I’ve just spent the last two weeks on the road- or rather over the road, bush, forest, lakes, mountains, farm fields, of this great land. Ferrying a 45 year helicopter across Canada in the winter is something everyone should do before they die.
For those unfamiliar with Canada, it is the big purple country in the upper left corner of most six grade maps. It is coloured purple to reflect the skin tone of its citizens. Nothing brings a country closer together than the fear of freezing to death.
I understand that flying a Sea King across Canada is a time consuming event. It isn’t like P90x, where in 90 days you are transformed into a middle aged man with misguided motives. No flying a Sea King on a winter cross country takes a lot of prep work.
First, you have to get tethered to a mortgage in a small Newfoundland town, get laid off from your government job, refuse to bump someone from their job out of principle, convince your wife that you want to join the military during a war, have her quit her permanent job and move the family to Moose Jaw only to then tell her you want to fly the oldest aircraft in the Canadian inventory. Then you have to be the only Aircraft Captain available at the squadron when an aircraft has to be brought across the country.
A lot of the swiss cheese holes have to line up in order for someone to have this opportunity. So, allow me to describe what it is like.
The Canadian Rockies are beautiful, when you can see them from the ground. When you are in the air, trying to fly between them in marginal weather conditions only to be diverted off the flying route due to avalanche blasting, they are a bitch. They are very big, and yet surprisingly are easily hidden by clouds and snow showers. My most significant command decision to date was made trying to get through the mountains and was prefaced with “This is stupid.” I turned around.
On my second attempt through the mountains, we made it through and arrived in Golden, British Columbia. The town of Golden was named after the first Aircraft captain who had to take a Sea King through Roger’s Pass in the winter. When he arrived the town’s people asked how he was feeling. He replied “Golden.” The town’s people thought his radiance was a nice description of the surroundings. The pilot’s crew knew he had just pissed himself.
After the Rockies everything else was pretty much a blur. I do vaguely remember doing a Gear Up Low Approach pass in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan. In hind sight it probably wasn’t the best decision I have ever made. The Canadian Aerobatic demonstration team, the Snowbirds, call Moose Jaw home. There is nothing like having Snowbird #2 critique your fly by on Facebook.
Winnipeg is cold in the winter. The “Friendly Manitoba” license plates are a gentile reminder to Manitobans not to be jerks. But I understand why they are like they are- they live in Winnipeg.
Just to let you know, it cost $150.00 and a case of 24 beer to open a hangar door in Thunder Bay, Ontario. My Mother always said if you have nothing good to say don’t say anything at all. That’s pretty much all I can say about Thunder Bay.
If you are ever in Marathon, Ontario, you are probably lost or low on gas, or both.
Sault Ste Marie has a very friendly air traffic controller. The kind of voice that would make you want to get violated. Also, if you are ever passing through, please call Sandra at the cafeteria prior to your crew’s arrival. She would appreciate 24-48 hours notice in order to defrost more burger patties. I have her number.
You can get gas in Ottawa. Also, Challenger pilots have sheep skin covers over their seats.
Fredericton is after Sherbrooke. Somewhere in between expect Nav Canada to loose your flight plan and initiate Search and Rescue coordination. Thankfully they found us, right where we said we would be at the time we said we were going to be there. Oh, the laughs we had once they realized they made a mistake and that we were not frozen to death in Canada’s purple expanse.