Arriving at Winnipeg on the 22nd August; the aerodrome where Ted learned to fly in 1960.
In life there are
anniversaries we celebrate, thankful for life events that brought
forth good memories (and perhaps a few bad ones), that shape the
people we became.
In Ted's life, a major life event was learning to fly at the bright young age of 18 in the Aeronca Champs operated at Winnipeg in those far off summer days of 1960.
A few days ago a chap
walked up to me and told me that I inspire people to achieve
their dreams, or something like that!
I do try, and in my life I have helped many people achieve their dreams in flying aeroplanes, and in this case, in spite of the lockdowns, and the quarantines, and the troubles the virus has brought, I still try to do my best to do what I do, it's the only good legacy I can leave. If I leave positive memories in the majority of people with whom I have interacted then I have made merit!
The seat cushion had to come out of the rear seat to be replaced by Ted's hard bag, and this would prove to be very very hard on my back... My own 'Sausage Bag' was packed with a few shirts in the middle, and socks, underwear, and soaps in the ends to wrap either sides of my hips in the limited space the Chipmunk has for people and bags...
As we would be flying across time zones I logged the times in zulu, or Greenwich Mean Time, (GMT), and often this would mean going beyond midnight GMT but with the previous day still being the day!
Cheekily I set the first
stop on this journey as being Oliver as there were two Alon
Aircoupes for sale there.
I am often in the position of sourcing parts, and aeroplanes for people in different countries and in this case I went out of my way to check a couple of nice Aircoupes for a potential customer.
So we took off from Langley
at 19:47z (12:47 local time), to fly via Hope and Princeton to
Oliver, landing at 21:28z.
There was a large forest fire near Penticton but we would be well south of this. Nevertheless, the valley to Keremeos had increasing amounts of smoke in it as we krept along and around the mountain spit to approach Oliver from the south.
As we refueled the Chipmunk
(57.66 litres) Walt came over to see us. I haven't seen Walt for
over twenty years, from when he operated a Harvard from Delta Air
Park, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him still healthy and
still at it with a very smart CJ6 in his hangar.
Dave Gillespie came over to welcome us, and to show me the Aircoupes. He used to fly Chipmunk G AKDN which was an early Canadian built aeroplane that was used a demonstrator in England. Recently G AKDN has been based both here in Canada as well as in England where it was shipped over especially for the 70th anniversary of the type.
A nice collection in Dave Gillespie's hangar
The silver Aircoupe was in
excellent 'original' condition after having been stored for many
years in the USA.
The problem for export for this aeroplane was its engine which had been overhauled more than 25 years ago. Old engines with twelve and twenty five years passed since new or overhaul require overhaul by many countries regardless of their running hours, and so for export the engine in this Aircoupe would need replacement or overhaul. This twenty five year rule also applies to aeroplanes imported into Canada for commercial uses such as for flight training.
The second, off white coloured Aircoupe was also in good condition, but in Canada a private owner can put a light aircraft into the local 'Owner Maintenance' category, and this aeroplane has been put into this category. This means the owner can do all the maintenance without inspection by a licenced engineer or an approved inspector. The aircraft becomes 'uncertified' and can only be flown in Canada. It may not cross a border such as into the USA, and it is apparently impossible for it to ever be certified again. Even if the engine has been professionally overhauled, it has to be stamped as uncertified, and can never be used in a certified aircraft.
A friend can not believe how difficult it is to sell his aeroplane since he put it on owner maintenance. In my opinion 'Owner Maintenance' is a bad idea!
The next stop was supposed
to have been Nelson and I had been looking forward to this, but
it seemed all hotels were booked there and so we were to slumber
in Cranbrook instead, and this proved to have been a mixed
result. We took off at 23:44z and landed at 01:26z.
There was a forest fire reported south of Castlegar and when we passed the we saw another one to the north with a Lockheed Electra water bombing it.
Nelson passed on our right side as we flew eastwards to descend through the valley to St Mary Lake and approach Cranbrook.
The Flight Service operator reported the wind as 190 at 9 gusting 16 knots with runway 16 being the preferred direction.
58.95 litres of 100LL was added at the self service fuel pump at Cranbrook and then we had to find a place to park the aeroplane overnight. We found a place, and checked with the FBO whether this would be alright. Ted was charged $35 for one night's parking which is somewhat steep!
Ted had booked the Prestige
Rocky Mountain Resort which had the highly recommended but highly
disappointing Fire & Oak restaurant attached to it.
Food stopped at 21:00 local and wasn't available for us two hungry travellers.
The good asset this restaurant was the serving staff, a girl with a positive attitude who delved into her own tips to give Ted some change to buy crisps-chips, and a nut/fruit melange from a vending machine.
We could still have a beer.
In the morning I looked at
the breakfast menu, steel cut oats, I'll have that... It was the
worst gruel slop I have ever been served, what had I done to
deserve this? I had flown from Oliver, I was not Oliver!
The Fire & Oak restaurant does not even rate one star for what they provided for breakfast.
Time for a recovery walk...
There's a lot of railway history to be seen here at Cranbrook with several active but still historic cranes on the railway line beside the hotel, and there is a good museum with artifacts nearby ($5.50 entry fee).
A group of volunteers were building a fountain in front of a locomotive they had recently repainted in it's original '4090' livery. They were doing their bit to preserve the history of Cranbrook as a railway town within the mountains. I stopped for a chat before making my way to the museum.
The longer run takeoff from
Cranbrook, elevation 3084 feet, was at 18:48z, and we landed at
gusty windy Lethbridge, (260 23G30), at 20:11z.
We flew the Crows Nest Pass and over Pincher Creek to enter the Prairies.
This is a sentimental
journey for Ted as we circled the rail loop at the Sparwood open
cast coal mine. As a young engineer Ted had involvement in its
This is the same coal mine I used for a thermal lift last year to gain enough height (10,500 feet) in the Taifun motor glider to crest the mountains on the way to Cranbrook.
90 people died when this landslide engulfed the town of Frank in 1903.
A careful taxy in with the
gusty winds and we were marshalled to park beside the hangar at
Lethbridge after which 46.1 litres were fed into the Chipmunk's
tanks from a fuel truck.
The Chipmunk sat where Hurricanes once sat during the Empire Air Training days during the Second World War.
Inside the hangar I saw a
Stitts Playboy two seat homebult aeroplane, a classic design,
newly built to a high standard, and awaiting its first flight. I
was surprised to see that the wings fold neatly on this
As ever there was good conversation in the hangar as many people like classic aeroplanes at Prairie airfields.
The next stop was Medicine
We departed Lethbridge at 21:17z and landed there at 22:09z and put 32 litres of fuel in the tanks.
The FBO had changed its name to Super T Aviation... It seems that many FBOs have changed names, and even stopped providing some of the services they used to.
My first impression was that it wasn't as friendly as it used to be, but this impression soon changed.
We met a couple of Brits
who had brought their children here from England in 1997 and had
made a success of their lives in Medicine Hat.
The husband Steve had learned to fly in Chipmunks at Middle Wallop before progressing onto helicopters. At Medicine Hat he was working with the helicopter operation. The wife Lou, worked for the FBO, and I must have met her in her youth as she used in inhabit the Tiger Club at Redhill when I was there. I knew her father, Brian Dunlop who now lives in the USA, and soon after this visit we were exchanging emails.
The next fuel stop was
Swift Current, we departed Medicine Hat at 23:19z and flew direct
there, arriving at 00:27z.
I noted that we were "Flying hungry!" and so took out two Nature Valley Oats 'n Honey bars for us to eat after we put fuel into the Chipmunk. I don't have a record of how much fuel we put in this time.
The Chipmunk's endurance is 3 hours 20 minutes and so I kept the legs fairly short... There's always the chance of a long return or diversion due to weather over the Prairies so it's best to be cautious.
The only other movement at Swift Current was a crop duster which turbined in, its pilot got out, reloaded the hopper, and took off again.
Takeoff from Swift Current
was at 00:55z with our landing being at 02:11z at Regina.
Sitting in the back I was asked to report leaving the Swift Current zone. 'Air Traffic Control' is via a Remote Communications Outlet to Winnipeg Radio, and I was asked to report leaving the Swift Current zone... This I duly did only to have a voice come back and tell me I was on "guard", the emergency frequency 121.5! I can't see the radio from the back, so I made a note to confirm the frequency with Ted before I talk in future.
As we routed north of the Moose Jaw military airfield and over Moose Jaw Municipal we had to dodge between Towering Cumulus and Cumulo Nimbus clouds with their attendant lightning strikes...
We weaved among them with the lights of Regina in sight.
I usually arrived at Regina in the gathering dusk.
As darkness fell we left
the Chipmunk with the Regina Aero Centre, Shell, FBO to look
after it for the night. They had it for two nights in fact.
The ramp attendants were shown how to open the canopy so that during the day the inside would not become an oven under the perspex.
The next day there was a
line of lightning storms across our route to Brandon which would
be a two hour flight, and so the decision was made to stay
The breakfast at the Home Inn and Suites was a paper bag with a yoghurt and a bun with a trail mix bar and a bottle of water. There are a lot of Viral changes due to the pandemic.
In Regina I was surprised to see so many people walking the strees wearing masks, no-one within a mile of them, but still wearing a mask... It was so prolific I checked on the number of active cases in Regina: Twenty!
Ted rented a car and we went for a driveabout.
There's a valley in the
Prairie, like a reverse hill if you like with a couple of lakes.
We drove to Fort Qu'Appelle and then to Lebret.
In the evening we ate at the Fireside Bistro and the food and wine were good... Unfortunately there was a television screen at the end of the dining room to provide a distraction... I was amused as a lad was out on a date with an attractive blonde girl but was distracted by the sports on the screen causing him to divide his attention between the screen, not showing anything particularly interesting, and the girl he should have been paying attention to. I noted that they went dutch when the bill arrived... Such is romance in Canada I suppose.
In fact we could have gone over the top of the reported low cloud.
I filed the flight plan,
VFR to Brandon Manitoba. Departure was at 17:35z and landing was
Soon after departing the Regina zone we were monitoring 126.70, the former Flight Service Station frequency, but now used for enroute position reports between pilots. Flight Information Centres still monitor this frequency and sometimes they'll update you. Out of the blue Winnipeg Radio called us to report that an RV9 had diverted into Virden due to low cloud there. The suggestion was that we divert to the south to get around this weather.
We changed heading to route towards Carlyle. We turned just before arriving there, and routed over Mayfield to Brandon.
Just before we passed Virden the RV9 that reported the low cloud took off to fly in the oppositie direction; we thanked the pilot for his report.
Brandon is well worth
stopping at for a couple of hours to see the museum with it's
artifacts and aircraft from the Empire Air Training Plan days.
I met a fellow Brit in the Brandon Flying Club whose father operated Fenland Airfield in England for a while. This chap was pleased to be offered a Polo mint.
In the hangar I saw a Jodel D9 which would normally have an VW engine, this one had a Continental C90!
Next to a Cessna 172 which normally parks on Apron 3 at Boundary Bay Airport.
Takeoff from Brandon was
at 21:38z and we landed at Winnipeg International at 22:58z where
we added 39.8 litres of Avgas.
We flew at 3,500 feet but soon we were dodging clouds at this level as we passed Portage la Prairie and so we descended to 3,000 feet
Normally I've been to the
friendly Shell FBO at Winnipeg, but this is now a shadow of its
former self and so light aircraft go to FAST on the other side of
While I taxied the Chipmunk to FAST, Ted went to rent a car... They had none available, but wait a minute, a BC licenced Hertz rental car was there, not available to locals with their Manitoba driving licences, but available to Ted with his BC Driver's Licence... We were in luck.
We stayed two nights at the Courtyard by Marriott at the Airport.
On to part five
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