Tuesday, December 05, 2006


It snowed last night but stopped around 3am this morning, which made our departure a little easier. I'm in a big US city at the moment, hanging out in the pilot's lounge for another couple of hours before getting ready to return.

We took a customer here for a meeting, and I learned a fun fact: He's the CEO of a big company. When I started my flying career, I used to fly his company employees all over the place in small piston twins. Ten years later, I'm flying the boss of the company in a small jet. I'm not sure what conclusion to draw from this, but it seems significant in some small way.

The weather today is beautiful, clear blue sky through the entire continent. I had to really search to find bad weather this morning, but was rewarded with some low cloud and fog reported in Campbell River, British Columbia, and some crappy weather in a few spots in Northern Ontario. Other than that, the satellite weather program is telling me that everything is clear.

So if you are out and about in the sky today, have a good one and enjoy the sun! :)

My post for today is all about Airport Day in Goderich, Ontario. I lived there for a few years, flying a B-58 Baron on a cargo run.

The local COPA group is really active, and they are always organizing various events to publicize and utilize the Goderich airport. One way they did that was airport day. They'd polish up their own aircraft and invite all the small airplanes within a hundred miles to show up for free food. There was a barbequeue with those awesome greasy cheap burgers that you buy in bulk that have the grill marks already painted on them, and there was a large assortment of junk food for the kiddies, as well as salads for those who like that sort of thing.

The company I worked for would do sightseeing flights for $20, which would earn 3 people a ride in a 172. We'd take them up over town, do 2 circles around the perimeter, and land. I really enjoyed those flights, as I got to meet a lot of people and also watch little kids enjoying their first flights ever. It usually followed the same pattern - we'd take off, and the kids eyes would open wide as they saw their familiar town start to resemble a model railway set. They'd cheer and ask to fly over their own houses (which I was usually able to do), then settle in for the landing. The 172 is a really easy plane to fly, and my landing was usually decent, but even if I pounded it on the pavement the pax would always compliment me on my masterful handling, which was a great ego boost.

So that part was fun, but the part I really enjoyed were the various activities the COPA group set up for pilots. We had flour bombing, spot landing contests, and balloon bursting, which was even more fun that it sounds.

With flour bombing, we'd buy little paper bags full of flour from the group for like 3 for $5. Someone would haul a huge old tractor tire out into the middle of a runway, and we'd go up in our airplanes and fly over at 500' or so, then throw our flour 'bombs' out of the windows of our plane and hope to hit the tractor tire. I never won that contest, but I did manage to drop a flour bag onto a vistor's van that was parked a little too close to the action.

The spot landing contest was pretty straight-forward - you'd fly downwind on the circuit, then pull the throttle to idle and try to land closest to some pylons along the runway. You weren't supposed to use engine power at all during the descent, and if you did you had to go around and try again. I got the boss's permission to take my Beech 58 Baron out on a spot-landing run, and I came in third one time, so I was happy.

But my most favorite was the balloon bursting. There was a helium tank on the ground. People would blow up balloons and hold them. You'd be flying in the circuit, and at some point you'd call the people on the ground and ask them to release the balloon. Once they did, it would be up to you to run it through the prop of your airplane. It was awesome. A helium balloon is completely harmless to a small piston airplane, and it makes a really satisfying 'POP' when it hits the prop. I think I won one of those contests, or maybe I didn't - the point was I got to hit a whole lot of balloons in my 172, and it felt like a cross between a dogfight and a video game, but without any of that pesky 'risk of death' that real dogfights seem to have.

There was a main Airport Day which was annual, but there were maybe 5 other small Airport Days each Spring and Summer, which made it so there was something to look forward to just about every month I was there.

If you live around a small airport, I encourage you to get in touch with your local airport pilot's group and see if they have similar stuff going on. I met a lot of really interesting people, and it was a good way to test my skills as a pilot in a bunch of areas that normally I don't use a whole lot.

1 comment:

jennifer said...

I do believe that I won that balloon one in BWX the year I was at air muskoka...LOL. Great memories....I miss ygd.