12 hours of flying in one weekend
It has been a while since I’ve posted a report on Airliners.net so here I am with my newest trip report. It took me quite a while to write it, especially since I wrote it twice. Once in Romanian (for the “Romanian Spotters” webpage) and now in English, for Airliners.net. True, I’m just translating it (so if you find some blabber in Romanian, just ignore it)but it still takes time, so please take the time to read and enjoy the photos. [b]Comments and feedback are very much appreciated
The first weekend in May was one of the busiest weekends I’ve ever had when it comes to flying. In total I flew more than 12 hours, 10 of which as pilot and the rest as a passenger on WestJet Airlines.
Last time I flew this much was when I had to do my 300 nm cross country for my CPL. Anyway, so why the craziness? Well, long story made short: in February of this year, I moved from Calgary to Vancouver, British Columbia. I still had some money left on account with my previous school and had to use that up.
A few things had to happen in order for me to be able to go back to Calgary and use the credit:
1. Good weather in Calgary (and wherever I would have to fly to)
2. The airplane had to be available
3. I would have to find an inexpensive flight to Calgary
For those of you who don’t know this, Calgary is about 1000 km from Vancouver by road and about 700 km by air, on the East side of the Rocky Mountains.
On April 30th, I received an e-mail from WestJet with some really nice offers. “One way, $29.00 (€18.50)”, from Abbotsford to Calgary. Abbotsford is a small town about 30 km outside Metro Vancouver. Calgary flies both to Abbotsford and to Vancouver International. I quickly checked the weather and called the school, which happened to have the DA40 free the entire weekend. I quickly booked the flights and after taxes and a small credit refund I had on file with WJ, I ended up paying about $97.00 (€62.00) for the entire flight. I also called my good friend (and at one point my old instructor) Andrew and checked to see if he wanted to come along for the ride. Andrew flew with me for my night-rating and many other times as “a passenger”. It’s always nice to have him along. You can’t turn down free training lessons and PIC at the same time. It turns out that he had the weekend off from flying the PC
-12 for a Calgary company and decided to come along with me for the trip on the condition we bring his girlfriend. Of course… that was no problem.
Thursday night I packed my bags and went to a Friend’s house to borrow his Tokina 12-24 mm, since I don’t have one wide angle lens to use with my Nikon D50.
Originally I planed to go to Yellowstone National Park, but weather ruled that option out, so I flew as follows:
Friday: Abbotsford – Calgary (as a passenger on WestJet)
Saturday: High River – Great Falls – Calgary International Airport – High River
Sunday: High River – Drumheller – Sundre – Calgary Springbank Airport – High River
Monday: Calgary – Abbotsford (as a passenger on WestJet)
Friday May 2nd, 2008
Depart Abbotsford (YXX):
Arrive Calgary (YYC):
21:54 (Calgary is + 1 hour from Abbotsford)
1 h & 9 min.
Airline / flight number:
WestJet Airlines #36
Friday evening around 18:00 I left for the airport. I stopped at the bank and exchanged some money with the Queen on them for some with President Jackson on it, so I could use it down in the U.S. I didn’t take much, cause I would rather use my visa then pay it back, since I get all these nice points for travel. I think I have enough points to fly to Europe now. Nice!
Around 19:00 I arrived at the airport and I parked my car in the “Long Term parking, after I headed directly to the terminal. Once inside I noticed that I was the last one at the check-in counter. I had time though, the plane just landed from Calgary so I wasn’t in a huge rush or anything. Abbotsford airport is really small, so I had plenty of time. I walked about 20 meters to the security check in and 30 seconds later, I was at the gate waiting to board the 737.
My luggage: Laptop, aviation maps, books, camera and my headset
While I waited I also bought a sandwich and a bottle of juice. I was starving and there are no meals on these flights. I also called Andrew and confirmed that he’d come pick me up from YYC
. Even though the seating on the 737 is 3 and 3, I was lucky enough to have the middle seat empty which means I didn’t have to cram up against anyone. On the isle seat sat a nice gentleman in his early 40s who was returning home after a business trip in Vancover. We sparked up a conversation about photography and aviation. He had taken flying lessons before, but never ended up getting a license.
Our plane arrives at the gate, C-GBWS a Boeing 737-600
A picture from seat 19A
Not long after boarding the pilots started up the engines and we taxied to runway 07. We were rolling for take-off in no time and the small 737 climbed up like a bat out of hell. Quite the performance, which is good considering all the terrain around Abbotsford. We quickly ascended through the clouds and there wasn’t much to see.
The flight attendants started the onboard service and I had a coke with ice and I watched the live hockey game between Dallas and San Jose Sharks. It was live on TSN
(The Sports Network). I love watching the Stanley Cup playoffs, even though my team (Calgary Flames) was out by then. Gotta love the live TV
on WestJet planes
Over the clouds:
Me… Okay okay, I fly Diamond Aircraft but come on, what pilot in the Western world hasn’t flown a Cessna?
Hockey game on TSN
I took a few more photos and not long after the engines reduced the thrust and we started to descend into Calgary. Outside, light quickly diminished and it became harder and hard to take descent photos, especially when we had a bit of a light chop. We had a rather hard landing on runway 10 but I’ve seen worse… and I’ve done worse…
Over the Rockies
Cabin of WestJet’s 737-600
Weird photo, but I like it
After landing we taxied to the terminal and once everyone left the aircraft I asked the captain if I could take some photos of the flight-deck. He saw my Cessna shirt and asked me if I’ve piloted a Cessna before. I said that I have about 12 hours logged in 172s and the rest are all in Diamond Aircraft and Piper (about 30+). After deplaning I grabbed my luggage from the carrousel and met up with Andrew and his girlfriend Amy.
British Airways, Boeing 777 arrived from London-Heathrow
At the gate
Sorry for the poor quality, but I didn’t have much time to take these pics:
D-Wing at Calgary International, mostly used by WestJet.
Andrew drove me to my friend CJ
’s house and left right away. It was already 10:30pm and we had to be up really early the next day. I had a brief chat with my friend and then went to bed.
Saturday May 3rd, 2008
High River, Alberta (CEN4)
Great Falls, Montana (KGTF)
Diamond Star DA40-180
“Left seat” With Andrew as my co-pilot and Amy as our trusted photographer when we were busy flying the plane.
The next morning I woke up at 6:30 am and I quickly jumped in the shower and got ready after which I went outside to wait for Andrew. A few minutes later he showed up and the three of us headed to High-River, Alberta, a small town about 60 km outside of Calgary. Originally the school I trained with was at Calgary International Airport, but due to high operating costs and a ridiculous landing fee, they had to relocate to High-River, but that was after I left. Landing fees went from about $20.00 (€12.84) when I started training to $40.00 (€25.68) at the moment. That’s just crazy.
In front of my friend’s house (actually I used to live there too for about 8 months, before I moved to Vancouver)
Andrew turning his Jeep around.
Anyway, we arrived in High-River and looked for a Tim Hortons to have some breakfast. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s the iconic Canadian “fast food” joint which sells donuts, bagles, and mediocre coffee (I know I know, Canadians love it, but I used to love my Starbucks more I no longer drink coffee). Something along the lines of Dunkin Donuts in the US. Anyway, to our surprise there wasn’t one. What? No Timmy’s in High-River? Wow… that’s unheard of. There seems to be one at every corner in Calgary. Well we ended up going to eat at McDonalds (yuck). It was the only thing open at that hour and it was better than flying on an empty stomach. By the time we arrived at the airport, it was already 8:30am.
I checked the weather (METAR, TAF, GFA, UPPER WINDS, NOTAMS, etc), did the weight and balance, filled out insurance forms, checked the “Journey Log Book” and a few other things. I also fueled up the aircraft with AVGAS 100LL (Low Lead), about 20 US Gal (76 L) / tank (so 40 US Gal/ 152 L total). This would give us about 4 hours of flight time. I also had to fill out “Form 178 – Private Aircraft Enforcement System Arrival Report” from the US Customs and Border Protection Agency and fax the form to them at least one hour prior to arrival. After I talked to the Customs officer and made sure he received my fax I filed our fligh plan and headed out to board the aircraft
All this prep took about an hour but we also wasted quite some time chatting with my old co-workers and some of the new students there. By the time I started the engine it was 10:20 am. I went through the checklist, while Andrew entered our flight plan into the Garmin 530 GPS. The flight would be as follows. Take-off from High-River than off toward Vulcan, Alberta where we’d turn toward Lethbridge, then south into Cutbank, Montana and finally into Great Falls.
After the run-up I backtracked to runway 24 and took-off heading toward the West. A 180 degree turn and we climbed to our cruising altitude of 9500 ft (2900 m). Andrew worked tuned in the proper frequencies for the COM and the NAV. Once near Vulcan, Alberta, we intercepted Victor 301 airway toward YQL VOR. Even though we were flying VFR it’s never a bad idea to learn some IFR flying, especially with my IFR exam coming up soon.
Running through the check list
Backtracking on runway 24
Andrew following along
Take off, with the Rockies visible in the background
Next waypoint (Lethbridge VOR). We were at 9500 ft (2900 m) with the autopilot engaged
Keho Lake, 25 miles North-West of YQG
On the way to Lethbridge
City of Lethbridge, with the airport visible to the South
Once over the YQL VOR we turned slightly to the right on the flying Victor 21 toward Cutbank Montana
Toward the US border
Andrew working the Garmin 530 GPS. Notice the warning panel has the “DOOR” lights on, which means one of the doors are open. Well the door was fine, it’s just that the sensor for the back door wasn’t contacting properly with the door pin, so from time to time we’d have that warning light come on. You’ll see that on our way back to Canada that warning is no longer on.
Crossing the border into USA.
Me (with the Boeing hat), Andrew beside me, and Amy in the back seat.
Near CTB VOR
Lake Francis, South of Cutbank, Montana
Pretty boring scenery…
This train was moving quite slowly… almost like a long, lazy snake
We flew over the CTB VOR then kept on Victor 21. Before entering Great Falls airspace, Andrew contacted them and we received our instructions
”Canadian Foxtrot November Alpha Charlie, you’re cleared right downwind runway 21, you’re number two following RJ traffic on final, report him in sight”.
We saw the CRJ then we followed him. After establishing on final I reduce the speed to under 108 Knots and lowered flaps. The manifold pressure stayed between 15 0 16 inches and the RPM about 2200. Before landing I moved the prop lever to the full forward position and I lowered “landing flaps”. Shortly after we touched down on runway 21. The time was 12:18 local time. Once we were off the runway, the after landing check-list was executed and we obtained taxi instructions to the US Customs building.
Red line was “us” and the blue line represents the path the path the CRJ flew.
Toward Great Falls
Aeroportul Great Falls, situat pe un “platou”. Se vede panta abrubta la inainte de pista 21
Right Base, runway 21
Once we arrived at the customs building, we waited for about 2 minutes until the officers came out. Only then, did we open the canopy and rear door. They asked for our passports, my pilot license and aircraft documentation after which a few questions regarding the purpose of our visit and time we’d be staying. While the first officer was asking the questions and checking the papers, the other one used what I believe was a scanner and walked all around the plane looking to see if we had anything hidden (I think… but I may be wrong). We exited the plane and followed them to the office where I had to pay a fee of $27.00 (€17.50) for some sticker that needs to be on the plane if it flies into the US. After we were done with customs, we had the guys from Exon fuel our plane for a nice price of $86.00 (€56.00). Gotta love the price of gas in the US. Much cheaper than in Canada.
Our plane being fueled
Andrew and Amy
Me, resting on the wing of the aircraft
A United Express CRJ departing, probably to Denver…
After getting our gas, we taxied to the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) where we parked the plane so we can go into town and have a bite to eat. We were also allowed to use the FBO’s courtesy car. Cool.
We ate at Chili’s Bar and Grill then we went shopping for some clothes. I bought a pair of running shoes, some pants and a hoodie for jogging. We returned to the airport about 4 hours later.
Some old birds on display:
One of my favorite fighters: The F-16
Great Falls Terminal
Back at the FBO
Saturday May 3rd, 2008
Great Falls, Montana (KGTF) )
Calgary International Airport, Alberta (CYYC)
Diamond Star DA40-180
After we completed our flight plan we left for home again. We took of for runway 21 and this time we flew toward the mountains. We didn’t use VORs anymore, but we used the GPS as reference, while maintaining VFR at atll times.
Taxi to runway 21. Flaps in the take-off possition
Full power, rolling down the runway. Notice no “Door” warning light
Great Falls Airport
Amy reading a book… the flight was “too exciting for her”
C-FNAC flight deck
We are here: North of Choteau, Montana
Garmin 530 GPS – Between Fairfield and Starr-Browning, Montana
Garmin 530 & 430 GPS with the KAP140 Autopilot on NAV and altitude at 8500 ft. (2591 m), with a ground speed of 122 kts (226 km / h)… a bit slow Normally we cruise at 130 - 140 kts (260 km/h)
Toward Starr Browning, Montana,
Nice way to cool off
Started to get cloudy
Maps: VNC (VFR Navigational Chart) for Montana Alberta
Glacier National Park, Northern Montanei toward the Canadian border
After entering Canadian airspace I noticed the visibility dropping and a burning smell. Not a chemical burning smell but rather “wood”. I realized right away that we had a forest fire. There were no NOTAMS about it and it seems that nobody knew anything. We called up Edmonton FIC and we told them the location of the fire. They said they’ll contact the Rangers and have them investigated. We continued our flight North toward Calgary International
Forrest Fire. We stayed at our cruising altitude. The “close up photos are with my 70-300 mm lens.
Near Pincher Creek, Alberta
56 nautical miles from Calgary
As we got closer to Calgary, Andrew obtain ATIS information and then contacted Calgary Terminal Control which cleared us for a straight in approach for runway 34. We dialed in the ILS frequency and started our landing procedures. Even though I was using the ILS (for practice), I always maintained visual reference to the runway. The tower cleared us to land and then Ground directed us to the Canadian Customs building. (This was the reason we flew to YYC
and not to CEN4, High-River… we had to clear customs). To my surprise there was nobody there (we were lat 18 minutes) so I called a number and through the telephone, I was cleared back into Canada. Cool!
Calgary’s South side
ILS runway 34
Calgary downtown … prior to landing
75 kts, 4200 ft AGL, 450 fpm descend, and locked on ILS runway 34
Freeway toward Edmonton
The golf course between 32nd Ave and McKnight
Short final runway 34 at Calgary International
A WestJet 737 landing after us
Taxi toward Canadian Customs
Superior decisions reduce the need for superior skills.