Friday, November 2, 2007

Back in the Day: Part 1

I started writing for fun with e-mails that I sent to friends and family when I started flying up North. Figure a good way to start posts for this blog would be by recapping these e-mails.

Here's the first one from November 2002:

Cessna C441 Conquest II C-FSKG

The last five days have been some of the most intense days of my life. They have been incredibly fun, but the amount of information I have absorbed has been incredible. The training has been like trying to take a drink of water out of a firehose.

I was supposed to start my groundschool on Saturday, unfortunately my training Captain got called out for 2 medevacs that day so we didn't end up doing much. Sunday started off with my first flight. We practiced take-offs, landings, stalls, steep turns and an NDB approach. The Conquest II is a much more powerful plane than anyone I have flown before. The most powerful plane I have flown before had 600 hp, the Conquest has 1271! That has taken a lot of getting used to. Sunday afternoon consisted of 6 hours of groundschool. We went through the majority of the different systems of the aircraft: How the Engine works and it's different characteristics, the electrical system, the hydraulic systems, pressurization and everything else you ever wanted to know about a plane. Monday started with another flight where we practiced a lot of emergencies and engine failures, we even shut down one of the engines in flight! We flew a couple more circuits and practiced some more take off and landings. In the afternoon my training captain had to do another medevac so I went home, slept for a bit and went over some of my notes. We were supposed to do some more groundschool that evening, but instead we did my third and final training flight. We practiced instrument procedures, landing at night, Maximum climb takeoffs (that's where you climb up really quickly and it feels like you're going straight up) and landing without a landing light.

I did some more groundschool on Tuesday and then went on-call Wednesday morning at around 3am. Luckily I didn't get paged until 10:30am. We had a trip from Thompson to Brochet which is a Reserve about an hour's flight northwest of Thompson. We flew out there at FL 220 (22,000 ft) which is more than twice as high than I have flown before. I was the pilot flying and Geoff (the captain) worked the radios, except Geoff did the landing in the reserve cause it's a shorter runway. We landed at Brochet where a pick-up truck met us and took myself, Geoff and the flightnurse to the nursing station. A woman had hurt her back in a snowmobiling accident. We waited around the nursing station for a bit while the nurse got all the stats about the patient. We then put her on a strecther and loaded her into the back of the pick up truck and went back to the airport. We had to sit in the back of the truck with the patient. Although it was sunny, it was the end of November in Northern Manitoba and we were on a dirt road: It was crisp and the ride was bumpy. Once at the airport, we loaded the patient on the plane and flew back to Thompson, this time I worked the radios and Geoff flew. Once in Thompson we were met by the ambulance who took the patient to the hospital.

We had just been back in Thompson for about 15 minutes when the pager went off again. Once the nurse got back from the hospital we were to take a little baby and her parents to the children's Hospital in Winnipeg. Geoff and I had lunch at the airport restaurant and then once the nurse came back from the hospital in Thompson with the family, we blasted off for Winnipeg. We flew down to Winnipeg at 17,000 ft cause we wanted to keep the cabin altitude nice and low, the baby just slept most of the way, it was really well behaved and didn't cry at all. We came into Winnipeg after it had just gotten dark, we flew right over downtown and then followed a WestJet 737 on final approach. We landed in Winnipeg, parked beside two Challenger Jets, and were met by another ambulance who took the nurse and the family to the children's hospital. Geoff and I waited around the airport for a little while then took the company van and picked the nurse up from the hospital. After we picked up the nurse, it was off to Polo Park mall for some dinner. After dinner we went back to the airport and flew back to Thompson. It was my leg to fly and we had a strong 75kt headwind the whole way back so it took us a while. Once you get about 200km north of Winnipeg, all the lights end and it gets really dark, you have to follow your instruments cause you can't see anything. I landed in Thompson, not one of my better landings, but the plane's still in one piece :) Taxiied in, and shut down. Our duty day only had a few more hours in it so if there was another call, the other crew would most likely get it.

Me at the End of my First Day 'On The Line'