blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Flying east

The "Chateau Moncton"
This post was written on June 24th, 2017

Tonight we are on rue Main Street in bi-lingual New Brunswick, staying at the Chateau Moncton, in Moncton. We flew through a cold front to get here, having to penetrate some large clouds after passing Fredericton.

R. Richelieu flowing from L. Champlain,
south of Montreal
Wheels up from CYRO at 10:35, PTN's first leg today was an easy ride to Sherbrooke, although in that area too there was a fair amount of cloud and signs of wind shear on the descent, not far from Mt. Megantic. We saw striped farmland south of Montreal, routed away from the city, although an incoming jet bound for YUL was not far above us. The view down to Lake Champlain was attractive, and then we came through L'Estrie over the northern tips of the long lakes in that region, over Magog and North Hatley. Lunch was a leisurely affair at the Bistro L'Escale, the Sherbrook airport restaurant, with a walk down the airport road afterwards, lined with marguerite daisies and wild flowers of many other colours, because Chris wanted to kill time to allow the weather ahead to move along before we reached it. 

Roadside flowers, Sherbrooke, QC
Shall we be able to get through the cold front without any trouble? I wondered.

"We'll see," said my pilot.

Beautiful lakes near the Maine-New Brunswick border
I was a little nervous as we climbed up to an altitude of 9000ft asl, but it felt less turbulent in the local sky than before lunch, so that reassured me. By the time we had levelled out over the mountains of northern Maine I was really happy; it was smooth and clear, up there. The oxymeter read 91(% oxygenation in the blood) for Chris and 88% for me; my pulse rate was faster than his, but then, it always is. We had a marvellous view of the slopes and ridges of Mt. Katadin and the wild lakes on the Maine-New Brunswick border, talking to Boston Centre on the radio (who handed us off to Moncton Centre) and hearing the radio calls from a Mooney pilot ahead of us who had taken off from Sherbrooke just before we did. Chris had had the foresight to get his IFR clearance on the ground at Sherbrooke, which meant that the other pilot had to wait a while to get his while airborne, not that it seemed to bother him much, obviously an experienced pilot. As he approached the Fredericton area we heard him request a "deviation around some weather" which indicated the same challenge ahead for us. Both a commercial flight pilot and Chris asked for a deviation to the left of a large mass of cloud beyond Fredericton; the system had changed position by the time we reached it. The clouds were fascinating, multi-layered and most beautiful (from the outside, that is! inside they are just whiteness or greyness, rain and turbulence) --- we saw a rainbow from above at one point.

Clouds near Mt. Megantic on the Maine-Quebec border

Rainbow in cold front clouds, near Fredericton, New Brunswick

About to penetrate the cloud base, east of Fredericton

Out of cloud, flying over the Northumberland Strait
near Shediac, New Brunswick
Chris put his "solid IFR" skills into practice for the approach to Moncton as we had to descend through fairly thick cloud down from 9000ft to about 2500ft without really breaking out of it while holding an RNAV Zulu to rwy 24, via a waypoint called DUTIK to the east of the airport (near Shediac), then right to IMERO and right again to NABIN. I caught some nice glimpses of the coastline during these turns, with fishing harbours visible through increasingly large gaps in the lowest layer of clouds.

Once we reached the ground and had crossed Rwy 29  at Moncton, ahead of a jet whose pilot courteously waited to let us go by, the ground controller directed us to the Flight College facility where polite young people greeted us and told us where to fuel and park the plane. One of them, Ben, even offered to drive us to our hotel in the town, an offer we gratefully accepted because he saved us both the expense of a taxi and the wait for it to arrive. At the Flight College, by the way, copies of the aviation books that Chris has written --- Flying Beyond, etc. --- were on sale at the dispatch desk, and the training room was full of young men from China. They come to Canada (those who can afford it) to learn things they cannot learn at home.

Chris has had his transponder checked this evening, because it was intermittently failing on our way here. I hope this isn't going to cause a big problem. The mechanic came to look at the transponder but is having his equipment calibrated, so we may need to wait a few days. He did take it apart and put it back together, and give the antenna a clean, couldn't see anything obviously wrong, so Chris will do a test flight tomorrow after which we may be able to continue our journey. Otherwise we'll rent a car and explore at ground level.

Bikes parked near the festival park at Moncton

Cirrus at sunset, from
the riverside at Moncton
We are staying at a hotel which obviously models itself on the Chateau Laurier or the Chateau Frontenac, although (having opened in 1999) not so venerable. It lies on the Petitcodiac River, which has a twice-a-day tidal bore, and which the locals call The Chocolate River, it being so brown. The river's tidal and the banks are a glistening, rusty-coloured brown too. Our ground floor room overlooks it, but it's dark now. Earlier this evening we walked back from the town under a superb swirl of cloud lit golden and then pink by the setting sun. There's a festival for bikers going on in the river park --- the ATLANTICADE --- with the "Old School" band making an enthusiastic noise on the stage, the amplifiers thumping out the beat. By spending too much time over our supper (a shared portion of fajitas at Mexicali Rosa's) we missed the Beard Contest at 19:00, weren't so interested in taking part in the Tattoo Contest at 21:00. We sat on benches along the river bank instead, listening to the finches and being bitten through our clothes by mosquitoes.

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