Note: I decided to split this report in half, so I don’t make it too long (it is already). I’ve only included my outbound flights. The next report (which I hope you will read) will cover the return flights. Happy Reading… Vio
Hello fellow a.netters,
I wanted to write a report about one of the most memorable trips of my life. So what’s so different about this trip? Well, for starters, I was the pilot in command. No, I’m not flying a 747 to some exotic destination, but rather my “300 nautical miles trip”
I’m not sure how it’s like in other countries, but in Canada, in order to receive a Commercial Pilot License, one of the requirements is that you must complete this trip, which basically requires you to fly at least 300nm radius from your home base. Also, there must be two intermediary stops before you reach your final destination.
I’m currently working on my CPL, at a local school in Calgary, Alberta. The school is actually located at Calgary International Airport (YYC
). I’ve started here with my private and I’m hoping to become a flight instructor there and eventually an airline pilot. For now though, I will just concentrate on one step at a time.
The original plan was to fly with my friend (also my instructor) and my colleague from work from Calgary to Las Vegas, but that didn’t materialize, due to unavailability of some and also more importantly lack of funds on my part. As I’m sure you all know, flight training isn’t exactly cheap these days. Having traveled through Canada (East to West), I decided that I should probably explore Northern Alberta/BC
. There’s a good chance I may end up working “the bush” so I might as well see how it’s like to fly up there. I’ve planned out my route as follows:
Leg #1 Calgary International (CYYC) – Edmonton City Centre (CYXD)
Leg #2* Edmonton City Centre (CYXD) – Slave Lake, Alberta (CYZH)
Leg #3 Slave Lake, Alberta (CYZH) – Peace River, Alberta (CYPE)
Leg #4 Peace River, Alberta (CYPE) – Fort St. John, BC
Leg #5 Fort St. John, BC
(CYXJ) – Grand Prairie, Alberta (CYQU)
Leg #6 Grand Prairie, Alberta (CYQU) – Edmonton City Centre (CYXD)
Leg #7 Edmonton City Centre (CYXD) – Calgary International (CYYC)
* Leg #2 CYXD – CYZH was not originally planned. Instead it was supposed to be direct to CYPE, but due to thunderstorms, we ended up going there.
Trip Durations: 3 DAYS
Aircraft: Diamond Star (DA40)
Pilot: Vio** (a.k.a. Foreigner / fresh of the boater / 3rd World )
Passenger: Trevor (a.k.a. The Dutch Elvis)
**I’d also like to mention the fact that my name is pronounced “Vee-OH” and NOT “Vaio” I am not a laptop. Thanks ?
I added a few outdated photos (the next 3 photos), to better show you "the office" of the DA40 & C-FNAC
Friday June 30th 2006 (day before departure)
Outdated photos to show you the DA-40 C-FNAC
I bought my maps and the new CFS
(Canada Flight Supplement) and did some preliminary flight planning, Also I’ve packed my luggage and booked my hotel in Fort St. John. Originally, I was to arrive on Saturday evening in YXJ and stay there for 2 nights, so for $119/night, I booked it at Quality Inn. Thank God for the internet. It can all be done so quickly.
Saturday July 1st 2006 (Canada Day)
My plan was to get to the airport at 8am, and be up in the air by 10. Because I didn’t end up going to bed until midnight, I decided to sleep in. Being rested was more important than leaving early.
Next morning, it didn’t take me long to drive to the airport, as I live fairly close to YYC
(5 km). I fueled C-FNAC
, did the walk-around, W&B, flight planning and all the other necessary paperwork.
I loaded everything in the airplane, did the pre-flight checks, got my ATIS info, Clearance and in no time, I was cleared for take-off from Runway 07 at 17:55(Z). I was turned Northbound, toward Airdrie, Ab, and at 4500, I was handed over to Calgary Terminal, who cleared me to 5500, then to 6500’.
After being cleared on route, I followed Highway 2 to Red-Deer flying East of it at all times, steering around the Innisfail airport (due to parachuting or sailing activity. I forgot which one). After passing the half way point (around Red Deer), the highway ended up East of my track and I kept my heading until I reached the point where I contacted Edmonton Terminal.
I was vectored East of the Edmonton International (CYEG). It was really cool to see, as it was my first time flying near it. I was advised of traffic in my vicinity, a Fokker 100 belonging to Canadian North, flying underneath me. It was quite a site to see. (I really wished I had my camera with me, but I was under the impression that I didn’t bring with me. It turned out that I did in fact have it and never found out until I arrived in Slave Lake.)
Edmonton Terminal handed me over to City Centre Tower, which guided me for a landing on runway 30, where I touched down at 19:05(Z).I taxied to the Esso FBO, where my friend Trevor was waiting for me.
The ESSO staff was very friendly and helping. I recommend that you go there, if you ever end up at YXD
. While my aircraft was re-fueled and I went to check the weather updates and plan my next leg, to Peace River, Alberta (CYPE). I’ve called the “Weather Brief office in Edmonton (yes, I also have internet available, but it’s always nice to talk to someone about it). The problem that day, was that thunderstorms were building up around the Peace River area, with reports of TCUs and CBs in the vicinity. We opted instead to go to Slave Lake, as it was mostly clear, with a slight chance of rain-showers during the late afternoon; nothing I can’t handle. Also I called the Quality Inn hotel in Fort St. John to cancel my Saturday night booking.
After I’ve completed our Weight and Balance, secured our luggage (which also included a guitar), we hopped into FNAC
and started on our next leg.
Leg #2 Edmonton City Centre (CYXD) – Slave Lake, Alberta (CYZH)
With wheels off from YXD
’s runway 30 at 23:50(Z) , Tower directed me to 4000’, then handed me over to Edmonton Terminal, where I was cleared to 6500’, en-route to Slave Lake. We flew pretty much a direct route, flying near St. Alberta, Morinville, Westlock, etc. We averaged about 130 kts for our ground-speed. It’s really nice to have the Garmin 530/430 GPS system, though that sometimes makes you “cheat”. I still tried to use my “wiz-wheel”, that way I keep my skills sharp.
The scenery changed a lot from what I’m used to around Calgary. The land is mostly flat, but there are forests and rivers everywhere. It made me more aware that I’d have to really keep an eye out for potential landing spots in case of an engine failure. At some point, there were so many trees, that the best option was to try to land it along the river-bed. That was the only area which seemed to be clear of obstacles. We had flight following with Edmonton Centre for most of the way, but then radar services was terminated and we were again back to monitoring 126.7, the en-route frequency.
Luckily, there was no need for anything like that. As we got closer to Slave Lake we made radio contact with a helicopter flying at tree-top level, just to our right. He was doing surveillance for Alberta Forestry (that fact may need confirmation). At the same time, we switched to Slave Lake Traffic and a Cessna 206 C-FOOS, was in the right hand circuit for runway 28. He was doing a full stop, so further communication with him was not required. I just listened for his position reports to see when he was clear of the runway. By this time, I was a little ahead of the helicopter, but he was much lower than I was and was heading directly to his landing zone. I told him, I’ll make a west-bound turn and decent, then I will keep visual contact with him until he lands. Reason for this, is that I didn’t want to get into a dicey situation at a new airport, besides, the scenery was amazing. The town of Slave Lake is right on the shore of “Lesser Slave Lake”, and the aerial view is something out of a story-book, especially with the airport near the water. Actually, it’s so close that runway 28 ends in the lake, so one has to be careful. I personally wasn’t too concerned, considering it’s over 5000’ in length, but I can see how it can be a challenge for some of the water bombers stationed there.
From what the Cessna 206 pilot told me, runway 28 was active, with calm winds on the surface, but I still wanted to “check the sock” myself, so I crossed the mid-field at 1500’ AGL and confirmed that the wind was calm. I descended to 1000’ AGL and joined right downwind; then shortly after I touched down on Runway 28, at 01:00(Z). I should’ve mentioned, that a right-hand circuit is usually the case there, that way, you avoid flying over the town.
Once we were cleared of the active runway, we taxied to what seemed like “General Aircraft” Parking Area, where I shut down, secured the aircraft, closed my flight-plan and completed the required paper work. There didn’t seem to be anyone around, but one of the hangars had its doors open, so we had a quick chat with some really nice pilots/staff, which gave us info as to where to park our aircraft, how to get into town, etc. I also had my log-book stamped and signed, that way I had proof I’ve been there, should Transport Canada ever require it. We parked about 1/3 of the way from the threshold of runway 10. As we landed, on runway 28, we both saw the water bomber base, with its fleet Canadair CL
-415 Tankers, so we walked over toward that side to take a closer look. We ended up seeing the pilot of the surveillance chopper, which was also doing some paperwork around it. We briefly talked to him and he expressed his interest on our little Diamond Star. After hanging around for a little longer at the airfield, we called a taxi and rode into town.
We were fortunate to find a hotel room here, because the town seemed to be quite busy with oil-rig workers and tourists for the Canada-Day long weekend. We had dinner at Boston-Pizza. I know, not too exciting, but decent food and atmosphere. Also it was across the street from our hotel, so that was quite convenient. There was a large group of young men and women in the bar area, which we later found out that were mostly pilots and nurses. Apparently, it’s quite common up North, where pilots end up dating nurses. I have to say, they (the ladies) were by far the hottest girls in town… and of course, why would they date the pilots?... I don’t think I have to answer that. Man, I can’t wait to go up North now… LOL.. Later we ended up going to a local bar, but didn’t stay too long. The next morning we had to wake up early and continue our trip…
Sunday July 2nd 2006
Early in the morning, I came to the realization that I had in fact brought my digital camera with me. I was quite disappointed that I’ve missed perhaps some amazing photo opportunities, but not all is lost. I still had a long trip ahead of me.
We packed up, checked out and left the hotel, taking a taxi to the airfield. We arrived there, did a quick review of our flight planning, called Edmonton FSS and filed our flight-plan to Peace River. The weather was beautiful. Warm, clear skies and calm winds. Our VFR flight-plan would take us over the south shore of Lesser Slave Lake, to its West End, then direct North-West to Peace River.
I took my time to enjoy the nice view at the airfield. The main “terminal” was closed, but we had access to it. I also decided to take a few shots of the surroundings.
The Notice sign on the door of the terminal. As you can imagine, I had no problem getting in there.
Our Diamond Star DA40 (C-FNAC
) in front of the Slave Lake “Terminal” Notice how calm the wind was. Our luggage is ready to be loaded and secured for the next flight to Peace River, Alberta.
Slave Lake Airport, looking toward the West. Somewhere in the distance, runway 28 ends and Lesser Slave Lake (the body of water) begins.
Looking toward the East, you can see our DA40 being readied for our next flight. Also, local aircraft parked on the ramp. The one on the right is the 205 C-FOOS, which we head the pleasure talking to, a day earlier.
Cessna 206 (C-FOOS). We had the pleasure to talk to her pilot, just a day prior. He was in the circuit when we approached Slave Lake Airport.
After our run-up we taxied to Runway 28 and held short for a landing Cessna Caravan. All the big water bombers were ready to depart. Conair was there too and they were firing up their DC-6 (at least that’s what I think it was).
We took off Runway 28 at 16:30(Z) and headed West-bound along the lakeshore, climbing to 6500’ASL. After us, one bomber after the other was taking off, heading to various fire-fighting locations. A few of them passed underneath of us and I managed to snap a shot of one, with Lesser Slave Lake underneath us.
Conair DC6 Water Bomber passing underneath us, with the lake below.
Flying along the shoreline of Lesser Slave Lake, overlooking the right wing of the DA40
The Dutch Elvis (Trevor) and myself (wearing the blue/white stripe shirt). Check out the reflection on Trevor’s glasses.
Lesser Slave Lake from 6500’
We followed the shoreline of the lake, to its West end and enjoyed one of the most scenic flights I’ve had. The photos, taken with a cheap digital camera doesn’t do justice to what the real eye saw. Just before High Prairie, we turned toward the NW
toward Peace River.
Looking Westbound, we’re getting close to the point where Smoky River (closer to us) with Peace River (further ahead) meet.
The town of Peace River is seen in the distance, as we approach the airport (CYPE) from the south.
I contacted Peace River radio and Runway 22 was favored at the time. We joined left base for 22.
Flying left base Rwy 22, just about to turn final. Peace River (both the town and the river) can be seen in the background.
Approach to RWY 22 at CYPE
Trevor was busy taking pictures, while I was flying the plane (as it should be). Here you can see the shadow of our Diamond Star and a heard of Buffalo.
Short final 22. Maybe a little low, but I touched down right on the numbers.
After touching down at 17:35(Z), we taxied passed the terminal building to the small Esso station.
We spent about 1.5 hours there, mostly chatting with other pilots, etc. Before we left, I called Edmonton FSS for weather updates. The weather rep. informed me that storms are building up North of our route, and we had about a 2 – 3 hour window, before we’d encounter some serious weather. At this point, we were ready to leave and the flight to CYXJ (Fort St John) wasn’t going to be a little more than one hour.
rests and cools down, while we hang around the ramp at CYPE (Peace River, Alberta)
A cool helicopter touches down just East of CYPEs ramp.
Once we completed all that had to be done before take-off, I lifted C-FNAC
off Runway 04 at exactly 19:20(Z). We made a left turn, heading toward the West, on our way to Forst St. John, BC
Take-off from runway 04 at CYPE. You can see the terminal building and the Esso Station (right of the terminal, just after the parked twin.)
Peace River Airport sean as we climb up to our cruising altitude.
Flying over Cardinal Lake, just West of CYPE. (View from the left side of the airplane)
Flying over Cardinal Lake, just West of CYPE. (View from the right side of the airplane)
The Peace River, between CYPE and CYXJ
Clouds start to built up as we make our way to Fort St. John
The flight to CYXJ (Fort St. John, BC
) was quite bumpy, but that was to be expected considering the weather conditions. As I approached CYXJ, I contacted the airport radio frequency and Runway 20 was favored there. There was no traffic in the pattern at the time, so I made an uneventful landing at 20:30(Z)
Approaching runway 20 at CYXJ
Short final rwy 20 at CYXJ. The airport is now more visible, with the town seen in the background.
In the flare about to touch down on the numbers.
You can see the storm was building up, as we taxied to the ramp
Air Spray’s Water Bomber. Check out the clouds in the background.
After we shut down, we parked at the Shell, but there was nobody there, so we’ve called the ESSO station, and in no time, they brought a truck to us and fueled our plane. I wanted to do this right away, so I wouldn’t waste my time the next morning. With summer weather being what it is, I decided to fly mostly in the morning, and next day, I had to fly all the way to Calgary.
The ESSO truck is fueling C-FNAC
at the Shell station (I know, strange). The terminal and control tower can be seen in the background
Air Spray, taxing by us while the DA40 was getting fuel.
Air Canada Jazz CRJ taxing by us after a flight from Vancouver (I’m guessing, someone please confirm). Both the pilots and most of the passengers waved at us, while we tried to look cool and important.
tied down and resting for the night. Some of our luggage is still seen beside the aircraft. Next morning, she’d fly all the way to Calgary.
After we tied down the aircraft (with rope that we had to purchase in Edmonton), we wondered around the terminal, looking for a car to rent. The prices were outrageous (around 50 dollars), with extra charge for each KM
. We opted to take a taxi to the town (which is about 8 miles from the airport), however some nice Ramp Workers at AC
Jazz, were just getting off their shift, so they offered to take us downtown. Canadians are so nice!
So, this was the half-point of this exciting trip. I hope you’ll read the next report, which is the return to Calgary, via Grand Prairie & Edmonton City Centre Airport. I have lots of photos on the return trip, so pleas come back to read it. I’ll probably get it done in about 2 days.
Please feel free to ask me any questions, as I know I’ve omitted a few things. Also, if I’ve made any errors, please feel free to correct me.
Superior decisions reduce the need for superior skills.