Next day report time is not until eight a.m. so I have studied all my departures before I get there. You're supposed to make a phone call to get a VFR transponder code within 30 minutes of your departure. Yesterday when I made that call I asked to confirm if I was supposed to squawk VFR once I left the zone. That's the default rule, but Vancouver seems to be special. The specialist said to keep the code, but that I would need a new code to get back in, but that seeing as I wasn't landing anywhere else I could get it by radio.
It's easier to call flight services on the radio than by phone, so I decide I'll do that. The specialist says sorry, he's not allowed to give out any codes by radio. It's a new rule. So I call the same guy back on the phone and get a code. Not sure what that accomplished. Maybe he gets a cut from my cellphone company.
I listen to the ATIS. It's a long recitation of runways and approaches in use, along with the mandatory cautions about SIRO and SPIA--I may have made up the latter abbreviation, but that's what I write down when I copy the ATIS and they are advertising Simultaneous Intersecting Runway Operations and Simultaneous Parallel Instrument Approaches in use. The former means that you might be asked to land and hold short of a crossing runway, or you might be cleared to use a runway that crosses another runway that someone is landing on. One of the pilots has to acknowledge a "hold short" instruction for each such instance. The latter means that you had better not fly through the localizer because there may be another airplane on approach beside you. It's like turning left at an intersection where there are two left turn lanes: you have to stay in your lane and watch for people who aren't.
I call Clearance Delivery, and he assigns me a Metrotown departure at 2000'. I find that on the chart. It's in the opposite direction as the active runway, so that's kind of confusing, but if the takeoff clearance doesn't assign me a routing to it, then I'll ask. I copy my departure squawk code and switch to Ground.
I tell the ground controller my position on the apron and assigned departure, and request taxi clearance. He says Metrotown is not available and gives me a different departure. Now I'm paranoid. Was the clearance delivery guy messing with me in retaliation for asking for a less efficient departure route yesterday? Then the ground controller says, "I presume you'll be wanting a runway again today?" Hey, it's the same guy who mistook me for a helicopter, and he remembers me. Cool.
But then the paranoia cuts back in. Maybe I'm supposed to specify the runway I want in my taxi request. It's not standard, but this wouldn't be the first (nor second, third or fourth airport) I've encountered with its own unique way of doing things. Or have I been away from flying for long enough to have forgotten how to make simple radio calls? I almost freak myself into believing that until I realize that while I've been on frequency I've heard a lot of calls as simple as "Air Canada, taxi." So that's not it. I read back my taxi clearance and follow it to the runway.
I don't remember what we took pictures of that flight. I think we were finishing up lines from a previous flight. I hope nobody blinked. I think I explained the improvements I wanted to the pilot guidance screen, beginning with colours and numbers I can actually see while working and working all the way to my demands for an opportunity to score points by flying well, and a high score list. And the dots should sparkle more, like in Bejeweled. Yes, I think I already blogged about this, because I remember the internal conflict it sets up for me, having to spell "bejewelled" incorrectly for my country, because it's the name of a product.
Back into Vancouver, this time with a straight in clearance that seems to take forever. I keep feeling as if I'm going to be run over by a landing B747, but then I realize that they do all the heavy landings on the north runway and the takeoffs on the south one, so a light airplane coming in for the south one isn't holding anyone up unless we're slow clearing the runway. I scramble off at the first available taxiway and call ground for taxi in.
The next flight has an interesting complication, because we will be flying above 12,500', in class B airspace. VFR traffic is not permitted in class B airspace in Canada, but there's a loophole where you can file "controlled VFR" to follow IFR rules on what is essentially a VFR flight. The CVFR clearance is further complicated by the fact that we are flying photo blocks. I've heard of "flying photo blocks" lots of times, but always assumed it was just jargon for flying around taking pictures in a grid. No, it turns out that there is a specific thing called a photo block that we photo-taking pilots have to know about. I'll explain it another day. Let it suffice for now to say that I filed an IFR-type flight plan and then started up and called for clearance "for a local Controlled VFR flight." I notice pilots here say "round robin flight" instead of "local flight" to indicate that their destination and departure airport are the same, but I stick to the phraseology I first learned. To me "round robin" implies that you are landing at other airports before returning.
The controller says he only has an IFR strip on me. I've been warned about this: there is no separate procedure at ATC units for CVFR: a strip can be either IFR or VFR and CVFR gets an IFR strip. I try to explain that I'm CVFR, departing VFR and then climbing above 12,500' but he says he doesn't have the capability to accept composite flight plans, and basically puts me on hold while a long line of people with more normal requests get their clearances. I can't even get a word in edgewise to say I can accept an IFR departure. Finally the controller gets back to me and assigns me an IFR departure. I look for it in the CAP, hoping it isn't too complex. It's trivial, easier than the VFR departure routes. It tells me to take off, climb straight ahead, and wait for further instructions. I call ground "for taxi two six left" and take off when cleared to do so. The clearance specified to contact departure airborne, so I do that as soon as my gear is up and climb power set, and they radar identify me and immediately give me another frequency to contact. The next controller is baffled by my strip, because I'm an IFR departure but he can't vector me to an airway and be done with me. He wants to know if I'm cancelling IFR. Uh, sure, I can't be CVFR and IFR both at once. I say it, "Cancelling IFR" because they need me to be clear about it. He transfers me to a different terminal controller and we have to go through this all over again, because I still have an IFR strip. Eventually I'm cleared to the photo area. Oxygen on through ten thousand and then I fly in straight lines while the operator takes pictures. We're over Bowen Island and the Gulf Islands, taking pictures of the shoreline. This job can only be done during the two hours of low tide, so every time I mess up, by not being quite straight enough, or having a wing down what seems like just a tiny bit, were it not for the glaring red dot, it costs more than the fuel to turn around and go get it. In just the couple of hours we've been out here there is a huge difference in how much is rocks and how much is water. There are some clouds over the islands, but they are over the middles of the islands, not the shorelines, so we keep snapping. We don't quite finish the work in the time allotted, but there is another, non-tide-sensitive job we work on to round out our mission.
After all that I'm not sure whether we are on a VFR flight plan or an IFR one, so I call flight services to close it, just in case.