Migratory Bird Season (float rating part two)

Ok, so this post is a little late, as I’ve been busy. General update stuff: My hard drive failed in the middle of NaNoWriMo, 10k in, and while I got a decent start, I failed miserably in the end. I’m happy with what I got written though.

I have, now that I have a window with some decent light, found a new hobby. That hobby is indoor gardening, and African violets, especially. I will not be filling this blog with plant related shit. My plants have their own blog. If I happen to have any houseplant lovers following my blog, feel free to check out my plant blog on tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/vulpesviolets

My car is dead, and I need a new one. I’m sad. This car has been in the family since it was new. My Grandpa bought it. My Grandma drove it. My Dad drove it. I literally learned to drive in this Buick Le Sabre. But the engine is shot and it shuts off every time it comes to an idle, and it’s twenty three years old and I can’t justify replacing the engine. My Grandma’s health hasn’t been so great lately and as a writer, I can’t help but see the obvious metaphors. I cried after cleaning it out last night. Shut up.

In happier news, I finished my float rating. I have a couple of things to say about that. One is that I survived a murder-suicide attempt by a greater scaup who tried to fly into my prop on an overshoot. Aggressive maneuvering was required to avoid it. Yay for being good at overshoots and having the airspeed to maneuver without stalling.

It made me remember two things I’ve been told. First is that geese are generally fairly smart and will stay out of your way….but ducks are dumb. That has definitely been my experience – every close call I’ve had has been with a duck, not a goose, even though I see far more geese during migration season than I do ducks.

Second is from the 99’s annual general meeting in September. One of the 99’s that I was driving to and from their hotel was commenting on flying in and seeing so many migratory birds. She said she’d asked one of the locals how they managed around the birds. She said the answer she was given was to try not to think about it too much. It was a little eerie to hear her say that – a bird strike can easily cause an engine failure, and it feels like it’s just one of those things that can happen at random. You really do need to keep your eyes open during those seasons. Though I’ve encountered seagulls that wouldn’t move off the runway, the water birds seem to be the main migratory birds, and the concentrations of them at those times of year do get to be a big concern, and it’s one of those things that makes canadian bush flying what it is.

Speaking of animals, we saw mostly grebes on Norris Lake, but also, off the northern tip, someone’s raising bison, and one day we saw seven swans – two parents and five of their grey plumaged offspring.

And a beaver. We didn’t actually see the beaver, but it’s built a new house between two of the float plane bays. Which wouldn’t be a problem, except that he’s built a dam half way across one of the float plane bays, blocking the planes from getting out to the lake….*

I feel so fucking Canadian.

Last thing I would comment on is the attitude that float pilots are a bunch of fuckin’ cowboys who do just whatever. Okay – I’m a person to likes rules. I like a set of ways of doing things. So when I asked about whether or not there was standard circuits (patterns, for the yanks) and my instructor told me in a float plane you just kind of do whatever works best for you, I was honestly a bit frustrated. I always want to know the right way to do things.

Part of it is the fact that on water, there’s no centre line. There’s nothing to guide you and tell you what heading to land on. You just land into the wind. And don’t hit any power lines, and land where you have enough space, etc. You do whatever is practical and safe, and you just be extra careful to communicate your intentions to other traffic in the area, on the appropriate frequency.**

It was a bit of a different experience. It was very, do-whatever-you-need-to-do. Which took me a bit out o my comfort zone, of liking a set way of doing things, and set me to drawing on some older skills I learned from my father as a child when it comes to thinking through how to do something safely. Even docking, setting the plane up so that it drifted in to settle at the dock, shutting the engine off at the appropriate time to let it blow in, or drift in, then standing on the float with the tie-down line in hand, ready to hop off when the plane drifted close enough to the dock to hop off and secure the aircraft.

It’s hard to describe how natural and down-to-earth it felt. It felt like something my Dad might teach me how to do – or rather, not teach me, but just assume I could do and talk me through the first time, because he was the one person who always assumed I could do something.

It was fun, and I’m so glad I did it. I hope I get to use it.

 

*I make no promises that this beaver does not end his life as someone’s hat. None whatsoever.
* *I’ve heard complaints of float pilots broadcasting their communications on either 126.7 or 123.2, when they’re in a zone with a mandatory frequency, and yeah, that’s just not cool.
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