Iqaluit Canada, Canada
All I want is one good flight!
Iqaluit Canada, Canada
All I want is one good flight! Nuuk to Iqaluit 477 miles 4:30 hrs
A flight too far! Iqaluit to Iqaluit 0 miles 0:44 hrs
There was a problem filing the flight plan. They had to phone it through as the computer system communications was down still. Ok, well there was nothing for it but to pick up my bottles of coke, get in and go. I’m not advertising or doing product placement there, it was just the best thing they had for staying awake. I’m shattered and I might need the caffeine to keep me going later. I did check the oil level and put in another half litres or so.
I lined up on their 05 runway and took off. This was good news as that meant a tail wind, but there was hardly and wind at all.
This is the flight I admit to dreading the most. 477 miles of the coldest water, not much with respect to search helicopters and the coldest water, it was about 2 degrees Celsius.
If the engine quit on this flight in the middle of the water, I was in trouble. How did I prepare for it? Head in the sand, because I think if you really stopped and thought about it, you wouldn’t go.
The GPS said 510 miles by the time I turned around and headed out to sea. What was the technique here, to push the engine hard while the oil was cold, to try and climb to a cooler air mass and then throttle back or just steadily climb and watch the temps rise. I had got fed up of watching the warning light come on so I raised the alert figure higher. I could see it was hot, I didn’t need a flashing red light telling me…
Before the radio went out of range I asked Nuuk, “You have started my flight plan haven’t you and you have informed Iqaluit that I’m coming?” They said “Yes!”, even though they had to phone Sonderstrom and sonderstrom had phoned Iqaluit. I wanted to make sure the Canadians knew I was coming and by when. This was in case I didn’t turn up on time, then they may come and look for me? Or at least the Canadians would. Its strange how the radio just drops out quite suddenly. One minute they can hear you, five minutes later and gone…
At 105 miles out I could change to Gandar Oceanic CTA Control Area or FIR Flight Information Region. It didn’t matter where I was, I couldn’t get anyone on the radio…
I would be very bored if I wasn’t so terrified, listening to every different harmonic or note in the engine. Moving from one bum cheek to the next to make sure I didn’t get a blood clot. Also using the extra tank dipstick as a pushrod to allow my right foot a rest once in a while. I plugged in my phone to the audio input jack of the intercom. I could now play music in my headphones. It was very helpful to listen to music instead of the engine all the time. If the engine was going to stop, it was going to stop. There was nothing I could do about it but monitor temperatures and pressures anyway. So the music really helped.
All the fuel was in the main tank by half way. It gave me something to do. At half way 255 miles to go, the GPS moving map didn’t have any land. It just said Baffin Bay. I drank the coke every time I yawned. There was nothing out there, just sea. I never saw a ship, I couldn’t raise anyone on any frequency that I had for Gander or Montreal FIR or Canadian Northern Control. I just sat there bricking myself. Imagining and running through emergency procedures. I had my life insurance around my neck in the form of a personal locator beacon. I had another and a spare radio in water tight bags in the bag where all my teddy bears had been since leaving Iceland. There they had to stay, if I was fished out the water I would bring the bag with me. I would refuse to eave without it or them. I had stored all the photos and diary and logger files on the stand alone remote dick which now sat in my hoody pocket inside my immersion suit. The laptop was not in a water tight bag and would be ruined by sea water loosing everything I had. Your life is on a disk now… Mine was on two.
100 miles out and the radio springs into life. It’s a Canadian voice… They can’t hear me but it’s good to hear a voice. Hum. I might not drown now. They have helicopters that can get out here… 80 miles. Iqaluit is 50 miles in land, so the coast may come out the gloom soon. I’m 8,000 feet up. I could almost glide to the coast. The cylinder heads are being warmed by the oil and the oil cooled by the cylinder heads. Not the way around it should be, but all is stable at 95 degrees Celsius.
There is the coast, there it is, there out the gloom and quite close. Oh I could definitely glide there. The radio is clear now and I call Iqaluit. “Iqaluit G-BYLP 50 miles east flight level 80 inbound estimating 20.45 zulu!” “Aircraft calling say you registration again?” I always get that… “Golf Bravo Yankee Lima Papa.” No one can ever work out it’s a British plane. “OK, Golf Papa Lima, what is your aircraft type?” They should know that, it’s on the flight plan. My heart sank… What I thought was going to be my best flight. The one I feared that had gone so well, I’d made it I was on decent with 40 miles to go and they haven’t got my flight plan. “OK Bravo Papa, we’re just looking for your flight plan.” No need guys, they never sent it… “You might like checking under VFR flights. Sometimes they get missed?” I replied in hope, but I know what has happened. I’ve paid several hundred dollars for someone in Greenland not to do his job. Even though I asked them and they said they had… Well I’m not going back but, they whole idea of the flight plan is safety. I’ve just done one of the most dangerous sea crossings because of the temperature and exposure, and they never knew I was coming. I can’t express how sad I felt, tearful again actually. Why does nothing ever go well? Why?
There was Iqaluit, a big airbase looming into view. I was lining up for a left base for runway 16. An American Airforce Hercules C140 lined up on runway 34 to take off. I pre-empted the call I know they were going to make and said I would extend my down wind leg. The Herky Bird was cleared take off. Mean time a Dash 8 was on a 10 mile instrument approach. Gees guys!!! Iqaluit Tower asked how long before I could be on the ground? “1 minute” I called. “Ok expedite that then please Lima Papa,” and I shot towards the end of the runway. “Lima Papa cleared to land runway 16, just be aware of turbulence from the departing aircraft!” “Roooooger that!” as I flew through it and touched down landing long so as not to be taxing too long with the commercial traffic rapidly approaching. I came off at Charlie and they said to pull up by the pumps to my right and wait for customs. “Tower did you find my flight plan?” “No sir we did not!” “Thanks.”
Well I’m in Canada but without customs clearance or prior notification, for how long? The Customs car pulled up. A guy and a lady. It was the lady who was not impressed. What can I say, I waffled on explaining what had happened and how much I had just paid the guys in Nuuk not to do there job when they said they had. The fact that I was more annoyed that I had just come across 4 hours of treacherous water and no one knew I was coming I tried to overwhelm the importance of customs and immigration. I was supposed to give two hours notice of arrival. She threatened that this was a serious matter and they could impound the plane… No don’t do that, I thought, or I’ll never make Oshkosh. I showed them the receipt for the $679.40 from Nuuk. They took my passport and went to sit in their car.
Ten minutes later they returned. She stated that even though this was a serious matter, there were mitigating circumstance and they had decided to be lenient this time. She gave me a pamphlet on how to correctly en
ter Canada in case I returned. She handed back my passport with a customs stamp in it and wished me good day. The guy had not said a word.
I turned the radio back on and asked the tower about the fuel. They had ascertained that there was none, but the FBO (Flight Base Operator) had some and I could taxi straight ahead, back past the tower and it was down there on the right, I couldn’t miss it as it had FBO in big red writing and so it had. I pulled in and walked into their plush operation. First thoughts were, “This is going to cost”
I was met by a lady called Inder and I believe it was Garth but his name I can not for the life of me remember, I wrote their names down and then forgot where I wrote them. Anyway very nice they were, but strangely neither were pilots. I got out my immersion suit and chatted for a while. They had Avgas but it would cost $1,100.00 Canadian dollars per barrel. Ouch! I could run on motor gasoline. Simple and Garth called one of the summer helping pilots who worked there as part of a college course, to take me with some containers, to get some fuel. I think his name was Mitch. Like I said, his flight training was through a college and to qualify for the grant he had to do a summer job working on an airfield and Iqaluit turned up for him, The fuel, 80 litres cost $100 Canadian dollars, cheap and the FBO charged $100 dollars a day for 1 minutes help to 24 hours. 24 hours and 1 minute would cost $200. With the fuel saving, this was Ok…
Back with Itzy they said they could not be seen to help as it was not really legal but I could do what I wanted with my own plane. Ok, that’s fuel. Now where next?
Mitch helped me sort out a flight plan to go to Kuujjuaq about 341 nautical miles due south, some 380 miles or 4 hours. I could just do it with the day light. They offered me water for the flight, I got back in my suit as Mitch phone through the flight plan and I was set. Back in the plane I taxied and entered via Charlie again as I couldn’t see the other entrance to the runway, there must have been one but there was a lot of new development work, temporary taxi ways and lighting. I took photos of the famous yellow terminal building and entered the runway. The tower controller was cool and cleared me to take off and activated my flight plan. Itzy took to the evening skies but wasn’t happy. Was it the fuel? It couldn’t be because it wouldn’t have been pure car fuel yet, there was still half a tank of Avgas I’d mixed it with. Oh well I went into cruise mode at 90 knots and set off. We only just cleared the hills south of the bay. At this rate it would be really late when I got to where ever I was going. I had to find it? There was another time shift, I wasn’t actually sure what time it was here in Canada. I opened up the engine to climb, it wasn’t happy. Colin Colin Colin… That’s 8 hours it’s done already today. You have done well. Listen to your plane trying, trying to look after you. Yu don’t know where you are going, how long it will take to get there, what is there when you get there and you could kill the engine running it like this and that is the end of Oshkosh… I had a massive headache, but I’m sure this was just because of wearing the headsets for 8 hours already today. I keep having to take them off to wiggle and stretch my ear lobes.
So I did something I don’t often do in my life… I did the right thing and I turned the plane around… Poor brain is fried, but deep down I knew this might be one too far. I called up Iqaluit again and told them not to worry, but I had an imbalance in my engine and I was coming back. They cleared me to land when the field was in sight and taxing back in I asked where I could park this over night. “Up by the Dac would be good!” “No worries.” I could see a DC3 Dacota, turbine converted, and I taxied up to it past the FBO, who were having a party outside and were no doubt wondering why I had come back.
I shut down Itzy and walked over to the FBO to explain. They asked if I needed anything, but I didn’t really, I needed to find out what was wrong with the engine and I headed off back to investigate.
I took the cowls off, expecting to have to reset the tappets. That’s what it normally is when there is a funny vibration. The bad thing was I had only just redone them in Iceland, they shouldn’t change that quickly. But no, oil was dripping out of the cowls again. The collection bottle was full to overflowing. The vent pipe was submerged in the oil which wouldn’t let the engine crankcase vent properly, causing the rough running. I cleared the bottle and checked the tappets anyway. A young bloke headed out. I’m really embarrassed because he saved the day and I think his name was Matt. Look, my brain is completely fried. And I know it…
His father owned Air Nunavut, they ran a couple, may be 3 King Airs and a few other planes, but by now it was dark and I couldn’t see them properly. We chatted for half an hour until the mosquitoes got the best of us and he invited me back to their hangar. I told him all and he listened to my predicament. Upstairs with a computer for the weather and their flight planning software, we started looking at a route. Maps, Matt had lots of old ones and an invaluable Canadian Flight Supplement with every airport in Canada in brief in it. It was exactly what I needed. It was only valid for three months. A big book I thought for just a few months, but anyway it was what was needed. Matt admitted that the best thing to do though was wait until West, an old timer pilot, turned up as he had so much knowledge he would advise on the best route.
We chatted out the back porch overlooking the town and I asked lots of questions as I knew I left tomorrow and wouldn’t get chance. He was an early time commercial pilot as well. His Dad’s company serviced the airports in the northern territories. They went place no one else went, but only because of their pilot’s knowledge and experience of weather and runway conditions. I asked him where he thought he would be in 5 years time like I had asked Mitch, Interesting answers too. The airfield was expanding rapidly as was the town. The town was only here because of the airport, so there were never any complaints about it. The prospectors for the mineral wealth of Northern Canada had moved in and now the town was booming.
A king Air taxied in. The people onboard had been stuck up north for 15 days and West and co-pilot Calvin had gone up and rescued them but the weather had been close to limits. Sliding in under very low cloud. Hum, done that before…
I tried to help, I knew West and Calvin had been out on a long one, but when he had dealt with work issues West came and sat with me to work a best route. Unparallel assistance considering I bet all he wanted to do was go home for a good rest, but he wouldn’t until we had worked a route all the way to the American border. It was late though and I could catch them in the morning if I needed to ask more questions. West was just more embarrassed as the printer had run out of toner and would print the flight plans he had created. It didn’t matter and I would see them tomorrow morning. There were a load of new Air Nunavut baseball caps on a table, I’d ask to buy one tomorrow, I don’t have a cap yet and I cant go to Canada and America and not carry a hat.
With great thanks everyone departed and I returned to Itzy to complete the tappets, clearing an oiling up ready for tomorrow. My new 66 North hat from Iceland was awesome at keeping the mosies off and gloves worked ok a bit but I still got bitten a lot before tidying up and jumping in the plane. The temporary flashing lights for the new wider pan were mesmerising, but soon I was asleep.
Thought for the day: Itzy is in Canada. Yeah.