Thursday, May 3, 2007

A 'Paying' Passenger

On Tuesday, May 1, I had the opportunity to transport my first 'paying' customer to Swift Current, SK. The Prairie admissions office had someone they wanted to send to a conference in Swift Current (CYYN is approx. 420 KM away) and they were willing to help with the cost of the flight. As a private pilot, I'm not legally allowed to accept payment for my services but helping to cover costs is perfectly acceptable. This flight provided many learning opportunities such as planning for the weight of a passenger & baggage, fuel amounts for the trip with the purchase of fuel at CYYN for the trip back, a first time flyer for a passenger and to top it all off, there was an ominous low-pressure system moving into the area at about the time I was due to be back in Three Hills – possibly requiring me. The flight to CYYN was fairly uneventful except for some low cloud and rain that we had to descend to avoid. The wind at CYYN was strong, 15 knots (about 30 KMH), but it was straight down the runway which meant no cross wind. That was different than the forecast, so thanks to God we were able to land safely there. My passenger handled it like a pro, no need for the sick bags.

The flight back was intense. That low-pressure system had indeed moved in and was now passed Three Hills to the north. That was a positive. The turbulence that it left behind was something else. I had to be careful to keep my speed down to within the safe turbulence speed to prevent the risk of structural damage to the aircraft. I was doing everything possible to keep the plane at the right altitude and headed in the right direction. I'd packed a tupperware container with carrot sticks for the trip and similar to biting one's fingernails when in deep concentration (or nervousness) the carrots provided a ample distraction – until they ran out. Fortunately the turbulence didn't last the whole trip back and I was able to enjoy the last bit – not that I didn't enjoy the first bit, just in a different way.


All in all, the experience was a good one. Here's a picture of the route from Google Earth™