Governor General's Air Rally around Canada
The Winning Teams
The Results The Governor General's Cup was presented to winners Martin Elder, Deborah Hind, Chris Gallant and May-Cay Beeler flying C-GEIW, a Cherokee 6-260. The winners' names will be inscribed on the cup and they keep the leader's leather jacket as their reward.
Photo supplied by Mark Helseth
Second Place winners, Mike Wilson , Jenny and Helen Watson, flying a Piper Arrow rented from Winnipeg Aviation Flight School missed the start of the competition but made up ground with every subsequent leg. Third Place – Norman Mainville and Tania Lebel flying a Cessna 172 and Beech Muskateer. The Story Canada Departure.: -Fri 24th July EST. At 07:00 the Chrysler Voyager squeaked to a halt at our front gate. I don’t want it to appear that we were excited, but all the bags were packed and waiting at the front door. We arrived at the International Terminal at 07:56. We were doing well on time. There was only one person to check in before us. We lifted our 4 stowed bags onto the scales. The conveyer belt was jammed by a bag. The girl pushed the button several times then called a supervisor who lifts the bag onto the main conveyer but the feeder belt was still stuck. Was this an omen? The supervisor worked her magic and our bags flowed through. We received our passports and tickets back and moved toward the escalator down to the Australian Customs gates. Still the crowd was light because we were early. We moved quickly through Customs with a minimum of disrobing. Removed batteries from GPS and Epirb, display the laptop and empty pockets. Did we have any liquids or sharp objects in our bags? NO! So we passed through to Immigration which had few passengers waiting. Wow, what a smooth, quick run through the gates. Then Jenny noticed we did NOT have boarding passes. Was this a new system? Did we still require boarding passes? Yes we did! So return to go, the ticket counter. The crowds were growing, lots of people milling around but Jenny attracted the girl at the “On Line Check-In” desk who found our passes and so with a minimum of fuss (Oh Really!) we returned to Customs where the waiting throng had quadrupled but we passed quickly through the Express Gate. Quite a drama and we are not on the plane yet, but we are on the airside of duty-free shopping, drinking coffee waiting for our call. We are due to board at 10:35 for an 11.05 departure. The flight was uneventful and soon we were in LA, and then on the Air Canada Embraer 190 to Vancouver. Weather was good as we saw the sights with a friend, and then ate dinner at the float-plane base on the river near Vancouver Airport. Their fleet of 19 includes Beavers, Otters, C206’s and a Twin Otter. How delightful to watch the What whale? elegant take offs and landings as we enjoyed fine Canadian beer. The next morning our drive around Vancouver, we wondered why there were so many people looking at a cruise ship that was in port. We found out that night on the news, it had a whale impaled on the bow. Apparently, the ship ran into it overnight and didn’t know about it. (Charter boat!! What charter boat!!) Sunday 26th, we departed through the domestic terminal where everything was inspected by x-ray or visually checked. The flight was delayed as certain passengers did not board so their luggage was removed. We descended over Southport Airport on approach to Winnipeg International. Out the front of the Terminal we accepted a Lincoln Limo as our bags would overflow the Prius cabs buzzing about. We booked into Canad Inn St. Andrews, checked the e-mails to discover the need for sleeping bags at Tadoule Lake. Catherine suggested Canadian Tire Company for a suitable light sleeper. We bought tie-down stakes, cords and prepared our survival kit. Don’t forget the DUCT tape!!! We enjoyed dinner with Diane and Paul Whetham in the tavern at the motel. Jenny, Helen and I had relaxed with a few drinks after all the travels. Helen drank beer, I had Canadian whisky and we sorted through a few different brands of rum for Jenny. She and Helen are seasoned taste testers for the Bundaberg Rum Company. For them no other rum even comes close. Monday 27th, I was to check out in the Piper Arrow C-GJKU. Dan, the owner joined us for breakfast and drove me to St Andrews (CYAV). It was a 1971 Arrow 2 with original radios but flies nicely and had new tires and a 50hr oil change. We departed St Andrews (e720) flew to the northern training area for slow flight, stalls and a few turns along ground features in a 25kt nor-westerly wind. I watched two big rain storms approach from NW and N. The check flight was fairly basic; out to the training area some slow flight leading into a stall and normal recovery then with flap and gear and some power.
Arrow– C-GJKU 1
The Arrow handled nicely as Pipers are pleasant to fly. I was lucky to find this Arrow in Canada as they all have a busy season in summer. I asked Dan to show me some of the manoeuvres required to obtain a FAA Commercial Single Engine Certificate. They have applicants fly “Lazy 8’s” and “Circles around a Point”. The biggest learning curve for me, was understanding the ATIS and tower controllers. Their format is different to ours and they say it all so fast. Local pilots are tuned to what they are saying but for a foreigner like me I had to listen a few times and request “Progressive Taxi”, which means guidance. I was approved to fly the PA28R-200. St Andrews has 2 Flight Schools teaching commercial students for whom English is a 2nd language. Dan’s, Winnipeg Aviation caters to Indian students. The other is “Harv’s Air” where they have a luxurious lounge and briefing rooms. Guy Houde, our Canadian friend was stuck by weather in Quebec. Australians, Steve and Gillian arrived in a C172S (N52232) to St Andrews about noon, with a supply of Bundy rum, Thanks Steve. Steve and Gillian had quite an adventure with the G1000 Cessna 172S flying the mountains of Utah, Wyoming and South Dakota, and now understood the meaning of Density Altitude. They raved over Jackson Hole, the Grand Tetons, WY and Rapid City SD, both on our plans for 2011. I love flying in the USA, and Canada is similar. The line up was taking shape with Mark Helseth (photographer, competition organiser and judge) and George Anderson flew in a lovely US registered Cherokee 6-260, they would have Celine and Gilles as passengers. The French team of Claude and Guy (Gee) have a C172, also hired from Winnipeg Aviation. Gail arrived from Australia that evening. Everyone gathered for a meet and greet dinner at the motel, where Mark gave us the bad news about the weather. Aviation Connection planned this Rally to visit every Province and Territory in a record 15 days to celebrate the centenary of flight in Canada. We were to assemble in Winnipeg, then fly to Russell near the border of Manitoba for the official start. Organisers Camil Dumont and Catherine Tobenas, together with other people from the eastern provinces were forced down by bad weather at Thunder Bay, 400nm away. Guy in his C172 was sitting on the ground at Sudbury along with Patsie and Sylvie. Wednesday 29th, the weather had not improved but we had a starting line-up, so after breakfast we checked out of the motel as if we knew we were going. We sat around the flight The wait begins!! schools at St Andrews checking weather radar and reading METARs as if that would change the weather. The Good Weather Witch (Jenny) needed her assistant Guy to help her. (see BJ’s North/South USA Safari story) Late in the afternoon the organisers Camil and Catherine arrived in his Cherokee PA32-300. With them were their children (Michãelle - a pilot and Camil Jnr- in training), plus Valerie from Switzerland. Valerie’s 2 sons, Raphael and Laurent were students flying with an inSteve and Paul waiting structor Scott Ludwig and “Air Boss” Alan Matson in a Cirrus at Harv’s Cafe SR20 from the US. At 15:00 the “Air Boss” gave a departure Lake Manitoba briefing. Still we waited. Finally at 17:00 we departed for Russell. Flying VFR in poor weather in a strange country can be challenging , so I use all the aids available. The citizens of Russell had been waiting since midday for the Governor General’s Air Rally to arrive. What wonderful people they are to give us such a warm welcome when we did fly in at 19:00, seven hours late. Awaiting the Official start
Our start from Russell was delayed while we waited for the other 2 Australian teams, both in C172’s to join us. They diverted to Neepawa, 85nm along the track due to weather. After they arrived, the Rally officially started. The second stop was Wetaskiwin, Alberta where eventual 3rd place winners, Norman Mainville and Tania Lebel joined us in a rented C172. Awaiting us again was another wonderful reception by the locals, a BBQ in the rain. While waiting for Wetaskawin BBQ!! the slower planes to arrive we checked the wonderful Air and Automobile Museum near the airport.
Mike’s 1st interview
At all of our stops, members of the Rally would be interviewed by the local press. Wetaskawin was my turn, I was interviewed by the Wetaskawin Times. 2
Morning fog delayed the start from Wetaskiwin. We were soon on our way to Fort St John (CYXJ) on the Alaska Highway. The Deputy Mayor who is president of the local Recreational Aircraft Assn., hosted a wonderful barbeque at Taylor after a tour to Hudson Hope. The National Gold Panning competition was being held that weekend in Taylor. After a brief demonstration from the local champion, Helen had her turn. She did better than the champ and was allowed to keep the gold flakes. CYXJ Ft St John Now a little Air Rally mischief was afoot. Helen was the senior member of the rally and Jim Snyder and Tony Lang (PA30 C-FGML) planned a prank. At the end of each day the local mayor presented the town flag to the daily ETA winner. Jim and Tony flew with their wives, Diane and Elaine: Jim is a jokester. They won the Wetaskiwin flag and suggested to me that I plant it in Helen’s luggage to be discovered next morning by the local Mountie, Big Jim. Now what sort of Aussie skipper would I be if I assisted 2 Canadian pranksters to set up one of my crew members as a fall gal? I discussed this plan with my crew, Jenny and Helen to devise a payback plan. So Jenny slipped the flag to Diane, slim Jim’s wife, who liked the idea of her tricky husband being caught in his own skulduggery. Helen’s bag was set up with intimate night wear and an Aussie flag on top so that when opened it would be a surprise. Next morning, Big Jim in his role as retired Mountie announced on the bus that the flag had been stolen. Big Jim declared, “While I assisted with packing the bags on the bus we searched them for the flag and I regret we found something. Helen, please come forward. We regret to say we think you have the missing flag”. Helen walked to the front of the bus and said “Bullshit! Search me!” That shocked them all!! There were roars of laughter throughout the bus. After the laughter died down Big Jim pulled out a ‘G’ string with “Remove before Flight” and presented it to Helen. Helen for once was lost for words. Jenny insisted that the 2 Jim’s search Helen’s luggage for the missing flag. They were embarrassed by the revealing lingerie found on top of the case but no flag was found other than the Aussie flag which was planted the night before. Jim still did not know the whereabouts of his Wetaskiwin Flag. Moral of the story- Don’t mess with the Aussies!
For the next leg to Watson Lake, the “Air Boss” Alan Matson told pilots to choose their own route, so Chris & Beth in the Lake Renegade and our Arrow flew up "The Trench". We took this chance to view from the air, Hudson Hope and the mighty W.A.C. Bennett Dam on the Peace River which we missed on a bus tour. The Trench is a long river valley culminating in Lake Williston with emergency airstrips and float plane bases along the shore. Watch Chris & Beth in Lake Renegade out for 'deadheads' in the water! From Fort St John we flew between mountains over 6000ft with pockets of snow/ice still visible even in mid-summer. Chris landed at Fort Graham, on the water to refuel. Instructions from the pistol packing refueller came over the radio, "Jus birdy on in an' put her near the corral". Then he landed his Cessna floatplane and assisted by his 11yo daughter proceeded to fuel the Renegade. Firearms are recommended survival equipment in this bear country. This was the third time that I have flown “The Trench”, and this was the best visibility yet, it is truly magnificent scenery. Helen described it as, “Valley of the Gods”. The Trench– ice on peaks
Lake and Fire Beetle damage
CBW3– Fort Graham
Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, was where many pilots, Canadian and European trained before flying into WWII. We arrived in time to attend a memorial service for those who died in service. The people from town greeted us with a 'fair-like atmosphere' with food stalls, soft drinks and music. Fire Bombers were flying regular sorties every 15 minutes as there were large number of fires burning throughout British Columbia. The next day the ceilings fell due to smoke and no one could depart. Visibility was so bad you could not see the end of the strip. Even the fire bombers, who worked ceaselessly All lined up and nowhere to go! the previous day, were grounded. We spent most of the day at the airport waiting for ceiling to rise…. NO LUCK. To break the boredom of waiting, Helen modelled the G-string. Move over Elle...
Next day, Vis 10k ceiling 3000AGL, we headed to Hay River, North West Territory. Some flew via Fort Nelson but we followed the roads and rivers over La Biche and Fort Liard. These are airports with remote radio FS. We were on a general flight plan as Air Rally C-GJKU, so they had our details and a VFR plan of departure and destiSkimming the mountain tops nation with an ETA. We saw the Seneca with Dave and Steve from the USA, flying low under us along the road but I prefer a more overall aspect for a general picture. We flew 5-6000ft and seemed to skim over the hills. I tracked the Alaska Highway to the Liard River NDB. Then we tracked to La Biche River and Fort Liard. We made radio contact with “Canada Radio” at both. It was Monday but unknown to us a public holiday. I planned to fly the original plan to Fort Simpson then onto Hay River. The others flew to Fort Nelson but I have been there twice before with BJ’s Australian Safari, so I wanted to see Fort Simpson, NWT. That desire cost me $150.00 call out fee to refuel. The territory was so remote even the Loran You want HOW much???? didn’t work properly at times; it showed our Arrow doing over 500kts. Fort Simpson, the “Fort of the Forks” refers to the confluence of the Mackenzie and the Liard Rivers. The leg to Hay River was along the “mighty” Mackenzie River. Flying over the Twin Falls near Hay River, the water flowing over the falls looked like chocolate. We stayed at the Ptarmigan Inn, within sight of the only liquor shop in town which was closed on a public holiday. The hotel dining room had only one waitress and one cook to serve 40 hungry fliers but soon other help arrived. The White Fish (local) was beautiful with good Australian wine. Lindeman’s was the house wine at Hay River, North West Territory. Due to the delay in Watson Lake, the organisers unfortunately had to delete one of our stopLouise Falls near Hay River overs: - Tadoule Lake. We decided that we would at least fly over Tadoule Lake as it was on our original flight path. Upon departure from Hay River, we tracked along the foreshore of the Great Slave Lake before turning SE towards the Slave River and Fort Smith. Stony Rapids was our next refuelling stop. CYSF– Stony Rapids
The vastness of this region is amazing, you look at the charts and there is nothing out there except small isolated lakes most too small to be named. It truly is a wilderness. The sight of a township is very reassuring as they all have airstrips. The only way to get most of these settlements is by air or in the winter by snow-mobile. A few of the larger towns are accessible by water, but only in the summer. Barges on the Mackenzie River bring in supplies to the region. If it wasn’t for the mines and the Indians (First Nation People) there would be no-one out there.
Our next problem was the lack of Avgas at Churchill. This required careful planning as head winds were forecast. Departing there with full fuel gave us enough to make Churchill and then CYBQ-Tadoule Lake south to Gillam, with NO headwinds. After refuelling at Stony Rapids, SK we head for Tadoule Lake and Churchill. As we flew over Tadoule Lake the girls said that they were glad in a way that we were not stopping there as they were not looking forward to sleeping on the floor in the Community Hall. But we regret not being able to meet the local Dene tribe and having Caribou spaghetti for dinner, we were to bring the spaghetti. As we approached Churchill we noted a white surface on Hudson Bay; it was an ice flow stretching for several miles out from the shore line. I estimated the amount of fuel remaining and decided we had enough to fly out over the ice. When we turned to track into Churchill, Tony in the Twin Comanche reported a sighting of polar bears and Caribou on the shore line. I flew to make a right base for the runway and taxied to the Esso base. He had at least 20 drums of avgas on a pallet. I asked, “I hear you are out of avgas, is that true?” He replied, “I haven’t had a delivery of avgas for 2 years. More importantly, I have not been asked for it in over 2 years”. I asked about the drums. He said “They are for emergency, price is $550 per 225lt drum, and you have to buy the whole drum”. With a reasonable wind I figured I could make it to Gillam (CYGX). Hudson Bay & Ice Flow
Other than a slight concern about fuel, Churchill was a blast! This is a real frontier town/settlement. The town council provided pizza at the airport on arrival and a barbecue dinner after we had settled in to our accommodation and warned us about bears:- Don’t walk alone at night and when (not if) you hear gunshots that is the ‘bear watch’ guys chasing bears out of town in the early morning. 4
We stayed at the Lazy Bear Lodge where a young man from Nerang, Brendon Moriarty works doing whatever needs to be done. He was so grateful for a tube of Vegemite. We brought supplies with us as requested by Guy. Canadians really can’t appreciate the taste. They threaten their children with it Lazy Bear Lodge and say it should be used for bear bait– Philistines!! Hospitality was outstanding. In the evening, still bright summer daylight, the Mayor Mike provided coffee and scones before introducing a 9th generation native story-teller Myrtle, who creates “caribou hair sculptures”. She kept us captivated with stories of generational interaction between the ethnic backgrounds who became the local people. The Scots who migrated and married the Cree Indian women and the Inuit and Metis. The native history we heard that night was Folk Lore as handed down through generations of “story-tellers”. She told of McKenzie and Macauley, early aviators; of David Liard and treaties but mostly folksy gossip from a big family woman’s point of view. How they trapped and stored food, what they thought of the men who came along and the women who joined with them. She told of plump women being popular as wives for their warmth in winter but the slim women did cause some “Tepee-Creeping!” at night. She told of ‘grandpa Dougal’ who had 24 children. That the women wore bead necklaces, the longer the better, but no one was allowed to brag. How the native adjusted to the white man’s trading and banking laws. When a son was born, dad would fire his rifle so other men came to celebrate. It was a most entertaining presentation. In the morning we did not buy fuel as a stiff northerly breeze would hasten our trip to Gillam but we did do a wide climbing turn to the right over the shoreline to check for bears and caribou. No luck! We arrived over Gillam with full reserves in the tank, by calculation. This was confirmed when we filled the tanks after the proprietor arrived. He flew in 15 minutes after our shut down which allowed 3 other rally planes to catch us. I had not waited at Churchill while the slower planes prepared for flight. We set course for Pickle Lake (pop 479) but the weather was closing. The old Arrow was fitted with a KR87 ADF and Canada is comfortable with plenty of NDB’s. We flew over Sachigo Lake and Round CYPL-Pickle Lake Lake, both floatplane bases, and so many lakes with the occasional floatplane moored to the shore; an abundance of fresh water everywhere. The Garmin 296 confirmed the NDB to Pickle Lake where many of the town people met us at the airport then drove us to the accommodation. The mayor and councillors of Pickle Lake arranged with North Star Air (NSA) for a reception in their hanger which worked well as light rain fell as we arrived. GA thrives in Canada. NSA flies 3 Caravans with cargo pods and another on floats to supply the northern settlements. It was great to have Guy and the others join us at last. The organised barbecue with delicious. “White Fish” (walleye and pickerel caught that morning) cooked on an open fire with outstanding views overlooking Pickle Lake. We called into the local (and the only) convenience store to purchase “adult libations”. It was also the liquor store but on the shelves we found Australian wines and 3 varieties of Tim Tams labelled “Made in AustraGuy... “It’s about time you lia”. After the BBQ we went on a scenic tour to the local rubbish tip, got here. I’ve been waiting Bears at tip to watch the black bears scavenge. for days.” From Pickle Lake we headed for Nakina, NDB then tracked for Geraldton (NDB and VOR) mainly because it is the same name as the Western Australian town. Then we tracked the Ameson VOR onto Kapuskasing via the Kasing NDB. As usual the PA30 Twin Comanche flew higher and faster than most of us and on many occasions filed IFR while we were VFR. He was often joined up there by David and Steven in the Piper Seneca. As the “lead dogs” they gave reports of the forward weather so we could compare it to the forecasts. I recall when I was a PPL and strictly visual that I often chose not to fly when low clouds or CB’s were forecasts. When Tony or Jim reported cloud ahead, it caused VFR pilots to fear for their own safety. On one occasion when the lead dog reported possible thunderstorms, Don in the Mooney fitted with a Strike-Finder countered with reports of “No Action” on his screen. It is a matter of how it is observed. There were clouds, for sure and they may have been as dense as 4/8th of cover but not impossible for competent low time VFR pilots. As I progressed with time and gained experience, I ventured to fly on days which forecast poor weather but none visible as far as I could see. I flew out to check the forecast. I ensured I always had at least two alternates available to me even if it was simply to return to GO (departure point) and not collect anything more than experience. But I did learn that a forecast is just that; an expert’s estimation that defined conditions will produce an estimated results and even if they are correct it may occur only for a short time during the forecast period. For those reasons I tended to accept the opinions offered by the lead dog with a few grain of scepticism. I check what I can see in the sky ahead and then flew safely within the rules of VFR and my capability. 5
After passing Geraldton the cloud cover diminished but still we landed on a wet runway at Kapuskasing. The most difficult part of this approach was actually saying “Kapuskasing”. ( Kap-u-ska-sing). The local community prepared a great welcome, led by the mayor and his council. At dinner, Camil invited us to the official table and asked me to say a few words as the winner of the Kapuskasing Town Flag. We won that Flag Presentation ETA! Now I really had to learn how to pronounce the town’s name. I learned the theory of weather when I studied meteorology but now I was experiencing weather not seen in Australia. I had never flown through a warm front with dreadful visibility exactly as stated in the text books. I was astounded at the rapid movement of advection fogs. I checked the Sectional Charts for high points to plan my lowest safe altitudes. With careful map reading and a GPS, I was constantly aware of our position over the ground. The magnetic variation on the Sectional Charts went from 25W one day to 1E the next. That’s why Radio Compasses (ADF’s using NDB’s) are plentiful in Canada. Next morning Kapuskasing extended its hospitality with tours of the town museum set inside train carriages and the local rail station. It is a very interesting experience. We saw magnificent sculptures, models by a local artist depicting life in rural Canada at that time, 1930’s; it was a tough life by today’s standards. They even had Helen’s sewing machine on display, always knew she was a museum piece.
Kapuskasing to Rouyn was a short simple run but again, more than a few clouds at 5000 made it difficult. I wanted to track by Lake Abitibi but it was safer to fly well south due clouds and rain. They pushed us down as Iroquois Falls– Power Station we progressed but as I was told so many years ago, “Always leave yourself an ‘OUT ”. Fly within your own capabilities or limitations and be sure you always have a way out of any difficult situation. As far as possible I flew VFR, in sight of ground or water and on this leg I was forced lower and lower, from 5500 initially to 3500 over Iroquois Falls township. We tracked around showers of rain. I advised those following where to find clear skies. The Comanche reported heavy rain overhead but he was flying an IFR track so what else could he expect? Once again, we were so lucky as the weather cleared 20nm out from Noranda-Rouyn. By tracking to the NDB we made a straight in approach to RW08. A John Deere tractor with a front-end loader was manoeuvring around the planes on the tarmac. I was apprehensive that they might use it to park the planes like a motorised ramp tug but no; they used it to move concrete logs into place as tie-down weights. The locals had “Tim Horton” coffee and donuts waiting for us. Tim Horton was an American hockey hero who now owns a take-out cafe chain. They appear more frequently in Canada than the golden arches. The donuts were always fresh and welcomed. After being taken to our lodgings for the night, we were given a tour of the Xstrata Copper Foundry, the chimneys of which are used as a landmark on approach to Rouyn (CYUY). Following the tour we had another civil reception and flag awarding ceremony. Xstrata Copper Foundry
Rouyn Award Ceremony
The next leg was into Pierre Trudeau Airport (PTA), the main terminal for Montreal. We accepted a written copy from the Air Boss of our special departure procedures and thanked God for fine weather and blue skies. Flight time was about 1 hour. The Approach controller directed us to a certain heading Jet taking off @ Mirabel to facilitate a Jet taking off from Mirabel, which we learned is the home to Bombardier Challenger Jets. They are now built in many sizes but still like the DC9 with 2 engine pods at the rear. We slotted in with RPT and executive jet traffic at PTA (Pierre Trudeau Airport, Montreal). This was a big deal for single engine pistons to land at the capitol city airport and the FBO, Sky Service treated us royally. The controller asked me Short Final at Montreal to make a short approach to RW24L from a right base, across the final approach to RW Right. I turned final about 100’ over the threshold (e118’) and took the reverse high speed turn off (A1) as directed; we (the controller and I ) were both impressed and happy with the result. 6
The FBO (Sky Services) usually deals with execute jets but the line boys directed us to parking and treated us to luxury service. Our hotel was the Fairmont, Queen Elizabeth in the heart of Montreal which continued our royal treatment. All afternoon we explored the city with Guy (pronounced with a soft g, Gee, sounds like the Bee Gees), a local French Canadian as our guide so we did all the first time tourist things in the historic district. Guy then took us to the main railway station for one of the best dinners on the Rally. See, local knowledge does pay off! Talk about service!! Montreal was the end of the first half of the Rally, the Western Sector. There were 17 planes:3 Cherokee 6’s, 2 Arrows, Mooney M20E, Diamond DA32, CirrusSR20, 7 C172’s, a Lake Renegade plus a Twin Comanche B and a Seneca 2 initially. The young instructors in the other Arrow had problems with their Duty Times, so went home. Norman and Tania from Minnesota had problems with their C172 and finished the rally in a Beech Muskateer. Several other planes left the Rally in Montreal, but we did get fresh blood.
Now, we began the eastern sector. We fly from Montreal to the east coast and see some of the most beautiful areas of Canada, according to the locals. We will fly about 60% of the distance as the western leg with 3 legs over open water. We were about to experience gear problems with the Arrow. In the east, we encounter bi-lingual controllers who amazed me with the ease with which they switched languages- French to excellent English. The first leg was to Chicoutimi St Honore, Quebec., about 296nm. The controller suggested we track along the St Lawrence River at altitudes up to 1500’. Some flew as low as 500’ but we were at 1500 to enjoy the view. We tracked the river (it is so easy to follow!) to overfly historic and beautiful Quebec City. Most of us requested “Flight Following” out of Montreal, so I listened for Don Berliner in the Mooney. The controller offered him a clearance to orbit over the historic precincts of the city. Naturally, I requested the same when I flew over that area. Paul and Diane from Australia had toured this area with Guy before the Rally started. Old Quebec City & Fort
As we approached the ski slopes near the Baie St Paul, a short, easy drive from Quebec, I decided not to fly up to the Saguenay River into St Honore but to fly over the hills en route. Once over the ski slopes the terrain was not very interesting, so I turned right towards the river. I never made it to the river. I notice my speed had dropped dramatically. I was unaware of any other change as I checked all the instruments on my panel. Jenny said, “Is the gear down?”. I had 3 greens; I did not hear or feel the gear go down. I suspected hydraulic troubles but I selected it up anyway. Nothing happened. I scratched my head and thought about the Piper auto gear system. This happened to me once before in a Saratoga but that was ice on the gear pitot when the heat was U/S. This time, there was no ice but the gear was down, then Jenny reminded me of the pool of oil under the plane in the morning at Rouyn. I had checked the oil dipstick so I thought it must have been from someone else, but now I realised it was my hydraulic fluid. I selected the gear UP to no avail. I selected it down and tried again several times but each selection confirmed my diagnosis of a loss of hydraulic fluid and that the gear was Down and Locked. If you are going to have a gear failure this is the BEST kind; it was down, full stop! I requested a clearance through Bagotville, Class D’ then copied the Chicoutimi St-Honore ATIS offered in English 134.8 or French 124.95. Approaching St Honore I called the tower to request a fly by to have them visually confirm the gear. They conCYRC-Chicoutimi-St.Honore firmed it was 3 down so I made a longish approach and planned a feather touch-down. It was heavy enough to confirm the gear was locked! We fuelled and taxied across to the sponsoring flight academy. This is an impressive organisation even if government sponsored. They have been turning out commercial pilots in 3 categories, CPL fixed, CPL rotor and CPL bush pilot floats since 1965. This year they had over 2000 applicants, 150 only are accepted. We attended a lecture of their history which was later tested in a written quiz. Talk about a tough school! They even had a paper plane competition, in which we placed second to Martin and Chris in the C6. It was close! From the airport with our luggage aboard, buses took us to the local ski resort for a presentation and drinks and then to a cute country inn. We enjoyed a sumptuous meal in true country style with music and local wines. There was singing and dancing and after all this gaiety, the bus drove us to our billets and guess what? At 23:13 local we were the last to disembark, but I guess someone has to be last! HOWEVER, I did notice that we drove past the airport only 6 minutes from our billet. We stayed at a private home which entertains “B&B’s”. The swinging sign, at the gate called it, “Papillion d’Or”. The rooms at the “B&B” were superb. We shared the house with Paul, Diana and Gail from Australia. Each room was named after a different butterfly. The breakfast was an enormous country breakfast, fresh fruits and home-cooked breads. It was amazing. From the windows, we noticed rain water on the clothes line. It rained overnight. In the morning the bus drove the reverse route so I was able to persuade her to drop me at the airport to have the engineers start early on the Piper Arrow undercarriage.
Exact Aviation on the other side of the field agreed to fix the gear which they diagnosed as faulty “O” rings. And they were correct. The Arrow was ready early afternoon. Weather again delayed the start of the Rally flying out to Havre St Pierre. I noticed they fixed the “Gear in Transit” light so I was confident of a thorough job. 7
We must compliment Catherine for the accommodation at St Honore, a small town with few hotels. Catherine organised home billeting plus B&B’s. Fate was with us as the Rally departure was delayed by weather, so we departed only 15 minute behind. Most tracked down the Saguenay River to the St Lawrence but we flew direct to Baie Comeau, being careful to avoid the Military Restricted Area at A6000. Sept Iles smelter
As we approached Sept Iles it occurred to me what the name meant; seven islands, and sure enough there they were. And there was a huge factory with rail lines, coal stock piles and infrastructure to support the huge titanium smelter. At Havre St Pierre, our destination, we learned that titanium is the main local industry along with fishing; it is the only titanium mine in Canada. Once again the Twin Comanche (PA30) was the front runner and reported difficult weather en-route. The forecast had not been favourable but Tony CYGV– Havre St Pierre reported all clear 20 nm from the destination. Because we flew almost direct, we were second to arrive. An RPT Navajo was parked near the PA30 and the fences were lined with people. I thought someone famous must be departing but they were there with their children to see the Rally planes arrive. Havre welcome
Transport Canadian has remote radios at most airports to facilitate the opening and closing of flight plans, report movements and pass on reported weather. That is flight watch in Canada usually on 126.7. The Navajo departed and the 2 Cherokee 6’s arrived in close company downwind. The Seneca came in and then so did the Advection Fog. It is a simple stratus cloud on the ground blown by the local wind and can move at 20 kts or so. The Flight Service officer is at a remote location and so is unaware of local conditions except for pilot reports. An RPT Navajo tried to land off a Localizer/DME approach but had to go around. We saw him fly over but he did not have the slant visibility. Steve was leading the Cessna's (all 172’s), followed by Don in the Mooney. The fog rolled over us and suddenly there was a clear patch above but it rolled away as quickly as it had appeared. The strip is 4500’, elevation124’
Steve appearing out of the fog
Steve’s C172S has a G1000 Glass Cockpit which gives a fantastic pictorial presentation of the runway strip. We knew there is radio mast up to 700’, 2.3mile W of the western threshold near the NDB. He made an approach from the west, which was downwind and broke out 200’ above the western threshold. He was too high and too fast so had to go around and climb back above the fog. He needed guidance, so I climb back into the Arrow and cranked up the radio. We had me on the ground, the FS remote operator, the IFR Navajo, Steve and Don somewhere above the fog. The wind was a westerly so the approach had to be from the east as the Navajo had done on his IFR Approach. Don advised the other C172’s to return to Sept Iles. Then a hole blew over the field. I advised Steve that holes were appearing and his best bet was to try NW of the strip to become visual and then make a visual approach. The Navajo and FS listened. FS gave the latest forecast plus an amended METAR. Steve made visual ground contact 5 nm NW of Steve &Gillian receiving award the field and flew under the cloud to the strip, then tracked along the strip to Havre Reception make a low steep turn and join final for a landing. As he taxied in, after such a sterling effort, all the pilots applauded his landing. Don followed him in. Steve tracked the whole approach on his I-phone. Later at the reception Camil awarded Steve the flag and a special prize for that impressive landing. Don received an award for being the last plane in. So the group was separated, some of us at Havre St Pierre the rest in Sept Iles. We were really sad that they didn’t make it to the seafood buffet that was put on for us. But they would have been proud of us eating their share and not wasting any of the lobster, scallops and prawns. Next morning Tuesday 11th, we enjoyed a cruise around the Mingan Archipelago along the coast. A lovely young lady gave a commentary. She told of the bird life, local fish species and we watched scallop boats shelling the harvest while we spoke with the crew. This allowed the other planes to catch up. Mingan Archipelago
Departure weather was fine, at last! We followed the coast to Natashquan VOR and NDB. Jenny and Helen were clicking photos all the way with so many small waterfalls and rapids; so much fresh water astounded us Aussies. We followed the coast to Harrington Harbour (Chevery NDB), then NE to St Augustin NDB DME on to Lourdes-de-Blanc-Sablon to refuel. Next was 23nm water crossing with a NO GO ADIZ 5nm to the east. We were going to the island of NewfoundNewfoundland coastline land. Guy Houde advised us to fly the west coast rather than down the centre. I had planned coastal to Fort au Choix but bowed to his superior knowledge of the area. We continued down to Bonne Bay and followed the west arm to Highway 431.
That led us to Deer Lake NDB SW of the RW05. The FBO arranged hangerage for all the Rally planes as well as supplying us with T-shirts and the ubiquitous Tim Horton’s donuts, some people were becoming addicted. Jenny and her mum took 500 photos that day. It was that beautiful. We were then CYDF—Deer Lake bussed to Corner Brook for our overnight stop. No civic reception here, the Mayor changed his mind at the last moment, so we were free do as we liked. “The washing!”. We found a laundromat and a General store, now we were set for they next leg with clean clothes and lunch supplies. Breakfast was not included at the wonderful hotel in Corner Brook Corner Brook-Paper Mill but we enjoyed our morning cereal in the dining room. On the bus ride back to Deer Lake Airport I tried to snap the photos I missed on the outgoing journey. The planes were still in the hanger so the late arrivals had the advantage to depart early. We needed to refuel and phone in the flight plan but we still departed before the slower planes (or are they just slower pilots?). Next was planned our longest water crossing. Some pilots slipped into dry rubber-suits; others wore life vests and some simply flew with confidence. We were in a rental plane used by a flying school! We departed Deer Lake full of fuel and confidence. We tracked south west to Stephenville. Deer Lake is 17nm long. To our left was Grand Lake, 6 times larger. We flew over Stephenville to Port au Port Peninsula, back to Flat Bay and coastal to St Andrews Codroy Valley to start the 60nm over water leg to Cape Breton Island. Plans were a little astray here as we were to visit Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island, but now we went along the coastline to Port Hawkesbury. Port Hawkesbury We were all delighted with the scenic beauty down the coast of the cape and followed the highway from Port Hood. The NDB is in line with the runway off the eastern end of RW11. These NDB’s proved useful and were obviously used with other azmuth aids as locators. Sure did help me to locate the airport! Next leg was the eastern shores of Northumberland Straits to Trenton NDB and then using the GPS to bypass Halifax Stanfield Intl., and overfly Shearwater Class “D”. That used to be the main airport for Halifax. The controllers were very helpful. We turned west to Digby, beautifully located near the Bay of Fundy. When we landed we were treated to a feast of Scallops with seaweed cooked on a barbecue. Delicious! Digby welcome Catherine organised accommodation at the Digby Pines, a luxurious resort hotel. The reception was spectacular in the stone courtyard. Speeches were made and the Digby flag presented. Dan (Winnipeg Aviation) told me the Arrow was serviced before we departed. It would need a 50hr oil change somewhere around the rally and now it was very close. At Digby we discovered a small workshop which specialised in airplane rebuilds and renovations. He could do the oil change. He phoned Dan for authorisation and spoke with Jim the engineer in Winnipeg. Seems the plane needed a 100hourly which was duly authorised. While that was in progress we were taken on a drive to collect some lobster by a local flyer, Peter Burnie. Jenny met him the previous day upon arrival and at the reception dinner, she teased him about flying a plastic plane (Cirrus), so the jokes kept coming from there. He drove us to a wonderful restaurant in the area of Boars Head. He said he had a few fishing boats licenses, plus he owned the local packaging plant. No wonder we got special service at the restaurant. I saw unusual flags flying (Arcadian) the Arcadians are very proud of their heritage. We planned to depart Digby flying along the Digby Neck, a narrow isthmus running SW., to Boar’s Head, NW across the Bay to Grand Manan Island then back NE to Saint John, New Brunswick., but as the time moved on we decided to fly direct to Saint John 25nm across the Bay of Fundy. Our pleasant excursion was curtailed. We found the hotel and joined the group for dinner at Skippers Theatre Restaurant. Dinner was underway by the time we arrived and everyone was enjoying themselves. Steve was pulled onto the stage to help the singer/comedian with his act. Camil and Laurent were brought to the stage to compete in the Lobster Stroking competition, Laurent won. We are starting to realise that the conclusion is closing in on us. I set a very loose ETA for the next leg to Mont Joli on the south shore of Fleuve Ste Laurent. We made this a very enjoyable and scenic leg. After take off we flew SW to the shore line then turned NW to overfly the City and port then followed the St John River around the “LIVE FIRING AREA” marked with hatching on the sectional.
At Gagetown we were cleared by military controllers to fly along the river through Fredericton Class “D”. We continued to zig and zag with the river slowly turning northward. Guy warned us not to cross the border at Houlton where the river is as close as 5nm. We stayed east of the river to Grand Falls wondering if the Americans would shoot us down if we transgressed the border line on our map. We followed the 17 Highway from St Leonards to St Quentin and Downs Gulch. I still had oodles of time to spare for the ETA so we flew to the River Matapedia then traced it north to Lac Matapedia. I heard other planes flying into Mont Joli so I knew the runway and altimeter setting. The approach notes say to track over Ste Angele de Merici SSE of the airport. 9
The Rally planes were parked on RW33 threshold with a party progressing on the grass. We left a note for the fuel man and joined the fun. The towns folk had come to greet us and where looking over all the planes. Mon Joli Motel Soon the bus arrived and we were taken to the official reception. From here the group divide up, some going to an Art Gallery and the others to a botanical garden before going to the hotel. The motel was on a hill overlooking the town. From our balcony we could see 30 Mon Joli coastline or more sculptured sheep grazing. This is an artist’s town with a multitude of galleries. The people are friendly and welcoming. Michãelle’s birthday was celebrated at the evening frivolities. Next morning the westerly was quite strong. This was the last leg of the rally, Saturday 15th August. I expected a slow trip, but the wind abated and we progressed quite well. I saw the entrance to Riviere Saguenay which I missed on the flight up the river. I had flown the US side on a previous safari in 08. Entry through Quebec Class “C” and into Montreal Class “C” was easy. The Rally planes arrived in a line to RW24 at Mirabel. The Cherokee 6 of George and Mark made a slow approach because of a slower plane preceding them. We were vectored behind them and made a zigzag approach onto the long runway. It was planes taxiing on the 12,000ft runway which caused the problem. Mirabel & Bombardier
After a security check by Bombardier, we were allowed to enter the factory and have our final reception and awards ceremony. Before the award was made, executives took groups of 6 on an inspection tour of the production line in the factory of the Canadian-made Bombardier Airliners in Mirabel, Quebec. Sorry, no pictures from inside, but it is a very impressive assembly line:- so clean.
We Got Here!!
After the ceremony several people headed for home, the rest of us took the bus to our motel, Comfort Inn at St Jerome. We were a happy group. The rally was over, we had second place and now could unwind after weeks of timetables and tension. The Rally group eventually decided on an Asian restaurant in St Jerome. Camil, his son Jnr, daughter Michãelle, and Catherine stayed, Mark Helseth, and his co pilot George, in the Cherokee 6, plus Gilles and Celine stayed. Valerie and her 2 sons were there plus Steve and Gillian and of course Jenny, Helen and myself, Gift presentation 16 in all. Most of the Americans went back to work; Guy, Patsy and Sylvie to Camil & Catherine went back to Quebec while Paul, Diana and Gail joined Jim, Tony, Dianne and Elaine for a party on Drummond Island, Lake Huron in Michigan. It was a wonderful dinner and sad to be parting company. All we had ahead now was to return the Piper to Winnipeg, catch the Greyhound Coach to Grand Forks North Dakota, pick up a car and drive to Los Angeles. The bus tickets and the car were booked but nothing else. This was to be another adventure of the family kind. Next morning, Steve and Gillian flew part way with us but the visibility was so bad that we never saw them after take-off. We did have radio contact. Following take-off from Mirabel I held runway track until I reached the river. I could not fly higher than 1500 as the visibility was very poor. Montreal Approach warned of gliders in the area, so I gave a wide birth to airports with glider symbols. At the river I had to fight an urge to turn right as this was not the St Lawrence but an arm that runs north-west. I wanted to fly south-west. I estimated a heading of 230 to take me to Cornwall Regional airport on the north bank of the river. At 30 miles, Approach passed me onto Terminal for Flight Following and I was grateful. On the GPS we passed over several airports without sighting them. The Massena VOR is on the corner of the USA border. I recognised names from my last safari when we flew on the US shoreline in the opposite direction. We passed Ogdenburg where we turned east last year. Soon we would be over the Thousand Islands. I hoped for an improvement in visibility so Helen could enjoy a truly memorable sight. It did improve a bit which gave me hope that we had passed the worst of it. Helen clicked her camera as we circled and weaved over the islands looking for Boldt Island, to no avail.
The visibility deteriorated as we headed for Kingston which was quite visible but next was Trenton, not so visible; the warm front was thickening with visibility getting worse. At Trenton Class “D”, I needed a clearance. I was using Guy’s charts and he, like a good pilot had written the frequencies on them. He wrote ATIS, Terminal and Tower. Jenny checked the CFS to be sure they were current. I took a clearance at 2500, heading west. The Bay of Quinte was just visible but not the airports nearby. Flight Following passed me to Oshawa tower for the next 10 miles. When I contacted Centre west of Oshawa he offered me a clearance at an altitude of my choice across Lake Ontario to Niagara. I took it at 5500 and started to climb. 10
I lost sight of the surface of the lake. Ten miles out we started descent towards the mouth of the Niagara River. I deadreckoned the heading from the GPS bearing. Soon Fort Niagara came into Poor Visibility over sight and Helen’s camera started snapping. We tracked along the river to Fort Niagara St Lawrence River the magnificent falls. You cannot help but be emotional at the sight of such a natural wonder; the power and the magnitude of millions of litres per second surging around Goat Island to fall into a bed of foam and spray. We saw the minute “Maid of the Mist” ferry boat nibbling at the edge of the turbulence. Fuel was becoming a concern. We topped up at Quebec as there was no avgas at Mirabel. My initial plan was to fly through Toronto and top up at Hamilton. When Centre offered me the clearance across Lake OnNiagara Falls tario, a quick mental calculation indicated flying 2 sides of a triangle instead of one. The increase was just 30nm, 90 instead of 60 to reach Hamilton Class “D”. After landing we taxied to the Esso sign but there was no action anywhere on the ground. I requested assistance on the GND frequency but all he could do was direct me to the Shell FBO. We called on the frequency displayed on the building but the response was totally nothing. We parked. I walked to the Esso FBO while Jenny went to the Shell. The Esso was locked. There was no movement anywhere on this large airport. Jenny reported the attendant in the Shell was reading a book and would assist us “soon”.
Hamilton is a big airport, obviously handles lots of jet and cargo traffic but no training as it was dormant. Eventually we refuelled, had a cool drink from the vending machine and were on our way to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, across the river from the US airport and casino. Some time ago I read about Gore Bay as a wonderful place to have lunch, overlooking Georgian Bay. The leg to Wiarton VOR is 110nm. We climbed to 4500 looking for better visibility but even at 6500 we were still surrounded by warm front mish mash. Occasionally we caught glimpses of the ground to challenge our map reading skills but the GPS knew where we were all the time. En-route we heard occasional calls from traffic but mostly the skies were quiet. We were 4500’ at Wairton on descent to 1500, so we could enjoy the reputed view. The Bruce Peninsula reaches north-west 50nm with Tobermory airport on the tip. We flew over 15nm of Main Channel to the next land mass after contacting Flight Service on 126.7. We heard a float plane approaching Manitowaning. We tracked towards the NDB at Gore Bay, determined to see the place but the conditions beat us. We were hot in the humid air and the visibility was woeful. We saw an airstrip but little else, unfortunately. We continued to track over the northern shore line of Drummond Island and spared a thought for Tony and Jim in the Twin Comanche with Paul, Diana and Gail in the Canadian C172. We pressed on to Sault Ste Marie, We recognised the “Soo Lochs” and contacted Soo Tower Class “D” for clearance. The airport is a long way from town. It is a $40 cab ride to our motel. Maid in The Mist
CYAM– Sault Ste Marie
F-18 & Arrow
Next morning Monday 17th August, we arrived at the FBO to refuel the Arrow. On the tarmac next to us was a Royal Canadian Air Force FA18 painted in Centenary colours which was the motive for the entire Air Rally. The FA18 had landed during a rain storm, skidded and was now grounded until cleared by engineers. We were flying a Canadian registered plane so we had to stay over Canadian Territory besides I wanted to see Lake Superior. We flew over the steep and ragged edges of Goulis Bay, around Rudderhead Point to Batchawana seaplane base. We followed the road along the shore to Montreal Bay dams and power houses. I started to gain the impression that Canada has a lot in common with Australia based on its primary industry and natural resources. We continued up the shoreline to Wawa, which was as busy as an anthill. Marathon
CYXZ-Wawa I decided to stay inland and follow the powerlines to Marathon. A major rail line came in from the east 5 nm from town. Variation here is 5W. As we continued west the shoreline was dotted with settlements and industry. A major highway followed the rail along the coast while the power cables went across the hilltops. The area looked prosperous. We continued to follow the shoreline from Copper and Wilson Island across Black Bay heading into Thunder Bay Class “D”.
I planned a scenic route back to Winnipeg. Elevation at Thunder Bay is 653’. I planned to fly to Atikokan then International Falls, Sioux Narrows, Kenora then via Brereton Lake to St Andrews. They are great sounding CYQT-Thunder Bay names which evoke certain images, which I wanted to see. Atikokan has an elevation of 1285’ which meant flying close to the ground and cloud base or going through a hole to the sunny weather on top. That’s what I did, so Jenny then said “We may as well go straight back.” That actually made a lot of sense, so I replanned on the GPS and we set a course for St Andrews. Seventy miles from St Andrews we found a large opening in the sky so I descended below the cloud to track on home. We were given a left base for RW22. It was a good landing to finish the Rally trip. Montreal to home base was 1253nm on the GPS. CYAV-St Andrews
We worked out the account allowing for the repair to the hydraulic pump then called a limo to take the 3 of us to the Holiday Inn at Winnipeg. Jenny had cleverly planned this motel because it is next to the Bus Station. Or it was! Over the weekend they moved the Bus Depot to Winnipeg International ‘James Armstrong Richardson’ Airport. From our room we could see a Greyhound Bus in the deserted bus only parking lot. I guessed the bus driver was lodging Limo to hotel in our motel for the night and would be driving to the new depot in the morning. I was right! Next time I will act on my premonitions. Meantime we explored Winnipeg on the “FREE” tourist buses which follow 4 routes through town. We awoke at 5am, Thursday 20th, to take the limo to the bus depot at Winnipeg Airport. We needed a limo for all our bags as most of the taxis in town were Toyota Prius cars. The bus was due to depart at 9am so we arrived at 7.30am. The depot was almost empty but that changed as coaches arrived and departed without a sign of the Grand Forks coach. When it did appear, it was indeed the one parked outside our motel. The depot became crowded with people sitting on their cases. The computer system crashed so all the tickets had to be processed manually. Eventually we departed at 10.08am. Now began the research trip for our next Safari – The Wild West 2011. But that is another story.