By Jesse Jasper
Major recent or future activities by the Yellowknife private aviation community include: removal of floatplanes from the water for fall freeze-up (October 25 or earlier), participation with Bob Kirkby at a Transport Canada/Industry Prairie & Northern Region Aviation Safety Council meeting in Yellowknife, a follow-up meeting with COPA Flight 108/NWT Floatplane Association on Nov. 4, NWT Floatplane Association Annual Fall Freeze-up party on Nov. 8, and slow but steady progress towards City of Yellowknife approval (we hope) of a proposal for a floatplane base for local private pilots.
My Maule floatplane may have been the last private or commercial airplane out of the water at Yellowknife in the afternoon of October 25, after an unplanned swim due to the engine stopping after leaving the dock. This forced me to paddle back to the dock in gusty winds, falling off the slippery floats into three feet of water in the process, and finally completing the return by wading through shallow water in hip waders whilst towing my plane.
After a warm shower to warm up and change of clothes, I finally completed the short ferry flight, then had to sail, tack, and ferry like mad, plus various other manoeuvres in adverse direction 20G28K winds (not the best condition for flying/docking a floatplane!) at the airport take-out lake to beach "Mollie" (floating dock already pulled out by airport staff), and then use chest waders to jockey the plane onto a trailer with the help of a fellow pilot.
It seems that I am systematically working my way through most of the misadventures of owning a floatplane, but takeout couldn't be delayed any further, with overnight low/next day highs of -9 and -7 Celsius forecast.
COPA Board Chair Bob Kirby visited Yellowknife to participate in the Nov. 4, Transport Canada/Industry Prairie & Northern Region Aviation Safety Council meeting. Local CASARA Zone Commander David Taylor and myself (as Captain of Yellowknife COPA Flight #108 and NWT FA member) attended the meeting as Bob's guests, enabling me to express serious concerns by northern private pilots and aircraft owners with the limited time and availability of ELT models to enable us to comply with the new ELT requirements.
Implementation of 406 MHz ELT requirements in northern Canada is problematic for private pilots because Pointer Avionics advised me last week that the more reasonably, priced Canadian-built ELT model that local pilots/COPA members are considering buying via bulk purchase (20-40 units?) hasn't yet completed the FAA certification approvals 'anticipated last fall' and therefore will not be approved and available for the proposed mandatory Feb. 1, 2009 implementation date for aircraft flying in/into/through northern Canadian airspace.
The DRAFT Gazette regulations propose no delay in mandatory use of 406 MHz ELTs in northern Canada beyond Feb 1/09, while pilots in southern Canada may be able to wait as late as Feb 1/11 to install the new ELTs.
I indicated that I had submitted concerns on this and broader 406 ELT issues, including considerations as a local CASARA group search member, via the Gazette I review process, and copied comments to re-elected Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington, NDP and Bob Kirkby at COPA. Transport Canada advised me/other COPA members to continue our input via the Gazette process.
Application of these regulations may affect U.S. pilots flying to/from Alaska or elsewhere in northern Canadian airspace, including a number that regularly participate in the bi-annual local Midnight Sun Floatplane Fly-in, held every two years in Yellowknife (see event info at http://www.floatplaneflyin.com/ and consider coming to visit us next summer!).
U.S. aircraft and participants have accounted for 15-20 per cent of the 35-50 participating aircraft and 150 non-local pilots/passengers attending most of our fly-ins since it started in 1995. A decision by them to not attend in 2009 due to 406 ELT requirements north of 55 would be a major loss to our event.
If southern Canadian pilots are similarly affected, we would likely have to cancel the event (as the US Grumman Yankee Club apparently did with their planned trip to Red Deer for their 2009 convention).
These and other impacts on flying in, into, and through the north could be very costly to northern businesses and tourism.
Bob Kirkby presented information on national COPA activities, status of Banff/Jasper park airstrip use, court cases on aerodrome and waterdromes, 406 ELT implementation, SPOT satellite tracking devices, and the new COPA for Kids program at a joint evening meeting of COPA Flight and NWT Floatplane Association members.
NWT Floatplane Association members celebrated the end of the 2008 flying season at the annual Freeze-up/Chilli-Bakeoff event on November 8.
The group is continuing to pursue City of Yellowknife approval for a new floatplane base on Kam Lake at the south end of the city for local private floatplane owners. The 1 km wide/4 km long lake, bounded by light industry to the northwest, abandoned Con Gold Mine to the northeast, and vacant Canadian Shield terrain on other sides, is located within the 5 nm CYZF Control Zone and has been used on an informal basis for over 15 years by ultralights and a few private aircraft.
The proposal by NWT FA for a new central location dedicated to our use was developed in consultation with city officials over the last few years and has been working its' way through the city's formal development approvals and land re-zoning changes processes since January 2008.
Barring unexpected rejection, the approvals process should be completed this winter, in time for installation of a few new docks next summer, removing some of the pressure on limited dock space in Old Town.
Transport Canada advised us during early consultations that registration of the new site as a water aerodrome will be required, due to the new group flying activity in the Control Zone. Preliminary information has been submitted to them for insertion in the 2009 Water Aerodrome Flight Supplement.