Sunday, November 16, 2008

Seven Swans a Swimming

The airplane is due for a fifty hour scheduled maintenance check, and company tells me to fly to Grande Prairie, Alberta for the work. G.P. has major airline service and is less than two hours from here, so we can get one of our mechanics in there. I'm to fly out there, hand the airplane over to the mechanic and then fly it back when he's done, probably the next day. I land in Fort Nelson after my day's work for the customer, refuel and then head straight to Grande Prairie. I've brought my overnight gear.

It's an easy trip east, descending into Grande Prairie over farmland and a big lake just west of the airport. The CFS warns me not to overfly a certain lake two miles SSE of the airport because of breeding trumpeter swans. Whether my passage will spoil the mood or risk hitting swans in flagrante delicto isn't clear, but to avoid either risk, I fly a tight circuit to stay west of the lake as I land on the westbound runway. I pull onto the apron and park near the Shell, shutting down beside a Cessna 172 with two flat tires. The Shell fueller, who looks very bored, says I can park here.

I call my PRM but he's not there so I leave a message and call the mechanic. He says we've arranged to use the hangar belonging to "Swan Airmotive," and gives me the name of his contact. I happen to have parked next to the Swan Aero Exec hangar, and I can see the hangar for Swanberg Air around the corner, on the taxiway past the Shell. Swan Aero Exec appears to, as the name would imply, be an executive charter operation. There's a passenger lounge accessible from groundside, visible through the side windows. It is dark and locked. I walk past that hangar and find a hangar signed Swan Aero next to it. It is open and there are a couple of helicopters in it, but no people are immediately evident. There's a telephone number on the front of the hangar. It doesn't have an area code written on it, but I feel the momentary thrill of being an experienced world traveller: I know the area code for northern Alberta by heart. One has to take ones thrills where one can find them.

I call the number, complete with area code and the answering service claims to be Swan Automotive. That's getting closer to being the correct swan. Better still, they transfer me to the cellphone of the correct person, who knows that I'm coming and tells me to leave the airplane where it is, with the brakes released and he'll tow it inside later.

When I hang up from that call, there's a message from the PRM saying that we're getting the work done at Swanberg Airmotive. Have I reached the titular seven swans yet? I'm assuming that there are two separate companies with Swan in their name (one that has several versions of the same name) because of some connection with swans, possibly the ones that are trying to breed two and a half miles south southeast of here.

The airplane taken care of, I now need to find something for me and the mechanic. He hasn't found a room yet. I ask the still-bored fueller (he's now wandering around examining another airplane, a homebuilt with three flat tires) if he can recommend a nearby hotel. He warns me that Grande Prairie is a ludicrously expensive town, and gives me a name and a rate: $160. What?! Isn't there a Super-8 or something? Another chain apparently bought out the Super-8s. He says I can find a worse hotel, but they are all going to be about the same price, so I might as well stay in the nice one. It was not called "The Swan." I call directory assistance on my now functional in northwestern Canada cellphone and they have two rooms and call me a cab.

It's a very nice hotel. I feel guilty for a little while at not finding a cheaper one, but you know what? We're here on Thanksgiving weekend. Lets not live in squallor. The mechanic and I check in, and he doesn't gasp in horror, so perhaps he's been to Grande Prairie before. We go out for dinner at the Keg. I let him know I'm available for any runups or anything else he needs me to do, but I know he just wants the pilot to stay out of the way until he is almost done. I can sleep in the next morning while he works. Ahh, luxury.


Aluwings said...

From loon(ies) to swans ... this blog is for the birds ... groannn.

Last time I was in Grande Prairie the airport was better known for its elk than its swans - as in Wapati Aviation (Wapati being a Cree(?) word for elk).

fwiw - I was curious and googled to find a TC cancellation document of Wapiti's operating certificate way back in 1988. So, now I guess the Swans have moved in to fill the void?

Wapiti Aviation Ltd.
- and -
Minister of Transport

Aeronautics Act, c. A-3, s. 6.1(1)(b) (now 7.1(1)(b))

Suspension of a Canadian Aviation Document

The company suspended its operations and surrendered its operating certificates. Transport
Canada cancelled the operating certificate on the basis that it no longer met or complied with the
October 18, 1988
Edmonton, Alberta

nec Timide said...

Flat tires are a sure sign of a depressed airplane. You can fly them regularly for years and never have to put air in the tires. Leave it sit for a couple weeks and they start to go flat.

Anonymous said...

I let him know I'm available for any runups or anything

Darn you suggestrix, I read that as "... for any rumps ..." the first time.

Anonymous said...

anonymous @ 3:35,

You really have to read the posts from start to finish, not tags first and then last paragraph. You'll get a whole different impression. :)

Bwbwbwb. Now what were we talking about, flat tired airplanes?

Aviatrix said...

Thanks Sarah, for helping clarify that! The tag refers to what the birds were reported to be busy with.

I never thought of people using the tags as a preview to see if they wanted to read the entry or not. There are cases where I edit details out of a post and neglect to remove the corresponding tags, but this is not one. Swans, people. Swans.

And airplanes with flat tires. I've only had one once that I recall, and that was discovered on preflight at a maintenance base. Taxied over and picked up a screw in the tire at the end of the previous flight. The guys who changed it were like an Indy pit crew. Impressive.

Anonymous said...

Funny with all those swan named companies.

It reminds me of trying to find an address in Atlanta and saying it was Peach something ...