Thursday, November 05, 2009

Oceans of Cloud

The next day the weather is far better and we follow the coordinates we've been given, over the hills to the north. I look out the window and note, "This isn't looking so good, guys." But then I correct myself and amend it to, "It's looking spectacular, just not good for the mission."

Many valleys are full of clouds, with the peaks rising out of the blanket of white like islands in an ocean. The further north we get, the more cloud there is, but then by some quirk of nature, our reward for turning back yesterday, I suppose, the one valley we need to be clear is almost entirely so.

The GPS coordinates lead us to a little camp in the mountains that we didn't know was there. We saw a camp in the area on a previous trip, and had assumed this was it. It's not far from the first one but this isn't the same one. Not only is the camp itself smaller, but the runway is ... distinctive. Notice anything odd about it?

It's now the Tuesday after the long weekend. We take our last load of fuel, ready to head southeast in the morning, and when we get back to Watson Lake where my cellphone works, I dial the number from the pump to report that broken bonding strap. The number, according to the recording, is not available from my calling area. I give up.


TgardnerH said...

I was driving by a river today, and I wondered if float plane pilots might be able to use a section of river with a slight bend to it. Never thought you might have to do it on hard ground, but I guess I have my answer.

Michael5000 said...

Dog-leg right! Par is one higher.

So when I'm on a commercial flight over areas that mountainous, I'm always thinking "if there was mechancial trouble, where the hell would we LAND?" Is that in the back of your mind as a pilot too, especially that far north? Do you pack serious emergency parkas? Is this a tacky question to ask?

Aviatrix said...

It's a very fair question, and one we ask ourselves all the time. We could have landed at the strip shown the other straighter one, Tungsten or various other choices offered by the "nearest" button on the GPS.

In addition to the gloves, hats and jackets we brought on board ourselves, we have emergency equipment including parkas, sleeping bags, tarpaulins, over 28,000 calories of food, an axe, knives, fire-making supplies, mosquito hoods, an industrial first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, and an emergency locator transmitter (a self contained, g-force activated, automatic distress beacon).

And of course we have someone who knows where we have gone and when we are expected back.

mattheww50 said...

Your aircraft ELT probably should be supplemented by a 406 Mhz PLB.
The PLB beacon will summon emergency services a lot faster than the ELT, and I'd seriously discuss replacing the 121.5Mhz ELT in the aircraft with a 406 Mhz EPIRB for the same reason.

Sarah said...

matther50, what makes you think the ELT she mentioned was not a 406 Mhz version?

As far as I know, it's mandatory in Canada now. The date for US registered visitors to have a new, non 121.5 Mhz ELT keeps being pushed back. We're cheap.

It may be that a 406Mhz ELT doesn't include a GPS location. I don't know. Is that what you meant by PLB (personal locator beacon)?

Michael5000 said...

"And of course we have someone who knows where we have gone and when we are expected back."

Good, you've listened to your collective mothers then!

nec Timide said...

TSO C126 ELTs (AKA 406 ELTs) are not required in Canada yet. The minister of the day rejected the regulatory changes that would have mandated re-equipping for reasons I won't get into here. Figures from the National Search Secretariat indicate that about 25% of the GA fleet has re-equipped.

There are a number of ways to augment either TSO C91 or C126 ELTs. Personal Locator Beacons or EPIRBs that can be carrier on your person are good, as are some of the real time tracking solutions. In either case when registering the PLB/EPIRB or tracker you should make it very clear that the device is being used in an aircraft. Otherwise the responders that will be tasked to a PLB alert are likely to be local police, and it may be some time before the task gets back in the hands of aviation SAR resources.

Just like almost every other aspect of aviation, once the regulatory burden is satisfied, one must decide if, and how much, beyond legal requirements the comfort zone lies.