North of Superior

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The weather is still miserable in Kapuskasing, and I have three things on my mind. First, this a long leg, the longest of the trip: four hours, give or take, to Winnipeg. Normally, that would not be a problem, but I am breaking in two new cylinders and must run at 70% power and rich of peak EGT. That means 15 gallons per hour, and the Bonanza holds 74. So today she's a five-hour airplane. Second, I would like enough of a ceiling so I can get the gear up before going IMC, and I don't want ice. But third, I can't go until I solve the problem that appeared on my arrival Friday afternoon: as I was starting the approach, suddenly the static in my headset was so loud I couldn't hear the radio. I could hear responses to my transmissions but couldn't make them out. It wasn't a factor at the uncontrolled field and I had been cleared for the approach so I ignored it and concentrated on landing.

I waste time tracking it down with my hand-held VHF, which receives a lot of noise when I turn on the master switch. (Well, not really wasted time, because it is in failure that you learn so much). Finally I realize that yes, it is as I thought last night when I was walking to supper: it is my own finger trouble. On the audio panel I had left NAV 1 on, and when I lost the Timmins VOR on descent there was just noise. It was more of a gotcha because my NAV 2 radio has a volume control which I use, leaving NAV 2 on. Now my COM checklist will include NAV 1 off.

There are hopeful bits of sun poking through as I start up, although the rain starts again at the same time, a powerful soaking mist. I turn on the windshield defrost. Birds are a problem, too. It is Sunday, so the airport guys shooting shotgun blanks from their truck are not on duty. I sashay down the runway like a taildragger with my lights on, trying to scare them off. I am doing my checks as well, because I want to line up and go before they come back.IMG_0106

There is sun breaking through and there is a rainbow as I line up. A good omen.

Gear up, and I'm into the clag, as the pilots say. Wet and bumpy despite the breaks of sun. Solid IMC until I get on top, between five and six thousand, just like the GFA said. And no icing, either – also as the GFA promised. There is warm air creeping in over this miserable wet stuff. The OAT on the climb went from 8° down to 0 and back up to 4°.



Now I settle down to the routine of cruise. Right tank when the big hand is on the right, and vice versa. Position reports. (A have to do a couple, because at 8000 I'm off ATC's radar for several hundred-mile sections of the track.) And then the luxuries: lunch – an apple, trail mix, and water. It tastes good. Best of all is the GoPilot my son and daughter in law got for me. I'm not young, and on a four-hour leg I need it. I'm learning how to use it without doing an inadvertent barrel-roll.


Still over a solid undercast. I have my Garmin GTN 650 on Nearest Airports, and I get the weather for those that report and learn runways, frequencies, and approaches just in case. Then I'm over Lake Nipigon.

IMG_0150Almost exactly at the western shore the cloud below breaks up.


Yes, this is Canada, North of Superior. Minnesota may have 100,000 lakes – here there must be a million.


CYXL – Sioux Lookout – is wide open. I press my face against the side window and look down. I can read the 34 on the runway threshold. There is a GPS LPV approach to that runway that's good down to 273 feet. Miracles of modern technology! I am musing about how this is so different from the flying the early bush pilots did, and yet just the same. I think about how Lindbergh stayed awake by flying 100 feet above the Atlantic. I'm staying awake by flying, but the difference is that if I get distracted and lose a hundred feet I don't hit the water.

The undercast comes back after Sioux Lookout. North of Kenora I'm thinking about it as a destination and about my legal alternate, Portage La Prairie. It's tight for fuel, and realistically, now not quite legal. But Winnipeg is VFR – 3000 broken. So here I am, guilty as charged. I'm doing a version of what countless overseas flights do, including AF 447. Re-clearance. I'm saying, well, now I'm here and it's VFR, it's OK. I'm going to Winnipeg.

My plan A is to land on runway 31. It's closer to straight in, a shorter, more efficient approach. But the official deal, on the ATIS, is an ILS to 36. When I call in to approach with the ATIS, they say, can you do direct NOXAM for and ILS 36? I say yes, and it's a bit of work because (don't ask me why) the Garmin database does not offer me the option – and it's the IF for the approach! So I do it manually and activate the approach.

Some minutes later, in view of the traffic for 36, the controller offers me 31. I say, sure. Then I try to do it. Perhaps it is the heat of battle and my inexperience, but I cannot figure out how to change the approach in the Garmin GTN 650 when it has already been activated. Do I have to remove Winnipeg as destination and then enter it again? The heck with that. Asking for trouble. Hat in hand, I ask to remain on vectors for 36. They hold me at 4000 (I had been cleared to 3000) and turn me left a bit to put me behind faster traffic.

IMG_0157Here I am tied down at Avitat in Winnipeg. I'll get back to you about how to change the approach in the GTN 650 once it's activated.