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Friday, June 5, 2015

Banfield trip Postponed

Due to a forecast of fog.  We have decided to go to our alternate location.  

Texada Island

Picnic on the beach

Arrival Time: 1100-1130

Walk to the beach for relaxation and a picnic.  This is a bring your own food event.

see you all there.

Safe flying

David B.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Bamfield Flying Trip

The weather looks favorable for a trip to Bamfield this Saturday. 

Those interested in joining the group in Bamfield please let me know so we can inform the airstrip owners how many are planning on flying in.

Plan to arrive between 1100 and 1130 we will try to make arrangements to get the group into town for lunch.

If anyone has an empty seat and would like a co-pilot please contact me and I'll arrange that.


hope to see you all out there.


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Saturday may 30th

Flew to Bamfield .  Gravel strip in reasonable shape, looks like about 1500 feet.
Was a bit of turbulence on approach due to some wind and the type of terrain .
Did the walk to the village, its about 2 km and all down hill  !!!  When I got to the village there is a market with a small restaurant on one side of it.  It closes at 2:00 pm so if you hungry get there early  !!  The walk down hill was quick but looking back up the hill made me shudder. Just the thought of walking back up there was not of much interest  !!! Then < behold, a ford van with Bamfield Taxi on the side of it  !!!   She charges $15.00 for a five minute ride to the airstrip  !!
Best $15.00 I ever spent.  Cell phone service is almost non existent in that area. Just a couple odd sweet spots ,but that's it.

Checked out Keeha Beach and Pachena Beach.  Both are very doable but tide was a liitle too high to land. From what I could see they looked very good,but not sure how soft they were yet.  Will try next time I am out there and the tides are good  !!

Bamfield Taxi   250  728 3363

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Great Vargas Island Fly-in Recap (May 9th, 2015)

On Monday, David B mentioned to me the idea of organizing a little group to fly out to Vargas Island the following Saturday, May 9th. The weather was forecast to be favourable, and the low tide would be right around noon, making it a perfect opportunity to fly in for a meeting of the minds, a bite to eat, and some rest and relaxation in one of the most breathtaking parts of this province we call home. All this before our impromptu runway would be covered up again by the pacific ocean. The dates and times were soon posted on the Pacific Pilot blog, and from there word spread. By Friday we expected there to be maybe 8 or 9 airplanes that would be gathering at Vargas Island with us.

Vargas Island is just north of the town of Tofino, and is almost completely uninhabited, minus a couple homes on the east side of the island. Vargas Island boasts a beach that has such compact sand and is so long that even airplanes as large as Beech 18's and DC-3's are said to have landed there in the past. Our gaggle of airplanes though, would consist of only small single engine aircraft.

Tragically, two days before our trip, one of our good friends, Gary, lost his life when his plane crashed during climb out from King George Airpark. He was flying his Kitfox 5 at the time, and was the only soul onboard. His accident sent a shock wave through our tight community of aviators and we could do nothing but wait to hear the findings from the Transport Safety Board's report. Gary was the previous owner of David Bianchi's Titan Tornado and was affectionately known amongst our flying group as "the Colonel." Needless to say, this tragedy hit very close to home. Gary was also known around King George as a very safety oriented pilot, which made the news even more shocking. Gary and his significant other, Ann, had planned to join us in their Kitfox for our trip to Vargas, but now we would be flying with one less comrade. Knowing that Gary would have wanted us to continue, we carried on with our plans to visit Vargas Island without him. 

As low tide would be at 11:15am, we suggested that participating pilots plan to arrive around then. This would provide the most runway space and the longest time we could all stay on the beach before the tide would come back in. With fuel prices typically being higher in Tofino, David B and I planned to top up our tanks at Qualicum Beach (CAT4) both ways to and from Vargas. Some of our other friends who have airplanes with longer ranges would most likely fill up only once during the entire trip, if at all. We planned for a departure around 9:00am with routing for Me and Jen in the Jodel as: Delta Air Park, direct the Alex Fraser Bridge, Second Narrows Bridge, Point Atkinson, Lasqueti Island, Qualicum Beach for a fuel stop, then direct to Port Alberni, Tofino Inlet, Mearse Island, and finally Vargas Island. David B would be doing a very similar route, but would instead be leaving King George with Jodi as his passenger in the back seat of his Titan Tornado. Jodi's friend Liz would be hitching a ride with Leon out of Boundary Bay Airport in his Symphony. At this point I wasn't sure who else would be coming beyond that. Besides regular readers of the Pacific Pilot blog, I suspected that most other local aviators wouldn't hear about this fun little event we were putting together, so I sent out email invites to as many local flying clubs between Abbosford and Vargas Island as I could, just to see who might come out of the woodwork. The more the merrier, right?

Saturday Morning came quickly, and I got to CAK3 early enough to fill the plane with fuel, add a bit of oil and have everything ready for Jen Bianchi's arrival. Once she arrived we got the back of the Jodel filled with supplies (food, water, and a pink folding chair). Soon after that, we got strapped in and blasted off northbound towards Vancouver harbour. 

Conditions were beautiful and smooth, and we made it to Qualicum in just under an hour.

In Qualicum we added some more 100LL, and then pushed the Jodel out of the way and let Leon and Liz into the fuel pump to fill up the Symphony. Very soon after that we heard, then saw David B and Jodi arriving in the Tornado.
They filled up as well, and soon we were on our way again. Direct towards Port Alberni we climbed, the Titan first, followed by the Jodel, and then the Symphony. Since the mountains are rather high between Port Alberni and Vargas Island, Jen and I elected to climb to 6500'. As we passed through Port Alberni and along Sproat Lake we made position reports on Port Alberni Traffic on 123.0.

Then we switched to the low level enroute frequency 123.2 until we were five minutes out from Vargas Island. 
Along the way we passed beautiful snow topped peaks and after not too long, we could see glimpses of the Pacific Ocean appearing in the distance. The towering mountains soon transformed into dozens of small islands, bays, and peninsulas. As so to avoid Tofino Airport's airspace, we headed down Tofino Inlet then took a right direct to the center of Mearse Island and from there it was a short hop to Vargas. 

As we neared Vargas we switched to our pre-arranged Vargas Island traffic frequency, of 123.45. Vargas was a hive of activity with what seemed like half dozen airplanes arriving all at once. I crossed what I can only describe as "mid-field" and descended for the circuit over the bay that the beach/runway was situated on. As I turned from base onto final I really started to get excited because this would be my first time to Vargas Island, and my first time ever landing on a beach. I set up for a nice wheel landing and once I touched down, I kept a keen eye on the water on the right side of me and the large line up of planes on the left. The feeling of landing on the sand was like a combination of the smoothness of a cement runway, with the extra give and cushioning of landing on grass. 

Once I decelerated enough to taxi, I turned around and found a parking spot next to Lee's Piper Vagabond. To my astonishment there were already many more airplanes parked on the beach than I had expected; most of which I didn't recognize as belonging to anyone I knew. It made me smile knowing that I will be making a bunch of new friends soon. Once I had the Jodel parked, I hopped out and let out an uncharacteristically enthusiastic "Whoo hoo!" I guess I was pretty excited to be there.

As I walked around seeing who was all there, I was almost completely distracted by the ruggedly beautiful scenery and the unique juxtaposition of the airplanes on the giant sandy beach.

As David B and I planned, as noon rolled around we gathered everyone near David's airplane, and he made a short speech informing everyone in attendance of the loss of our dear friend Gary, what an upstanding, good man, and aviator he was, and then we had a short moment of silence. God speed.

Now, you might think we're crazy, but would you believe that four of us actually decided to go for a swim in the ocean while we were on Vargas Island? It's true. We had even brought bathing suits and towels, so really, there was no turning back. The brave/crazy individuals were myself (David M), Leon, Jodi, and Liz.

Photo: David Bianchi
Because of the very gradual slope of the seafloor the water was actually quite shallow, and the sun had warmed it up to make it warmer than any of us had expected. As the waves crashed into us, we were forced to acclimatize to the water whether we wanted to take our time with it, or not. We swam around for a bit and then decided to head back to the party on the beach. Out of the water we strolled, looked both ways and then crossed the runway back to where the main crowd of aviators was hanging out.

The event had attracted a number people flying in from as far away as Williams lake. A the end of the day we had recorded the attendance to be 16 airplanes, 1 helicopter, approximately 34 people, and one sweet, old, deaf doggy.
Photo: David Bianchi
The airplanes ranged in size from David B's Titan Tornado, all the way up to Ray Roussy's Ryan Navion, and practically everything in between.

Everyone brought their own food and drinks, and depending on the useful loads of their airplanes, some even brought small BBQ's and Coleman stoves. The Bianchi's and I had delectable left over pizza, and bottled water. Others brought wieners to roast over the campfire that was built, fresh fruit, watermelon, and many other goodies to help keep all the hungry aviators happy.

As people were getting comfortable and enjoying their meals Ray Roussy arrived in his Ryan Navion and did a low pass to check the winds and to make sure nobody had fallen asleep on the beach.

With all the aircraft on the beach and practically everyone having met and introduced themselves, little groups formed to warm up by the fire, dry off after their swims, and to explore the stunning location that we found ourselves in. David and Jen B went for a long stroll, and David couldn't help but collect beach junk along the way. He was very proud to show off some of the Japanese Tsunami artifacts that had made it across the Pacific Ocean to us here in BC. 

Photo: David Bianchi
I can't speak for everyone, but the whole time I was on the beach with everyone, I couldn't help but feel like I was part of something special, something momentous. I was in heaven. The setting, the planes, and the people made it easy for me to call this one of the best days of my life.

All good things must come to an end, and the time had come to hop back in our planes (and helicopter), and leave behind this little piece of the beautiful wild west coast we had the pleasure of calling home for the afternoon. We cleaned up any trash that was created, put out the fire, and one by one, the airplanes took off and headed east for home.
The unique thing about taking off and landing from the beach at Vargas Island is that it is a little bit curved, so for those of us used to straight runways, it poses a little bit of a challenge, but for any aviator capable of keeping their plane on the centre line of a straight runway, it's just a small adjustment to keep their airplane straight down the curving centreline of the beach. Another small challenge was the crosswind caused by the sea breeze. It was a somewhat stiff wind coming off the water and running approximately 90 degrees from runway/beach heading, and for anyone who regularly flies in out of Delta Air Park, it was a piece of cake. For those of you who don't know, ALL summer long at Delta Air Park there is a constant 90 degree crosswind ranging from 5 to 20 knots. Just like the beach at Vargas, Delta Air Park's vicinity to Mud Bay means that it is under the influence of a pragmatic sea breeze whenever there is a big difference between the temperature of the water and the land.

After getting airborne out of Vargas Island, we climbed to 5500' and proceeded up Tofino Inlet, past Port Alberni, and back into Qualicum Beach for another fuel top-up. After filling up, we hopped back in our planes and climbed up over the Strait of Georgia (Salish Sea) to the southern tip of Texada Island, then along the Sunshine Coast past Sechelt and Gibsons. 

Then we contacted Vancouver Harbour Tower, and with permission, proceeded through their zone until we were released from their control at the Second Narrows Bridge. 

From this point David B and Jodi headed directly to King George Air Park, and Jen and I took a right at Burnaby mountain and descended to 1100' to avoid the Vancouver International Airport approach corridor, and then contacted Boundary Bay Tower over the Pattullo Bridge and proceeded direct the Alex Fraser Bridge, and then from there we followed the 91 highway to Delta Air Park.

As we crossed midfield for landing, I thought about how amazing the day had been, and how I wished it could go on for a little bit longer. The thing is, I knew there wasn't anything more we could have done to have made the day any better. Satisfied, we touched down in Delta and put the Jodel back in its hangar.

Until next time, fly safe and fly smart.

By: David McIntosh