Day 39. 30/July/2014 Oh bum… Iqaluit to Puvirnituq 392 miles 2:59 hrs
Day score 10.
Some possible 1,625 miles to Oshkosh.
I was woken by some the guys working on the new pan about 7.am. It was ok, but I had a dead leg and fell embarrassingly out the plane whacking into Itzy’s tailplane. Yeas, I almost snapped it off! That would have been good. I entertained about 5 workers with stories and photos until they moved on. Good timing as West and Calvin arrived and I went over to greet them. My only request of their time today was to check the weather on their computer, but nope, they invited me in and we had a great chat. Truly I had seemingly come across the most experienced pilot in Northern Canada. He had lived in England a while, so… They had a flight to go way way up north and West and Calvin explained about the weather. It seemed as unpredictable as Iceland. So many variables. There was some mutual respect that I found very heartening. The people who were flying were invited up, because they were getting eaten by the cars. West explained to a group of scientists that it didn’t look good where they were going, it really didn’t. There are no guarantees with flying but West said that he doubted that he could land where they wanted to go today and they agreed to come back and try again tomorrow. So it’s not only me after all. This day off helped Calvin and West as they were bushed. But for me the route was set and the weather was good for the leg. Calvin took half an hour with me to describe the procedures for setting flight plans and cancelling them over the radio or by free phone number anywhere. It was what I needed to know. As I collected my stuff together Matt brought a Air Nunavut hat through. It brought tears again because these people had been so good to me and I’d almost forgot to ask, but yet I didn’t need to. Matt seemed to instinctively know what I needed. I said I would ware it walking around Oshkosh, if I ever got there. Photos were taken downstairs and off I set to Itzy.
I jumped in and taxied away. The controller was quite used to my call sign now and the runway was clear for take off. Itzy sounded a lot happier climbing away this time and we headed south west and climbed well.
For once a flight went relatively well. There was nothing down there, no where to land but lakes and rock. What has happened to the land is continual ice ages have warn the land flat. It is flat, absolutely, all that is left is some diverts caused by the ice which have filled with water, creating millions of little lakes. There was 3 hours of this. Music again helped and the stick to rest my aching right foot. I push down on the pedal with my right hand on top of the cut off broom pole with notches in indicating every 5 litres of fuel in the reserve tank that fits on the seat. I transferred the fuel as normal, as soon as there was room for it up front. 7,000ft and scorching along with what must have been 20 knots on the tail. Nearly 400 miles in 3 hours. The thing was that the wind was gusting at 90 degrees across the runway at Puvirnituq. This would be not fun. I couldn’t hear them on the radio and there was a Boeing 737 parked up. On a gravel runway, this would be interesting to see. I landed on their 19 runway, a textbook cross wind landing and approach, but Itzy is good and handled the quite severe conditions with ease. I taxied up behind a shed for the sliding control gate as it acted as a wind break. The wind was howling. I walked into the terminal and found a phone to call the free call number to close my flight plan. A guy answered, I said I was “The pilot of G-BYLP” and he asked “Are you safely on the ground at Puvirnituq?” I said I was and he said “Great!” and asked if there was anything else he could help me with today. “Nope.” and he pleasantly said “Goodbye.” That was easy.
So why is today entitled “Oh Bum?” Well I can land in these conditions, but there is no way I can take off in them. That’s a whole new board game. When you land you are like a glider and just land. When you are taking off and applying power and lifting the tail with Gyroscopic effect of the propeller having effects, and side thrust due to slip stream, it just all a bit much especially on a loose gravel surface. I went up to the control tower. The controller was a local Inuit guy wit a very responsible job, He joked with me about the weather and apologised for not talking to me but every hour he has to go and record the temperature a due point and he wasn’t on the radio when I arrived. I said not to worry and truthfully I believe I was on the wrong frequency anyway. But never mind.
A young engineer made his acquaintance back down in the terminal building. His name was Richmond and he was ground crew on the 737, dash 8 and Twin Otters of Air Inuit. He was almost at the end of his 3 on 3 off weeks. It breaks the ice when you say you are an engineer to. We have to unite against pilots and managers who just don’t understand what we do. We just cost money and keep taking the aircraft apart, that’s all we do to them. He asked if he could help. Well ideally I needed to look at the weather and to refuel. There was no avgas here either, there was and then apparently there wasn’t, then there definitely wasn’t. Richmond walked me through to the Air Inuit offices and I looked at the weather on the pilots briefing computer. The weather had turned quite bad with very low cloud and rain due to a front some 100 miles south. There would be no more flying today. But Richmond said to meet him outside in ten minutes and we would go and get fuel. As we drove down town, just like so many places, the town could only survive now from the airport and supplies from a ship which happened to be in the harbour, which only arrived three times a year. It arrived as soon as the sea ice had melted, mid summer and just before the sea froze again. There were large wooden crates all over the place, stacked up. I asked what was in them and Richmond said it could be anything from basic blocks of wood for a new house or a quad bike or Skidoo. It could be anything.
40 litres of fuel was bought and we returned to poor it into Itzy. 20 for the main tank and 20 for reserve. Richmond had to return to work and I thanked him sincerely as whatever happened I was now ready to continue when I could.
There was wifi in the airport lounge, so I dug the laptop out and went to research some more weather. This system was quite local, if I had gone to Kuujjuaq, due south of Iqaluit I could have skirted around it, but we were not to know. The 737 fired up and taxied out and took off. Wow, how did it not dig holes in the ground and suck up the gravel with its engines. The jet engines would not like eating gravel. In fact it doesn’t take much ingestion of foreign matter to really effect engine performance. The 737 was adapted to have a ski on the nose leg and deflect stones from the engine air intakes. But perhaps the 737 did dig wholes as out went a leveller truck followed by a truck spraying oil from the back. The oil was apparently vegetable oil. to hold the runway gravel together. Figures…
The wind was ripping at the three flag atop the flag poles. But Itzy just sat there
In the shelter of the gate shed. The ladies at the Inuit came over to ask if I was ok. It was very nice of them. There seemed a strange mix of Inuit, English speaking Canadian and French speaking Canadian, all trying to live in harmony.
Later I walked back out to the plane, not sure what for. An Air Inuit van drove up, out of it came a nice chap called Dan. He brought fruit and some cartons of juice. He told me they had been watching me walking about while working all day and was there any way they could help. Stop it blowing and make the sun come out was not on his approval list. Dan was a carpenter by trade and just made sure everything ticked along and that anything that got broke got fixed.
He asked once more was there anything he could do. I thanked him but said no. I was fine. I went back in to the terminal, the last plane was about to take off. They told me I could stay in the building as there was a night controller on throughout the night. I wanted to stay another hour, but then I really needed to sleep. So as darkness didn’t fall, as it still didn’t much up here, I climbed back in Itzy and tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. Either this tank was leaking or the car fuel was venting off something that the avgas didn’t. If I left a gap around the canopy for some air, the wind, rain and mosquitoes came in. If I closed the canopy I got dizzy on fuel fumes. It was a torrid night.
Thought of the day: Dam, almost made good progress today. Blasted weather.