Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Back in the Day: Part II

This is the second e-mail that I sent out after I started flying on the Conquest. It was after a one week stint in Rankin Inlet in Dec of 2002. Wow, that seems like a long time ago now!

Skyward has 3 Cessna Conquests. They base one in Thompson, one in Island Lake and one in Rankin Inlet in Nunavut. They crew the planes at the remote bases usually in one week shifts. So, from Dec 8th to Dec 15th I was based in Rankin Inlet in Nunavut territory.

Every Sunday morning, Skyward has a scheduled flight that leaves Thompson at 8am, then makes stops in Churchill, Arviat, Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet. I sat as a passenger and enjoyed the flight. We only made brief stops in each of the communities so I didn't really get time to explore, but it was nice to just sit as a passenger and enjoy the view of Hudson Bay which I was seeing for the first time.

It wasn't my first time in Nunavut. One week earlier I was the First Officer on a flight to Baker Lake. We landed in a Blizzard. Outside it was -30c. With winds gusting to 42 mph, the wind chill was -67c! And I was completely unprepared for it. I didn't have my parka yet, I didn't bring my neck warmer, I didn't bring my heavy duty gloves or my super warm boots; I just had a regular jacket and a hat. I have never been so cold in my life! I got minor frostbite on my cheeks, when the captain noticed frost actually forming on my cheeks he told me to go inside and warm up. Boy did I learn my lesson! The locals found it humorous. Here was this silly kid from Toronto freezing his butt off in a full blown Arctic Blizzard! The taxi driver took pity on me and let me wear his boots for a bit cause they were already warm and I had no heat left in my toes. Although I had never met this person, I had no qualms about wearing his boots cause my feet were so cold!

So this trip up to Nunavut I was prepared, I came equipped with a big $450 Snow Goose parka (the type you see arctic explorers wearing), heavy duty mitts, a really warm hat and my good 'moon' boots (sorels). However, lucky for me when we landed in Rankin it was a balmy -20c, sunny and with no wind. As long as there is no wind, the cold is very manageable if you layer your clothes properly.

We didn't have any trips the first day. For dinner we went over to Jason's (one of our flight nurses who lives in Rankin Inlet fulltime) mother's place where we had an incredible prime rib dinner. The next day Luella and Jana (one of the pilots and the nurse from Keewatin Air) came over to have dinner with us, we hadn't got a call all day, but right as we were sitting down for dinner with them, we got a call for a
Coral Harbour-Churchill trip. We quickly finished some more food, then rushed to the airport. We got to Coral Harbour (on Southampton Island in the North end of Hudson Bay) about an hour and 15 minutes later. We picked up our patient (a woman who had slipped on ice and broken her shoulder) and flew to Churchill. An Ambulance met us at the airport and we went to the hospital. Our nurse Paul had looked at the x-ray and figured there was a pretty good chance this woman would need to go to Winnipeg and have surgery. At the hospital the doctor confirmed this, however, he was unable to find a doctor or a bed for her in Winnipeg. So we waited. A little while later he informed us that he had been able to find a doctor, but still no bed, so we waited some more. We had been waiting for a couple hours when Steve (the captain) decided that we should go to the airport and warm up the plane which had been sitting in the cold with the engines off for a couple of hours now.

After we had warmed up the plane, Paul returned and said that they had not been able to find a bed, so we should just return to Rankin Inlet. So we took off and headed home. We were just over half way back when ATC called us "Skyward 911, I've got some good news for you. Company wants you to return to Churchill." So we turned around and headed back to Churchill. The Ambulance brought the woman out to the airport and we flew down to Winnipeg, arriving just as the sun was rising. By this point we were quite tired and at the end of our duty day, we were not legally allowed to fly anymore.

We checked into a hotel, had breakfast at the restaurant and then went to bed (at 8am). I got about 5 hours of sleep when they decided to start doing bathroom renovations on the floor below me! I went for a walk and then came back and got a couple more hours of sleep.

We left for Rankin at around 5 that evening, the flight back took around 3 and a half hours, once there we put the plane in the hanger and I went back to sleep. I got about 2 hours of sleep when the phone rang for a Repulse Bay - Winnipeg trip. Repulse Bay is right on the Arctic circle on the southern tip of the Melville Peninsula. I crossed the Arctic circle at around 3am that morning. We landed, parked beside a Canadian Forces Twin Otter (I'm not sure what it was doing there) and went into the nursing station to pick up our patient. For some reason, the people are noticeably shorter up there. At 5'10" , I was towering over everybody, plus the ceilings in the nursing station were also really low: so this is what it's like to feel tall!

We flew to Winnipeg, stopping in Rankin Inlet to get gas and arrived in Winnipeg at around 9am. We had breakfast and then checked into the same hotel, I slept like a log, I don't think there was any renovations going on, but if there was, it didn't wake me up. We flew back to Rankin that evening.

On the flight back the sky was very clear and the moon wasn't too bright.We got a magnificent display of the stars, Northern Lights and falling space junk. I'm not sure what the space junk was, but it looked like an incredibly bright star falling from the sky, but it was only a few miles a head of us. Once we arrived in Rankin, we filled up the plane with gas, went home and I slept for the whole night.

Around ten the next morning we got a call for an Arviat-Churchill trip, which ended up turning into a Arviat-Churchill-Winnipeg. Luckily we still had time in our duty day to make it back to Rankin that evening.In 3 days we had flown 26 hours or approximately 13,000 km!

We had one more trip that week from Baker Lake to Churchill.

On Sunday we headed out for the airport for our flight back home, all told we had done about 30 hours of flying in the week and flew enough miles to go to from Halifax to Vancouver and back.

1 comment:

Davis Bigelow said...

Lookin good James. A nice read!