Pender Island Fly-In

Wow, what a day.  So much took place that I’ll break today into two postings, see my next one about sharing the joy for the rest…

The folks who maintain Hastings Field on Pender Island have an annual Fly-in where they invite everyone locally to come in for a hot dog and corn roast!


Catherine and I jumped at the chance to visit yet another local airport.  There are various warnings about this field as its what is referred to as a one-way strip.  The reason for that in this case is that it is in the bottom of a valley right up against rapidly rising terrain.  Basically, if you mess up the approach, an overshoot isn’t recommended as you can find yourself in either the trees or worse granite.

As we need to pass through Victoria’s control zone (and they need you to phone for a code prior to engine start), we got our code from Kamloops FSS.  Nobody had told them that there was a fly-in happening, and they were scrambling to find codes for everyone.  We got ours quickly enough, so we finished pre-flighting the plane and took off.  The fight through Victoria’s control zone was fine, they were talking to about a half dozen other folks on their way, so we just hopped in line and enjoyed the flight over Salt Spring Island enjoying the scenery and keeping an eye out for other traffic.

Approaching Pender Island, the controllers were more than happy to hand us all off in a descent one by one.  I headed for the appropriate point on the northern tip of the island, then descended following the Eastern coastline.  Abeam the strip, I turned to cross midfield only to hear another plane call out that they were doing the same thing 🙁  I picked them up on our left and a little lower, reported them in sight and set myself up in trail.

We finally got our first look at the strip as we crossed midfield, it didn’t look too tough, but I know from past experience that looks can be deceiving.  We joined downwind for the field (still following the guy ahead) and made our call.  A friendly soul on the ground was giving basic wind and field conditions and as we turned final they reported that the plane ahead of us had cleared the runway.

I had been told what to expect, but until you face it yourself it’s hard to fully prepare.  I came in a little high and about 10 knots fast which really got my gut in knots.  I landed about 200 ft further down than I wanted,and being worried about the strip, I (needlessly) jumped on the brakes.  Being a taildragger on a grass strip, she started slowing quickly enough on her own.  The rise in the middle of the runway is a bit unnerving in a taildragger as all you can see is sky ahead of you during the roll out.

I went left of centerline which can be deadly on this strip, but I got it back under control as we rolled to a stop by a marshal waving brightly coloured wands (paper plates on badmitten raquets).  We turned everything off then quickly hopped out to push the plane out of the way for the next arrival.

One of my former students was on the ground and videoed our arrival and landing.  Certainly came in hotter than planned.


The day itself was great, we enjoyed spending time with other pilots from the area and the food was terrific.  There was one airplane prang, thankfully not during their landing, but while taxiing to a parking spot afterwards, they drove right into a ditch.


After a few hours it was time to leave as we had another flight still planned for the day.  We watched a few others leave and I kept my eyes on any issues during their departures.  Some got off in very short distances, whereas others used up pretty much the entire field.

We decided it was our time, so we fired up, and taxiied as far back on the strip as we could to get extra takeoff room.  I did a full static run-up and when everything looked good, released the brakes and started out.  I’m still a bit heavy on the rudders, so I probably looked funny roaring down the runway with bystanders only about a dozen feet on either side.  Once the tail came up, I was happy to see how much room was left, and the departure itself was uneventful.  After climbing out through 500 feet, we turned our nose northward towards Nanaimo for our second adventure of the day!

Nanaimo Flying Club Open House

The president of our flying club was asked to present his kind of lecture about radial engines. He owns half of a Beaver and is rebuilding a Stearman. Many of us loaded up our planes to attend the neighbouring flying club‘s meeting for the day. I was asked to bring along my laptop and projector for the talk as well.

My electronic gear got transported in a ground based vehicle while I fired up the Spacewalker II for the flight. Kevin flew up in his friend’s borrowed Stearman.

The flight was great, just a quick half hour jaunt. Kinda sad to be alone but Catherine had stuff to do today. There was a lowish cloud layer (2000′) and carb ice was a certain possibility along the route. Sure enough, after climbing to 1500’ and levelling off I did a quick carb ice check and had already picked up a bit.

After clearing the local airspace around Duncan (CAM3), shooting the gap and then the northern practice area, I gave Nanaimo FSS (CYCD) a call. They radar identified me, gave me the skinny on some traffic ahead (other DFC folks) and I reported that I would be joining right base for rwy 34.


The landing was uneventful, I’m starting to figure this plane out I guess. Taxiing to the NFC area I was marshalled in by those fellow DFC folks who had landed ahead of me.


The talk and social time afterwards were great. Kevin was giving rides in the Stearman as I got my plane all ready to go. I bid farewell to Nanaimo FSS and took off for Duncan. Most folks were behind me so it was a simple crossing of midfield and joining downwind left for rwy 31.

Capernwray Flyby

After the great time visiting the BC Aviation Museum, We got back in the plane for our return trip back to Duncan.

Our son was on a weekend visit to a camp on Thetis Island, so we planned on departing Victoria to the north, and flying over to see if we could see him.

I made a mistake in my planning, and forgot to get the required VFR code prior to engine start, so Victoria clearance/delivery reminded me of the appropriate protocol, gave me a new code, and handed me off to ground for taxi.  The takeoff went well, and flying the Stuart Island departure, we were radar identified, and cleared enroute.

Levelling off at 2000′, I swung the nose towards Thetis Island and the Capernwray camp.  We cleared Victoria’s control zone, and as we got closer, started the descent to “sightseeing altitude”.  We arrived at 1000′ just as we approached the camp’s dock/beach area, but we couldn’t see anyone outside.  I made one circle overhead, and then pointed our nose towards Duncan in a cruise climb over the water.

We shot “the gap” at 1500′, announced our intentions, then crossed midfield.  The windsocks were pretty much dead, so I set up for rwy 31 (slight uphill, and less taxiing required to our hangar).  I was a little low on base, adjusted, and made a respectful landing.  In retrospect, I must have left some power on for the rollout, as it wasn’t slowing down as quickly as I expected, but all in all it was a great flight.  We put it to bed for the night and headed home!

BC Aviation Museum Open House

Catherine and I wanted to attend the BC Aviation Museum‘s Open house, so we headed up to the airport, and started prepping the plane.

Previously we had discovered a birds nest in the rafters, and sadly we found that it had broken loose and fell on the wing of our plane either last night or today.  The nest was broken apart on the wing, but two chicks were huddled together in it’s remnants.  The other two had found each other beneath the wing and were shivering to keep warm.  The next half hour were spent moving the nest/chicks over to the workshop in the back of our hanger in hopes that they’ll survive the next few weeks as they mature to flying age.

After phoning and getting our VFR code to enter Victoria’s control zone, we topped up the fuel, and took off.  I’m getting much more comfortable with the plane, and we were airborne quickly enough, and climbing up to the required 2000′ for the Victoria arrival.  Tower radar identified us over Somenos lake, and gave us the expected Cowichan bay arrival.  After switching frequencies, we reported over the Bay, got the “descend at your discretion, report Deep Cove” that we wanted.  (this meant that there wasn’t anyone in front of us to hold us up, and we could make our best speed down to circuit height (1100′) by the base leg).  I put on the carb heat, enrichened the mixture, and brought the throttle back a couple hundred RPM and started down.

I had the descend pegged, we arrived at Deep Cove right as we hit 1100’, turned base, and got sequenced in ahead of the 172 on right base 🙂  I (of course) asked for a long landing, got it, and set up for the last half of the available runway.  The landing was nice and smooth, and we pulled off by the tower.  Over to ground and a quick taxi to the Museum’s corner of the airport.

The volunteer marshals brought us in on the grass taxiway, and let us park in the next spot available on the display line, which was cool.  We shut down, and hand parked the plane in it’s spot, removed the cameras, and put the information placard on the propeller.  Before we had all this done, there were already folks nosing around asking questions, shaking hands etc.  This is the cool part about the flying community, some of these folks were pilots, others just folks curious about airplanes.

The open house was great, I will never tire of walking through hangars full of airplanes.  We spent a few hours there milling around.  We bumped into folks we knew, talked to new people, discussing planes, flying clubs, etc.  It was neat when the guy who was discussing the airplanes over the loud speaker, actually had added us to the lineup!  Hearing him discuss our plane from the info on the propeller placard and seeing folks looking over at our plane while he did it was pretty cool.

Home from the Fly-In

Leaving Victoria, is a bit different for folks who aren’t familiar with a major airport, but the steps are:

  • Call the folks at Kamloops FSS on the telephone to get your squawk code
  • Call clearance/delivery by radio to get the appropriate departure
  • Call ground for taxi clearance
  • Call inner tower for takeoff permission
  • After takeoff and through 1000′, switch over to outer tower

After those steps, we were across the water and nearing Duncan, so radar services were terminated, and we were cleared enroute.

Kevin took off before us, so were pretty much following him to Duncan.  He crossed midfield and reported a “slight” tailwind for runway 31, but that the second windsock was calm.  I made the ultimate pilot mistake, I took his info, and didn’t verify it for myself crossing overhead and joining downwind for 31 after him.  By the time we turned onto final, the wind had kicked up a bit, and the slight tailwind was a good 5-10 kts giving me a pretty hot landing and with some judicious braking, we stopped in time, and taxied back to our hanger.