Just about anyone who is writing anything today starts with a reference to the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in. COVID19 truly has overshadowed virtually all that we do. So, with that as a new definition of borders, let’s start with a CASARA sitrep (situation report). As a volunteer organization, none of our members are ever expected to put themselves in a situation where they feel unsafe or even uncomfortable. Of course, four people in a four-seat aircraft is the antithesis of social distancing and masks and gloves are an inadequate hedge to an itinerate virus in close quarters. It is obviously not the time for exercises and meetings but, as with Transport Canada making allowances for deadlines for medicals, the Royal Canadian Air Force (CASARA’s boss) has extended currencies and permissions to allow crews to participate in any actual emergency situations. There are sufficient CASARA personnel prepared to volunteer as air crew if the need arises to answer any potential callouts. Along with our very competent military professionals, we are doing our part to ensure continuing capability in the Canadian Air Search and Rescue system.
Okay, that’s somewhat reassuring but where does that leave me in terms of my flying and training? In terms of private flying, it is still possible to fly your own aircraft but of course with the caveat that it will basically be to maintain skills not for trips (remember public transport is limited, there are basically no restaurants you can eat in and extended contact with friends and relatives is not in your best interest or theirs). Also cleaning your own aircraft in between flights if anyone else is with you or will subsequently fly it is a significant undertaking. It is especially important to remember that the health professionals advising to avoid touching your face is because the most direct and defenceless route to your body for germs and viruses is through the ducts in your eyes. That means sharing headsets without serious sterilization is a definite no-no. In terms of training, literally millions and millions of students in all areas of study world wide are struggling to compensate for lost classroom time. Certainly, there are some online alternatives, but the live experience of immediate feedback to someone else’s question that happens in a class is still missing.
Gee, thanks for all the bad news….. is there any good news?
Lots of free and interesting videos. Do your own exploring on youtube or visit the following three sites for more directed material on flight safety and technique. Smartpilot is under the aegis of CASARA and also has material from the other two sites. The Transport Canada site is a great example of how a government institution can get it right and the Air Safety Institute is a subset of AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association – an American not for profit group that promotes and supports private aviation). There are also some interesting materials available both free and for sale through online retailers like Calgary Pilot Supply (Canada) and Sporty’s Pilot Shop (U.S.)
Some of you likely have flight simulators to keep your imagination flying (and, depending where your skills are, maintaining or developing some instrument techniques). If you can’t afford some of the extraordinary software for simulation and scenery here is a free online simulator that can be quite engaging
It’s also a good time to do all those little ancillary projects that there just doesn’t seem to be time for in “regular” life. For example, getting more confident (and faster) with radio communications by listening to https://www.liveatc.net/ They typically have over 2500 worldwide airport channels active at a time. I recommend starting local (CYEG) then moving to airports you might fly into like CYQF Red Deer and CYBW Springbank-Calgary. If those aren’t busy enough right now try Yellowknife CYZF for fun. Of course it’s also entertaining (and sometimes challenging) to listen to some of the really big airports like LAX and JFK. That leads us very nicely to another skill building/retention project – planning your bucket list trip(s). Of course you can do it quick and easy on ForeFlight or FlightPlan but if you have paper maps try it old school and see how well you do. (For any “old-timers” like me, this is where we bemoan the loss of WAC charts – maps that used to show twice as much space as a VNC with a scale of 1:1,000,0000). Occassionally, several CASARA pilots and aircraft have undertaken group excursions to the far north and south. My favourite trip so far, which I have written about before, was up the Mackenzie River to Tuktoyaktuk, including a side trip up the Nahanni river to Virginia falls (a spectacular waterfall on the Nahanni River about twice as high as Niagara Falls). Of course a trip like that takes a lot of planning from the usual route and weather details to fuel availability and escape plans if problems arise. And, while we used GPS and ForeFlight, we also had a complete paper backup done with maps, pencil, ruler, protractor and E6B. Watching area weather systems well in advance also gave some clues as to what possible weather issues we might encounter. There is a lot of very difficult terrain in the north so lots of preparation and thinking ahead is most important. In any event, perhaps you simply wish to fly to Thunder Bay or Lethbridge. The destination is not as significant as the satisfaction (and confidence) of feeling well prepared. While you’re preparing, make sure you spend a bit of time getting comfortable with the new ICAO Notam format.
If you are just surfing and looking for interesting stuff on youtube and the like, here is one more cool link that shows current wind direction and speed in animation – for the whole world, zoom-able to your local area or a wide view of countries, continents and the globe – go to https://earth.nullschool.net
And last, but certainly not least, we are working diligently on an online replacement for our ground school classes and will keep you posted ASAP. Many of you may be stuck with your feet on the ground but hope you will allow your head to be in the clouds. Always smile when you look up, there’s another pilot there somewhere!