Thursday, December 26, 2013

Back to the North Pole

We're not anywhere near the north pole actually, just north of most civilization. We departed IFR from an aerodrome that had flight services and they passed us on to Centre. We have an elaborate flight plan that switches to VFR and then back to IFR, so we have to discuss that a little. We will be passing out of controlled airspace shortly, so Centre gives us a clearance that is valid "while in controlled airspace," and then clears us to en route frequencies. The "while in controlled airspace" tag is very common. Many IFR routes pass through swathes of uncontrolled airspace, especially during descent into remote destinations.

We accept the clearance and then change to the en route frequency, 126.7. Across Canada pilots in uncontrolled airspace make reports to one another on their positions and intentions using this frequency. The initial call will be quick and simple, because most of us aren't in each other's way. If a pilot makes a call and it sounds to someone else as though their routes may intersect, then the pilots concerned provide more precise information or negotiate routing or altitudes that will ensure they don't conflict.

I state my position with bearing and distance from the aerodrome I departed, and then give my track merely as, "Northbound for the middle of nowhere." I'm not even expecting anyone on frequency to be close enough to hear, as I'm still climbing out, but there's a reply.

A surprised voice with an Australian accent says, "I've just come from there!"

I ask him, "Is the weather good?" and he says it is.

Later we change our minds about the flight plan, something that happens on about eighty percent of our flights, because that's just the way our operation works. Only problem is that despite being at FL180 we can't contact ATC. We need a clearance to climb higher, and don't want to waste the gas to do so anyway. We can't raise anyone else on the radio to do a relay for us, but we have a satellite-based tracking transceiver that is capable of transmitting text messages to our flight follower. We get the flight follower to call the flight services to cancel IFR and close out the rest of our flight plan.

The weather was very good in the middle of nowhere, and we got a sizable proportion of our work done before returning to the southern reaches of nowhere. But we didn't see Santa. I told you we weren't that far north.


Chris C. said...

So good to have you back and posting again!

zb said...

Happy New Year and safe travels! In case there should be a New Year's post: Don't let your resolutions for 2014 get too tough on you ;-)

Sarah said...

I'm commenting on an old entry, because it seems to fit here. Do you have a backup plan when flying in the far north for dead-reckoning navigation?

The reason I ask : This reddit post about an astro compass.

Aviatrix said...

Sarah, while I passed the portion of my commercial exam that covered finding the sun's true bearing from tables, these days the back-up means of navigation is pretty much always a GPS. I've never used an astro compass.