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the Husky to Victoria - by P.K.Odendaal - May 2013.
I have obtained permanent residence in Canada
this year, and now live in Edmonton. One of the logistical issues was to ship
my Husky aircraft to Canada - a few simple words, but a very daunting task, in
hindsight. I shipped the Husky in February and was told that it would arrive
ten weeks later in San Francisco, from where I would fly it to Canada - a very
daunting task, but very simple in hindsight.
A Husky is a new generation fabrication of
the age old Piper Super Cub - not that it really went from a lion to a dog; the
reverse is more true. A Husky is a sled dog used in the arctic regions, and
this aircraft has taken its name due to the aircraft's ability to negotiate
rough terrain, ice and wilderness flying quite easily. It is a two-seater
aircraft with tandem seats as shown on the photo.
This photo was taken shortly after I landed
at Victoria International Airport on Vancouver Island. I still have the life
jacket on, a prerequisite for flying over the sea.
I asked my daughter to transfer the money
for assembling the aircraft from South Africa to the USA, based on an invoice I
received from the USA Company who assembled it in Vacaville, USA. After more
than two weeks, when the money was not transferred yet, she enquired as to the
delay. The SA Reserve Bank told her that it was too much money to pay for a
dog, and what is more, they said, was that dogs come out already assembled.
The day came nearer and I booked one way air
tickets for my wife and I to travel to San Francisco, and she was going to fly
with me from San Francisco to Victoria in the Husky - a thing I knew she might
not go through with. As soon as I start talking about weather and mountains and
customs she normally starts to think about other things which may be more fun
and safer. But I let it go and know that ultimately I will have to fly the
Husky alone - a thing I like very much.
On leaving Canada, I am told by my daughter
here that I am looking for trouble leaving Canada on a one way ticket to the
USA. The USA customs will immediately pounce on such an infiltration and gross
threat to their country, raising the national security level to a Red Alert. I
am confident that I can coax the official into believing that I am going on a
holiday, as he does not see my air ticket, but only my boarding pass. My wife
is always ready to impart too much information to customs officials on such
occasions - and mostly incorrect information, so I let her swear that she will
not talk to them and leave it to me to provide too little information. I have
grown used to the brutality of USA customs officials over the years, and have
learned to say the things which they want to hear. It turned out that this USA
customs official was very much impressed with my holiday visit to their
beautiful country. The mode of return to Canada I naturally left out.
It is quite amusing to me that when I
applied for the USA visa I had to prove that I had enough money to visit the
USA - something like producing a bank letter that I have $100 000 available for
my week stay there. However, when you enter the country you must plead poverty
and say you are not bringing in any money; for fear that you might upset their
trade balance. I know they will not phone my bank manager and ascertain how
much money I have available in my debit and credit cards, so I take the chance
of pleading poverty.
I take these things in my stride, but my
wife always gets uptight about these. She regards sitting in jail for a few nights
a shame that must not be allowed to come over her family. I take it like the
South African idiom, which, translated, says: Worse than chopping off my head
it cannot be.
And so the day before I fly the Husky to
Victoria arrives, and I have to check its systems and take it for a test flight
to ascertain that it was assembled correctly. I have many hitches like a flat
battery, an outdated North American database for the GPS and other such trivial
setbacks. When I take it for a test flight I discover that the cables of the control
surfaces (ailerons) are too tight, making it very difficult to control the
aircraft properly - a task normally as easy as steering a ballerina in the
right direction. The test flight landing left me jumping all over the runway,
losing control now and then, and waiting for the aircraft to land itself as its
I get Scott to release the tension on the
control cables to the minimum specification and all is ready. I just need to
talk to someone about the USA Air Traffic Control System.
Seven years earlier ….
I take delivery of this self-same Husky at
the Factory in Afton, Wyoming and have to fly it to Minneapolis, Minnesota (see
article elsewhere). Mark, the factory pilot, introduces me to the USA Air
Traffic System in three and a half minutes on these lines: You talk to nobody.
Just fly and look out for other aircraft. If you have trouble, just talk to
Flight Watch on this frequency. Here is an old chart - take this route (drawn in
rough with a highlighter) over the Rockies, and watch out - the weather is bad
today - thunderstorms all the way - here are the webcams - you can see how bad
it looks - so off you are!
I go to the Flight School at Vacaville
Airport and talk to the Flight Instructor Andy. He is such a fine gentleman and
takes half an hour to introduce me to the simplicities of what is called the USA
Air Traffic System on these lines: You talk to nobody. Just fly … and so on … much
like Mark did seven years ago.
keep it low.
Me:I normally fly low
with the Husky - about 1000 to 2000 feet above ground. In fact, I sometimes fly
so low that I can look the sheep directly in the eyes.
Andy:That's right. And
take a zigzag route in the valleys between these very high mountains. Good luck
and send me photos when you get there.
I come to the conclusion that South Africa
really has the best Air Traffic System that I have ever flown in.
I am ready for my flight tomorrow, the
weather looks good, and my wife has been sent home by airline, as I planned
originally, without telling her. That would have been too much information for
her if I did it from the start. In fact, I have got so used to this, that I
have developed special skills over the years of divulging exciting news to her.
If I wish to take her on an overseas trip, I would normally start off by
looking at books of overseas countries without saying anything. The next step a
week later would be to talk about the safety of airline flights. Another week
later I will ask her whether she does not think that we need a holiday - and so
I would progress from one step to the other, until she realises too late that she
has been caught up in a web of deceit.
It is 09h15 am. On 10 May 2013 and I have
taken off from Vacaville on my way to Victoria. I climb to 2000 feet. The
engine runs smoothly and I have again become used to the easy touch with which
I used to fly this Husky - now almost four months ago. The weather looks good,
but .. oh .. look at that ground speed. It is showing a head wind of 60 km/hr.
I am flying at 75 knots - the speed I drove on the highway to the airport. I
will have to add another hour or two to my flight time to Victoria.
The direct route to Victoria is 1170 km. At
my normal cruising speed it will take 6.3 hours. I need half an hour reserve
making it 6.8 hours - if I have no headwind. The Husky can only fly 5.5 hours.
I will have to refuel at Eugene, just more than halfway. The weather forecast says
that there is thick fog and mist over the Sea Strait of Juan de Fuca between Seattle
and Victoria. I cannot go directly by Visual Flying Rules and will have to plan
my flight to the east of Seattle and approach Vancouver Island from the east -
a detour of some forty five minutes. I study the Seattle Terminal Movement Area
and see that I can pass below 5000 feet to its east without entering controlled
airspace. So that is my plan.
I get startled out of my reverie a few minutes
out of Vacaville, and realise that I should give more attention to the landscape
and air traffic outside, than admiring the excellent features of the aeroplane.
The Husky does not have an autopilot, so I will have to fly the whole route by
hand - something I like very much. I think that if the factory installs
autopilots on the Huskies, then people will stop buying them. I am about a
hundred kilometres north of San Francisco and I see these almost millions of
acres of land which is being flood irrigated. Beautiful - but a forced landing
in this water-covered land which looks like a lake will not be easy. I wonder
what they plant here, and why drip irrigation is not used. Maybe they have too
I wait for the mountains to come up, and I realise
that I should start to climb to 7000 feet to negotiate the valleys. I start to
climb slowly, and I can see the mountains in the distance. Although I have
studied the route thoroughly and know it by heart, I was depending on my iPad to
show me the topographical and aviation features as I go along. I take it out
and I cannot see anything on it. The glare from the sun and light is just too
much. I throw it on the back seat in frustration. I will have to fly by memory
and by the pre-programmed flight plan on the GPS.
I have just passed Redding and Lake Shasta
lies in front of me. What a beautiful sight. I do not wish to leave such a
magnificent sight. There are many boats on it, people fishing, skiing and just
messing around. I never knew about it before, and hope to return one day by land
Next is Mount Shasta which towers above me
at 14200 feet. I fly at 7000 feet and feel like an ant crawling on the face of the
earth. What a beautiful sight, with snow on the top third. I reach for my
camera to take pictures, but then realise that I have forgotten to move it
forward when I packed the aircraft. I cannot take my hands off the controls and
sail to the back of the aircraft like a snake to retrieve it. That will be
catastrophic. So much for my pre-flight preparation.
I also now realise that the strong head
wind has subsided and that I have picked up a small tailwind with my ground
speed now peaking at 120 knots.
After almost four hours I tune to Eugene
ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information Service) and copy information Mike. I then
tune into Eugene Tower and announce myself.
Husky:Eugene, this is Husky Zulu
Sierra Hotel Sierra Kilo with information Mike - good afternoon.
Eugene:(Just complete silence
- must be some man from the moon.)
Husky:Eugene, this is Husky Zulu
Sierra Hotel Sierra Kilo.
Eugene:That station that just
called say again.
Husky:Eugene, this is Husky …
Zulu … Sierra … Hotel … Sierra … Kilo.
Eugene:What is your call sign?
Husky:Zulu … Sierra … Hotel …
Sierra … Kilo.
Eugene:I cannot understand
It took me five minutes and fifty sentences
to try and tell him I am a Husky which wants to land at his airport. He thinks that
it is my accent and I think something else of him. At last I get landing
clearance while a Boeing waits five minutes for me to land. That Boeing uses up
more fuel in waiting for me, than I used from San Francisco to Eugene, and he
could have given take-off and landing clearance to about five aircraft during
the eternity I spent on the long final approach.
At Eugene I will need to get my clearance
to enter Canadian Air Space. If I go over the border without the necessary
clearances, I will fall prey to the F15 fighters of the Canadian Air Force. I
have little appetite for that as they may just add another few dents to the
Husky wings which have already acquired some dents from the shipping process.
After all, the Husky is partly made of canvas. So I file a flight plan and I
phone CanPass for a customs clearance. The flight plan will take me to the east
of Seattle to miss bad weather, from where I will turn in and approach Victoria
from the east.
CanPass asks me all sorts of things to make
sure that I may enter the country, and I have to declare anything I have on
board - and whom the Husky aircraft belong to. Just before they go into the details
of the third cousin of my deceased grandmother on my father's side, they are
happy and give me a clearance number.
Just as I start the aircraft, I over prime
it, and I run the battery down. I will have to wait more than an hour to
recharge the now almost defunct battery, so I postpone my flight plan with an
hour and a half.
When I start up again at half past three
the afternoon, I quickly check whether and find that the fog has started to
clear up on the sea strait. I amend my flight plan by taking a more direct
route and select to fly via ARPEE, an imaginary point to the east of Mount
Olympus. Although Mount Olympus in the Hoe Rain Forest is only 8000 feet high,
I do not wish to climb so high while the rest of the ground there is almost at
It is interesting to note that Mount
Olympus is responsible for the good weather normally experienced in Victoria,
being in the rain shadow of this mountain range. Tofino, which is situated on the
west coast of Vancouver Island, has a mean annual precipitation of 3300mm,
while Victoria only about 300km away from it on the eastern side of the island,
has a mean annual precipitation of only 600mm. That is why the coast on the
mainland west of Vancouver is called the Sunshine Coast.
On reaching ARPEE I turn left to cross the
sea strait which is 40 km wide and will take me twenty minutes to cross. For
this purpose I have bought a life jacket. Should I make a forced landing in the
sea, and get knocked out, then this life jacket will inflate automatically.
Same area as picture below
Seattle Flight Control Areas
From here I can see the island, although it
is quite hazy still, due to the fog. I can see the remains of the fog to my
right side hanging over the sea.
Halfway over this sea strait, I make
contact with Victoria Approach, after listening to information Mike on their
Husky:Victoria, this is
Husky Zulu Sierra Hotel Sierra Kilo with information Mike - good afternoon.
day Zulu Sierra Hotel Sierra Kilo - go ahead.
Husky:This is Zulu Sierra
Hotel Sierra Kilo entering Canadian Air Space twenty miles to the south at 5000
feet, for landing at Victoria International.
Victoria:Zulu Sierra Hotel
Sierra Kilo, please squawk your CanPass squawk code and squawk ident. Enter
controlled airspace and descend to 3000 feet initially. I have a Beaver
(aircraft) taking off from the Victoria harbour now. Tell me when you have it
Husky:(To myself: My, my, my
.. how can this controller understand me at once).
Descend to three
thousand feet. I have the Beaver visual now, Hotel Sierra Kilo.
Victoria:Hotel Sierra Kilo, Do
you have the airport in sight?
Husky:Airport in sight affirmative.
Victoria:Turn onto a heading
of 300 degrees, descend to 2000 feet and call me once you cross the coast
outbound for left base onto runway 09.
Husky:Descend to 2000 feet
and call you the coast outbound next, Hotel Sierra Kilo.
Victoria:Hotel Sierra Kilo, do
you mind if I bring the King Air on wide left base in before you?
Husky:No problem, I will
peel off to the left and follow it in.
Victoria:Contact Tower now on
one one eight one. Have a good day.
Husky:Tower on one one eight
one. Thanks and good bye sir.
What a pleasure to talk to a professional
controller - and one who is so friendly and human. I am getting respect for
this type of service.
After landing, Ground Control clears me to
taxi to customs, and I know - here it comes - as I park in front of customs. I
expect some three to four customs officials with machine guns storming out of
the customs office and shouting at me to SIT STILL AND DO NOT MOVE - but
I feel neglected, as I recall my encounter
with USA officials in a similar situation when I entered the USA from Canada
seven years ago at Sanderson Field near St. Sault Marie. Here is an abstract of
that skirmish from a previous article:
The second incident
was in northern Michigan just south of Sault Saint Marie (pronounced Saw say Marie).
We received and instruction via Air Traffic Control that we must land at this
very small airfield just over the border from S.S.Marie - they gave us the
airfield code - so that we can go through customs. When we taxied up to the
terminal building we saw two armed customs officials charging out of the
building and yelling and waving at us - even before we came to a standstill. It
looked to me as if they were intent on inflicting serious bodily harm on us.
Pieter on the other hand thought that it would be better to stop at the
refuelling bay, so that we do not have to start up again when we refill the
aircraft. I shouted to Pieter to stop immediately, fearing that if he did not
stop immediately, they would start shooting at us if we parked in the wrong position;
similar to the policeman of Beki Cele shooting a white woman for parking
incorrectly at the police station (see my previous blog).
As they came nearer
to the aircraft they shouted :
STOP !!!! ... and
then ... SIT STILL !!!.
We were frozen in
situ and I wondered whether I may blink my eyelids, when they yelledthat I should open the aircraft door.
WHERE ARE YOU FROM
???? from the arctic
WHERE ARE YOU GOING
TO ??? to south
That was too much for
them - who were we to poke fun at them. So it is interrogation and searching
our bags over and over - finding nothing. It then dawned upon them that maybe,
just maybe, we were telling the truth, as in fact we were.
I can see that with every
word I spoke, which was the whole truth and nothing but the truth, they get
more and more agitated, as if they have just heard the biggest lies ever.
After telling them of
our adventure, one of them got very friendly and at one stage I thought he was
going to give us the freedom of the United States or at least of some Big City
in it. The other however was adamant not to be caught off-guard and remained
I do not think I was
ever as near to extradition to a faraway place as that day.
At the Customs office I am told to phone
Customs as I have arrived after hours. I talk to a (real) lady at Customs main
office and she asks me whether I have anything more to declare, to which I
answer: No. She said that they will not come out to search me, that I can go
and she gives me a clearance/entry reference number. I find out that Canadian
Customs officials are actually human beings, and that they treat people like
humans. So good to be Home.
It has taken me almost seven hours to reach
Victoria and when writing in the aircraft log book after the flight, I note as
well that this must have been one of the most enjoyable flights I have ever