Sunday, October 26, 2008


I'm supposed to meet someone in Edmonton, but not at Edmonton International. He's coming to a satellite airport designated Edmonton/Villeneuve in the CFS. This is the town I mentioned with a population of 156. (Kudos to Ward for his Googlishious skills at not only identifying the town, but finding a picture of the webmaster's doghouse. I challenge you to do the same). Despite the size of the community, I'm told that its airport is the primary site for ab initio flight training for the whole Edmonton area. And I'm arriving in the early afternoon on a sunny Saturday. This would be a good time to make thorough preflight preparations so I'm heads up all the way in.

Villeneuve is in class D airspace under the shelf of the ovals of Class C that encompass the International and City Centre airports. It has a control tower and two paved runways: a 16/32 and a 08/26 diverging and not sharing any pavement. I study the reporting points and arrival procedures. I'll do my engine stage cooling early so that I can enter the control zone come in nice and slow with flaps down, able to fit in the circuit at the same speed as training traffic. Well maybe not at the same speed as Cessna 150s flown erratically by student pilots who have discovered they have more time to think on downwind if they fly it at 2100 rpm. But at a speed that is fair to a busy controller trying to fit me in with the tiny singles. And guess what, what works for the student pilot works for me too. More time to think at an unfamiliar airport is good.

There is a forecast probability of thunderstorms in the Edmonton area a couple of hours after my planned arrival, but there is nothing in the actuals anywhere around that suggests they are getting started early. I think this will be one of those forecasts that doesn't materialize. I'd rather go VFR with forecast thunderstorms, though. That way I don't need to get permission to deviate, and I can go under the clouds. Not that I want to go under a CB, but I don't want to go through one either, and I have a better chance of spotting the CBs and TCU if I'm not inside a cloud layer. I like looking out the window, anyway. There's also a NOTAM giving an ATIS frequency that has somehow been omitted from the CFS.

After a preflight inspection, I make some notes on my OFP, arrange all my charts and bookmark my CFS. I feel virtuous for writing it into the CFS. The NOTAM after all is an instruction "AMEND PUB." I have amended the publication. The windsock is dead. I've been using one runway exclusively all the time I've been here, so I decide to use the other one for a change. Also off my chosen runway the climbout will be over a lake, reducing noise for local residents. I start engines, taxi to the holding area near the threshold and complete my runup there. Now I see a different windsock and it is showing four or five knots of wind favouring the runway I haven't chosen. Figures. I choose to depart with the tailwind. There's sufficient runway to take that penalty, and it's not as if there's an obstacle to climb over at the end.

I imagine I can see the delay in airspeed alive registering on the ASI as I accelerate, but I reach rotation speed and climb out normally. En route I cross check the chart with the terrain, noting distinctive squiggles in rivers and oddly shaped lakes to confirm my position, even though I also have a Garmin 496 sitting on the dashboard. I tune the ATIS frequency about 80 miles out, because I don't have anything better to do with that radio, and then flip the switch down to monitor it. I wouldn't say this was a habit I suggest anyone emulate, but I do it a lot. I will automatically be reminded to check the ATIS when I start to hear it, as soon as I'm in range, and I'll know for next time how far out I can get it. Except I don't, because I forgot already. It was perhaps thirty or forty miles. It was information Echo, but he said it oddly, so I thought it was Tango at first. My current heading is straight in for the active runway.

I switch frequencies and monitor tower. Nothing. That's odd. No long-winded students trying to give position reports. No flight instructors begging for a quick stop and go. No frazzled controllers telling people to follow their traffic. Silence. I'm glad I checked the NOTAMs or I'd think I had the wrong frequency. Fifteen miles back I call tower. He clears me straight in, big surprise. I see a runway straight ahead, but I can't see the other one to verify. I put the gear down and he clears me to land as I complete the prelanding checks. I exit at the end and call ground, per instructions and he gives me taxi clearance to my destination. I mention to the ground controller that I was expecting a swarm of training airplanes and am surprised to find it so quiet. "Must be your lucky day," is all he says.

The person I'm meeting isn't here yet, and I'm hungry. Several phone calls later I discover that no one will deliver pizza out here. Edmonton, your primary training airport is boring and isolated.


Anonymous said...

Out of all the "primary training" airports you've been to, which was your favorite?

Anonymous said...

I used to hang out at that airport quite a bit. We lived in St. Albert and I'd bike out there. It is a long way out, as I found out one time when I got a flat tire.

Even the hamlet is a ways out from the airport...

Anonymous said...

The ATIS frequency is a relatively new addition at CZVL, I'm sure it'll be in the next CFS.

Anonymous said...

...Edmonton, your primary training airport is boring and isolated....

Well, then not much has changed in 33 years except the addition of another runway.

The fight to kick general aviation and training especially, out of YXD was a battle royale 'way back.' I think some of the traffic must have migrated east to Cooking Lake(?)...

So that vibrant center of aviation activity that was the Edmonton Muni (Blachford field / Industrial airport) is no more. Its main claim to fame now I suspect is the few days each year it gets turned into a race track. Too bad.

Anonymous said...

No pizza delivery?

I suppose no fish & chips delivery either!

That's what you get for being so far out in the sticks. Was there a cafe or something nearby?

Brian Davis said...

Just thought I'd update you and your readers...Edmonton City centre airport have closed one of their two runways and are closing completely in 2015. This is driving new developments at Villenueve CZVL. Construction is currently underway to extend 34-16 and build new taxi-ways, apron, and hangars. Many of the properties ahve been sold or leased and Villenueve CZVL is well on its way to living up to it's title as the Preimier General Aviation Airport in Northern Alberta.

Perhaps I'll see you there!