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Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Years Day Flying Adventure: Part 2 of 2 - "It's Better to be Down Here, Wishing You Were Up There"

The Jodel's left main tire was more than flat and she was uncontrollable to taxi. I shut her down right on the spot, Mr. Bianchi parked his Tornado to the side, and we all gathered to inspect the flat tire. Powell River Airport is serviced by Pacific Coastal Airlines and had they needed to taxi to or from the active runway, we would have provided them with a very  nice yellow and blue obstacle. We couldn't move the airplane right away because the left wheel was right on the rims, and we needed to find something to put under the flat tire to prevent any damage from happening to the rims. Looking around the airport I couldn't see anything particularly useful, so I ran back to the Powell River Flying Club building which was right beside where we had been parked earlier and was lucky enough to bump into Patrick Riley, who was one of the two gentlemen that I had spoken with not 10 minutes before, and thankfully he had not yet left the airport. 

He offered me his homemade plywood dolly, and said that he would be right over to the Jodel with his van full of tools. I ran back to the plane and we lifted up the Jodel and lowered it onto the dolly. Immediately, we heard cracking wood sounds, so we took it out from under the plane before we broke the dolly. A minute later Patrick arrived and insisted that we try the dolly again and said not to worry if it broke because he'd just make himself a new one. Sure enough, it broke in short order. Plan B was quickly enacted as Patrick pulled out a wheeled jack from his van and we raised the left gear off the ground and pushed the Jodel very carefully to the edge of the apron. In this much safer location, we were then able to get to work diagnosing the exact problem. And, in all honesty, this is where Patrick took over completely. Both of us David's and my Dad were simply by-standers as Patrick made incredibly quick work of removing the wheel and determining that the cause of flat tire was that the valve on the tire's tube had sheared off.

After we learned that it was not going to be a quick fix, and that daylight was creeping slowly closer to night, Mr. Bianchi made the decision to fly home on his own. As he got his plane started and then departed, I was on my phone putting together a plan of action. I started communicating with people that I thought could help with parts sourcing, repair work, and the inevitable need for Powell River accommodations. The hardest part about this was that my iPhone does not like the cold, and when it is too cold, it turns off, and it won't work again until it is adequately warmed up. That explains my lack of photos at this point, but in the moments my phone was functioning, I was able to get in touch with some greatly helpful people.

This part of the story is where the aviation community really begins to shine brightly! Through my involvement with the Royal Canadian Air Cadet Gliding Program, I have made some amazing lifelong friends. And, to my immediate benefit, a number of them lived in Powell River. To make a long story short, I got in touch with Gary Johnson, who unbeknownst to me was the current Vice President of the Powell River Flight Club, and former president of the club. He opened his house to me and my dad as a place to stay the night and he also served as our transportation around town during our visit. He also had many flying club resources to offer, from a warm place to do flight planning at the airport, to the possible volunteering of club members to fly down to Vancouver to pick up a new tube.

Enter stage left, my good friend Jason Binns, who regularly flies a Piper Seneca for a client of his. I called him and asked if he might be able to source a 6.00x6 tire tube and maybe even fly it up to Powell River that night, or the next day. As it turns out, the Seneca was down for maintenance, and so was Jason due to a dental issue, and thus he was somewhat medicated. What he was able to do though, was check his hangar for a spare tube, since in a twist of fate, the Seneca and the Jodel actually share the same size tire tubes.

Holy cow, Jason came thought for me big time! He confirmed with me within an hour of me asking, that he did have a spare tube and that he would send it up to Powell River on the first Pacific Coastal Airlines flight the next day! Eureka!

When I first contacted Gary, he was on the ferry coming back to Powell River from Comox. So, we had Patrick dropped us off in town and we sat, waiting for Gary at a pub called "The Zoo." The name is no misrepresentation. Apparently the Zoo is the rowdiest establishment in town and is known for bar fights, drunks, loud partiers, and biker vs. mill-worker brawls. Thankfully for my Dad and I, it was still daylight, and the regulars were all tame and not yet in a fighting mood. The Zoo possesses an amazing view looking out over the Salish Sea towards the Comox/Courtenay area and there we sat, enjoying the sunset. Due to its reputation, when Gary arrived to pick us up, he let us know via text message that he was outside, implying that he had no interest in coming inside. Fair enough. From there he took us back to his place, and after catching up with each other, and having some delivery pizza, we soon went to bed, expecting the next day to be a busy one.

We woke up to SNOW! Not a whole lot of it, but about a couple centimeters of the white stuff covering most parts of the city. 

Seeing as how the replacement tube wasn't going to arrive until shortly after noon, we thought we'd tag along with Gary for the first hour of his work shift as he is a Powell River bus driver. We got a scenic and guided tour of practically the entire city, and it was much bigger than either my Dad or I had thought. The tour also gave us a better idea of the layout of the city, which would prove to be handy if we needed to stay any more nights in Powell River. Foreshadowing? Maybe.

We had organized for Patrick Riley to meet us again at the airport around noon so he could help us install the new tube, and get the tire back on the plane. But before he arrived, my Dad headed to the closest liquor store to get a couple of bottles of wine as a thank you to Patrick for the help he had provided for us. Without him, our situation would have been a serious struggle. While my Dad was doing that, I swept the snow off of the Jodel. Both our tasks concluded around the same time and we met up again at the Powell River Flying Club where I monitored the weather until Patrick arrived. Patrick arrived before Pacific Coastal Airlines did with our tube, so we sat and chatted about flying and other typical things pilots talk about. He told us about how the Powell River Flying Club used to host a seafood fly-in. From the sounds of it, it was a highly attended event with over a hundred airplanes flying in from as far away as California, and all attendees feasted on local fresh oysters, shrimp, clams, mussels, and anything else that was in season. What an event that must have been! Something tells me this event needs to be brought back!!!

By now we had witnessed the PASCO Beech 1900 land and off-load its passengers and freight at the terminal building, so we headed down the apron and picked up our tube. We took the tube over to the cold and lonely Jodel and again, Patrick made incredibly quick work of repairing and installing the tire. 

 He had a portable air compressor and was able to fill the tire on site, as well as top up the air on the other main tire.

For all intents and purposes, we were now ready to go!

But, after taxiing the Jodel back over to the Powell River Flying Club building, I checked the most recent METAR's and TAF's for our route home. Yikes! It didn't look good. Every 30 minutes I'd be back on the computer hoping for some positive SPECI's or amended forecasts, but things were not looking good. Powell River had VFR to Marginal VFR conditions, with lots of low scud (low clouds that get in your way at every turn). 

There were moments where we could tell that visibility had improved and the ceiling looked to be approximately 1500', but as soon as it appeared that way, it would dip back down to being lousy. Reports from Campbell River and Comox were not painting a pretty picture either, yet it was likely that we could have gotten as far as Sechelt. Looking at the Nav Canada webcam in West Vancouver, it was evident that even if we did get past Sechelt, making it through Vancouver Harbour would likely be impossible. 

We were suggested to try flying over to Vancouver Island and down to Victoria,  and then across to Point Roberts, but the prevailing visibility in Victoria was less than 2 miles, and the webcam in Nanaimo suggested that a trip along that route would include a decent amount of scud-running. Despite the weather being slightly better on Vancouver Island, I decided that it was not an option because of my lack of familiarity with that area, and because I didn't want to cross the Salish Sea at very low altitudes. 

So, it was either Vancouver Harbour, or nothing. 3:00pm was the time we set as our last chance to leave for the day, otherwise we would not have enough daylight to make it back to Delta. If conditions were not good enough to go by 3:00pm, we would be forced to spend another night in Powell River. As this time neared, I was monitoring the Nav Canada weather website constantly, checking the automated ATIS phone line for Boundary Bay, Vancouver Harbour, and Pitt Meadows, and I also called my friend Gerard, who is the caretaker at Delta Air Park to get a weather observation from him. Gerard told me that conditions were very bad, and that if it were him, the only reason he'd even consider giving it a try, would be if someone's life hung in the balance. Nobody's life did, and I didn't have to work the next day, and with my Dad being retired we very easily made the decision to not risk anything and stay put. As the saying goes, "It's better to be down here wishing you were up there, than to be up there wishing you were down here." And this rang true with the knowledge that if we had departed that day and had to return back to Powell River for whatever reason, there was the very real possibility of conditions deteriorating to the point where a return might not have been possible. With only 1.5hrs of fuel left in the Jodel, and no 100LL available at the field, our options were limited. I was not going to go anywhere unless I had a very firm trust in making it.

 As many of the TAF's were not long enough to give a good forecast into the next day, I turned to alternative sources for weather, and to my dismay, I came across many articles talking about a serious winter storm that was going to be rolling in the very next day! I didn't want any of that, so kept combing through the TAF's and noticed that there looked to be a window of opportunity early Saturday morning.

Now that it was nearly dinner time, we tied down the Jodel in a proper parking spot, and my Dad and I walked from the airport into town and had a very enjoyable dinner at the bowling alley lounge/pub, which was right across the street from the Zoo. I highly recommend the curry chicken soup!

We watched the quarter-finals game between Canada and Denmark in the junior world hockey championships at the bowling alley as we waited for Gary to finish work. Seeing as how we were going to be staying another night, we decided a trip to Walmart was in order so we could pick up some essentials. Once this mission was completed, we headed back to Gary's, had another great evening of conversation and catching up, and then we went to bed early, counting on the morning being a small window of opportunity for us to get out and get home.

Just before tucking myself into bed, I checked the TAF's one last time, and the impression I was getting, was that over the entire lower mainland area, we would be blessed with 4000' ceilings, but by the afternoon conditions would deteriorate. Needless to say, I set my alarm for an early wake up.

 We awoke fresh and ready to go and had Gary drive us to the airport where we found the Jodel entombed in ice. With credit cards and squeegees in hand, we de-iced the plane "bush league" style. 

The apron in front of where we parked the Jodel was a sheet of ice, so not wanting to start up the Jodel and uncontrollably slide into any obstructions, we worked together and pushed the Jodel to the grass where I could start up, do a run-up, and then be on our way. That's what we did, and with much improved weather compared to the day before, we departed giving heavy thanks to Gary for everything he had done for us.

Once airborne, we found conditions to be very good. Our original plan was to have a fuel stop in Sechelt, but considering how icy Powell River's apron was, we didn't want to risk slipping off the side of the runway in Sechelt, had they had the same conditions. 

We had enough fuel to make it home with a 30 minute reserve, so we pushed on, past Sechelt, over the saddle of Bowen Island, and through Vancouver Harbour

Once past the second narrows bridge, we descended to an altitude appropriate for avoiding the YVR approach path and headed along the Fraser River to the Alex Fraser Bridge, then straight down to Delta Air Park. 

As we neared Delta, conditions become very hazy, and once over Mud Bay and in the descent for circuit altitude, it was observed how the grey clouds, haze, and grey-ish water made for a visually seamless transition between surface and sky. 

Quite a disconcerting view if we needed to be flying towards it for a prolonged amount of time. Thankfully we didn't have to, and proceeded to joined a downwind left for a full stop on runway 07. The landing was smooth and effortless and was made easy due to the absence of any kind of crosswind.

With the engine shut down, we were finally home, and boy did it feel good! Relief swept over me and my Dad.

In the end, I learned quite a few things from this trip: 

1.) Fellow pilots are some of the best people in the world.
2.) Always be adaptable with your flight.
3.) Never take risks that you don't need to take.
4.) Always bring your cell phone charger with you.
5.) Consider bringing a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, and other personal health products, just in case.

Happy New Year and safe flying!

New Years Day Flying Adventure: Part 1 of 2 - "Alternate, Alternate, Alternate, STOP!"

Our original plan was for David Bianchi, in his Titan Tornado, and my Dad (Daryl) and I (David McIntosh) in the Jodel F11 to fly over to Bamfield on New Year's Day.

We couldn't help but be motivated by the blog posting by Guido. It looked like such a neat place to explore. So, flight planning done, and timings worked out, we planned to meet at Delta Air Park at 9:00am. But, with Mr Bianchi being a little delayed due to a sticky choke cable, and then after his arrival, my Jodel's lack of interest in starting in minus temperatures, meant that had we departed at that time, we would only have had about an hour in the tiny west coast village to explore and have lunch before we'd have to depart for home.

Our plan shifted to meeting Mr. Bianchi's parents at Qualicum Beach Airport (CAT4) to have a New Year's Day lunch with them. But, as you will soon see, this didn't happen either.

With intentions to fly to Qualicum Beach, we called Kamloops FSS and got transponder codes, hopped in our planes, started them up, then called over to Boundary Bay Ground on the radio and let them know of our imminent departure off of Runway 07. Mr. Bianchi departed first, and up like an elevator his little Tornado took him skyward while he made the left turn out towards the Alex Fraser Bridge.
As my Dad and I departed behind him, we very, very quickly caught up to Mr. Bianchi and passed him. Originally, we had assumed that the Jodel was actually a slower plane than the Tornado, but this was clearly not the case. It was around this time that we became aware that whenever Mr. Bianchi tried to transmit over the radio, it was 90% static hiss, and 10% audible voice. In communication with Boundary Bay Tower, we formed C-FPAO "Plus One" for the remainder of our trip. This meant that I would be making all of the communications on behalf of our two planes, and he would simply listen in and make all frequency changes as necessary, since he could still hear incoming radio transmissions just fine. Problem solved.

We flew over Burnaby Lake, and through Vancouver Harbour and onward towards the Sunshine Coast, and everything was glorious! What a start to the new year!

As we cruised on past Roberts Creek on the way to the southern tip of Texada Island, my Dad and I noticed two things: One, there was a massive cloud bank that blanketed the whole of the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia) from just off of Point Grey all the way to the eastern shoreline of Vancouver Island, and two, that Mr Bianchi and his Tornado were nowhere in sight. Had we left him in the proverbial dust?

Through some radio calls and extra keen listening skills, we communicated with Mr. Bianchi and understood him to be approximately 5 miles behind us. Informing him of what we were about to do, we executed a 360° orbit over Davis Bay followed by some lazy S-turns to help Mr. Bianchi catch up. We also reduced our cruise power to take our original 110mph indicated airspeed down to 90mph. Knowing that the Tornado can easily cruise at 105mph, we figured this would do the trick to allow him to catch up, and that he did, appearing off our starboard wing just as we were nearing Powell River.

Powell River, you say? Well, before he did catch up to us, we determined that making it to Qualicum Beach would be impossible due to the prevailing meteorological conditions, so we deviated North towards Powell River where weather conditions were far more conducive to VFR operations and we were pretty certain we could find some form of food there too.

At approximately 11:30am, we were both on the ground and parked at Powell River (CYPW). With hunger in our eyes, we made our way to Julie's Airport Cafe which is just out the gates of the airport and to the right, and about a 5 minute walk. Low, and behold, it was closed! So, we turned around and headed down Duncan Street in the opposite direction, towards downtown Powell River.

There should be a lot of restaurants open for lunch, right? Yes-ish. After walking past several closed signs, we did find a few places that were actually open and we chose a place that we later learned was a very new establishment, called "Base Camp."

It was a very nicely done up coffee shop/restaurant with a mountain climber's base camp theme. Because they were one of the very few places open and serving food, our meals naturally took a long time in getting to us, but they did, and it was very nice.

With bellies full, we proceeded to make the 20-25 minute walk back to the airport. Once there, Mr. Bianchi and my Dad topped up the Tornado's tank with the jerrycan that Mr. Bianchi brought along as his co-pilot/R2 Unit. Meanwhile, I had struck up a conversation with two gentlemen that took a liking to the Jodel; one of whom would become instrumental in saving the day for me, my Dad, and the Jodel.

Anyways, back to the story. As we bid adieu to our new friends, we lept into our planes, got them started, and taxied out for departure. Because of the previous radio problem with Mr. Bianchi's plane, we again decided to go as C-FPAO "Plus One" and I planned to taxi into position on the runway and have him depart ahead of me. This way, he could be lead, and I would form up on him in loose formation, so that we could avoid the problem of me outrunning him.

So, we're taxiing out and... Oops, what's that?!!! Why is the Jodel suddenly wanting to turn left despite all of my best efforts to straighten her out? The first thought was that the tailwheel assembly had failed and it was stuck in the castering position, which was a problem I thought Mr. Bianchi and I had remedied in previous weeks. But, it wasn't that at all. As I was stuck only being able to do very tight left turns, I had Mr. Bianchi taxi around us to take a look at my gear and see if maybe I had a flat tire.

Yes, the Jodel had a very flat tire!

To Be Continued...

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Well, 2014 is now behind us. Lots of flying memories and more to come. Some of the group flew the valley yesterday to check out the sandbars and ended up at our favorite restaurant at Chilliwack for lunch and to celebrate the last flying day in 2014. Smooth air, clear skies and great company.

happy new year

Happy new year to all pilots

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

Here's wishing all our readers and members a very Happy New Year. We look forward to many fine flying trips in 2015.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Aviation News Journal Jan/Feb 2015 PREVIEW

The new Aviation News Journal Magazine Jan/Feb 2015 is ready for you.

Preview here:  http://publishers.magzter.com/reader/7275/80207

Happy NEW 2015 to you!!


The tiny (600') curving uphill strip on Saturna isn't really a destination given its reputation for chewing up airplanes. Mr Prudent had the luxury to go in first  with a helicopter to walk the strip.  Now some of you may consider this cheating.

There's a single lonely emu in a pen, but the helicopter didn't rattle it too bad.  Get prior permission and pre-notify of arrival, and do a few passes to check for kids, people, dogs, sheep, heavy equipment.  It is a little lumpy but not bad, branches and bramble bushes reaching out from both sides trying to snag your wingtip.  The hill is quite steep, so steep that on wet grass you may slide down uncontrollably with locked wheels.  As you go up, keep left and then cartwheel it around to the right at the top.  This will align you with the downhill direction instead of aiming cross-strip, and improve your chances of escaping the dreaded walnut tree clutch.  Pick your weather, no wind.  On Vimeo  http://vimeo.com/103213475  there's a video of Sieg landing his 182 there.

Monday, December 29, 2014


Dave & Dave keep raising the bar - this is supposed to be the time to curl up by a log fire and fantasize over a Desser tire catalog, and instead we wring out the year with another challenge to fate and the elements.  This time to Bamfield, A little known strip by the lighthouse/village on the  way to Tofino, about an hour from CZBB.

Strip looks like it has been cleaned up, nice smooth gravel and a locked gate to keep the riffraff out.  About 1800', good approaches, lots of parking.  15 minute walk to "town", braving the howling dogs that eventually broke out of their pen and ran me down.  Turned out they were all friendly, even the evil looking one with one yellow eye and the other blue.  The old woman in the Stanfield top said that  they are lonely from not seeing too many people - is that an invite for us to come more often?  You can always arrange a taxi. 250-728-3363

There's Pacena Bay nearby with a campground and beach, and around the corner toward the lighthouse another long beach called Keeha that looks landable.  Maybe somebody can lay down some tracks and let us know.  I would have except for the brisk outflow wind this afternoon.

Here's some pictures.
This strange looking  building beside the runway has a sign on it saying "customs", must be a story there.  And looking to the north from where I'm parked in the middle.


New Date: January 10th - "Franks On Fraser" Fly in...

There is  an UPDATE to our Fly in event, and the new scheduled date is January 10th, 2015 at 1200-ish:

"The Franks on the Fraser get together has been set for Saturday Jan. 10th , 2015....noon-ish!
It will take place on a gravel bar somewhere between the mission bridge and Hope. Most likely just east of the Agassiz bridge. Bring your own food but the fire and the friendship are free.
The fire should be going by noon so look for the smoke and as always land at your own discretion"...(from Ken).

Please let your friends know...looking forward to this FUN event!

Aviation News Journal: Elke Robinson

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Destination Chilliwack, Alternate Victoria

Plans always seem to change on the fly. 

We originally planned to make our way up to Campbell River to visit Sea Land Aviation, where John Sessions' WWII bomber, the B-25 Mitchell is currently being repainted. Immediately, there was hesitation about going up there, as the GFA's (Graphical Area Forecasts) for the BC Coast were showing very strong winds. The TAF's (Terminal Area Forecasts) also showed that the same conditions should be expected. Our sight then shifted east, towards Chilliwack. We then remembered that there was a group of Pacific Pilots organized to head east. Perfect, right?

The idea was to take a few planes up along the Fraser River to explore the sandbars, then have lunch at Chilliwack Airport. But, soon after we departed Delta Air Park, David Bianchi and I (Dave McIntosh) in the Jodel, were confronted with some very low clouds which made getting past Cloverdale impossible.

Conditions at Langley Airport were marginal VFR, and those conditions spanned north and south of the field creating an effective wall against our progress eastbound. Our friends James in his RANS S-6 Coyote, and Greg in his Tecnam, who both departed King George Airfield ahead of us were turned back by the same weather, but being ahead of us, we could hear them over the radio and it gave us an early alert about the conditions to be expected. From what we gathered, James and Greg both diverted for lunch at Pitt Meadows. Dave and I chose to head to Boundary Bay Airport for Lunch. While at Boundary Bay, we reviewed the weather and made a call that Campbell River was definitely still out as an option, but on the recommendation of some friends we bumped into at the terminal building, Victoria looked good.

We hopped in the Jodel, popped over to Delta Airpark (0.1hrs), grabbed a pair of life vests, and then set out towards Victoria. The trip across was uneventful, other than a low cloud base that did not allow us to fully reach our intended 4500' crossing of the strait. Once on the ground in Victoria we taxiied over to Victoria Air Maintenance (where Bob Jens' Mosquito was expertly restored), and where the Royal Canadian Air Cadets have maintenance done on their Cessna C-182 towplanes (seen below). 

Right outside of Victoria Air Maintenance is also the current parking spot for the Catalina Preservation Society's freshly painted PBY-5A Canso/Catalina. This airplane is best known as the Catalina, but in the Canadian Air Force it was called the Canso.

It is part way through a restoration back to original WWII RCAF configuration. Located off site, are a pair of original waist blisters, and a nose turret, which when re-installed will give the Canso a very original look. What's neat about this specific Canso is that during WWII it actually served at Victoria Airport, so in a sense, it's back home. After the war this Canso was converted to a waterbomber, and eventually made its way into the Buffalo Airways fleet, of TV's "Ice Pilots" fame. Buffalo Airways was the last company to operate the airplane before it was purchased for the Catalina Preservation Society a couple of years ago.

After taking a good look at the Canso, we hopped back in the plane, had a lesson on what clearance delivery can do for you, and then flew across the strait back to Delta Air Park, where conditions had actually improved since we left for Victoria.

With the Jodel tucked away, and a great day of flying under our belts, we closed the hangar doors and returned back to "regular" life, on the ground.

Written by: David McIntosh