“Hey! Wait! I got a new complaint. Forever in debt to your priceless advice.” Screams Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.
Here is some priceless advice on how to coordinate special flights with Nav Canada.
The pandemic has thrown a lot of wrenches in people’s Valentines Day plans. No longer are we able to spend hundreds of dollars going out to a fancy restaurant, wining and dining your loved one.
“I wonder if I can fly a heart shaped pattern around the city?”. What started as a half joking remark to myself ended up being a great learning experience about flight planning, coordination with air traffic control, and how to be a better pilot.
I casually texted a pilot friend of mine: “Going to attempt to do something fun next weekend”. With a screenshot of my planned heart shaped route around the city.
He thought it was a great idea and got me in touch with a Toronto area controller who forwarded me a document on how to request photo survey flights to Nav Canada. With some coordination ahead of time, I might be able to stay out of the way of the heavy jets flying into and out of Canada’s busiest airport.
Following the directions, I prepared a VFR chart with the help of ForeFlight. Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I decided to make the length of the route 114nm, with a departure time of 14:14Z.
I was careful to avoid airport control zones as much as possible. So the route stays outside of YYZ’s CZ. However, I did have to cut through YTZ CZ to remain close to the shore. In case of an engine failure we could glide to land as we weren’t carrying lifejackets on board.
I arrived at Buttonville (YKZ) early on Sunday morning. It took awhile for Plane Jane to warm up as the outside air temperature was approaching -13°C. She started on the first try (after I primed her properly) and I watched nervously as the oil pressure rose. It would be at least 10-20 minutes before the oil temperature was high enough to start my run-up.
After all the pre-flight work was done, Becca hopped in the plane and away we went! I called up ATC as soon as we departed to get flight following. This was a necessity if I wanted to pull this off.
Quebec Yankee Hotel the route you are planning looks great on the radar […] it looks fantastic. I may be able to leave you at 2500′ all the way around.Air Traffic Control
With the help of Stevie Wonder (the hilarious name the same flying buddy gave to my auto pilot) I was able to enjoy the flight with Becca as we took photos of the city and Lake Ontario.
We were making our way around the city all the while coordinating the flight with ATC and making sure I make my turns at every waypoint.
As we approach the “deep vee” of the heart at the 12 o’clock position. I knew Stevie Wonder would not be able to handle the 120 degree turn as fast as I would like. I disengage the auto pilot when Becca exclaims: “Is that Canada’s Wonderland?”
Not realizing the amusement park was located right under this waypoint, I executed a perfect turn to get this shot of all the roller costers.
As we passed our penultimate waypoint. I called up ATC to let them know that I will have to switch frequencies to coordinate my landing at Buttonville.
ATC: Staying at 2500′ until your last waypoint before you turn inbound to Buttonville is fine…
QYH: Great, thank you very much for your help! Happy Valentines Day.
ATC: Thank you and hope the [ground] track however you decide to look at it once you get on the ground worked out for you.
The Buttonville control zone was dead, so I elected a straight in downwind for runway 33. Winds were calm and I greased the landing. What a great way to spend a Sunday morning! ♥️