Saturday dawned and I found myself in a unique situation. My better half was away for the weekend, Grandma had some of the kids, the Nanny was watching some of the other kids which left me with only one of the five to ?babysit?. Madeline, my second daughter is 11 and is the only one of the five that can handle flying in the RV ? aerobatics and all. She loves it and has been wanting for some time to go for a ride.
So the plan was to leave out of our local field near Calgary, scale the Rockies enroute to Kelowna, BC, have lunch, go look at our old camping sites and then return home to collect the boys before they drove Grandma up a gum tree.
Foreflight said the flight time was 1.5 hours but this doesn?t really consider the 11,000 foot mountains we have to clear, plus the usual West to East headwinds. So I figured about one hour and 45 minutes from take off to touchdown.
Preflight was done, tanks were topped off, passenger briefing completed then we blasted off into some beautifully smooth air.
Ready for departure
This is the first year I?ve done some mountain flying and I?ve crossed the Rockies about a half dozen times this summer. It?s still intimidating and makes my gut tighten a bit, but oh so exciting. The scenery is absolutely beautiful and breathtaking. You see the world from a perspective that few get to see.
Maddy and I
In Alberta we get to blast low and fast over the prairies if you go East and you get to go high and into a new world if you go West. Kind of unique and something I didn?t really appreciate until recently.
The highest mountains are just West of Calgary. I try not to stay up above 10,000 feet for too long but here we had to go up to at least 11,500 to clear the ?sharks teeth?. Dang them mountains are jagged.
Maddy said she was fine but after about 20 minutes up there she said her head was hurting a little bit. Me too, but good thing, at this point it was time to start our descent out of the hypoxia zone.
Once clear of the highest peaks the VNC says that the next set of hills are in the 8000 ? 9000 region. Not too bad.
The head winds were about 15 knots on the nose so the ride was silky smooth. Absolutely beautiful scenery and pictures just don?t do the view justice.
I kept telling Maddy that when she grows up and gets her pilots license the one thing she has to keep in mind is, ?If my engine fails, where am I going to land?. She began to spot roads, lakes and houses way down there. I told her that when flying across such harsh terrain like the mountains, there are times when there are NO places to land. That?s when you say a little extra prayer and ask the Lord to keep your engine running. Then she asked, ?Well what if the engine stops?. I said you tell God you are going to see Him in a few minutes. Kind of a grim thought but that?s the reality of what we do. I think she got the message.
No place to land
When sitting shoulder to shoulder with your 11 year old daughter for a few hours, it?s a special time to answer ALL the questions kicking around in her little head. There are no phones, no siblings, no TV?s or ipods to compete with and you just chat as you watch the lovely scenery go by. She expects me to have all the answers. Most I know, others I just make up
We covered topics from school, friends, church, astronomy, anatomy, why this, why that?.. even the valsalva manouever
Before long we were descending into Kelowna. The speed we lost climbing isn?t necessarily gained back on the descent. The first limiting factor is the VNE. At 200 knots, it?s easy to knock on that door in a descent. The second and most painful limiting factor is your ears.
Coming from 9500 feet to a circuit height of 2500 isn?t bad but there isn?t a lot of distance to do this. I pulled the power back a bit and did my best to keep the descent rate tolerable. Maddy was deaf, as was I when we contacted Kelowna Tower. We were cleared for a left hand base. Touch down one hour and 40 minutes after take off. Not bad. Beats the 7 hour drive
Tying down in Kelowna
We weren?t sure where to go and this is half the fun. We eventually found the pilot?s gate to leave the ramp. Maddy had never been that close to jets landing and we watched a few Westjet 737?s land.