Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hangin Around

We've had it nice for the last couple of days. No camp openings, so we've stayed at base to assist with getting the planes and guests ready for departure and arrival. Most mornings have us up at 5 or 6 AM and out getting the aircraft ready, fueled, oiled, untied, loaded, floats pumped out and guests gear all sorted out and ready to go.

Most of our guests are Americans, up from the East Coast or Midwest, and most have been coming here for a long time. In the midst of all the stuff we have to do and get ready for, its easy to forget that for these guys, its vacation time. For the most part they are all in a great mood and very excited to be going on the trip and the ride in the aircraft as well.

We've had an interesting time today with one of the larger aircraft. We had an offshore wind blowing when it came in, so it was docked accordingly, but not in its usual spot. As this was the last flight of the day, it had to be maneuvered by hand along the docks and actually tuned around to be parked in its night spot. The wind pushing the aircraft was almost too much for us three greenhorns and it took a few tries and false starts before we got it in place. I'm sure by the end of the season, I'll laugh at what will most likely be handled easily by two guys that know what they are doing versus three that don't.

Up this morning at 0330 for a 0400 start, things starting to heat up with guest arrivals and change-outs now that most of the camps are full. Beautiful morning over the lake, sun rising and the loons and other birds making all kinds of noise. One you get over the first thirty minutes or so of wishing you were back in bed, getting up this early sure is nice. You just cant beat a sunrise or quiet morning sitting by the lake as the world wakes up. Its even nice enough this morning that I took my little netbook outside to sit on the deck and type this outside.

Speaking of the netbook, boy am I glad I brought this thing. Its been a real life line to the outside world for all of us in the shack( my new name fr our humble abode ). Most of the time it lives on the kitchen table and someone is usually using it, checking emails, reading interweb rumours and news, checking AvCanada and using Skype to chat with folks back home.

My Lovely Wife tripped yesterday and broke her foot. That's been a little tough, more on her than me obviously, but it kind of sucks to not be able to be there with her. She's got a cast on now and is adjusting to her new life as a cripple. We've planned a trip for her to come out here mid-june, so this might change things a little given that she is not going to be able to do much driving. Originally the plan was for her to fly to the nearest big city and then drive from there to here. Given my experience with the other forms of transport available, it seemed to be wise to learn from my mistakes... now it looks like I will have to drive to the city, be it in a rental car or in a borrowed set of wheels. One of the guys here has a car that is most likely going to be on-site soonish and has graciously offered its use to me, so that would work out well.

It will be nice to have car around base as well for us guys to use, its a little bit isolated where we are. We've met one guy who frequents one of our fishing spots but other than that, our access to the rest of town, and the pilot community that exists there, is quite limited without wheels. Even to get a little social group going would be nice. Doesn't have to be house parties and bar marathons, even a weekly poker game or some organized outdoor activities would be cool.

We finally had a fish fry last night. We had caught a few nice walleye at our secret spot yesterday and as their was no rain today, we got to try the outdoor fish-fry method of cooking them. Basically, the fish is filetted and then dipped in batter, to be deep-fried. The end result is not unlike your basic english fish and chips type of fish. Much better though, considering its walleye instead of cod... I mixed the first batch of batter a little of the heavy sde and didnt use quite enough water. ( actually, I tried using beer, with little difference in the result, so no more wasting of the precious suds ) As the batter was so thick, it soaked up a lot more of the oil than was intended and the first batch of fish was a little on the greasy side. We had a total of 4 nice sized fish ( 16-18 IN ) and were cooking for three guys. We were worried at first that we did not have enough, given how small the fillets looked on the plate pre-fry, but we only ended up eating half of what we had, the rest will be lunch for today.

Looks like summer is fast approaching in us now, forecast for this week is calling for mostly clear skies and temperatures up to 20 C, which will be nice. Typically Canadian, I will whine about he cold until it turns warm, then I will be happy for bout a week, till it gets hot, then I'll whine about the heat all summer till it urns cool for another week before the cold sets in.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Back from The North

Wow, that was quite the trip. We left base on a Tuesday morning, expecting to be gone for 3-4 days. We ended up returning the following Monday morning, almost a week in total.

The trip started well, with an hour and a bit long flight, fully loaded with gear, up to our northern base camp. We had enough equipment and supplies to open a couple camps and there was a substantial amount of stuff cached at the northern camp as well in order for us to open up the closest five camps, once we were up there.

Weather was dicey going up, but not too bad. Had to break ice with the boats again to get the larger aircraft in to dock and offload. Its pretty impressive how much ice a little 14 foot aluminum boat with a15 HP outboard motor can push around the lake. Can't push it very fast, but its impressive to see that much ice slowly being maneuvered around by a little boat.

One of the main pieces of gear we brought up with us is the outboard motors for all the boats at the fishing camps. Each camp has 2-3 boats, so needs at least one motor for each boat, plus a spare in case someone wrecks one. All the motors come back down south to base at the end of the season so they can be fully overhauled and sent back up in the spring with some assurance of a problem-free season.

Each motor weighs about 85 pounds, and most of that weight is in the engine end of the motor. It also has all manner of sharp and awkward bits sticking out of it, along with fragile bits that you need to be carefull of with when lifting or putting it down. To add a bit of an additional challenge, the height of the aircraft when loading / offloading is about head-high. So a full load of motors requires each of these buggers to be lifted up...carefully!... almost over your head and then carried onto the your step now as you step off the float ( wet...icy... ) and onto the wooden dock ( also wet...icy... ) and carefully lower it to the ground in a safe spot. Hurry up though! The weathers closing in!!

Yeah, not a big fan of the motors. I'll be glad when they're all dispersed out to the camps.

Once we got everything off-loaded at he northern base, we reloaded with the gear we needed to open one camp. A combination of stuff we brought with us, and stuff that was cached at northern base. Along with motors, groceries, tools and repair equipment, we also had to bring in several 55Gal drums of boat fuel. Each camp has a large tank where we fill it up with boat gas for the guests to use in the boats. These drums are a little over 300 lbs each and also need to be man handled up and into / out of the aircraft, along slippery docks, rough ground, over obstacles, up hills and all manner of challenges. Most of the moving is done by rolling, sliding, pushing or tilting the drum, so theres no real dead lifting...which would be near impossible anyways.

Getting them into and out of the aircraft involved three guys rolling it up onto a ramp and then slllllowwwly sliding it down towards the dock. As long as everyone keeps their grip and keeps it sliding slowly, all is well. If it is allowed to pick up any speed at all though....bad things happen.

Got into the first camp ok. The little plane, a Cessna 206, goes in first and the guys jump out and send out a boat to do some ice-breaking and clearing a path for the Otter to get in. Gear gets offloaded onto the dock and we "Give'Er!". Everyone has job to do, from setting up he boats with gas tanks, seats, motors, ropes and anchors to testing the boats and making sure the boat ramps along the shore are in good shape. Firewood needs to be cut and split, outhouses swept out, fallen trees cut down and paths cleared. the cabins, which are boarded up for the winter, need to have the boards taken down, all the stuff stored inside dragged outside and cleaned off. Floors, walls, stoves, fridges need to be cleaned, swept, mopped and made ready. Propane tanks need to be hauled up to the cabin and hooked up. Water pumps re-connected and checked, hot water tanks tested. Windows cleaned and groceries put away. Beds made, linens stocked and brush cleared. Maybe we squeeze in a lunch break, but its a full days work for a crew of five, believe me.

We were lucky and had really nice weather for all of this, even made it back to the northern base camp in reasonably good weather.

A late camp supper, a few beers and we all collapsed into bed with little hesitation to sleep.

Woke up the next morning to....howling wind, snow and ice blowing into the bay from the main lake.

We set up a heater under the engine of the otter, to keep the oil a little bit warm, just in case the weather broke. It was almost -13C when we woke up! The engine was wrapped in tarps and a propane stove was set up underneath, with stove pipes directing the hot air up onto the engine. Turns out the weather wasn't going to break for a good 36 hours in any case, but you never knew....

Our only communication up here is with satellite phones and even then, they are only good for very short conversations as they go up and down, with no guarantee of getting back in touch with your party immediately if it goes down mid-call. Conversations are very short and reserved for only the most important info, as it is a frustrating process.

Usually the bad weather can mean a day off, but in this case, we had lots of work to do around northern base. So for the two days we got stuck there, we were kept pretty busy. Luckily, most of us had brought along the full-body rain gear that had been suggested, so we were dressed pretty good for the conditions.

After two days, the weather finally cleared enough that we could once again, load up the Otter and make a foray out to another nearby camp.

Except, now we are two days behind schedule and it is looking doubtful that we will be able to get all the camps done that have guests scheduled arrive to, in the next day or so. So, for two days we worked flat-out, furiously loading, unloading, lifting pulling, chopping, sweeping, nailing, pumping, rolling, lifting. At the end of it, we were just finishing the last camp as the Otter was pulling up to the dock, to offload the first guests of the year.

We rewarded ourselves that night with some fresh walleye, caught off the dock at our northern base and cooked to perfection by the owner. It was still raining so we didn't get to try the fish-fry ( battered and deep fried outdoors on a propane fish cooker ) but they turned out great baked in a home made batter instead. I'd never eaten walleye before... wow... now I wonder what all the fuss over cod is?? Walleye is so much better in my view. The only caveat being of course, the phenomenon of being really hungry after working so hard for so long, seems to make things taste a lot better....especially the beer!

Back to home base on Monday, and time to recharge and refresh. Hot water facilities were not available at the northern base, so all of us had been working like dogs for almost a week with only the basics of clothing to be changed...socks and underwear... and of course no showers. Since we all stank up there, plus it was sub-zero, you didn't notice it much..but once we got back to base and there were civilized people around, you realized how shaggy and rank we all were right away.

I was a tough grind, but it was also a good way for the crew to get acquainted, living and working together 24/7 in close and demanding quarters. you really have to work as a team.

Shower, shave and sleep. The next day was trip out to open up yet another camp.

This time it was just a day-trip. There and back in one day. Nice sunny weather and no real rush as the guests aren't due in for a few days.

Once we got back to base, the boss told us that the weather wasn't looking too great for the next day or so, so we have the day off today. Man, I need it too. Thus kind of work is hard on the body...chapped lips, hands. cracked heels, bruised everythings.

Another 6 camps or so to go, then we settle into an operational routine, with guests coming and going.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Starting up....

Haven't had much time for updating, and probably won't for a little while. The ice is going out fast on a lot of the lakes we have cabins on, so the push is on to get them ready in time for the first guests. We are supposed to head up north today to base out of one of the camps, and send 3-4 days opening a couple of the nearby camps, but the weather is looking pretty crappy this morning. We'll see if we are able to go, but the forecast doesn't look that great...not for a couple days even.

We went up yesterday and opened up one camp, just barely getting by the ice that was moving around the lake. Had to do a little ice breaking with the boats before we could leave as the wind had picked up and blown a lot of the loose ice towards the little bay where we were.

Spent pretty much one whole day cleaning the cabin, getting the boats all set up with motors, seats, ropes and ready to go. The lake itself is almost an hours flight each way from base, so getting there and back took a little time.

Flying over this country is pretty impressive...hard to follow on the map though, all the lakes look the same and there is no real high ground or major landmarks to orient on. Had to pinch myself a few times that here I was, sitting up front in a piston otter, flying over northwestern Ontario.

Was nice to get up in the plane as well, the otter is quite the beast!!

Not to mention all the gear that has to be brought up to the cabin, and therefore packed and unpacked into and out of the plane. A lot of the tools and stuff we brought up wasn't needed, but it would kind of suck to get way up there and find out a bear had ripped the door off and you didn't bring the necessary tools to fix it.

The cleaning itself is a fair bit of work as well . Not only had the cabin been sitting empty all winter, but it doesn't really get a good cleaning except during opening. The guests are expected to leave the cabins as clean as they found them, so other than a small cleaning in the fall when we close the camps down, they pretty much get one really big spring clean during opening.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Got room mate #2 of 3 today. We drove down south this morning and collected him. Nice guy, young, tired, cold. He had to wait almost 3 hours for us, as his train dropped him off in the middle of the early train...what will they think of next. The closest stop to us isn't even a stop. It is what you would call a whistle stop I guess. the train only stops there if there are people or freight pre arranged to get on or off. No station, nothing...literally, its a spot where the tracks cross a road, the train stops, they boot you off, the train leaves and you're all alone in the middle of the Canadian wilderness, at night, in the snow, with no lights and a deserted highway. Seriously, do you know how dark it gets u here at night??

I felt sorry for the guy...

We came back to base by way of the grocery store, and got stocked up on some basics to get us through the next week or so. Spaghetti, hamburgers, eggs n toast, canned beans and some salad fixings. Along with the essentials, coffee-cream n sugar. Beer store was closed, so we saved that for later.

Cue dramatic foreshadowing music.

dun dun dummmmmm

Back at base, we had a couple hours to get some lunch in us then we had a few hours work around base. Mostly involving moving heavy,dusty things, over and over. Lots of canned goods to be shuffled about and boat motors to get staged for the summer festivities.

Once that was all done, we knocked off for the day around 4. Boss said we were done, so back to the shack. #2 passed out immediately, can hardly blame him. All the hard work had made me thirsty, so I decided to try walking into town to hit u the veer store. I also needed some hand lotion as the cold weather and manual labour was hard on my hands. You have to take care of your hands!

And yes, I realized walking up to the cash register in this small beer store / general goods store that buying two six packs of beer and a container of hand lotion could be misconstrued. She told me to " have a good night "....

We had briefly discussed walking distance to town in conversation yesterday with the boss and his wife. Boss said 20 minutes walk and the wife had laughed at him and shook her head. I suspected it was somewhat longer than 20 minutes.....

It was about 45 minutes each way for a 1.5 hr round trip, hiking it down the trail. You could walk on the highway, but its not any shorter and frankly, its dangerous. But I got beer. Beer is good. Beer make donkey walk. Beer make donkey happy. Beer cruel mistress.

They only stocked the basic Canadian brands too, there is a larger town and a larger beer store in the other direction, but its a hell of a lot farther. Donkey not that dumb.

Since I'm trying to live on a budget this summer, one that primarily consists of beer and food, I think I should try and reduce costs wherever I can. Food is easy, I can eat basic staple food and be happy. Oatmeal, spaghetti, potatoes. Donkey has a pretty simple palate.

The beers I normally drink are of the micro-brewish variety, so A.) the little beer outlets don't stock them and B.) they cost an arm and a leg.

I picked two classic brands and am trying to pick a good one to get me through the Summer.

Labatts Blue

not bad, pretty smooth, reminds me of drinking beer at the neighborhood UI* Ski Team Chalet** back in my teen years...a not altogether unpleasant association, so far so good for Blue.

UI = Unemployment Insurance

Ski Team ( and their house/Chalet ) = Group of UI collectors that typically host parties all summer instead of working. Typically shunned by working folk as they tend to live it up on Tuesday nights, seeing as they have lost all concept of bankers hours...

Molsons OV

I haven't cracked one yet, I will get back to you on this one.

So the walk was a little on the long side. I don't think I would do that again, even for beer. Word is that room mate #3 is driving up and will have his car here for the season. Hopefully he can be swayed by Beer.

The walk was funny, in a sadistic kind of way. When I set out, I told myself I would walk the 20 minutes that had been rumoured the night before, and then see where I was or if town was in sight. After twenty minutes, sure enough, no town. Got around the corner of the trail and another long stretch stretched out before me, as stretches are wont to do. Told myself I would walk to the next corner, and see what I could see. That should take me to 25 minutes out, surely, at the least, the town will be in sight by then. Nope, just another stretch.

But really, I've only been walking for 25 minutes, lets make it around the next bend and take it to 30 minutes, that's only an hour round trip. Nope, no town, only another stretch of trail.

Hmm, ok. I'm 30 minutes in...what if it is around the next corner, I will have wasted an hour and a bunch of walking if I turn around now. Lets go one more.

Next one, I started thinking what a tool I would look (more) like if I came back empty handed after walking for an hour and a bit. Eventually got to the metropolis, caught a commuter train to the suburbs, hopped onto light rail to get me downtown and then walked the last few blocks.

Actually, I asked a guy jogging by if he knew the way down town and he pointed me up the block and around corner. This is a town of a couple thousand people, servicing a single mine / mill and the amenities were pretty basic. They had Labatts Blue, so donkey was happy.

Back to base, took a shower and enjoyed a couple hard earned beers. Nothing tastes better than earned-beer!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Home Sweet Home

Well, finally arrived in South Northtown today. Took me three days to get here, but I'm here now.

The ride up here was.... interesting..... Went to the bus depot in the morning to get a ticket and had to laugh at the weird looking shool busses parked outside. Until the lady who sold me my ticket told me which one would be taking me north!!

The driver even apologized and told me the regular coach was out of service....behold, the glory of the BONE SHAKER!!

Yes...that was quite the ride. The driver was good though and the bus wasn't crowded at all. In fact, when the lady sold me my ticket, she commented on how she had a few calls that morning for people going to my destination. She remarked ' you might even have some company for the trip, " leaving me to belive this might be a bit of a slow route for them...hence the equipment choice I guess.

I sat up front so I could see everything, but there was not that much to see. Nice country and all, but I guess you get a bit spoiled coming from the moutains, in terms of dramatic scenery.

Got into town around 230 and was picked up by the wife of one of the owners. She was quite nice and gave me a quick run-down of the town on our way back to base.

Arriving at base, I finally got a look at where I would be spending my summer. The property is a fair size, I'd say 3-4 acres, but frankly, I dont know acres all that well. This is a view of the dock, where there are a couple planes tied up. They aren't our planes, but belong to other operators in the area, who are using our dock. The main lake, where the main float docks are, is still frozen over. So, people are using our dock to stage their planes at until we either need the space or the main lake thaws out enough to free their own docks up.

The dockhand shack is right down on the water, just a few feet from our dock. In fact this photo is taken looking out the front door of my living quarters.

As you can see, the weather has gone downhill since yesterdays blue skies and sunburn. They are actually caling for snow over the next couple dys.

So, the dockhand shack is a little 2-room affair. The main room is occupied by two bunk beds and a couch, along with a few dresser drawers. I was a little surprised at the bunks, but hey... its not that bad. Not to mention, as the first guy here, I got my pick of bunks.

The other room is a kitchen, with a full complement of appliances and a small kitchen table. There are a few shelves and cabinets with dishes and cooking utensils for us to use as well. Outside, we have big patio, a propane BBQ and a fire-pit with some lawn chairs and benches. Much to my delight, we also have a coke machine...haha.

The other two guys will be showing up over the next two days. I am going down to pick up one of them at the nearest train station tomorrow ( 2 hour return drive ), at an ungodly hour in the AM. It will be nice to have some company after being on the road by myself for the last few days.

The quarters are rustic, but look to be quite comfortable. Particularly for three guys 'batching it for the summer.

Good thing I packed my long-johns, its cold!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Written in stone

So, I had a whole day today to hang around this town. Don't get me wrong, its a nice little town, but I'm kind of running out of things to do. Walked downtown a couple of times. My motel is a 20 minute walk from downtown, but like I told the motel owners, I've got the time....

I was chatting with the motel owners for a little while this morning, as I had to go and let them know I would be staying one more night to await my bus connection in the morning. When we got to the subject of my going up north to work for a fishing camp, they promptly told me how bad it is this year for tourist bookings in the camps. Apparently, they have relative who is the new owner of an established camp, and they only have five weeks worth of bookings for this season. I don't know how many cabins they have or anything but it sounds a little alarming to be honest....

I went and had a look at the local float plane docks downtown. I had read that this town has a couple very busy and well known float operators. There was only one plane there, and no one around, so I am assuming they are not quite underway yet?

The harbour had few boats buzzing around in the unseasonably warm weather. It would appear they went straight from winter right into summer, if you go by today's weather. Lots of evidence of snow cover having just left...the piles of road-sand, a winters worth of flotsam and jetsam deposited on peoples lawn edges and gardens by the retreating snowbanks. The odd flower or dandelion starting to poke its head up, and just the beginning of leaf buds on the trees and bushes. But still almost 20 degrees out, in nice bright sunshine. The skies had just started to cloud over towards the end of the afternoon and a resident told me that they were calling for snow flurries by this weekend...haha.

I've also been keeping an eye on another persons blog who is reporting regularly on the ice situation in South Northtown. From the sounds of things, it will "officially" ice-out within the next two weeks. I say officially, as some areas are already ice-free, including the area of the lake that my employer operates from.

Last night on the bus, I was talking to The Lovely Wife on the phone and I think I was giving her directions to something and I asked if she was "ready to copy". I was sort of doing it as a joke, she played along and gave me a series of "roger"'s after each direction. The man sitting next to me overheard, and after my call, he introduced himself and we started chatting. Turns out he is a pilot on his way to another nearby town to start his season of work as well. He has been flying for over 10 years, even though he looked quite young, the same age, or younger than myself. He has a seasonal job flying for a fire-fighting, very cool work. Something I could definitely see myself doing in a few years.

Cool old building downtown... built over a hundred years ago.... I'd like to see some of today's structures in a hundred years time and see how well they stand... I've always liked how they labeled the entrances, permanently, in stone, as to the purpose within. The entrance way's on this one are labeled " Customs" and "Post Office". For a building that was constructed with such quality and foresight, that it lasted over a hundred years and will probably withstand another hundred, they showed a remarkable lack of planning for expansion or change in permanently assigning those doorways in perpetuity to a task they most likely do not hold anymore. Kind of like the old schools with the separate entrances for Boys and Girls, also marked in stone over the doorways...

Now that I think about it, it's a reminder that the permanency of the construction was matched by the permanency of the ideals of the day as well..... I don't think they counted on either changing as much as they have....

I liked the airport signs as well...I found in some provinces, all airport signs have the silhouette of a 747 on them. I liked the reality of these signs, a twin-prop and a single-engine GA plane...

Now that I think of it, the GA plane even looks to be a tail dragger

This motel sign caught my eye as well. They have Moderate Rates. not cheap, but moderate. I like it, everything in moderation is what we need in these times. Expensive just doesn't sell very well and cheap is what got us in the mess we're in these days. Moderate.. I like it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Off and...waiting

Morning started out a little rough.

Getting up at 0430 and getting ready to go. My wife had told me, the night before, to not worry about making noise or closing the bedroom door. She said that she would most likely get up, ungodly hour be damned, and hang out while I got ready to go.

She slept right through my shower, shave and coffee making rumblings. Part of me wanted to go wake her up and spend just a little bit longer with her before I left, the other part wanted to let her sleep and save us both the sad goodbye moments.

I went in and woke her 5 minutes before I had to go, and we said our goodbyes. She is so incredibly brave, her smile not wavering for a second while we hugged and I left. Caught her peeking out the blinds as I drove away. It was raining quite a bit when I left too, must have been why the windows seemed so blurry, all the way to the airport.

Everything went nice and smoothly at the airport, even though my main backpack was about a pound and a half over the limit. The Air Canada guy smiled and said it must be the bin he put my bag in, “ some of them are heavier than others “ wink wink and a smile.

It was quite nice to have a pleasant customer service experience with every, single AC employee that I encountered this morning.

Even the ramp guy who pulled the chocks and walked the wing on my side, did so with enthusiasm and a smile and wave to everyone on board. The whole grumpy AC stereotype was completely absent today.

In fact, I have to admit being a bit taken aback by the whole experience. I have often lamented the AC customer service experience in relation to their main competitor, but I wonder if a culture of change has actually taken root, or if my (mis)conceptions were simply allowed to be led by others opinions. We all seem to be conditioned by the media to expect the worst when it comes to air travel...

Got to fly out on an Embraer E190 for the 2.5 hour flight, nice plane. Have never flown on this type before.

It was neat kind of " following along " with the crew and trying to anticipate, or at least identify, what was going on..... ok, there's engines stable, max thrust, ok, that was climb power being set.....oh, levelling off a bit early, departure maybe hasn't given us clearance to cruising altitude yet...oh, here's the climb again, up we go.... hmm, less wing twiddling going on, must have kicked in otto. Heard a couple of chimes as well that I am sure are signals for the flight attendants to do / not do something, but couldn't figure it out. I may be way off with what was going on in front, I really don't know THAT much about airline flying or operating a big jet like this...but it is fun to pretend I do.

I made sure to read the safety card thoroughly and count my rows to exits in front and behind me. Takes 30 seconds, and what else do I have to do??

Funnily enough, it appeared that there was a second lever that had to be pulled after the Embraers door "handle" had been lifted, in order to open the door. If I was in a blind panic, I'm not sure I would have figured that out.... how many people sitting between me and the exit, that will get to the exit before me, know about the second handle?

Speaking of the media... good thing they have so earnestly warned me of the impending global doomsday that will be the swine flu pandemic. Its always nice to get advance notice on the end of the world, so you can beat the big guns-and-ammo lineups down at the survival-mart.

I have to admit, this is the worst case of media hysteria-mongering that I have had the disgust to witness in recent years. Luckily, the media's consistency in severe bias, fear-mongering, misinformation and downright pandering to business interests instead of public information interests, has now taught me to question every single thing I hear through conventional outlets.

Every article and news story needs to be questioned as thoroughly as you would pick apart a ham sandwich with moldy cheese on it if you were starving. There must be something good to eat in there, and frankly, its all you have....but be careful, if you eat the wrong bits, its going to go in one end and out the other without helping things much.

I almost giggled on the plane listening to the news anchor state that even though cases " appear to be winding down, the virus could simply be going into a dormant state and come back in a mutated form in the fall ".

I wonder what they have planned for us this summer, that they could'nt fit in any more time for the swine flu for??

Anyways.... I'm here in a large-ish prairie city, hanging out in front of the provincial legislature building. I've got about 8 hours to kill, so thought I would bang off an entry on things so far.

Not much has happened, relatively speaking, so I don't have much to write about. But like any good prairie city, they have thoughtfully provided block-heater plug-ins for the local politico's, so I'm stealing their hydro for the little netbook, and utilizing the nice sunny day to air out my feet and kill an hour or two here on the grass.

Its a nice mix of cumulus clouds and sunshine, so its just right, little bit of sun, then a little shade to cool off. My feet are happy being out and in the grass as well.

Found this guy as I walked towards the legislature building... I don't know what it was that tipped me off that he was an aviator, maybe I saw his headset from a distance subconsciously. He is part of a memorial to student pilots and their instructors killed in Canada during training operations for WWII. I think I remember hearing the numbers killed at some point, and it was quite surprisingly high. If memory serves correctly, Canada played a huge role in training allied aircrews.

I can already see though, that the afternoon heating of the ground is most likely going to bring at the least, some showers, at worst, possibly a thunderstorm. Hopefully I can find somewhere indoors to hang out for awhile a little later on. Might have to keep my shoes on though....

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Getting Close now....

 Was my last day fuelling today.  Saying goodbyes to everyone at work. I'm planning on being back here in the fall anyways, but bye-for-the-summer I guess.

  Typical Saturday...dead quiet, nothing going on at all. Counted down the hours till the Hockey Game started and was glad for something to do. Of course, we immediately got an unscheduled large aircraft, a 737, calling in saying they were 20 minutes out and wanted fuel, lavs, and a quick turn.

  The caterer had already stopped by and we had loaded up all the food in our van, as we were going to drive her over to the Gate so she could deliver the grub when the aircraft showed up.

   We hadn't counted on the crew wanting to come to our ramp first and take fuel, service the toilets, load their food and ice, before reporting to the gate. Oh well, we didn't have too much else on the go, so no biggie, we could handle it on the short notice.

   Little bit of confusion as we realized after they had left our frequency on the radio, that if they hadn't bothered to tell us they were coming, had they told customs?? 

  We checked, they hadn't

 Couple of phone calls later and it turns out they called customs just after we had, and everything was sorted. Not before we worried a couple people and sent everyone scurrying to double-check that everything was kosher.

  Oh well, like I said, typical Saturday.

   My team lost the Hockey game, but the caterer made extra meals for the line crew guys, so I had a good meal anyhow.

  Oh, I had a few cool planes show up in the last few days, and wanted to share a little;

First, we had some F-18's.  Three of them showed up and spent a couple days coming and going, doing some cool fuel-to-noise conversion routines in the area. They are carrying drop-tanks, for extra fuel capacity. They also have luggage pods, where they can store their little rolly-suitcases..haha

  I got to marshal them in and out a few times, that was fun. There are a couple special little marshaling signals that one of the pilot took the time to show me. One of them was the signal to reach underneath his plane and reset his flight computer with a button hidden in the wheel well.

  He said sometimes the system sort of crashes and needs to be reset. Why the reset button is on the outside, beats me. But there is a special signal they will give if they need you to reboot it. 

  Another one was the signal to go and visually check a hydraulic indicator of some sort on the back of the plane, and give him a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down, depending on whether the gauge was in the green or the red. Again, why this gauge wasn't in the cockpit, beats the heck out of me.

  I like marshaling the military guys in and out. Most civilian pilots sort of  treat the marshaller as an added layer of safety, there to give you suggestions on where and how to park. The military guys always take your instructions literally, instantly and unequivocally. It is neat how you can make them do whatever you want and they will just do questioning hand gestures or pilots pointing, trying to tell you what they want to do, the fighter jocks just DO IT.

   No delay or hesitation either. You can park them up nice and tight to each others wingtips and they will stare right at you the whole time while you guide them within feet of each others planes

  When they depart too, their checklists take FOREVER...they are simply following orders, but its not uncommon to stand there in front of their howling jet for 30 minutes while they complete their pilot-mojo-voodoo in the cockpit. 

   While they are sitting there, engines running, they attract a lot of attention from all the other airport folks was well. By the time they are ready to go, they've got people out of their hangars and offices, outside, camera's at the ready. Again, the marshaling gets fun now, as you have EVERYONE out there, watching you.

  Second cool arrival, was a Beech Starship. Very rare plane, in fact, I believe there are only five remaining in flying condition. The pilot / owner was very happy to talk about this unique plane and we chatted for about a half hour.  Apparently this aircraft is unstallable. The Cunard on the front is set at a higher angle of incidence than the main wing, so will stall first, dropping the nose, and reducing the angle of attack of the main wing. It also has Elevons which surprised me, as I assumed that the Cunard would take care of all the pitch control, but apparently not.

  The rear-facing props add a slight efficiency in that the turbine mounted inside, doesn't need to change the airflow direction. If I remember correctly, it draws the intake air directly through the front, under ram pressure, and it flows directly through the compressor and hot-section, only changing direction slightly to head out the exhaust on the side of the engine. If you look closely at most turbo-prop engines, you'll see that the intake air is taken in the front, usually just under, or over, the prop hub and directed to the back of the engine, where it is drawn into the turbine and compressed, ignited in the opposite direction, that is, toward the front of the aircraft. Then, the exhaust is turned around once more to be sent out the side, but facing rear-ward, so that its exit doesn't act in a direction opposing what the prop is trying to accomplish. Its alot easier to explain when the engine is in front of you... 

  Apparently however, it does have a few drawbacks, in that the airflow is disturbed by the wing and fuselage before getting to the prop, causing uneven air densities for the prop to act on.  This also causes an uneven or surging noise of the prop, as well.

  Last, but definitely not least, was my absolute, all-time favourite aircraft, the Grumman Goose. I love everything about this plane, however, having never flown one or in one, I have to reserve judgement on a couple key items... ( for now! )

  Note what seems to be a collapsible water-rudder! I couldn't see any other water rudder anywhere, and this thing looked hinged, and  in the right spot, so I am assuming that's what it was. It would appear that the pilot can un-hinge it from inside the cockpit and use it for directional control while on the water.

 Those radials engines make such a soft, purring rumble, it really has to be seen and felt to be appreciated.
  A good amphibian, the wheels fold up into the hull when operating on the water. Can be dropped in flight for landing on a runway, or dropped while in the water to taxi up a ramp.

  These are called sponsons, and they can be raised up, where they become a sort of tip-tank looking structure at the end of the wing ( except, I do not believe they hold fuel...they might, but I suspect not ). 

  They are lowered down for use in stabilizing the aircraft when it is operating on the water. As it is a hulled seaplane, it only has 1 "float", that being the fuselage, so it can easily tip and drag a wingtip in the water during low speed operations. The sponsons act like mini outriggers and will keep the wings out of the water when lowered.