Thursday, June 11, 2009

Weather to fly

So, the last week or so up here has been pretty crappy weather-wise.

Lots of rain, mist, fog, low overcast skies, wind...

Up north there was even a day of snow, which sucked for those guests that were up here, trying to get some fishing in.

Sucked for me too, as most of the work I'm doing, I do outdoors. I've brought appropriate clothing and dress for the weather but it still sucks. No mater how good our rain gear is, there is always a trickle which finds its way down your neck. No matter how good your rubber boots are, there is always a job or docking which suddenly requires you to jump into knee-deep cold lake water.

One saving grace with all this crappy weather is that for the most part, it was weather I would not fly in, but ended up flying in anyways. Luckily, this isn't one of those situations you hear about where someone is pressured into flying in weather they aren't comfortable in, rather, I got the chance to fly along with a very experienced pilot, who was ( and had every right to be ) comfortable flying in those conditions. As a passenger up front, I got to see what it looks like in conditions that I would have turned down. Some of the flights I finished thinking...yeah... I wouldn't have gone... but on others, I felt like my personal limits had been tested (safely ) and I ended them thinking... ' hm, that wast as bad as I thought. "

I also had some time and real first hand experience, to put some hard and fast numbers on my personal weather limits, as far as visibility and ceilings are concerned. I won't get into specifics, but it is nice to have real numbers in mind when I'm thinking about those choices and knowing what the wrong side of those numbers looks like.

Its also interesting how those numbers change when you're flying floats or wheels. On floats, particularly in this country, you are flying over a "runway rich environment " most of the time. In the event of an emergency or weather deterioration, you almost always have an "airport" nearby, in the form of a lake or river, upon which to land, even if it is just temporarily, to wait out bead weather.

On wheels though, if your engine dies in particular, you need to have options and time. This usually means altitude. Altitude can be traded for both time and distance. Time and distance may be able to buy you a safe landing in a field, on a road, or if you are really lucky, at an airport.

On floats, I am quite comfortable at 500 feet or so, provided there is water under me, or very close by at all times. On wheels, I don't feel comfortable at anything less than 1500 feet unless there is a runway under me or very close by. I'm sure this will change with time and experience, but for now, those are some of my numbers.

Had a very small run-in with a bear as well. Me and another dockhand were down at a camp doing some maintenance, when I spotted the bear about 250 metres away. we tried to get a little closer to get some pictures, but he ran away. So, pretty much a non-event.

Also had small moose swim across the lake in front of our base.

This is a picture of a group of trees that were apparently blown down by a tornado last year.

Its interesting how the trees here are anchored in such thin soil that even a good sized thunderstorm can blow down quite a good chunk of forest. All thats left is the trees all laying over on their sides, each with a rootball of dirt sticking up in the air at one end of the downed tree.


  1. Awesome pics as usual! I'm living the float dream along side you vicariously...LOL.

    Neat to see the moose!

    Sorry about the shitty weather, have been having similar problems here myself. Used to being able to blast off in 200 and 1/2...but now I'm back to that won't be happening anytime soon.

    Keep on having fun!

  2. Like you, flying below 1500 ft agl with wheels used to make me a little nervous until I came to this conclusion: Over the terrain I fly over, flying at a higher altitude will only get me one thing - time. If I'm at 500 or 5000, I'm still going to end up landing in swamp, so what's the difference? I still like to fly high for better TAS, but I don't mind being down in the muck at 300 agl (lowest legal altitude you can fly with pax as per 703) either if there's cloud above. That being said, floats would be nice, but thats not what I fly.

    Keep up the posting! I enjoy them.

  3. Thats a pretty good point Chad, I never really thought of it that way.... In thinking about it, finding " a field, on a road, or if you are really lucky, at an airport ", is almost comical, given what is usually beneath us...