Home at Last

Made it!

After spending an entire extra day in Merritt waiting for the winds to calm down, today seemed a bit better, and the Hope webcams showed enough of a break that we figured it was worth a shot (we could always abort back to Merritt if needed).

Departure was fine, we were able to get the 5500′ needed to cross the Coquihalla hump, but the clouds were lower than we liked.  Remaining VFR, we circled in the valley by the hump and discussed the options.  Gary elected to try first (he’s got a few more hours than I do) so he headed down the valley towards Hope.  He got about a mile in (to the first turn) and radioed that it was marginal, but VFR all the way to Hope.  I turned on a wing and blasted off after him.

Ceilings were lowering as we got half-way down the valley to Hope, and we were able to maintain VFR, but there wasn’t much room to turn around if things went bad in a hurry.  My biggest fright came when I rounded a corner, and like a tired idiot stuck my head outside of the windshield for a better look (rain was falling).  The windblast promptly caught my ballcap and headset and deposited them behind my back in the middle of the turn.  Fly the plane! rang true in my ears, after years of being taught that mantra, and in turn teaching it to each and every one of my students, it was never truer than today.  I finished the turn, locked the stick with my knees and fished the headset back out and onto my head.  I could hear Gary calling me (he hadn’t heard from me for a minute and was getting worried), so I assured him I was okay and would explain when we landed in Chilliwack.

After that, the ceilings opened up as Hope passed under our wings, so we beelined for Chilliwack.  To be honest, this was my best landing so far as I was too tired to over think it 🙂  We taxiied in and shut down by the diner and went inside for some pie (best pie in the world).

After the pie, we checked the weather which was improving rapidly this side of the hills. Unsure of the status of the transponder, we decided to don the PFDs in case Vancouver wouldn’t let us get 4500′ across the straight.  Plotting a low-level course through the various chunks of airspace on the lower mainland took some time, but with charts in hand and a programmed GPS, we fired up the planes.

Everything went well until we tried to call Vancouver asking for 4500′ across to Duncan.  As feared, they couldn’t see me and I got the dreaded “… remain clear of class C airspace …” transmission.  Stuck at 2000′ we departed White Rock direct for the south tip of Saturna Island (closest land).  Ceiling are now unlimited, and I was actually getting hot in the cockpit with my leather jacket etc on.  I made landfall well ahead of Gary (seems my engine likes the west coast air, it picked up a few knots across the straight), and I turned direct for Duncan.

We had planned in Chilliwack that I would take a stab at landing here, but if I felt I couldn’t get down, I’d divert to Nanaimo and bring it home another day.  Again, quite tired, I set up my circuit and even though I used up more runway than needed, I got it down, and taxiied to a parking spot.

All tied down, and covered up, we debriefed, put things away, and headed home.

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