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Old 09-19-2012, 02:18 PM
prkaye prkaye is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Posts: 2,127
Default my x-country adventure

It's been quite a while since I visited or posted on VAF, but I thought maybe I'd post my trip report from my recent x-country adventure. Perhaps it will be motivating to some of the builders still pounding rivets. Here it is - pasted from an email I sent to friends and family after the trip. I'll have to do it in two consecutive posts as the forums is limiting me to 8000 characters per post...

It?s still surreal to me that I flew the airplane I built in my garage to Calgary and back. Here?s the story of my 5-day Moose Jaw adventure, covering over 6000km and 25 hours in the cockpit. If you want to skip directly to the photos, here?s the link:


On Friday 7 Sept at approximately 08h30EST, my wheels lifted off the runway in Smiths Falls (Ottawa). First stop - North Bay. Some light rain in North Bay, but nothing too serious. One of the cool things about being on the road is bumping into people. This happened a couple of times, starting right at the beginning, in North Bay. I bumped into a guy I was in first-year engineering with. He went on to become a physician, and is involved with aviation medicine. He is also a pretty serious private pilot and also owns his own plane (faster than mine and fully IFR!). I bumped into him at the Esso as I was getting fuel ? he was departing with his wife and baby after a weekend visiting his family in North Bay. We had a nice chat and then I fuelled up and proceeded to Thunder Bay. The flight was fairly uneventful, although it made me appreciate just how many trees there are in this province. I tied down at the Shell Aviation and spent a quiet night at the Valhalla Inn in Thunder Bay.


On Sat I departed early. One thing I hadn?t accounted for was that I had flown to the western edge of the time zone, and that it therefore didn?t get light until later. So I did all my pre-flight prep with a flashlight and got underway as soon as I started to get some twilight. My next stop was Winnipeg. I encountered some weather on the way, but managed it. I had many many miles in rather nasty turbulence. I couldn?t climb above it because of the clouds. I felt a little ill after a couple hours of this, and although I wasn?t really close to puking, if I?d had another couple of hours of it I probably would have! I arrived at Winnipeg St. Andrews airport... where the winds were gusting 35kts! That?s about 65km/hr! Before I left, a friend who grew up in Regina had warned ?watch out for those prairie winds!?. He was serious. I fuelled and checked the weather west, in Regina. Winds there were only 7kts, and here in Winnipeg the strong winds were straight down the runway, so I departed and headed west. I arrived in Moose Jaw about 2.5 hours later. You?ll see in the photo album how surreal Moose Jaw Muni airport is ? it made me think of an aircraft carrier adrift in an endless brown sea. I was a day ahead of schedule and wasn?t due to crash on my friends Rhett and Martine until Sunday, so I fuelled up and pressed-on to Calgary. The flight to Calgary brought the day to over 7 hours of flying. The Calgary Terminal controller had me fly right over Calgary International on my way to Calgary Springbank, and I got a neat picture of this.


After a nice dinner and evening with my Father and his wife in Calgary, I took off around 11h00 and headed back to Moose Jaw. Quicker flight back with the tailwind. I arrived in Moose Jaw and my buddy Rhett came to pick me up. Rhett and I learned to fly as Cadets together in North Bay when we were 17 years old. He is currently the Chief Flying Instructor at 2 Canadian Forces Flight Training School (2CFFTS - ?The Big 2?), and instructs on the Harvard II. Prior to that he was a Griffon Tactical Helicopter pilot and has some neat stories from his adventures flying the helos in Afghanistan. Rhett is a super guy and he and his wife Martine were perfect hosts. That evening he showed me the mess at 2CFFTS ? the interior of this mess, including all the wood panelling and the bar itself, were from an Air Force Mess in France that was used in WWII! France had shipped it all to Canada as a gift to the RCAF after the war. It was cool standing in a mess where Spitfire pilots had once drank. Rhett and I had dinner and beer out on Sunday night and chatted for hours about flying, life in the Air Force, our old times as cadets and life in general.


Rhett and Martine gave me their second car for the morning to explore Moose Jaw a bit, and Rhett left me with orders to report to his building at 13h00. A bit of context here ? the Canadian Forces now provides flight training for NATO and allied air forces. Canada?s got lots of empty airspace, and many of those countries are running out of that. The program is called ?Nato Flying Training in Canada? (NFTC). Rhett?s unit, 2CFFTS, is where NFTC students do ?Phase 2? training on the CT-156 Harvard II and CT-155 Hawk Jet (see my pics). The two main units at CFB Moose Jaw are 2CFFTS and 431 Sqaudron ? the Snowbirds. Rhett has a lot of clout and friends there, and he had arranged a whole afternoon of tours for me! I started by seeing the training facilities ? the classrooms and briefing and planning rooms where the pilots do their thing before and after flying. I laughed when I saw a sign up on the Bulletin board in one of the Hawk pilots? rooms that said ?Props are for boats?. Apparently the Hawk guys all have tee-shirts that say that and wear them to the mess sometimes to razz the Harvard guys Then I met a nice Hungarian Hawk Instructor who took me in and let me fly the Hawk Simulator. This was VERY cool. Sitting there in an exact replica of the Hawk cockpit with an actual instructor leaning over talking me through the flight. They even threw a couple of Russian MIG jets at me that I got to dogfight! I ended the flight by landing the Hawk (without crashing!). What a thrill. See the pic. Then I got to see some aircraft up close, sit in a real Hawk, had a tour of the Snowbirds hangar (and sit in the big ?Boss? chair!), a tour of the terminal control room and the control tower. I was like a kid in Disney Land, and more than just a bit envious of the guys like Rhett who live and breathe this stuff. Back at the house, Martine was trying to talk me into going into a recruiting center ? Pilot is one of the only trades they?re hiring right now. Not only that, but Rhett told me that anybody who qualifies after Phase II (and wants to go Fighter) is sent on to fly the Hawks on the path to flying the F-18 Hornet. Times have changed ? it used to be *very* competitive to get into fighters and I only have one personal friend whom I know made it. I assumed I?d be way too old to get into this, but Rhett told me of a 57 year old they have in Phase 2! I really had to fight to wrestle these ideas down out of my mind. Sigh. Anyway, you must check out my pics. I knew Rhett was going to get me onto the base, but had no idea he would go to such lengths to arrange such an amazing day for me. I?m incredibly grateful ? this really made the trip for me.
Flying since July 2010!
Ottawa, Canada
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Old 09-19-2012, 02:18 PM
prkaye prkaye is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Posts: 2,127
Default ...continued...


I left the next morning with mixed feelings ? I was so thrilled with the way everything had gone, but sad that it was over and now a memory. Martine dropped me back at Moose Jaw Muni and I got underway. I had serious tailwind heading back to Winnipeg, and was screaming along at 196kts (363kph) Ground Speed. Made Winnipeg in a couple of hours and then Thunder Bay in another couple. As I was pulling into the area where the Shell Aviation is, I looked over to my left and saw a Snowbird jet parked by the Esso! I immediately turned and pulled up behind him. I?ve been wanting to have an opportunity to bump into one or more of the Snowbirds somewhere for a photo op. My plane is painted in the colors of the Golden Centennaires ? and there is a direct historical lineage between the Centennaires and the Snowbirds. The Snowbird Pilot was on his way back from a maintenance trip to Trenton and was stopping overnight. The timing was perfect as he was just about to leave. I got a bunch of great photos of my jet parked beside his. I think the pilot I met was the same guy who was on the episode of ?Rick Mercer? when he went up with the Snowbirds. He was a really friendly guy. The other neat coincidence happened as I was walking down the street from the hotel to find a place for dinner. An old Air Cadet buddy of mine, Francis, was driving by and saw me walking. He?s a Westjet pilot who lives in Thunder Bay. He was supposed to be away that day, but as luck would have it his flight got cancelled. He did a U-turn and we had dinner together.


Wed morning I departed Thunder Bay. I planned on making at least one fuel stop, but the tailwinds were good and I was able to climb very high and lean the engine way out. As the flight went on, it became apparent that I was going to be able to do the entire flight from Thunder Bay to Kitchener without stopping for gas! That?s about a thousand kilometers! Took me 3.75 hours. The only thing is ? and this is probably ?TMI? ? I had to pee. So I made very careful use of a motion sickness bag for this purpose, with the airplane trimmed out cruising at almost 10,000ft over Manitoulin Island. I was relieved (in more than one sense of the word) when this procedure went without incident I had a nice lunch with my Mom and her husband in Kitchener, and then the evening with Kevin, Bob and Colin ? old cadet buddies. Thursday morning I made the final hop home ? Kitchener to Smiths Falls in less than 1.5 hours.


So, if you?re still with me, thanks for reading! It was an amazing adventure, and I was literally walking around with a big stupid grin on my face for most of the week. What?s next? The other direction. I want to take the plane down to the Maritimes, maybe next year. I do have an old friend stationed at the Fighter Base in Bagotville.... hmmmmmm I also have a friend who is an Astronaut in Houston... hmmmmm

Here again is the link to my photo album...


Oh ? for anybody who hasn?t heard the news yet, we?re expecting our second child, sometime in Feb. Don?t know if it?s a boy or a girl yet, but Arya is quite excited and hoping for a baby sister!
Flying since July 2010!
Ottawa, Canada
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Old 09-19-2012, 03:41 PM
ArVeeNiner's Avatar
ArVeeNiner ArVeeNiner is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: San Jose, CA
Posts: 1,153

Man, you had the ultimate backstage pass! Awesome! Great write up. Thanks.
Kelly Johnson
San Jose, CA

Pink slip issued: 5/7/12

First flight: 5/28/12, Memorial Day.

Phase I Complete: 8/18/12!
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Old 09-19-2012, 04:56 PM
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JohnCFord JohnCFord is offline
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Norman, Oklahoma
Posts: 110

Very cool!!! Thanks for sharing!

I like the RV-8, and Rv-7
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Old 09-19-2012, 05:15 PM
Vlad's Avatar
Vlad Vlad is offline
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Utah
Posts: 8,440
Default Great photo gallery!

It looks like you had good trip Phil. If I drop by can Rhett give me a tour? BTW did you shoot down any MIG at sim?
Where is N666BK?

Не имей сто рублей, а имей сто друзей.
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Old 09-19-2012, 06:32 PM
C-GRVT C-GRVT is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 324

good report and great inspiration - - and I recall just after you finished building that you were wondering what to do with the plane.....
Bill Brooks
Ottawa, ON
RV-6A finishing
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Old 09-19-2012, 07:13 PM
prkaye prkaye is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Posts: 2,127

BTW did you shoot down any MIG at sim?
I think I did ok circling to get behind them but I'm not sure if the gun was actually firing for some reason. I just squeezed the trigger but didn't hear or see any effect really. Maybe I didn't squeeze hard enough. Also, I doubt I was really close enough to hit them with the gun.

- and I recall just after you finished building that you were wondering what to do with the plane.....
Indeed, and there are days I still feel that. Driving out to smiths falls just to buzz around the local area sometimes feels like something I *should* do, rather than something I'm itching to do. But I have loved the x-country flying I have done. I love being able to drive out after work, hop in the plane and be in Kitchener in time to meet the guys for wings at the Moose. This trip out West was really, for me, what it's all about. Unfortunately not something I can do all the time. I burned through about 1300 bucks in fuel last week. I hope to get a good long multi-day trip in about once a year though.

Next summer I may finally decide it's time to get Arya up. She's certainly interested, and she has had a ride taxiing in it (putting the plane away after "Race the Runway" a few weeks ago). She'll be 4 next year, so I may feel she's old enough then. That, I hope, will really add a significant new dimension to flying for me - to be able to share that with my daughter.
Flying since July 2010!
Ottawa, Canada
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Old 09-19-2012, 07:59 PM
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scard scard is offline
Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: Cedar Park, TX
Posts: 3,368

Excellent! Much fun reading about your adventures. I had no idea what a Harvard II was, but after looking at your pictures, I sure know what a T-6 Texan II is .
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Old 09-20-2012, 07:54 AM
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TroyBranch TroyBranch is offline
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Calgary Alberta Canada
Posts: 457
Default Calgary

I heard you calling into Calgary terminal that day. I was on with terminal over CYYC south bound from a great fly in. I remember you saying "I am going to go right over Calgary!" in a surprised and excited voice to the controller. I giggled. Big airspace is the most fun. Great trip report.
Troy Branch

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Old 09-20-2012, 08:22 AM
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sbal0906 sbal0906 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Winnipeg, Canada
Posts: 221
Default Winnipeg!

Nice write up and congrats on the news!

Too bad I didn't know you'd be passing through. I would have loved to stop by St. Andrews and meet you and your plane.

Shamit Bal
Working on wing - fuel tanks.
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
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