Adventures in RV's - Commuting to Work by RV
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By Mike Toews (

The Commute

CGFEW+w+paint.jpg (52902 bytes)Thursday morning (18 Oct, 00) was cool, clear and calm. It was 7:30 am. I was supposed to be at work in ½ an hour. The sun would be up in about 10 minutes. Usually, I'd already be at my desk working or if I'd gotten up late, just pulling into work following a 50 minute commute. This morning was about to be a little different. I'd filed an "intentions report" around 7am for an 8am arrival at the Winnipeg International Airport. CGFEW was D.I'd and already sitting on the ramp waiting for sunshine - it doesn't have lights. This would be my first time flying to work and my first time landing at an international airport as PIC. 

To prepare, I called the tower manager the day before to see if they could accommodate a transponderless, first time into class ‘C' airspace, nervous pilot. The tower manager indicated my 8am arrival and planned 5pm departure should work well with the expected airport traffic for the day. Although the tower manager was very helpful and reassuring, he did fail to mention the required "intentions" filing. I also called an acquaintance who is part owner of a local airline to see if they could provide parking space for the day. 

The forecast, available parking and a reassuring tower manager settled the decision - time to go!  Following a short warm-up and run-up I applied power and lifted off an uncontrolled runway 14 in Steinbach Manitoba (Canada). I'd pre-programmed my handheld VHF radio (ICOM A4) the night before with all the pertinent frequencies. I quickly climbed to 2000 ASL and switched the radio to ATIS - no joy. Now what? In a little over 5 minutes I'd be entering Winnipeg's airspace. I switched over to tower frequency where I could hear communications in process. At least my radio was working. I tried ATIS one more time without joy and elected to call the tower without the ATIS information. During my early morning call to the tower to advise of my negative transponder arrival, I'd already found out I'd be landing on runway 18. The tower asked me to maintain 2000 and report over the perimeter highway. So far, no problem. I had a few minutes to enjoy the smooth early morning flight and think of all the earthlings, bumper to bumper, avoiding speed traps and fender benders while I cruised along at any easy 160 mph. I reported over the south perimeter and was advised to report abeam the ‘Forks' - the junction of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers. I was west of the Forks and couldn't actually see their junction, but I could see the Red meandering north and Assiniboine heading east. I called tower when I was approximately where I was supposed to be. So far, no problem. 

By now, the airport was easily in sight and I was directed to join downwind for the 10,000 ft of runway 18. I asked if I could land long. I was approximately 3/4 of the way down the runway (downwind) and could see there was one airliner waiting to take-off and another one taxiing a few hundred feet behind him. The tower called and asked if I could turn base and land. Affirmitive! I was cleared to land. I chopped the power, pulled carb-heat, turned on the aux pump, rolled left and waited for the speed to dissipate before lowering the flaps. I ended up 10 ft over the runway with approximately 5000 ft of runway remaining. I added power and flew another 3000 ft before making the final cut of power and one of my nicer landings. 

15 minutes of flying instead of 45 to 60 minutes of driving. Very nice!  

Just prior to reaching the end of the runway I was instructed to contact ground who wanted me to proceed to ramp 2. I asked for and was granted a taxi clearance to ramp 4 which is a lot closer to work. I committed my first known ‘oops'. I didn't read back the controllers initial taxi clearance across runway 13/31. It was still far away and as I taxied he issued the clearance again. This time I responded as required. Whew! I pulled up in front of Perimeter Aviations hangar, looking for a familiar face. My friend was not around but the shop manager was, and he was expecting me. He also insisted the airplane be parked inside for the day. Who was I to argue? There were a lot of curious pilots and mechanics around and probably a few jealous faces. I didn't have much time to stay and talk. I grabbed my jacket and lunch from the rear cargo area and made the last 500 hundred foot distance to work on foot. WOW. Made it! Now all I have to do is get home.

The weather held as forecast. At 4pm I filed (via telephone) my intentions with area control and informed the tower of my negative transponder departure. After work I walked back to the airplane and waited for my wife who had come into the city with our boys. She planned to spend the evening with friends so I was to take the boys home with me. Aaron (6) and Sam (5) still fit into the back seat and have enjoyed a number of short trips with me. I loaded the boys, started the O-320 and taxied to where I could pickup, ATIS, clearance delivery and ground. This is where the second known ‘oops' occurred. I thought clearance said I could proceed to ground. I called clearance to verify but got no response. I called ground and informed them I was at ramp 4 and ready to taxi. Ground scolded me for leaving clearance frequency. Sorry! Clearance or ground, where I was now, couldn't find my intentions file and it took a few minutes for them to sort it out while I waited. 

After a few minutes, all was set and I was cleared to taxi out to runway 36 via taxiway Charlie. This time I read back the clearance immediately. This controlled airspace stuff wasn't so bad. I held at runway 36 waiting for two ‘heavy's' to land. The tower finally cleared me to take-off, followed by a right turn to Steinbach as soon as I felt I could safely do so. I read back the clearance and tower emphasized not to turn until I felt it was safe to do so. They probably had never seen an RV-4 before as mine is the only flying RV-4 in the province. Take-off was followed by an immediate (and safe) RH turn and climb along runway 13. A minute later (or less??) I was at the end of runway 13 and at 2000 ASL. I informed the tower when I was over the floodway, as requested, and radar services were terminated for the remainder of the uneventful flight home. Both boys were asleep in the back seat. I made a precautionary pass over the Steinbach runway (ok, it was a high speed low and over with a vertical break), called downwind, and landed behind a Cessna doing circuits. What a great day. I think I'll try this again soon!!!

Some GFEW Specs:

Engine: O-320-A2B 150 hp inverted fuel/oil to be added
Propeller: 70 x 69 pitch Colin Walker (wood)
Time to build: Approx 2000 hours over 9 years
Empty Wt 915 lbs
Max Cruise 186 mph
Climb 2000 ft/min +
Instrumentation Basic VFR, handheld GPS
Cleared for Aerobatics in Canada - this apparently is rare (hard to believe, isn't it?)