I just picked the worst time ever not to have my camera charged on a flight. I had come straight from camping at Oshkosh, (yes, that's how far behind I am on blogging) where I had little opportunity to plug in electronics, and then my company flew me out to Campbell River, British Columbia to pick up an airplane and take it across the mountains.
The main terminal at Vancouver International Airport is pretty much like an airport terminal in other cities: heavy on the ethnic artwork and with some interesting architecture and confusingly multilevel departure and arrival vehicle areas. Like every other airport in the world, it's also under constant construction. But then there's another part of the airport, that you'd swear was up north or in a small town somewhere. It's called the South Terminal.
You take a shuttle from the main terminal to the south terminal and there you find a small town airport terminal. I think there was even free parking. There is a float plane base across the road, just like in Weasel Inlet. Inside there is a small concourse, a cafe and one, maybe two gates. Passengers mill around with their fishing gear, waiting for charters. The check-in desk stamped my ticket "security required," implying that some departures did not require security. I think I did see a group of people going out the side door for a charter, bypassing the security routine.
When my flight was called, the FO introduced herself and walked us out across the tarmac to the turboprop. We boarded, she gave the passenger briefing and then she slipped into the--no door--cockpit with the captain and they flew us up to Campbell River. I was watching carefully out the window to get a preview of the weather I was in for. Some low cloud, but not low or thick enough to affect VFR flight.
It was a quick turn at Campbell River, with the local agents saying hi to the crew as the only passenger for this stop (me) disembarked, my luggage unloaded from the cargo hold in the time it took me to walk down the steps. I thanked everyone and went into the terminal, as security requires, before coming back out onto the apron through a different gate. I was amused that the airside gate immediately next to the terminal was a fancy electronic one, but the other side of the flight services station it was the old mechanical kind where you can press one and two together and then five, or whatever the code was. The previous pilot had given it to me along with directions on where the airplane was parked and where the keys were hidden. This is so small town, isn't it?
I walked back down the ground side of the airport to the Pilot Information Kiosk, an infuriatingly slow internet connection to the Nav Canada flight planning website. There I looked at GFAs at about 300 baud, checked some TAFs, METARs and NOTAMs, got the upper winds and called it a preflight briefing. Everything looked good until the final range of mountains, where there might be thunderstorms. And of course there are afternoon thunderstorms on the prairies, too. I don't mind skirting thunderstorms in the prairies, but they aren't something to mess around with in the mountains. I told boss there might be an overnight en route to wait for storms and he okayed that. The airplane I was meeting was on the ground waiting for a new antenna to be installed and the part wouldn't be delivered until Tuesday, anyway. And then I taxied out for takeoff.
Pretty much immediately I was flying above the most amazing jagged mountains. There is snow, which I suppose is mostly glaciers but, being summer, lots of rocks show through, and some of those rocks are jaw-dropping. I flew right by a vertically upthrust black cylinder on top of a cone of rock. I knew exactly what I was looking at but could hardly believe it. The black part was the glassy hardened lava that hadn't quite made it out of the top of the mountain during a long ago volcanic eruption. The sides of the former mountain that originally contained it had mostly eroded away, leaving just the plug, atop what was left of the mountain. The glaciers around it made it look even blacker, and it seemed perfectly flat on top, like you could land a fair-sized helicopter on top with just enough room to walk around it. I wonder if anyone ever has. It would feel so amazing. It was phenomenal just to fly by. I'm looking at the inside of a volano, so old that an entire mountain has eroded away around it.
Elsewhere the mountains appear to be tilted layers of very sharp rock, upthrust into the teens of thousands of feet. It's hard to believe that rocks can taper into such knife-edged jagged ridges without breaking off in the wind. I kept imagining what it would be like to walk along one of those ridges like a tightrope. It would be terrifying. If you slipped you would fall off, just plummet, as surely as if you stepped off the side of a skyscraper. But it would be amazing. I want to do it.
The landscape is cut by rivers snuggled up to glaciers, so raw that you can see geology happening. It's like being inside a giant geology textbook. The mountains get higher and sharper, and then gradually round off. There is an intermediate phase in the interior of British Columbia where the land is high and hilly, but not really mountainous, and then the mountains start again, ever higher, all the way to Calgary. Just before Calgary they disappear quite abruptly, such that I was flying over complete wilderness, surrounded by ten thousand foot plus peaks while I was looking up an appropriate waypoint with which to report my position to Calgary Terminal, only about twenty-five nautical miles from the centre of the control zone, which is on a flat plain.
The Calgary controller was a little snippy about my not having a discrete transponder code. I later checked the procedures section of the CFS and sure enough VFR traffic just transiting is supposed to call ahead on an 888 number and get a code. I confess that I do not read the CFS entries for every en route airport across the country. I asked him if there was a frequency I should call to belatedly acquire such code and he said he'd assign me one. I suppose the snippiness is required so I'll remember next time. Because it works: next time I will.
From there I had an excellent tailwind across the prairies, mostly flat and featureless, with the exception of Diefenbaker Lake. I landed in Regina, which by contrast to Calgary has no terminal controller at all, and they assigned me a transponder code with no complaints at all.
And yeah, no pictures. I'm very sorry about that. Also my C-key is acting up. I think I got them all, but if any of this doesn't make sense, "reonsider if it ould be more omprehinsible with the insertion of a ouple of Cs."