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Part I: Did You Ever Want to Learn How to Fly?


You're itching to dress like Top Gun and take off for a wild and woolly place like Baffin Island, Alaska, or the Yukon in your private Cessna Skyhawk, Cherokee Cruiser, or maybe even a Diamond Katana.

 

Courtesy of Diamond Aircraft Industries. The HK36 Xtreme Monoglider by Diamond Industries soars silently.But before you sign up for lessons, throw your mind around the following incident that my husband, Guy, and I experienced last summer. With six other passengers we were to fly a short hop in Central America with a small, locally owned charter airline with an excellent safety record. We never made it to our destination. Imagine you are with us as I describe the seemingly innocent and rapid events that led to a potentially fatal accident. Imagine you are sitting in the Cessna's front row seat on a small runway in Belize. You can see into the cockpit.

Our pilot was handsome enough to audition for Tom Cruise's part in the movie. His co-pilot was equally photogenic. Her black leather jacket had zippers as mouthy and shiny as Mack the Knife's teeth, one gleaming zipper crossing each molded breast. Her black leather pants were tight and supple as skin. Her hands were covered to the knuckles in more black leather, but her fingers were free. Her curved red nails clicked as she teasingly tapped the altimeter on the control panel. Marilyn blonde hair, wild as a lion's mane, floated like a cloud in the cockpit. Her jungle flower perfume filled the small Cessna. The pilot was wrapped in her aura and the two had eyes for nothing but each other. The engines revved and passengers and crew were thrown back in their seats like kids riding the Wild Mouse. The air buzzed like a hive of swarming bees. We started to gain speed and slipped off the edge of the runway…

Two passengers received minor injuries (one woman was hospitalized for a possible concussion and a child broke his arm) when the plane came to a bouncing halt. Cabin baggage levitated around the cabin. Guy and I were happy to leave the airport shaken, but with no injuries. Not long after this minute incident, the world awoke to the tragic news that John F. Kennedy Jr. had crashed his single-engine plane into the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Cod as he flew with his wife and her sister to Martha's Vineyard for a cousin's wedding. After an investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board reported the cause of the crash as failure to maintain control of the airplane due to spatial disorientation. Kennedy had limited experience flying at night and may have been unable to distinguish between sky and water in the heavy fog surrounding the cape.

To fly or not to fly? That is the question…

Copyright Wolfgang Weber, GNWT. A squawking flock of geese spreads out.Though you sympathize with those who have experienced misses and near misses in small planes, you are undeterred. Like a bush pilot on holiday, you want to slip the bonds of this sometimes-surly earth in your single-engine flying machine. You easily imagine yourself free as a golden eagle, gyrfalcon or glider plane, soaring above the rough terrain of one of North America's national wilderness parks, low enough to eyeball herds of migrating bear or moose. You see yourself landing your all-terrain seaplane like a Canada goose, feet first, ruffling clear and placid waters. You are camera ready. Your camping and fishing gear is oiled and primed for its finest hour. You hope to see the Northern Lights.

Summer and early fall flying in Baffin Island is not only fabulous, but there are 24 hours of light (an advantage for those without a night rating). A small plane is the only way to access this wilderness unless you can borrow a Hummer or book an adventure tour. You opt to take control of your destiny and learn to fly a single-engine plane.

There are tradeoffs for the freedom you will experience. You'll have no flight attendants on board showing off their expertise with seat belts and life vests. There are no toilets.

Copyright Leslie Leong, GNWT. Flying in to a camp like this one will make you forget your initial fears.Crazed thoughts race through your mind as your palms sweat and you grip the controls on your introductory discovery flight, a real deal at $25 to $40 at your local flight school. Will the cost of flying lessons drive you into bankruptcy? Will you need a prescription for Valium or Prozac? Will you have a mind-enhancing out-of-body experience, or will you throw up? Will your plane crash crazily into the ground, leaving images of mangled metal to fade slowly in your memory? Do you have space for an aircraft hangar if you want to keep a plane at home? These kinds of questions need to be dealt with before you sign up for recreational flying lessons and scribble your signature on your already pushed to the max gold credit card.

Fear of Flying

 

You may or may not remember the 1996 headlines about the death of an unlicensed 7-year-old girl pilot, Jessica Dubroff, her father and flight instructor. Their Cessna crashed when Jessica was trying to beat a record. Debate continues on whether children so small they need aluminum extensions on their feet to reach the rudder should be allowed at the controls. But no one argues the folly of taking off in driving rain and snow with an overloaded craft – or paying so much attention to your sexy co-pilot that you can’t keep the plane on the runway during takeoff.

Copyright Mike Beedell, GNWT. Not all the dangers are airborne on a remote flying adventure!American statistics show there are 385 fatal crashes per 39,600,000 private departures. That puts the death risk at one per 100,000 takeoffs. Even so, if when you think about Mother Nature, who can change her mood as quickly as you can say "takeoff," you will want to go that extra air mile and qualify for instrument rating.

The majority of general-aviation accidents are single plane crashes. Remember the skies are not as crowded as the freeway, so it is unlikely you’ll ever be involved in a head-on collision. Pilot error coupled with adverse weather is the culprit that causes aviation accidents. Getting an instrument rating will ensure you can fly safely even in cloudy or unclear situations when, as apparently happened with John Kennedy Jr., you are flying blind because you have no visual reference to the ground.

Next month in Part II, I'll dispense with caveats and get right to the nuts and bolts of learning to fly.

When You Go:

For information on flying schools and clubs, visit your local airport and ask any flight school or certified flight instructor for an introductory flight, or check your Yellow Pages and don't forget to surf the net (Aviation) – then get your old black leather flying jacket out. You can also find flight school information for the United States at www.aero.com.

If you want to learn on a state-of-the-art aircraft or if you have your license and want to look into purchasing your own single-engine beauty, try Diamond Aircraft Industries and their sleek Canadian-built planes. For more information, visit www.diamondair.com or call 1-888-FLY-DA20 or 519-457-4000.

Courtesy of Tincup Wilderness Resort, Yukon. Clouds roll over the snowy mountains of Yukon’s Kluane National Park.For information on visiting the Canadian wilderness, call Yukon tourism at 867-667-5340 or North West Territories Tourism at 800-661-0788.

If you don't want to fly your own plane or get a license, call an adventure travel specialist like Spectacular Adventures, a company which promotes wilderness treks in beautiful British Columbia. Visit their Web site at www.spectacularadventures.com, call them at 604-925-8187, or email them at info@spectacularadventures.com.

The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis are best seen on clear nights from September through January. Eagle Nest Tours (Tel. Or Fax: 867-874-6055) offers boat tours, canoe adventures and Northern Lights viewing.

For those who prefer cruising, Cruise West ships promise lots of nature sightings. The ships are small (the largest vessel carries 102 passengers) and the focus is the locale and destination rather than onboard amenities and activities. For more information, visit www.cruisewest.com or call 1-800-888-9378.

Fear of Flying

You may or may not remember the 1996 headlines about the death of an unlicensed 7-year-old girl pilot, Jessica Dubroff, her father and flight instructor. Their Cessna crashed when Jessica was trying to beat a record. Debate continues on whether children so small they need aluminum extensions on their feet to reach the rudder should be allowed at the controls. But no one argues the folly of taking off in driving rain and snow with an overloaded craft – or paying so much attention to your sexy co-pilot that you can’t keep the plane on the runway during takeoff.

Copyright Mike Beedell, GNWT. Not all the dangers are airborne on a remote flying adventure!American statistics show there are 385 fatal crashes per 39,600,000 private departures. That puts the death risk at one per 100,000 takeoffs. Even so, if when you think about Mother Nature, who can change her mood as quickly as you can say "takeoff," you will want to go that extra air mile and qualify for instrument rating.

The majority of general-aviation accidents are single plane crashes. Remember the skies are not as crowded as the freeway, so it is unlikely you’ll ever be involved in a head-on collision. Pilot error coupled with adverse weather is the culprit that causes aviation accidents. Getting an instrument rating will ensure you can fly safely even in cloudy or unclear situations when, as apparently happened with John Kennedy Jr., you are flying blind because you have no visual reference to the ground.

Next month in Part II, I'll dispense with caveats and get right to the nuts and bolts of learning to fly.

When You Go:

For information on flying schools and clubs, visit your local airport and ask any flight school or certified flight instructor for an introductory flight, or check your Yellow Pages and don't forget to surf the net (Aviation) – then get your old black leather flying jacket out. You can also find flight school information for the United States at www.aero.com.

If you want to learn on a state-of-the-art aircraft or if you have your license and want to look into purchasing your own single-engine beauty, try Diamond Aircraft Industries and their sleek Canadian-built planes. For more information, visit www.diamondair.com or call 1-888-FLY-DA20 or 519-457-4000.

Courtesy of Tincup Wilderness Resort, Yukon. Clouds roll over the snowy mountains of Yukon’s Kluane National Park.For information on visiting the Canadian wilderness, call Yukon tourism at 867-667-5340 or North West Territories Tourism at 800-661-0788.

If you don't want to fly your own plane or get a license, call an adventure travel specialist like Spectacular Adventures, a company which promotes wilderness treks in beautiful British Columbia. Visit their Web site at www.spectacularadventures.com, call them at 604-925-8187, or email them at info@spectacularadventures.com.

The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis are best seen on clear nights from September through January. Eagle Nest Tours (Tel. Or Fax: 867-874-6055) offers boat tours, canoe adventures and Northern Lights viewing.

For those who prefer cruising, Cruise West ships promise lots of nature sightings. The ships are small (the largest vessel carries 102 passengers) and the focus is the locale and destination rather than onboard amenities and activities. For more information, visit www.cruisewest.com or call 1-800-888-9378.