Friday, October 28, 2011

When the going gets's time to go flying. :)

"Wheeling" over the San Juan's and the Salish Sea 
- a different perspective than from the kayak cockpit.
Thankfully, there's almost always time to get in an early morning run whether it's on the trails or the treadmill. Life, however, has been way too full these past few weeks for any time to even think about paddling. It was, in fact, pretty tough going. So this posting is about something a little different. But just as much fun. :)

Back in the early "eighties", when we were living in Banff and serving at Rundle Memorial, there was the opportunity to check off an item on the "bucket list" - learn to fly. On one glorious day, Joan (who always knows what to do!) slipped a "Discovery Flight" ticket in an envelope and said, "If you really want to do this, here's your opportunity." Six months later, licenced and checked out in the sturdy Cessna 172, I rented an aircraft and flew out of Springbank Airport, just outside of Calgary. It was great flying over the foothills and prairies, in sight of the Rockies with the usual trips out to Red Deer, Drumheller, and south of the city. Joan came along a number of times - always appreciated her, um, trust!

Several years after learning to fly, I joined the Canadian Forces, as a chaplain, and following Officer Candidate School (at the former military base in Chilliwack), was posted to Cold Lake, Alberta. Yes! It couldn't have been better - designated padre to 410 and 441 Tactical Fighter Squadrons - the world of F-18s on Canada's premier air base! :))))) (BIG smile!)

Once settled into the base and the new job, I presented the Squadron Commanding Officers with sound rational as to why I needed authorization to fly "back seat" in the dual cockpit jets. I needed, after all, to understand something of the life of the fighter pilot, and what better way to build rapport. Both COs agreed and it was off to the the High Altitude Indoctrination Course (HAI) at CFB Edmonton which treated candidates to the experience of "explosive decompression" and oxygen deprivation - but hey, it's all fun, right? Following completion of the course and the requisite monthly Martin-Baker ejection seat training, was the pick-up of summer and winter flight suits, helmet and O2 mask, G-suit etc. Here was one happy padre! Sometimes there were days when getting up and going to "work" seemed to be way too much fun. (There were, of course, other times.)

Hitching a "ride" with the visiting USAF - a "few" years ago.
"Air force" hair cut, eh?
We were in Cold Lake three years and, during that time, there were lots of opportunities to fly "backseat" in the F-18 "Hornets" as well as in 419 Squadron's Northrop F-5s, Canadair Tutors, and even a venerable Lockheed T-33. Our next posting was Lahr, Germany - 1RCHA (artillery) and 444 Tactical Helicopter Squadron. Ahhh...there was definitely "no life like it". 

Fast forward >> a lot of years...I would still love to fly but reaction times and situation awareness are both probably past their "best before dates". So, as I said, life's been full, and when a friend extended the invitation to fly to Chilliwack, on the mainland, for lunch - I was in! Big time!
Lined up and cleared for take off at Victoria International.
In a right turn above the BC Ferry terminal at Swartz Bay.
"Traffic" - down below.
The Cessna 172 nav instrumentation has improved over the years!
Majestic Mount Baker in Washington - just off the starboard wing.
Flying high, above Abbotsford International Airport.
My friend, and pilot, Dave.
It was a great day, with an excellent pilot, at a time when getting some altitude in a Cessna was probably the very best thing in the world to do. The veggie burger at the Chilliwack Airport was pretty awesome too! :)

Thanks for making it happen, Dave. Hope you all enjoy the pics - another perspective of land and sea out here.



  1. The "land and sea" out there looks pretty appealing from just about any perspective. But it does here too! ;) Gen.

  2. So glad you were able to have some fun time :>) Sheila

  3. Yes we live in an amazing part of the country and I have had the opportunity to fly to Chilliwack a few times for their world famous pie!
    Great post Duncan!!

  4. Hi Gen, we totally agree with you. Your part of the "west" comes with some pretty cool "altitude"!

    Thanks for that, Sheila, the sortie to Chilliwack brought back some cool memories - of flying and of basic training. :)

    Great to hear from you, Mark and Robyn. Love your blog and some pretty impressive paddling poetry there! :) Hey folks, check out M & R's blog, "Gecko Paddler" - great stuff!

  5. Wow you really did have a fun day! It is a very little plane though...not sure I could be as brave. Glad you got to escape for a day and have some excitement.

  6. Hippie in uniform!! thats great you got out and trained; for both you and your troops. BZ!!

    sometimes a differt angle looking at the water gives you inspiration!!

  7. Aw heck, L, you'd be fine. Hey, we could try some aerobatics, maybe a spin or two? Or not!

    Haha, that's funny, Lee. Thing is, it was true. In the subsequent army postings, there was usually a lot of kidding from the RSMs. You know, "Excuse me padre, but does that hurt?" "What do you mean RSM?" "Well, I'm standing on your hair!" They always seemed to forgive me. :)