Episode 38: Rock stars?

5:11 am Doug

When you plan an undertaking such as The Great Arctic Air Adventure, you try to imagine every possible scenario that may play out, and then try to prepare as best you can for the unexpected. I must say that thanks in large part to Doug’s excellent foresight and attention to detail, our contingency plans have adequately addressed most situations.

So what are the surprises on this adventure? For me, the biggest surprise has been the warm and enthusiastic welcomes extended to us by virtually all that we have met along the way. From outfitters in the Yukon and air taxi operators in the Northwest Territories, to villagers and RCMP Constables in Nunavut, from base managers in Labrador and Beaver pilots in Quebec, to Fly-in organizers in Maine and museum curators in Ottawa, we have been greeted and treated, entertained and transported. It is gratifying and encouraging to hear from people all across Canada and the US who write in on our blog, or to meet those that have been following our progress, or to meet those that know nothing of our adventure but still offer a friendly welcome. While headwinds and foul weather wear us out, warm smiles, kind words, and helping hands have energized us.

Today was no exception. It started with perhaps the most knowledgeable man on the planet when it comes to the whereabouts of the flying Beaver fleet, Neil Aird. (See DHC-2.com.) Neil is a retired jeweler from Kingston, Ontario who has been a Beaver fan all his life. He has traveled around the world tracking down the location and history of most of the Beavers still in service. Beaver owners and historians are constantly updating his website with photographs and information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from every corner of the globe. Neil got up early to make the three hour drive to the Rockcliff Seaplane Base to talk with us and see us off. Neil is a gracious and fascinating man. We encourage anyone with even a passing interest in the legendary plane to check out his website or contact him. Thank you, Neil for making the drive. Meeting you was a great thrill for both of us.

After the short hop to Constance Lake SPB (CNQ5 for Steve and the MS FlightSim guys…..no wind, 18d. C, glassy water) we were met by the co-proprietor of The Constance Lake Lodge, Silvia Haddad (www.constancelake.com). This beautiful quiet lake, located just a few miles from downtown Ottawa offers excellent bass and pike fishing. Silvia has clean cabins and a fine restaurant. She provided us 100 low lead and fresh coffee. We enjoyed talking to her daughter, Brigette (a seaplane pilot now living in Portland, OR) along with articulate and inquisitive 4 year old Chloe. Thank you all for the hospitality.

En route to Toronto, we flew over the famed Thousand Islands Region of the St. Lawrence River. This amazing stretch of the river dotted with over a thousand islands (we didn’t count) between Ontario and the State of New York features an island community of sprawling estates and 200 year old castles accessible only by boat or seaplane. It was an enjoyable and relaxing flight up the St. Lawrence to the wide open waters of Lake Ontario, our first of the Great Lakes. The leg was prolonged by the ever present headwinds, with ground speeds averaging around 75 knots. (For those of you keeping track, we have only flown THREE legs with a tail wind. Our last segment will be against the prevailing westerlies. How does that happen? The Arctic can be cruel.)

As we approached the Toronto City Centre Seaplane Base (CPZ9: Winds 220 @ 14 gusts 19 with rollers and confused seas due to boat wakes……perfect.) things began to pick up. At 10 miles out as Toronto Terminal Control handed us off to the Toronto City Centre Tower controller, a CTV news helicopter requested permission to fly in formation with us to the harbour. As we circled to land, he broke off to hover low above the bay to capture our landing with the spectacular backdrop of the towering Toronto skyline right there. It was a difficult landing with all the boats in the harbour and gusty winds. We apologize to the photographers in the police boat who were unable to get the pictures they wanted. It simply was not safe to land in that area. Thank you to the Toronto Harbour Police for making their boat available.

As we taxied in to the seaplane base, the ground controller asked if we were rock stars with the TV helicopter escort and all. One is not sure how to respond. Having a TV helicopter record your landing, similar to having a black car meet you at the dock, or having an RCMP Constable waiting for you on the beach, could be a good thing, or it could be a bad thing. One’s mind begins to race. What Transport Canada Regulation did I violate? Did we forget to pay a fuel bill someplace? We knew that our friend, Kenneth Swartz of the Toronto Aerospace Museum was trying to line up some press to meet us, but we didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately, it was another warm reception.

With Paul of the TransCapital FBO directing, Doug made one of the finest rampings I’ve seen in 67DN. Thank you Paul for all of your efforts to get the two Beavers secure.

Hopping down on the ramp we were happily reunited with cameraman, Jim Clark, who hasn’t shaved his beard since his escape from stormy Coral Harbour. We also welcomed new team members Rick Anthony and Doug Nelson, bearing gifts from home in Kenmore. We said a hasty good bye to our phenomenal film maker Eric Thiermann, who scrambled off to the airport. He’s flying to NYC to video a “fashion show” for HP. What a glamorous life! Thank you Eric, for all of your extraordinary efforts on our behalf. We’ve really enjoyed working with you and look forward to the next step.

Right there on the tarmac, we had a delightful conversation with Kate Hammer, a reporter with the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper. Several photographers were also on hand.

But the special treat was the company of Sheldon Benner of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society and Ross Lennox. Sheldon was an engineer for DeHavilland in the 60’s, and worked on some of the later Beaver mods and the Caribou landing gear. Ross is a retired Pratt & Whitney engineer and chief test pilot that worked on the original design of the PT-6, another legendary product. We were honored by the presence of these men who have been a part of Canada’s rich aviation history, and thanked them for their great contributions. Thanks also to Kenneth for organizing yet another warm reception on the trail of the Great Arctic Air Adventure.

Tonight’s shout outs:

Congratulations Dan S. on your first of many collegiate goals, and to Michael P. and Julie F. for helping to empower.

Thanks to blind daters Mike C. and Chantel H. who stopped by to say hi. I hope you guys had a good time.

Thanks to Eric Cantin of TransCapital for your patience and the ride. Good luck on YOUR adventure to be a bush pilot. We expect to see you soon piloting your own Beaver.

And many thanks to Ron Driscoll of the Boston Globe for your kind words in your article of August 27th. Ron is a fine travel writer and long time Globe editor. (See bostonglobe.com) Ron, give my love to Meg, Molly, Kathy and my running buddy the Springer……whose name escapes me way up here in Canada.

We have spoken of our GAAA Team. Referencing earlier comments about how encouraged and energized we’ve been throughout this odyssey by those of you who have followed along, those of you who have offered kind words of support in the blog, those of you who have greeted us, provided us food, shelter and of course fuel, those of you who have rescued us in the driving rain, or given a tour or shipped a box or written an article or fixed a float, from Associate Director General Stephen Quick to four year old Chloe, it occurs to me that you are all making this trip possible, and that you are all part of the GAAA Team. In some ways, this has become your adventure. Welcome aboard and thank you. We encourage you all to make this adventure your own, perhaps as a springboard for future adventures.

It’s late, but difficult to sleep. Tomorrow we will visit the hallowed ground in Downsview where the Beaver was manufactured. We will also meet two more legendary aviators, Russ Bannock, the first man to fly the Beaver, and George Neal, the first man to fly the Beaver on floats. Tonight is Christmas Eve.

4 Responses
  1. Marshall H. Massengale :

    Date: September 9, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

    Hi y’all!

    Greetings from north Georgia!

    Having turned the corner, so to speak, when can we begin to see some more photos in the Photo Library again?

    Anyway, here’s wishing everyone a continued safe and happy journey westward.

    Kind Regards,

    Sugar Hill, GA USA

  2. Richard Breckenridge :

    Date: September 9, 2008 @ 2:24 pm

    Today, my buddies Rick and Doug begin their adventure. It must be karma. For years I have received a “Word-A-Day” email. Each week has a theme. This week it is toponyms. Today’s word is:

    Toronto blessing

    (tuh-RON-toh BLES-ing)
    noun: A form of religious rapture marked by outbreaks of mass fainting, laughter, shaking, weeping, fainting, speaking in tongues, etc.

    After Toronto, Canada, where the phenomenon was experienced in a church in Jan 1994.

    Hello to all, and have a rapturous final segment.

  3. Vince Ward :

    Date: September 9, 2008 @ 3:32 pm

    Rock Stars?? OK you guy’s where was all the glory when we were hunkered down in our tents in the middle of the Arctic Tundra at 30 Degrees?….it sure looks like you’re having a great leg, I just looked at the Globe and Mail Article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080909.wplanes09/BNStory/National/
    and the Boston Globe Article:

    Very nice articles.

    Looking forward to greeting you upon your return to Seattle.

    Safe Travels

    ATB – Vince

  4. Julie :

    Date: September 14, 2008 @ 12:23 pm

    I flew out of Constance Lake (CNQ5) on Monday Sep 8 on a local training flight, the afternoon before you flew in for a fuel stop. I wished I could’ve bumped into you guys. What an awesome adventure you are living! I’ve been flying for 7 years and completed my float endorsement last month. Now THIS is flying! I’m enjoying your blog. All pilots have a little crazy inside (good crazy that it :) ). That’s what made us what to fly in the first place, right? Your blog is an inspiring read. It shows us all that if you want something really bad, you plan and make it happen. Congratulations to the entire crew!

    Ottawa Flying Club

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