Before breakfast in the hotel, I get the desk clerk to fax my photo flight plan to the IFR data people and my OFP to company, then grab breakfast. They have oatmeal, my favourite breakfast food, but they only have the maple flavour. Basically, they've taken perfectly good oatmeal and put it in a paper bag with way too much salt and sugar. I can't remember whether I ate it or turned straight to the muffins, but I did try to get a muffin out of a plexiglass case. You can't really see or reach the muffins without opening the drawer, but when I pull it out it somehow locks at a negative angle and muffins start ricocheting all over the room. Someone comes to my rescue and we figure out how to disarm the muffin booby trap. Girl can operate a complex airplane but she's helpless against breakfast.
Despite it all I'm right on the dot for my filed take-off time. Airborne, I tune departure and before I can contact them, the first thing I hear on frequency is, "Are you really an F-18? That's a pretty good rate of climb."
"Yeah, we're light today. It's pretty fun," replies the pilot. 'Cause you know, ordinarily it's so boring flying an F-18.
We check in with the cheerful controller and are cleared higher. We get a rate of climb nothing like that of an empty F-18, but still fine for us and we're soon in the flight levels flying back and forth in straight lines. And dammit, I need to pee already. There's a sound from the back like a clipboard being dropped. I ask the operator if he dropped his clipboard. No, he didn't. It's that stupid heater malfunctioning again. I turn it off. So now I need to pee and I'm going to be cold in a few minutes.
I put on my gloves and coat, zip it up to my chin and continue working. I can pee in a bag if I get too desperate, but they say if you're in a cold survival situation you should hold it because it's warm. The idea is that you're losing heat if you evacuate it. I'm not quite sure I follow that idea, but I follow the straight lines, dot after dot. We use up those photo blocks and ask for more, which the cheerful controller gives us.
With an hour of fuel remaining, I start descent. I planned for thirty minutes to get down and land and I take an odd pride in the fact that landing too is right on the filed minute. We taxi to the pumps and I run and pee while waiting for the fueller. The operator makes a routine check of the camera and discovers that there is fuel on the lens. The air at altitude doesn't have enough oxygen to burn fuel at the rate the regulator supplies it to the heater, and despite the fact that this airplane is certified to almost ten thousand feet higher than we were flying, it has not been equipped with any means of controlling the mixture. You'd think there would be an automatic pressure-controlled leaning operation, but there isn't. So our theory is that the unburned fuel gets barfed overboard through the exhaust, and some of it has ended up on the camera lens. Some of it ignites in the exhaust, causing the clipboard-dropping sound, and the soot around the exhaust that I have to clean off again. But we just had both the heater fuel regulator and the entire heater replaced, so it shouldn't be doing this. Airplanes never know what they aren't supposed to do.
Or maybe that theory is bogus and the heater is working okay, but there's some fuel leak somewhere else. I do the math on the fuel burn, as I've recorded how much went into each tank during refuelling. The fuel burn is right on the money for my planning, and the difference between tanks is negligible. We talk to our AMO ("Approved Maintenance Organization" i.e. home base aircraft maintainers) and they have us check for leaks while running the fuel pumps, switching tanks, and everything else they can think of. We decide to delay departure to make sure there isn't another source of fuel leaking that could wreck our data. We open some inspection ports and eventually conclude that the fuel must have come out of the heater, and we're okay to fly again.
As we're parking the airplane at the end of the day, a November-registered Cessna 180 arrives. It's windy, and of course the wind has a greater effect on the little airplane, but the pilot taxies carefully and shuts down nearby. They've come up to Canada for hunting, fishing and visiting family here. The pilot comments on the absence of tie-downs here, and at most Canadian airports. It's true, in comparison, there are hardly any tiedown spaces for transient aircraft in Canada. It's routine in the states that there are metal cables running across the parking area, and often chains with hooks attached, making it easy for you to secure your airplane. I remember now an American friend who asserted that all airports provided tie-down chains. His experience was limited, but it certainly is common. In Canada there aren't usually even tiedown rings in the pavement outside the paid long-term area. Canadians travelling with a small airplane need to bring ropes and stakes, park on the grass and drive the stakes into the turf to secure their airplanes. Everywhere is different, but what has driven this difference? It's not about snowploughs, as the travelling couple is from Montana and they have just as much snow as here.