They do their best to pair up students for the IFR cross country so that one student can fly the leg outbound and the other inbound, saving money for each student, since the trip needs to be a certain distance one direction.
But the weather was turning colder, and this aircraft doesn’t have de-icing or anti-icing equipment.
We booked the flight, and planned to be able to go either east or west, whichever direction the weather was better.
The date came, and there was icing conditions in both directions.
We booked it a second time, and same deal.
We booked it a third time. Third time’s the charm right? Nope. Plane grounded for maintenance.
We booked it a fourth time. I was up early, glanced at the TAF, looked good – vis on the Winnipeg METAR looked fine, plus six miles. I headed out to the airport.
I got halfway down Main, before I could see about three street lights ahead of me and the fourth was hidden in the fog.
I got to St. Andrews, and the visibility out there was 1/4 mile. To legally be allowed to take off, we needed 1/2 mile. I texted my laments to my fellow writer/pilot in Kenora, Tim, and he teased me about being absolved of any novice ideas of “all-weather flying”. We waited. We were watching the old tower, and every few minutes it looked like the fog was dissipating, but the next minute, the old tower on the next ramp would be nearly hidden by the fog. We waited it out three hours, until my cross country student partner had other commitments.
We had an unseasonably warm late October and early November, but one of the two Seminoles Harv’s flys was down two months for maintenance, and the one still flying was over booked. The time it was available – night.
Well, extra multi-engine-instrument-cross-country hours never hurt a pilot. We booked it a fifth time.
I figured we’d only be on the ground a few minutes, but I messaged Tim because I’d feel weird being in Kenora and not letting him know. And despite reassuring him that we’d probably not be on the ground long enough to do much more than wave, and as a pilot I knew he’d understand, he still cared enough to pretty much insist on meeting us at the airport.
My partner flew the inbound leg while I nibbled on graham crackers in the back. Most of my IFR flying has been through controlled airspace, so it was kind of different to go through the motions of passing in and out of controlled airspace. Class E airspace is also a bit of a quirky mashup of controlled and uncontrolled airspace.
For the Americans following me, it’s my understanding that there’s not a lot of airspace out there that’s not covered by radar. I’ve heard stories from Canadian pilots flying in the USA, tell me they were told by flight following “There’s gonna be no radar service for a few miles in front of you, are you okay with that?” And the Canadian pilot being confused as to what the big deal was.
My understanding is that in most countries, there’s almost no such thing as IFR flight in uncontrolled airspace. Canada is a really big country, and there’s a lot of uncontrolled airspace. IFR flight in uncontrolled airspace is a fact of life here.
Anyway, we got on the ground and Tim met us wearing a headlamp and a reflective vest, and I seriously almost kinda felt like I had a ground crew. It was cool. I could get used to this.
Anyway, we stayed on the ground long enough for a pit stop, and I learned Tim had drafts of the cover art for his upcoming novel, which is super exciting, and I can’t wait to be posting more about the launch!
Back to Winnipeg though. Pro-tip – there’s a tower like, right in the path of the eastbound runway. Keep your climb going and stay on course.
The approach in Winnipeg and the second in St. Andrews was familiar, which is good because I was tired at that point.
Anyway, it’s done, and I’m almost finished. Stay with me.