously.

I took up another cup of black coffee with sugar after going through security, and read through the morning papers that I took with me from my condo earlier, as I waited to board my flight. Then I took advantage of the preboarding, as I do all the time. I usually just let the gate agent know about my disability and they usually alert me – I usually can’t make out most PA announcements very well – and I’d be pissed off as hell if I missed a flight – or got on a wrong flight - just because I didn’t hear the boarding announcements right. These kinds of situations have been known to happen to deaf and hard of hearing passengers, believe me. And I almost got on a wrong flight because of that once several years ago.

Boarding the Dash 8-300 was not a problem, except that I was assigned to Seat 1A, which is the foremost seat on the port side of a Dash 8. This means you either have to put your carry-on on a valet cart to be loaded with the checked luggage, or stick it in the overhead bin. No ifs, ands or buts. I chose the latter, as any carry-on might get soaked if it rained or snowed, which it never did, fortunately. Not to mention that I don’t trust baggage handlers entirely, because I’ve seen them handle things a little too roughly in the past.

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Photo © George Polfliet

The Dash 8-300 (C-GETA) was still in transitional CP/AC colors, so the plane was still in AC Regional colors with the “Canadian Regional” title written on the side. It wasn’t too bad inside, and the flight took off without a hitch under a beautiful sunrise. Two 732s in WestJet colors (C-GWJG and C-GWJO (?)) could be seen, as well as that Canadian North 732 in old CP colors I saw earlier! By the south terminal, all I saw was an AC 732 and an AC A320 parked across the tarmac. But I did see an AC A321 parked at one of the gates, though – likely the 7:45 am flight to YYZ. The flight was almost full, but there was an empty window seat a couple of rows back that I would take advantage of later in the flight.

The flight was pretty smooth, but I wanted to sit on the other side of the plane, particularly because not only was the weather absolutely beautiful, but also because you can definitely see the Canadian Rockies! Because the flight was going south, obviously, you have to sit in the starboard side (right as you face the front) to fully appreciate the view of the Rockies. I told the FA that I wanted to change seats to 3D, next to a businessman sitting in 3C. The FA didn’t mind at all. Neither did the man in 3C, although he was very engrossed in preparing for a tight schedule in which he had to attend a meeting in downtown Calgary and get back home to his family in YEG before 4:30 pm. All I wanted to do was to see that which Alberta was so well known for - from the air, even if it was a couple of hundred kilometers away.

The view couldn’t have been better, though I wished the farmland was greener – it had been a very cold spring – it was as low as –38C only two months before at YEG! It was absolutely clear there, and I could see the Rockies quite clearly even well before I went over Red Deer, a city of about 70,000 halfway between YEG and YYC. The lone FA was in a great mood at this time of day. She started serving snacks, OJ, water and coffee. I declined the snacks, as I already had the breakfast at YEG, but I took up the coffee, black with sugar as usual. I didn’t think AC still did anything like that on short hops like the YEG-YYC route even on a Dash 8, but it was a great thing.

As the Dash 8 neared YYC, the Rockies still never failed to amaze - and the same went for Calgary’s rapidly expanding urban sprawl. The plane started turning as if to the SE away from YYC, so I knew the pilots had to land on the second runway, which trends SE-NW crossing near the southern end of the main north-south runway. Landing was smooth and I had no trouble getting to the “A” concourse. It was a good flight, and I sure didn’t mind flying on a Dash 8, even though it’s a little loud. I hadn’t been on one for a few years, especially since WestJet started flying into Grande Prairie a couple of years ago.

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Photo © Alan Maki

At YYC, I could still get an excellent view of Calgary’s skyline complete with the Calgary tower and the Petro-Can towers. It was hard to believe that YYC was dumped on by 40 cm (about 16 inches) of snow in one day exactly one week earlier on May 6 and was nearly shut down! My dad had the misfortune to be arriving in YYC from ORD on that day and had to stay overnight before he could get on the next flight to Grande Prairie. There was hardly any snow to be seen in Calgary while I was there, except for the odd really tiny patch in protected areas. But the Prairies were still an ugly brown and the leaves were still struggling to even bud, which was unusual for this time of year.

I find connecting in YYC a better experience than YYZ or YUL, despite the lesser variety of aircraft there. For one thing, I like the people there better. And you get better views, too, the Rockies notwithstanding! There, I decided to kill time by viewing and photographing the planes. There was a Northwest A319 bound for MSP, and a United A320, which I believe was bound for SFO, both at the B concourse, where all transborder flights come and go at YYC. At the A concourse, where I was, it was pretty much AC and WestJet. But an Air Transat A330-200 (C-GGTS) did dock at the A concourse right next to the gate where AC1184, my flight to YOW was docked, and was supposed to be leaving for Varadero, one of Cuba’s resort communities.

There was a mix of AC 732s, most of them at the B concourse, as well as an AC A320 or two, one at each pier that I could see. A couple of 767s, a 763 bound for YYZ and a 762, where it was bound for, I can’t remember. A couple of WestJet 732s were at the south side of the A concourse, too. Across the tarmac from where Flight 1184 was docked, I could see a Skyservice A320, an AC A319 and an AC A321, all gleaming brightly in the morning sun.

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Photo © Felix Sieder

By the time AC1184 was preboarding, I boarded to take up my seat, which was at 25A, the third last row in the A319. The middle seat was empty, and would be so for the entire flight, which was not a bad thing at all for me. A passenger later took up 25C, and he was a bearded French-Canadian with glasses in his early forties from the Ottawa area. He wasn’t a bad guy at all, as we talked about our trips to various places in Canada, especially to Alberta, BC and Ontario. Like the flight I was on before, the flight was nearly full. The flight left the gate only a few minutes late, no big deal, and took off after a long taxi to the southern end of the main north-south runway. This was my second trip on an A319 this year, as I took an A319 form YVR to YEG a few weeks earlier. The IFE worked fine from my seat.

The movies Deeply and Shipping News was showing, as well as a few newscasts. I wasn’t much for either movie, but was definitely better than the crap they show on Greyhound buses anyways. And better than nothing, too. Then came breakfast. The hot meal consisted of this: a roll supposedly stuffed with scrambled eggs (more like powdered eggs, ugh!), a small cooked beef patty (had no taste), along with cooked mushroom, red peppers and an unusual-looking broccoli shaped like a mini pine tree (all overcooked). And it was disgusting. I’m not kidding – I don’t think even a dog would eat that! I left it mostly untouched. At least the raisin roll and the fruit cup weren’t too bad. Not surprisingly, most of the passengers didn’t even bother touching the hot meal. Maybe that’s one reason why a lot of carriers, especially US carriers, have stopped serving meals on a lot of flights, even long ones. AC itself has reinstated hot meals on flights 3.5 hours or longer. I did not have any problems with the staff, in the air or otherwise. There were, to my surprise, not that many older FAs around. I did like that one FA in particular with a cute blond streak in her ponytailed hair. Of course, her attitude matched her appearance - in a word, great.

The skies were clear enough for me to see Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan, one of the largest reservoirs in the Canadian Prairies, and also the south end of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba. I also saw a bit of Lake Superior and Georgian Bay in Lake Huron as well. But the clouds increased as the flight got to an hour away from YOW. The captain did say that there’d be rain in Ottawa, but I had no idea how cold it would really be until after I landed. There’s a great thing I like about my hearing aids – I can simply switch my hearing aids to Telecoil mode and shut out the background noise. That way, I can hear the PA announcements and the shows without the cabin noise. I don’t know how many hard of hearing people know this, but this kind of switch on hearing aids can be extremely useful for things other than just using the telephone! Like using the IFE or even listening to a Discman, which I happen to own.

The descent was long and very shortly after the A319 went into the clouds, the flight got incredibly rough, and the upper slats on the wings were raised at least once – something that I usually never see except during landings! The seatbelt lights came on earlier than normal – about 45 minutes before landing. I wasn’t nervous at all during the whole time, but it was annoying that I couldn’t see anything until about a minute or two before landing. The clouds were so thick, that’s why. But as the A319 landed on the east-west runway at Macdonald-Cartier International (YOW), the landing was extremely smooth, just like the A319 flight from YVR to YEG a few weeks earlier. Kudos to the pilots for the landing!

It was raining as the A319 docked right next to a WestJet 737-700. That particular one (C-FIWS) was the very same one I saw in Regina, Saskatchewan last year, and is WJ’s first 73G to enter revenue service. After deplaning, I had to go through an escalator that had an alarm, which would sound if anybody tried to backtrack into the departure area even to retrieve anything forgotten on the plane. I’m sure this feature must be common at a lot of major airports on the planet, but the reason I mention this is that this is the only Canadian airport where I’ve really noticed this. YEG and YYC might have that, but I’m not sure right now. YYZ and YUL have that, too, I’m sure, but I never saw anything like that at either when I flew there in 1999.

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Photo © Marielle Lanthier

YOW is a surprisingly small airport – it’s not even as big as YEG and looks strangely a bit like some of the modern yellow prefab buildings with rounded corners you’d see in the Canadian Arctic, except that it’s all white in color. But it’s not bad in terms of facilities and looks like it has been recently renovated extensively inside, though. It has two observation decks – one indoors, but a large jetway blocks too much of the view, and an outdoor one on the north end of the terminal facing the new terminal under construction to be finished in 2004. The checked baggage was a bit slow in coming, but I got my suitcase and took the bus to the University of Ottawa Residence, where I stayed in Ottawa. Ottawa’s public transit is so efficient that I never, ever had to use a taxicab.

During my stay in Ottawa, I checked out the National Art Gallery, all those museums, including the Museum of Civilization across the Ottawa River in Hull, Quebec. I attended the conference from the 16th to the 19th of May and had a great time meeting friends there, old and new. I also had the honor to have a friend of mine, who was an MP (Member of Parliament) from Edmonton, give me a tour of the House of Parliament. While there, I also attended Question Period, the time when MPs are sitting in the House of Commons. Most MPs, including Jean Chretien, the Prime Minister of Canada were in attendance. It was also a bit of an unusual Question Period, as five new MPs, including Steve Harper of the Canadian Alliance Party, were sworn in that day. It wasn’t as boring as I thought it would be, but I did have to leave a bit early to do some aircraft spotting later in the day.

I took the bus to YOW, and I met Yow, one of’s regular members, as we arranged before. He turned out to be a friendly and interesting guy and knew a lot about YOW and its history. He had lived in Ottawa all his life, and like me, had been spotting since childhood. He had a car, so he drove me out to one of the prime spotting areas, including by the restricted gate on the fence by Alert Road. This is right by the eastern end of the east-west runway, one of YOW’s two major runways used by airlines. We had a great time discussing almost everything related to Canadian aviation and YOW. The weather cooperated on that day, fortunately, being nice and sunny although a bit cool.

There, I saw and photographed a Defence Canada CL-604 Challenger, a CO EMB-145, a BAe146 in AirBC colors, a Canadian North 732 in old CP colors (maybe the same one I saw at YEG on May 13), an AC A319, a couple of AC 767-200/300s. I also got to see an AC A321 and an AA Fokker F100. All in all, a great spotting experience, even though YOW doesn’t have the same variety of a/c that one sees in YYZ or YVR.

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Photo © John Davies

We never had a problem with security, as even though a security car passed by on Alert Road, it never even slowed down. Yow had reassured me of this beforehand. And we were not the only ones there, for there was a couple of guys with kids (future pilots, FAs or maybe even members?) just out to see a few planes. I wish to thank Yow for the time we spent there at YOW.

On the day of my departure from YOW, I checked out the National Museum of Aviation in the Rockcliffe area northeast of downtown, and it was worth it to me at least, for there were all those incredible life-sized planes, both military and civilian aircraft on display. There were plenty of WW2 and postwar aircraft, too. And most of the displays were indoors, but a few aircraft, including an old Vickers Viscount in TCA colors and a Dash 7 in original De Havilland (its manufacturer) colors, were outside.

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Photo © Den Pascoe

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Photo © Pierre Lacombe

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Photo © Pierre Langlois

NOTE: for anybody wondering about the DC-9-32 AC was supposed to donate to this museum, it is not yet on display. It’s not even at the airport at Rockcliffe, either. I’ve asked the staff there, and they said they hadn’t received any confirmation as of yet. The runway at the museum is only 3500 feet long – it’ll be interesting putting a DC-9 there, that’s for sure!

Anyways, I spent a total of nine days in Ottawa, with the conference lasting from the 16-19 of May. It was a great time I had there. The only disappointment was that the weather was unusually cold – it rained half the time and even snowed a little bit the day after I came in from YYC. At least I was glad the conference wasn’t being held in Quebec City, where 15-20 cm of snow fell on that day (May 14)! However, the weather slowly improved closer to the end of my stay in Ottawa, and on the day of departure, it was nice and warm.

After all this, I had to get back to the U of O residence front desk by 4:40 pm to grab my suitcase, which I had asked to be in storage before. Then it was time I took the bus to the airport for my 7:30 pm flight to YVR.

- To be continued in Trip Report Across Canada - Part Two.  Big thumbs up

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