I’ve made the flight from Camrose, Alberta to Hudson Island, British Columbia, a number of times now. Sometimes I file an official flight plan, and other times I use a relative as a flight itinerary contact. What I’ve learned is that changing cloud conditions can make flight plans go longer than planned, while the flight itinerary gives me much more flexibility, because I can send TXT messages from my cellphone whenever I fly over a town, to let my contact person know where I am.
To improve my own safety, I’ve made this webpage posting my route, and the choices I could make to avoid clouds. My ground contact person could then refer the search-and-rescue people to this webpage, to look for me along these routes, if I go missing. Plus, these Google Earth images tell a beautiful story, I think.
My flight begins by setting the GPS for a direct route from Camrose to Salmon Arm, BC.
Flying westward, passing Rocky Mountain House, I approach the Rocky Mountains. Will clouds be blocking my path? That is always the big question, and there are always a few clouds there. I should not even start this flight if the forecast shows a Broken ceiling between 8 to 12 thousand feet. But assuming there are scattered clouds or clear sky, I would begin the journey.
My GPS line points to Salmon Arm, where I plan to refuel. I can’t just follow the yellow line, because some mountain peaks will be in my way, unless I climb to 12,500 immediately. But even so, there will be clouds to zig-zag around, always.
Here’s the continuation of the alternate valley route, over Abraham lake to Golden, OR, just follow the thin yellow GPS line.
By the way, the mid-point of this thick yellow valley path, crosses the great divide into BC.
Revelstoke is a great, quiet airport with self-serve gas, but I prefer to keep going to Salmon Arm to refuel. And Salmon Arm is busier, so I’m usually able to talk to other pilots to learn more about the weather ahead toward the coast.
The 2nd leg of the trip, from Salmon Arm to Hudson Island. I begin by setting a GPS path toward Powell River. I choose destination Powell River because it takes me to the edge of the Vancover controlled airspace. ( I dislike the stress of the fast-paced radio work in controlled airspace.)
Taking off from Salmon Arm and heading westward, following the GPS path toward Powell River, the hills are low enough that clouds usually aren’t a problem here. There should be room to fly below the cloud ceiling here, if I managed to get this far.
Luckily, Highway #1 is in a nice valley nearby, and the thick yellow line shows an alternate valley path I could take, if I turn right and head north.
But before I show you the right-turn go-north at Lytton valley path, I’ll show you what lies ahead on the straight GPS path.
So below, are the direct-route GPS line path pictures from Lytton to Squamish. Later, I’ll show the alternate valley route.
For this direct route, I generally climb to 12,500 feet to get above all of these mountain peaks. (And yes, we use oxygen.)
Notice Garibaldi lake in the picture just above. It is up high on a mountain, and frozen in winter. It happens to be a nice landmark that is visible on my aircrafts GPS map display, located at the edge of Vancouver’s controlled airspace. As I’m following the GPS line to Powell River, I turn south, leaving the GPS line, into the long valley that leads down past Whistler sky resort and Garibaldi lake, to Squamish.
I might try to aim for that Garibaldi lake, but usually I see Whistler sky resort first, then turn south and see the lake. Once I’m over the valley, I descend to lower altitudes and follow the valley south toward Squamish.
But before I show the path from Squamish to Hudson Island, lets backtrack and show the alternate route from Lytton.
The extra distance of going from Lytton to Lillooet to Pemberton to Whister adds 32 Nautical Miles, compared to flying direct from Lytton to Whister.
But as the pictures below show, this is a wonderful wide and deep valley to fly in.
Voila, land now, on Hudson Island.
For my Mom, or Son, or whoever is my contact person for my flight itinerary, here’s what to do if my phone-call is late to say I’m OK and arrived at the destination.
– Call my cellphone. 1-780-608-9141, and leave a message. Or, send a text message. I’m probably just late arriving, and not yet in range of a cell phone tower.
– If I don’t answer, try Jenny’s phone 1-780-984-4646, or Deanna’s phone 1-780-916-2461.
– Be patient. Wait 15 minutes, even if I’m overdue. Wait for me to notice my messages, or fly into cellphone range.
If I’m truly not answering, and truly more than 30 minutes late, then it’s time to start a search-and-rescue. They are trained to handle it, once you alert them.
– Call Edmonton Flight Service Center, 1-866-992-7433. Press menu choice 1 for “emergency” service.
– Tell them GEXY is overdue arriving on a “flight itinerary” from Camrose to Hudson Island. GEXY is the identifier of my aircraft, and is pronounced “Golf Echo X-ray Yankee”. They will ask lots of questions, and here are some facts to provide the answers.
– The type of aircraft is a 2010 Found Expedition, a high wing bushplane, of similar size to a Cessna 206. In the Transport Canada database of planes, they might not know what an “Expedition” is, but its just a newer model of “Bushhawk”.
– It is painted Red. Easy to see.
– It carries 100 gallons of fuel and can fly “endurance” for 5 hours. Actually a little longer. It burns 20 gallons per hour in the prairies, but 16 gallons per hour at 12,000 feet altitude. I always fill my tanks full.
– Generally there will be 3 on board, pilot and 2 passengers.
– I have 2 oxygen cylinders and never fly above 12,500 feet.
– The plane has 2 GPS units, an emergency transmitter beacon, some basic survival gear plus extra blankets.
– I don’t have a “Spot” GPS satellite tracking device. I should get one.
– Tell them to visit this “halls dot ca” website, and do a search for this “flight path” page. (There is a Search button on the home page.) This page will tell them my route to search for me.
– My plane is strong, and if I had to do an emergency forced landing on a mountain, I’d try to do it high on a mountain side, not deep in a valley, so I can be easier to find. I’d try to “fly into” treetops at the treeline, to decelerate before hitting rocks. Assume we would be bruised but alive, and stay with the plane.
– We carry gas-powered rapid inflating life-vests, for the parts of the trip over water, but we would never disappear into water mysteriously. The only place I fly over water at length is over Georgia Straight, which has plenty of pilots listening on radios to hear my Mayday broadcasts.
– They’ll ask where is Hudson Island. It is slightly south of Nanaimo at GPS location 48 degrees 57′ 50″ North and 123 degrees 40′ 41″ West.