It's almost a shame to check out of our luxurious rooms, but the snow has truly stopped and the ceiling is sufficient for us to make our escape. The airport shuttle is out of order so we call a cab to get to the airport.
We somewhat regretfully call the after hours number for our hangar contact. It's 8:30 on Sunday morning the day after Hallowe'en and it's a safe bet he wasn't planning on coming in quite this early. He answers though, and says he'll be there in half an hour. He is, and maybe a little bit early. We load our gear, preflight, and confirm that the hangar bill is taken care of. We're ready to go.
Before we can get the airplane out of the hangar, we have to get the other airplanes out, but before we can do that, we have to clear the snow. He has a little Honda tractor, the same one we've been towing airplanes with, fitted with a plough blade. He starts by driving around in an oval pattern, with one straightaway across the ramp entrance of the hangar. We shovel the snow away from the ends and he orbits until there is enough of a clear space immediately in front of the hangar for him to push snow straight away from it. He tows a caravan out and then goes after ours. The beams supporting the roof of the hangar are lower to the sides of the hangar than the middle, and where our airplane is parked the beams are lower than the top of our vertical stabilizer. So how did the airplane get parked back there? Same way as we're going to get it out. The expert hooks up the tow bar, I stand on the rear airstairs and my coworker jumps up and hangs off the horizontal stabilizer. That tips the whole empennage down enough that it will pass under the beam as the tow tractor pulls it. That's not an uncommon procedure. Sometimes they have a concrete block already to hook up to the tail tiedown ring, for the same purpose.
With the airplane outside, we're ready to go. We apologize again for rousing the other pilot on a Sunday morning, and hope that some of the hangar fees we've been paying will find his way into his paycheque. He says he expects it will be reflected in a full employee beer fridge. Ah beer: the Canadian currency of debts that mere money cannot address.
I text the customers with a pessimistic arrival time. There's a low ahead to the south, so I am expecting a headwind or at best a crosswind, and I don't want to be late after they've been waiting for three days. The run-up is uneventful and this time not only is visibility good, but we have an absolutely hammering tailwind. Yeah, tailwind. The low isn't where I thought it was. We're above a very thin layer of cloud that we can see right through and we're going to be an hour ahead of schedule. The customers are going to think we forgot the time change last night.
The very thin layer of cloud thickens a lot, but we still want to be over it. Canadian VFR over the top rules require our destination to be pretty much clear for hours before and after our forecast arrival and there's no weather report or forecast for our destination, so to avoid scud running, we would be obligated to use the GFA, which definitely doesn't forecast such a thing in our area. The nearest station to our destination is currently 11,000 broken, which is just fine, but its TAF is calling for 2000' broken and a mile in snow. So we can't fly above a cloud layer on the basis of that forecast. We have a band of cloud here, ending just to the south, with the winds clearly showing that the low is to the north. So are we rebels to think we're better than the forecast and overfly the cloud layer despite the nasty forecast? Heck no. We'll use a trick the trans-Atlantic carriers do. The ol' file 'n' switch.
So as far as the VFR-over-the-top is concerned, we're going to Regina. We've got the fuel. Regina has a TAF and is wide open. And there is nothing illegal about being on our perfectly legal way to Regina and then landing somewhere else along the way instead. Airlines do the opposite. They can't carry enough fuel for the legal requirement to get all the way from North American points of origin to many European destinations. So they officially fly to London, and then when they have almost reached London, switch over to Berlin, because the excess fuel required to go from London to Berlin is less than from New York to Berlin. You're allowed to file to any airport you please, and you are never restricted from landing early or refiling to anywhere you can legally go.
The clouds below thin out just before top of descent and we descend through the scattered layer without even having to detour to the south as we expected. The airport is easy to find and the plug-ins at transient parking even work, once we reset the circuit breaker. We put on the wing covers, which are the wrong size, but were all along. I remember them from last year. You have to be creative. And you know, based on our flight planning, that we are.
There's a surprisingly lovely pilot lounge with new, matching furniture and a big flat screen TV. It's sort of confusing. Standard pilot lounge decor is the discards from someone else's remodelling.
Then the customers pick us up and take us to an even classier hotel. We thought we were lucky with our upgrade at the last place. Ha! This hotel room is big enough to get lost in. And it's brand new. Almost too bad we're going home as soon as our replacements arrive, probably tomorrow. I have to finish up my paperwork then repack everything so anything sharp or liquid is in my checked bag and anything valuable or fragile is in my carry-on.
A friend of mine just lost a digital camera to someone who had access to her checked luggage, and it's disturbing. Not just in the sense of "damn, I liked that camera and it was expensive" but also in the sense that if they can take something like that out of your suitcase and get it out of the secure area unobserved, what can they put in it?