Russell Maughan and the PW-8 he flew across the United States.

Crissy Field

9:44pm, June 22, 1924. Three minutes before dusk and still no sign of Pilot Russell Maughan. 50,000 people waited at Crissy Field outside of San Francisco for the first ever dawn to dusk transcontinental crossing of the United States.

What nobody had known was that thunderstorms and heavy rain had caused poor take off conditions on the grass field at his latest fuel stop in Saint Joseph, Missouri. Maughan wasn’t able to fill his Curtiss PW-8 to the brim with the necessary fuel to make it to the next leg.

This caused him to make a detour to North Platte, Nebraska to top off the tanks, jepardizing his ability to land in Crissy Field before nightfall.

9:45pm, still no sign of the aircraft.

Strong headwinds were the main problem after this detour and he didn’t land in the Boonneville Salt Flats for the final fuel stop until 6:30PM. Pulling out his E6B he calculated that it would still be possible to arrive in San Francisco before 9:47PM, the start of dusk.

Russell Maughan and the PW-8 he flew across the United States.

Russell Maughan and the PW-8 he flew across the United States.

Using the revolving light found on Alcatraz Island, he was able to find Crissy Field after a difficult navigation in the low light conditions over Nevada and eastern California.

9:46PM.Aafter 20 hours and 48 minutes en route (including fuel stops) his wheels touched down on the clay soil of Crissy Field in front of the relieved crowd. After exiting the aircraft, he presented the Mayor of San Francsico that days edition of the New York Times he had brought with him from Long Island, NY.

Today the airport is long gone, but remnants of it’s history abound.

One of the remaining hangers. Now used for retail.

One of the remaining hangers. Now used for retail. In front: A roundabout with windsocks in the middle.

The park offers one of the best views of the city, and the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Runners, cyclers, families, and bar-b-ques all dot the grassland on a sunny day.

A portrait of women aviators

A portrait of women aviators

I decided to run the 5k along the shoreline yesterday while doing some research about the old airfield.

Busiest Airport In Canada for 2012

Stats Canada released their aircraft movement report last week.

Some highlights:

  • There were 5.2 Million take-offs and landings at the top 93 airports.
  • The peak month was in July, 2012.
  • Toronto Pearson (CYYZ) was number one at 435,592 movements.

Buttonville (CYKZ) pushed up two spots last year from 11th to 9th with 138,946 movements. Of those take-offs and landings, a whopping 77,160 (55%) of them were local movements. This means that the aircraft never left the circuit. In other words, more than half of the movements were for the sole purpose of practicing  take-offs and landings.

Where are all these pilots going to go when the airport closes? Only time will tell.

Last Minute Flight to Muskoka (CYQA)

It was Sunday afternoon when I decided to see if there was a plane available at 6pm. I called up the airport, and indeed there was!

So far, the new booking policy at TAL has paid off. For me specifically, I’ve been able to fly exactly when I wanted to without having to book months in advance.

I filed my flight plan for the following routing:


This would give us a round robin flight around Lake Simcoe

The flight was smooth above 4000′ and hazy, but still perfect conditions with not a single cloud in the sky.

My passenger had packed a dinner (“pic-nick in the sky”) for us to enjoy on the way up. Right after changing heading as we passed the Simcoe VOR she busted out the sandwiches.

As we approached the Muskoka airport I dialed up Timmins radio and gave them a call. Nobody else was anywhere near the airport so I elected for a straight in downwind for runway 18. The winds were calm enough (3 knots or so) that I could have elected for runway 36 which would have been a sweet straight-in final. However that meant having to turn around once airborne to head south for my heading back home.


Looking East

Turning base leg was annoying as it was directly in the sun (see Flicker Vertigo).

The touch and go was uneventful and we departed south-west bound for Lake Simcoe airport (my next waypoint).

Traffic was busier around here. I heard “Air2″ hovering over Leslie St. at 1900′. Air2 is (I think) the York Region Police helicopter. Two flights were doing upper air work on the east side of Cooks Bay. However, the most annoying call was a 172 also on their way back to Buttonville.

This particular pilot was giving vague position reports at 3000′. After hearing a few of his calls I deduced that he was either right behind me, or under me. To keep things safe, I decided to stay at 3500′ for as long as possible.

I report “over the 404 and green lane”. The other aircraft reports “over the 404″. He had been following me all the way from Barrie.

Monitoring the enroute frequency.

Monitoring the enroute frequency.

As we make our way south, he reports that he’s down to 2000′. So I head down to 2400′ (gotta stay under Pearsons class C shelf at 2500′) and give Buttonville tower a call.

The controller gives me the option of proceeding to Victoria Square or Lake Wilcox. I opt for Lake Wilcox as that will set me up for a nice straight in final for 15.

I immediately make a right turn and proceed direct to the lake. I felt much comfortable now knowing that I’m not heading in the same direction as my fellow pilot behind me.

Get the aircraft set up in the landing configuration and report a 3 mile final. I get cleared to land and grease the landing. My passenger applauds and we head back to the main apron.

It’s nice to be back in the air.

Back Up In The Air & Status of Buttonville Airport

Yesterday involved a 1.5 hour checkout with a flight instructor at Toronto Airways. It had been 8 months (damn, time flies) since I was last up in the air.

Toronto Airways has changed their checkout policy for the better. Checkouts now involve 0.5 hours of ground briefing plus 1 hour in the air. The good news is that you pay for the aircraft time only. No more $300 checkouts!


The Main Apron

After we did some weight and balance and performance calculations we headed out to the airplane to do some circuits. I ended up with good ‘ole GVLD, a plane I spent many hours in during my training.

I looked at my watch, which read: 12:55. “hmm.. leaving on the hour is never a good thing” I thought to my self. And sure enough, I was 3rd to depart and had to wait 5-7 minutes. This was to be a normal take-off and landing.

In the downwind I could hear the controller telling people to stay out of the control zone. “yup! Everyone coming back from their lessons!” I thought to my self.

I was told to expect to be number 5 for landing behind a Pilatus. I ended up extending my downwind quite significantly as there were 4 others in front of me.

I’m on a 4 mile final (or so) behind the Pilatus. Everything is going good, then I see the airplane in front of me start turning left. Turns out she was too fast for the 172 in front of her and had to turn away. Tension was a little high as the controller was giving her unfamiliar landmarks to go to. You can hear this at the 2 min mark of the clip.

Listen to a 5 min clip of Air Traffic control at Buttonville

The original plan was to make this a touch and go, but the controller only cleared us to land. I taxied off the runway, exhaled, and headed back to the holding bay to do it all over again. A typical sunny weekend at Canada’s 10th busiest airport!

I learned that Seneca College is going to be moving their fleet to Peterborough Airport next year. I’m still unsure where the rest of the tenants are going to move once the airport closes.


Notice of Public Meeting

The City of Markham had a public committee meeting on the rezoning of the airport lands. The meeting minutes indicate that there may be a 60 story building included in the site plan. I can only assume this would be a residential condo building.

Pilot Information Kiosks (PIKs) To Be Decomissioned

NavCanada has decided that the Pilot Information Kiosks in various airports across Canada will be decommissioned by the end of August of this year.

The main reason? Lack of use.

PIK were introduced in the early 2000s when the availability of the Internet, cell phone, and other mobile technologies were limited. Due to the emergence of this technology NAV CANADA has seen dramatic decreases in the use of PIK, to a point where further investment is no longer practical.

Not surprising that they are getting rid of them given the reasons stated above. The eventual replacement? The new Collaborative Flight Planning System (CFPS). This new system is both web and mobile based and allows users to do pre-flight briefing (weather, notams, etc..) online. This is the “major upgrade” needed to the Aviation Weather Web Site (AWWS).

You can access “version 1″ of the CFPS at Right now you can only file your flight plans, briefing functionality will be added in the future.

For more information, see AIC 41/12.

NavCanada Digital Products

My annual renewal form came in the mail for my CFS subscription. In it was a letter on a blue piece of paper that read:


NAV CANADA now offers the Canada Air Pilot (CAP), Reistricted Canada Air Pilot (RCAP) and Canada Water Aerodrome Supplement (CWAS) in electronic PDF download format…

Wow! This is great news..

This is something that a lot of Canadian flyers have been asking for.

You can purchase the digital versions on Nav Canadas e-commerce site.


Still Alive!

I haven’t been flying or posting a lot lately. This past year has been busy with other things in my life.

Doug and I spent a lot of time working on the latest version of World Flight Planner. We had a booth at the latest COPA AGM and we’ve been updating the software to support more features based on feedback from our users.

I’ve been hard at work at renovating the house my wife and I purchased a while ago. So most of the flying money has gone there.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t been keeping my ear out to the happenings in the aviation world!

I will have some time in the next few months to hit the skies again. However, with which rental company is still up in the air.

I recently logged into the aircraft booking system that is used at Toronto Airways. Before their policy change you were able to book aircraft yourself. Doing so would be impossible as aircraft would be booked months in advance. Now it seems that there is availability as early as 2 weeks in the future.

I’m going to revisit my GTA Rental Rates spreadsheet and update it as needed. Specifically, I’m going to add Future Air out in Barrie. My last rental from them was great.


Policy Change at Toronto Airways

Toronto Airways (the flight school at Buttonville) is making a policy change with regards to their booking & rental policy.

John Davis, Vice President of Flight Operations describes the change:

Toronto Airways has been receiving numerous complaints from customers with respect to our aircraft availability.  As a result, we completed a thorough investigation of our reservation system, aircraft utilization and cancellation policies.

It was discovered that some individuals were taking advantage of our system to monopolize the aircraft and not use the time that they booked.  In many cases the actual time used was 50% or less of the time reserved.  In other instances the aircraft was booked and cancelled on a regular basis and not flown at all.

In an effort to stop this from happening and to increase the availability of aircraft to our customers Toronto Airways is instituting the following policy effective August 1, 2012.

Aircraft bookings will be charged out at the board rate for the aircraft at the greater of, 80% of the time booked or the actual flight time.

The instructor will still be invoiced on the flight time component of the flight as usual.  This concept falls more in line with that of a car rental where customer pays for the time that the vehicle was available to them rather than on how much it was used.  We expect that this change will entice individuals to book the aircraft only for the time that they intend to use them.  Any extenuating circumstances with respect to dispatch delays, fuel etc will be looked at on a case by case basis.

Toronto Airways has also changed its cancellation policy from 24 hours to 48 hours.  Cancellations for weather will still be acceptable on the day of the flight.  Cancellations for extenuating circumstances will be looked at on a case by case basis.  Customers who cancel on a regular basis will have their aircraft booking privileges rescinded.

This is an interesting direction. Personally, I was never guilty of these tactics and I always did find it frustrating that aircraft were never available. However, the pricing model is interesting especially in the cases of longer bookings (say 4+ hours). Since now, I will be charged for time when the engine is not running (while eating lunch, for example).

Poker Run Pt. 2

Anne and I carpooled up to Lake Simcoe Regional Airport (CYLS) for a 9:30am departure.

Our route took us first to Lindsay (CNF4) then Oshawa (CYOO), Buttonville (CYKZ), to the Mans VOR (YMS), Collingwood (CNY3), and then finally back to Lake Simcoe.

I planned the flight to cut across Lake Simcoe. I did the math and we would have to be 4500′ above AGL to be within gliding distance of land. So the climb out of CYLS was up to 5500′ eastbound to Lindsay.

Planned route using World Flight Planner

For this leg I was flying. The visibility at altitude wasn’t the greatest but still > 15 miles. The ride was smooth and a great start to the poker run. Spirits were high and we were enjoying ourselves.

Flying over Lake Simcoe, looking south.

Approaching Lindsay there were two people in the circuit already. Did a standard “mid-downwind” entry into the circuit and landed without incident. The winds were calm so the landing was easy peasy.

Final approach for Lindsay Airport

After a quick stop to collect our cards, Anne hopped in the left seat for the leg to Oshawa. I took care of the radios when we got closer to the busy airspace.

We grabbed the ATIS and I called up the tower 8 miles out. We were given a squawk code and were allowed to enter into the zone. This is when we realized that our transponder wasn’t working as it should. The interrogation light wasn’t flashing like it was supposed to and Oshawa tower said our squawk code was showing up as all zeros. Interesting.

The controller was working hard, and as we got closer to the airport, we could hear that he was telling people to hold outside the zone for a few mins and to call him back. Hah! We just beat the rush.

I mistakenly told Anne that the circuit altitude was 2000′, when in fact it is 1460′. This didn’t help the situation. The controller cleared us to land just before we turned base. Anne was doing an amazing job of handling the busy circuit and I was watching the controller try to fire off all the departures before we were on short final.

This is where things didn’t go too smoothly. We were on short final when we heard over the radio “overshoot! pull up,  go around!”. Full power, back up into the circuit we went. Round we go again (at the wrong circuit altitude to boot). The last aircraft to depart was a little slower than the controller anticipated and would have been in our way as we landed.

Anne nailed a perfect landing and we taxied into the main apron to get a new set of cards.

Off to Buttonville. The quick 15 min flight or so was easy as I just followed highway 407 to the airport. The controller had a tough time seeing us on radar as our transponder was pooched.

Approaching Buttonville to land on runway 15

Another kick ass landing and in we went to grab another set of cards.

On the way up to Collingwood now via the Mans VOR. We didn’t go direct as we had to skirt around the restricted airspace at CFB Borden. Plus, this gave me an opportunity to practice some VOR tracking. Anne asked if we could see the VOR from the air, I told her we should be able to.

As we got closer we started looking and boom! There it is just to the left of the airplane. It was easy to spot against the lush green background of a farmers field.

This was the leg that I decided to eat the turkey and swiss sandwich I had packed for lunch. Anne started munching on some pineapple. By this time it was starting to get a little bumpier, but still intermittent light chop. It was still early in the day and the daytime heating wasn’t in full effect yet.

A quick stop in Collingwood to pick up our last set of cards. The airport seemed empty at 12:45 so we decided to head back to Lake Simcoe.

We were wheels down at 13:30. I called up London FIC with my cell phone at 13:36 (6 minutes into our SAR time) to close our flight plan. All in all I logged 2.4 hours in 4 legs. Anne is a great pilot and co-pilot. We had a lot of fun, the weather was great and I would totally do it again next year.

A sheet of cards that we forgot in the airplane.. whoops!

Follow along with a Canadian Pilot