Alberta to Nova Scotia December 2013

Chris was moving up from a Sky Raider to a BushCaddy which he located in Barrhead Alberta. His problem was that he lived in Nova Scotia and he was a float guy without a lot of airport or cross country experience. So, while he was willing to do the trip, he wanted a little more experience along. Someone convinced him that I could fill in the gaps so he offered me an all expenses paid ride from my home near Peterborough to Edmonton and Barrhead and then the 31 hour flight to Dayspring NS in the Bush Caddy.  I accepted willingly. Did I mention this was near the end of November?

One of the worst parts of the trip was getting out there. Chris booked us out of Toronto on an 11 pm flight which got us to the hotel in Edmonton at about 3:00 am. I’m not used to those kinds of hours at my age but I survived.

By 10 that morning we were looking over the plane at a cold hangar in Barrhead. We had work to do to get it ready and we were not excited about doing it in -20 temperatures. We certainly picked a cold spell for the whole trip: this was typical of the temps every day. Fortunately, the owner talked his friend Rod MacDonald     into making room for us in his heated hangar/shop so we were able, with his facilities, tools and assistance, to get it ready in comfort. Rod had to be one of the most helpful guys I’ve come across and he had a very dry sense of humour as well. In addition, he knew the plane well so was a great source of validation of the planes condition.

Friday morning, Nov. 29, we were fueled, packed up and ready. Rod gave me a check out and by late morning we headed east in clear skies and strong tailwinds. To see the route we followed look at:


First day heading south east towards Edmonton:

We soon left Edmonton behind, then Lloyd Minster and North Battleford but 3 hours into the flight, before reaching Saskatoon we were on top of fairly solid overcast and Saskatoon was reporting deteriorating conditions. While we were re-thinking our route the in-flight lunch service came by so we paused to re-energize (OK so it would have been better hot but..):

 At this point our ground speed was 125 (normal cruise is around 90). When we turned around to back track our ground speed dropped to 60 and we quickly became very much less happy than we’d been to this point. With about six hours of fuel we more irritated than concerned. Chris suggested it would be better to head south to reduce that headwind and pretty soon the destination became Outlook Sask.

What happened at Outlook was very typical of subsequent stops. Initially we had some concerns: there was no one around, the “terminal” building (shack) was deserted and decrepit, the town staff didn’t know who to talk to, there weren’t any visible tie downs and no source of power which we’d need for our morning pre-heat if we were to get that Rotax going.

On the ground at Outlook Sask:

A local business only a block away was more helpful and put out a call to John Stickel, a local real estate agent who had a hangar on the field. He drove out and helped us into a friends hangar which had hydro, then took us to a motel, picked us up the next morning and hung around while we waited for some pretty heavy fog to dissipate. What started out as a potentially bad situation became the positive result we had every night (even the last night which, initially looked even worse than at Outlook).

Day two started out with an unusual occurrence. While there were clear skies, some pretty dense low fog floated in and out. We thought that by the time we had the engine warmed up it might have lifted so Chris fired up the 912 to warm it up. After 10 minutes the engine began to run very rough so he shut it down wondering if the heavy fog was causing carb icing (rare on a 912). It was icing but not in the carb; the leading edges of the prop blades had a solid ¼” of ice with a tapered coating for a couple of inches back on the aft sides. None of us had ever experienced this before. We spent an hour in a local coffee shop waiting for clearer air.  Below is a shot of the back side of the prop. Some of the ice has been broken off the outer 10” of the prop. That’s the icy fog in the background.


Again we headed out into a clear blue sky with temp aloft at -25. fortunately the cabin heat was quite adequate so we had a pleasant couple of hours heading for Manitoba. Once again, deteriorating weather slowed us down and we landed at Yorkton after three hours. Facilities here were quite a bit better with quick access to a hangar and power on a timed outlet. The engine was quite well equipped with both oil and coolant heaters which did a great job of getting the engine warm to the touch in an hour or so.

Sunday morning we were packed and ready for travel and did get airborne but weather was no better than forecast so we returned to Yorkton and Chris did some familiarization circuits. Monday was no better but by Tuesday morning we did get airborne and flew 1.9 hours to Brandon. More snow, winds and of course cold shut us down again. At Brandon the Chief Instructor Kevin


 With the forecast not looking good and some pressure on the home front, Chris decided to head back to NS on a commercial flight leaving me to wait it out. By Friday Dec 6 I headed east again past Winnipeg, Kenora, Dryden to Sioux Lookout in 3.7 hours. That whole leg from Brandon to Sioux was missed by SPOT and I wonder if, had there been an emergency, would I have been picked up

.Once again after a clear day, late afternoon brought low ceilings and snow as I approached the Sioux. Here the wind and cold were particularly severe and I felt badly for the attendant getting fuel although he seemed used to it.

At the Sioux I was offered two heated hangers. The first one was a mere $200/ night. I opted for the second one which was only 50. Chris also appreciated this I’m sure.

Another Chris (last name?) was quite helpful in getting me to a hotel and picking me up the next morning.

Saturday was about the coldest so far and it took some time for the cabin heat to dry the frost of the inside of the windows. 2.2 hours got me to the usual low ceilings with snow showers at Geraldton but with marginal VFR I was able to continue another 1.4 hours to Hearst. I’d called ahead to enquire about facilities at Hearst because Geraldton had only inaccessible outside tie downs. Yet again the airport manager Luke     was there to let me into his heated hangar and provide a ride to a motel and then pick me up again at 7 Sunday morning. I keep marvelling at how helpful people in this game can be. I was off again at sunrise (also with frosty windows)


 and 4.9 hours later (again thanks to snacks and the “range extender”), landed at Holland landing near Toronto. This destination was close to my vehicle and my son’s home so I planned a stop over for a couple of days.

Chris was anxious to get back with the flight so he shuttled  to Toronto on Wednesday and thanks to the airport operator, Jon Sadowski, who put the plane in the hanger the night before, we were warmed up and ready to go and yet again in clear skies. Guess what. By early afternoon west of Cornwall we again had to drop down and skirt snow showers. We finally hit ‘nearest’ and set down at Iroquois after only 1.9 hours.

Here we were convinced our luck had changed. In addition to the cold, wind and snow, no one was around, all the private hangars were locked up, there were no tie downs. And the town staff had no one we could talk to. Chris was looking for motels on his smart phone and found a B and B and as we looked across the field we saw it on the far side. We taxied over, tied the tail to a tree and spent the night. The owner Kevin…. Loaned us his truck to get into town for a restaurant and fuel and had a generator we could use for the pre-heat next morning. Yet again everything worked out just fine.

You can guess what Thursday’s weather was: yes, clear and really cold. Thanks to Kevin’s generator, we got off just at sunrise and after 4.1 hours were ready to stop for a break at St Leonard NB.

Most of this leg was on top of broken but the Bay of Fundi was a bit more solid. Chris was able to contact his buddies on the south shore to confirm that Dayspring was nicely broken.

2.4 hours later we landed at Dayspring greeted by several of Chris’s club buddies. After a pleasant evening with Chris and his wife I was on a plane the next morning to return to Toronto and home.

This is Chris (in the middle) at Dayspring NS strip.

So why did I say this was a ferry flight ORDEAL?  A buddy of mine is a well qualified instrument rated pilot. After the second delay in Brandon he said in an email to me that it looked like the trip was turning into quite an ordeal. I thought about that for awhile and replied that if you call having the opportunity to fly across the country with all expenses paid, getting to meet helpful folks at every stop, having no mechanical problems and trying out a variety of hotels and restaurants an ordeal, then, yes, I guess that’s what it was. In my mind it was yet another enjoyable long cross country where every day you start out not knowing where you will end up, what weather will throw at you nor who you will meet and it was one of the more economical ones I’ve had.  

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