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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Another Acro Day in Squamish

As the title of this blog suggests, on Sunday, May 3rd we headed up to Squamish (CYSE) for another day of hanging out and taking turns going upside down with the always excellent, Jodi Rueger.

Photo: Elizabeth Cowden

The big difference from our last trip to Squamish was that this time around, we had many more people fly in to take part in the fun.

Jodi departed King George Airpark with James in his RANS S-6S Coyote, granted, a little bit later than planned due to a K9 escape effort planned and carried out by a clever little doggy named Jack.

Photo: Jodi Rueger

David B flew up to squamish solo in his Tornado, and I, David M, left Delta Air Park with David B's son, Wyatt as my co-pilot in the Jodel.

We planned to get up to Squamish via Indian Arm and I gave Wyatt the map and had him keep track of our position all the way there. Wyatt is a natural navigator, and as you'll see, he's apparently also quite well suited to be an aerobatics pilot!

As we trundled up Indian Arm at 3500' we transmitted our position reports on 126.7 (enroute frequency) and about half way up the waterway we heard a familiar voice and call sign making a position report at the south end of the arm. It was Stumpy (Greg) in his Tecnaam. His call let us know that he was behind and below us, but planning to climb to an altitude above us. Since the Tecnaam is faster than the Jodel, there was worry of a potential conflict, but as it turns out, he never did end up catching us and Wyatt and I made it through the Indian Arm Pass first. I'll add that Stumpy was quickly able to get visual on us and confirmed that we were about 5 miles ahead of him and together we flew up Indian Arm with no conflict.

As we switched to 122.8 for Squamish Traffic, we heard Wyatt's Dad approaching the airport and he saved us the effort of having to figure out which runway was active (or Preferred).

Runway 33 was active, so we crossed midfield from east to west and joined a slightly non-standard left-hand circuit, as per the published noise abatement procedures. After landing we taxied in to the Glacier Air apron and found a parking spot beside David B's Tornado. Soon after Stumpy came in and parked next to us. We didn't realize it until then, but Jason had joined him for the flight up. Also on the apron was a Lycoming powered de Havilland DHC-1 Chipmunk that Michael Peare had flown in from Langley. 

As time went on, more and more airplanes showed up. Leon arrived in his gorgeous Symphony, of which I had only heard about until this day. 
 Daryl & Sharon arrived in their Eurofox, and Ian arrived in the RANS S-7 Courier equipped with tundra tires. 

The staff at Glacier Air remarked that we brought more airplanes than what usually show up for Squamish Airport Appreciation Day. Not everyone who flew in was on the list to do aerobatics in the Super Decathlon with Jodi, but they clearly found it an excellent excuse to fly somewhere and be social.

As mentioned, a list of acro aviators was made and it became obvious that Jodi would be kept quite busy; poor girl. Colette, who owns and operates Glacier Air added a touch of truth to the list by giving it the title "Jodi's F.C." (Fan Club). It included three repeat customers, and four first-timers.

While Jodi was doing her first lesson with her friend from back home, Liz, the rest of us did the typical chatting and airplane ogling and coveting. It really was like a mini fly-in at Glacier Air, and hopefully we didn't cause too much of an inconvenience to their regular operations.

Upon Jodi and Liz's return to the airfield, we had a group aerobatics ground brief, for all the new and returning students.

Also added to the classroom portion of the day was a very informative briefing by Colette about all the specifics for flying in and out of CYSE. She also let us know of the airport's less than enthusiastic neighbours, their locations, and how to keep them happy. Lastly, she clarified frequencies, radio calls, and common call-up points when flying to and from Squamish via Indian Arm and Howe Sound. This information was incredibly valuable, because it provided us with everything we needed to know to operate in and around Squamish safely. Of note, when flying up or down Indian Arm, Colette told us that the more appropriate frequency to be using is 123.2, which is what the heli-logging and blasting operators use in that area. She recommending using 126.7 only if flying very high up, where there would be zero chance of conflict with either operations.

After the briefing Stumpy was the next to go up with Jodi and judging by the smile on his face when he returned, he had a fabulous time!

After Stumpy, next was Wyatt, who as mentioned before was my excellent navigator on the way up. This time he got to try on a real-life video game called the Super Decathlon! Jodi gave him some stick time and let him do a bunch of 'rollercoasters' and his enthusiasm resulted in a +2/-2G maneuver, which Wyatt handled just fine, and of which he thoroughly enjoyed.
Photo: Elizabeth Cowden
While Wyatt was up with Jodi, David B took Jodi's friend Liz up in his Titan Tornado for a little bit of a straight and level sightseeing flight. Liz had brought a fancy camera up to Squamish with her, and made good use of it flying with David B. As you'll note, some of the photos in this blog are credited to Liz (Elizabeth Cowden).

While those two planes were up, Colette came over and asked our group for four volunteers to go for a Cessna C-206 ride. She explained that Glacier Air was checking out a new sight-seeing pilot in the big plane and they wanted a full load to give the new guy an idea of how she flies near the maximum gross weight limits. It took only minor arm twisting, and soon the plane was full of grinning pilots going for a free trip! Talk about being in the right place at the right time!

Once the C-206, the Tornado, and the Super Decathlon were all back on the ground we made plans to go for lunch. Thankfully, Heidi, Frank, Jodi's boyfriend Mark, and David B's wife Jen all drove up from the city and we had plenty of free taxis to get the big crowd to and from wherever we decided to go. We were excited  to revisit the Watershed, but when we called to reserve a table for 12, they told us that they were full and that there was already a line up out the door. We called another couple places and didn't get answers, so we decided to just drive in to town and hope for the best. The first restaurant we came across was The Nest, which upon driving into their parking lot, we realized it was closed. Odd. Southbound we drove until we came across the Shady Tree Neighbourhood Pub, and thankfully they had room for us on their patio. 

The Shady Tree was a nice restaurant, and very accommodating for our large and unexpected group. The food and service was also very nice.

 After lunch we headed back to the airport and continued on with more schmoozing and aerobatics. Jodi took up Leon for an intro aerobatics flight and when their flight got back down David B decided to head home in the Tornado, and so did James, with Wyatt as his passenger in the Coyote. David B departed first, and then James took off after him, but something didn't look right. I noticed what looked like white smoke or vapour coming from the right side of the plane. It looked like a gas leak, or smoke from the engine. Another observer on the ground saw the same thing and we quickly got Jodi to start up the radio in the Super Decathlon and she made a radio call to James telling him what we had seen. James quickly turned back, and with his son in James' plane, David B turned back too. They both landed safely and so began the diagnosis of the problem. Fuel caps were secure, and fuel levels were where they should be. Not a fuel leak. With the cowling off, it was determined that the smoke we had seen was actually coolant vented from the overflow bottle. This was not dangerous in any way, as this can often happen on hot days. So, after a quick run-up and test flight without incident James, Wyatt, and David took off and made their way home.

Photo: Elizabeth Cowden
For Frank and I (David M), we were on to our second acro lesson and Jodi did a mini-briefing for the two of us because we were going to be expanding our aerobatic repertoire with the addition of the half cuban and the fully developed spin.

As my name was on the list ahead of Frank's, I hopped in the Super Decathlon with Jodi and I had fun practicing and improving my skills with the manoeuvres I had already learned, and then I had even more fun combining aspects of the loop and the roll to create a half cuban. In the Super Decathlon, you enter the half cuban just like a regular loop: lower the nose to gain 140mph, check level, and pull back. You remain in what looks exactly like a regular loop until you are at a 45 degree angle downwards, upside down. At this point, you execute a half roll back to the upright position and then pull out of the ensuing dive and return to level flight. Jodi demonstrated the first one, and then I got to practice a few. You know, I think I'm starting to get the hang of this!

After doing a bunch of half cubans, we moved on to the fully developed spin. Jodi demonstrated one, and normally I'm fine in spins, but for some reason I got the first signs of motion sickness; I had suddenly gotten very warm. The abruptness to which the plane stopped spinning was a contributing factor. My stomach still felt fine, but I didn't want to push myself so I played it safe by not doing any more spins. I was already quite satisfied with a handful of rolls, loops, hammerheads, and half cubans. Since it was near the end of the lesson anyway, we decided to head back to the airport. But we were faced with a problem. We were pointed north, but we needed to be going south. Because my body was still doing well enough for a little bit more acro, I asked that instead of doing a boring turn to change our direction, maybe I could do another half cuban, to which Jodi said "of course." And so there I went, dive for 140mph, check level, up and over, 45 degrees nose down, roll 180 degrees, and pull out... Oh, there's the airport, time to set up for the circuit and landing.

Photo: Elizabeth Cowden
Once back on the ground I hopped out, took off my parachute, and handed it to Frank to put on. With a quick debrief, Jodi gave me some homework to do for my next lesson. To increase my spin tolerance I was prescribed the same thing Jodi does everyday. In a safe place, stand up and look straight up at the ceiling, then slowly and in a completely controlled manner, do six 360 degree turns to the right, then stop and immediately do six 360 degree turns to the left. Only spin as fast as you can control. By doing this everyday, my tolerances should increase, allowing me to push harder and longer before experiencing the effects of motion sickness. 

Ready to rock, Frank jumped in the Super D, strapped in, and was soon airborne for his acro lesson. It was the last aerobatics lesson of a day that saw Jodi being kept quite busy, but judging from the ear to ear smile she wore all day long, the workload had no negative effect on her what-so-ever. In fact, I think it had more of a positive effect on her, than anything. And, in typical Frank fashion, at the end of his flight, and once clear of the airplane, Frank released the pent up excitement he had withheld during his flight.

With all the aerobatics lessons done and most people having already gone home, I hopped in the Jodel by myself, and made my own way home via Indian Arm. The conditions were amazing; the air was as smooth as silk and the sun was gently lowering itself in the west (actually, the earth was rotating, giving the impression of the sun moving). 


The way the sun lit up the peaks was simply breathtaking and I couldn't help but snap a few pictures.

I got back to Delta Air Park with over an hour of sunlight to spare, put the Jodel to bed for the night, and made the mundane drive back home to Vancouver. 

Cars seem pretty boring after having been flying, don't you think? The flight home was so amazing and the whole day really reaffirmed why I love flying. It's not just the beautiful views we get to enjoy, or the sensation of freedom we all experience when slipping the surly bonds. It's the people, and the connections we make with our fellow pilots.

Thank you to everyone for coming out, and thank you to Colette and everyone at Glacier Air for being such hospitable hosts. 

Until next time, fly safe!

Written by: David McIntosh