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The Bird Nest

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c I ROC n she Rolls Tour 2008

This is the tale of an amazing little airplane flying a very long ways in a few short days.  This journey took place in the fall of 2008.  Rather than keep all the fun to ourselves, we decided to tell the story as we reflected on the many hours each of us spent on the road and in the air, apart, and yet near.  Between Tracy and I, we took a few hundred photos, and have assembled a few of them into this abbreviated trip log.  We've presented more of this journey in seminars at Montebello and Westebello and are always happy to tell the story at air shows, fly ins, etc.

We can attest that the Challenger is an awesome cross country airplane.  You don't go really fast, but you see everything, and in a way that you just can't in a car or in a fast airplane.

Mike's Ride: The Star of Our Story: C-IROC, 582 Challenger II AULA

C-IROC was professionally assembled by Gord Allan and Bob Pearson.  Registered as an Advanced Ultra Light Aircraft (AULA), she joined National Ultralight's fleet of demonstration aircraft.  ChallengerWest needed a 582 Demo plane in advance of completing our own build, and Bryan had two, so we agreed C-IROC should come west.

Both wanting to fly into Moline for the 25th Anniversary of the Challenger celebrations, Bryan and I hatched a plan to enable the westward journey.  He would join a flock of Challengers making a tour of historical aviation sites on the way to Moline from eastern Canada, and Mike would pick her up in Moline and fly her to her new home in Wetaskiwin.  This way Bryan and Mike both got to fly into Moline (Bryan over the top of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, and Mike via a quick hop around the circuit!).  Afterwards, Mike got the joy of a cross continental flight and entry into the "seven league boots club" (flights of over 1,000 miles).

Tracy's Ride: The Bird Nest

This page documents the return journey from Wetaskiwin, Alberta to Erie Air Park (near Moline, Illinois). 


PART 1 - Barrie, Ontario to Moline, Illinois

Details of the first part of the trip from Barrie to Moline will be found on National Ultralight's website by clicking here:$canucks.html There is also a great write up in the January, 2009 edition of the COPA Flight newsletter.

PART 2 - Alberta to Erie, Illinois by BlueBird

There isn't any flying on this part of the trip, but there were some interesting sights, including hundreds of miles, several Harley Davidson dealerships, and millions of acres of wheat, barley, corn and soybeans.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
We left at the end of the day on Wednesday and drove as far as we could safely stay awake.  When you're in  a coach, making miles, Wal-mart is a great place for some "over the road" shut eye, so we made it as far as Saskatoon, and then told the Garmin 496 to take us "Direct to the nearest Wal-mart".

On the road - Highway 16 east of Edmonton

Welcome to the Battlefords

Thursday, September 18, 2008
Blasting off from Wal-mart, we made our way south through Regina, Estevan and on to the border at Portal.  Such fun the border.  First time we've ever been asked to wait outside our bus while a complete stranger (with a badge and a gun) goes on in all by himself.  We had emptied our fridge before leaving home a the last time we crossed the border, well let's just say we supplied two weeks worth of groceries to somebody due to a lack of some USDA sticker on the labels and a supposed linkage to BSE.  Ah well, on with the tale! 

Flight Boss in the BirdsNest

Thanks to a wonderful little gadget called an "air card", Mike was able to stay in touch with the office, download and upload files, check email, and basically work the entire way to Illinois.  So Tracy got to do the trip twice - there and back.  Mike took the wheel after office hours until sleepy time.

Foreshadowing, or what?

(Read the sign on the back of that truck carefully!)  How often do you see a truck with "Challenger" on the back when you are going to see Challengers?  The bugs on the windows, well they got worse!


On the Road to Estevan

We're close to Estevan, but this picture could have been taken at any number of places in Alberta, Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, or Illinois - it all looks strikingly similar!

We stopped at the local Kal Tire to check some tire pressures as we didn't have the right tool for our inner duals.  As usual - awesome service - they spent a half hour getting all eight tires on our Bus at perfect pressure and then wouldn't take any money.  Mike bought a special gauge and extender and some really cool tire caps to try and make things right!

The Border - The Cow - No Fence  - Hmmmmm

Well, actually it is a cow with no fence.  Mike was asleep at the switch and never took a picture of the border.  Actually we were worried about getting arrested for taking one and missing the fly in!  LOL.

Anyways, about a mile south of the border, there was this cow.  And no fence.  Hmmmm - was he a Canadian Cow, or an American Cow?  Hmmmm - maybe that is how the BSE cow arrived on a catfish farm.


North Dakota by Day

We never did see a rest area in North Dakota ... but there were a lot of rolling fields.

Minnesota by Night

We discovered Mike has a gas station we didn't know about.  Not long after this picture, we gave in to our drooping eyelids and pulled off into a truck rest area for the night. 

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mike awoke to find that our little truck rest area was beside a pretty lake.  We might have taken pictures, but you'll have to come to Westebello to see them!  One thing we like about the States is the interstate rest areas are reasonably frequent, and often very nice.

Fired up the bus and got rolling while Tracy caught some more zzzzz's, and then later she made Mike breakfast - Ahhh the joys of motor homing - one need never stop for sustenance!

Somewhere in this blur of a day, we ended up in St. Cloud, Minnesota at a mall trying to find one of our daughters a "Twilight" shirt.





Foreshadowing of Conditions to come?

Toto, I think we're in Iowa.

We saw a lot of big signs for Harley Davidson dealerships along the interstates.  On the ruse of stopping at a small airport in "right next door to one" in Faribault, Minnesota (where Mike landed for fuel on the way home) to pick up a sectional chart (almost impossible to get U.S. Sectionals in western Canada),  Mike was allowed to pop into the dealership for a peek.

Nice store, lots of Bikes.  Allowing for GST and the U.S. exchange, Harley's are NOT cheaper in the U.S.  They had some cool shirts, but with the 105th anniversary rally to Milwaukee only just past, they were sold out of any for sale.  No doubt all the HOG members passing through these stores snapped them up.  Tracy was glad - she had fears Mike would be stopping at every dealership along the way to get a cool shirt.

A half an hour or so down the road, we spotted this way cool Harley Ranch!  Now we all know where Harley's come from!

What's all this fuss about Harley's?  Well, when people ask us how much a Challenger is, we are fond of saying, "about the same as a Harley, but even more fun".

We made it to Erie well after dark this night and proceeded through town another few miles to the Airpark.  Our trusty Garmin took us within about 100 feet of the Airpark (we discovered this the next morning in the daylight), but on the rural side where there was no road access! 

There was severe mist coming off the Mississippi River and we couldn't see through that 100 feet (seriously, I could not see the back of the bus in the mirrors), so we didn't quite know where we were.  We turned around and went a couple of miles back to Erie, Illinois, pulled into a farm implement parking lot and shut down for the night. 

Tracy mentioned we were close to some railroad tracks.  They turned out to be about 30 feet away with a curve just up the way so the headlights from the trains looked like they were coming aboard until they swooped suddenly to the right and went beside us. 

In case you haven't gathered already, we were making copious notes on the way to Illinois of small airports in close proximity to highways where a northwest bound Challenger might later drop in for fuel and its pilot for dinner and an overnight sleep in his mobile Hilton!

Be patient, you'll see pictures of Challengers soon!

PART 3 - The 25th Anniversary Fly In

This had to be one of the friendliest fly-ins we've ever been to.  56 Challengers.  250 people.

25th Anniversary Celebrations - Saturday, September 20, 2008

Aye Captain - there be Challengers Here!

We awoke to that familiar drone of the two stroke - Ah Ha, we must be close after all.  Sure enough, there he was, up above the mist.

After a quick microwave breakfast, we were powered up and off over the same back road we had traversed the night before.  It looked a lot more passable in the daylight with the mist lifting.


First Stage Greeting Committee

We love horses as much as airplanes (and airplanes with lots of horses), so were quite pleased to stop, open the window and say Hi, Y'all.  The local chamber of commerce was quick to come and say hi back.


We've Arrived - Our Most Excellent Venue

After about 2,000 miles in a little over two long days and nights, we're here.  Tracy always said she wanted to be a long-haul trucker, so I guess maneuvering 25 tons 2,000 miles with a 500hp Detroit, she sort of qualifies.

There were many friendly waves and smiling faces as we pulled in and our host for the weekend, Jim Robinson, was right there in his golf cart to guide us to the "Bus Parking".


Look at all those Challengers ...

We weren't long departing the Bird to have a look.  My goodness, there must be 50 of them.  Well 56 ended up being the official count.  There were Challengers everywhere.

Canadian Geese in Illinois!

We found IROC pretty quickly - parked in a row of 4 Amphibious Challengers from Canada - all five flown in from eastern Canada.  You can read about that part of the journey over here at:$canucks.html


And there she was ... shimmering in the sun

More on this little lady later...

Our Most Excellent Hosts, Jim and Sue Robinson

These folks have it great - they live at their very own airpark!  Great Hosts and a beautiful place to fly to/from.  A minute of the pristine grass strip (basically a really long golf green!), you can see the mighty Mississippi River.

The Proud Father ... of the Challenger

Of the Challenger that is.  Dave Goulet, seated with wife Sandy on Knee, and expediter extraordinaire from QC, Karen trying to hold Dave down!

Here, Dave and Sandy and their Grandson are making the rounds visiting and reviewing all the Challengers in attendance.


There were a lot of Challengers ...

We heard the official count was 56.  52 are shown here in this mid day photo of the photos!

Here's Bryan having fun in the new LSA.

We almost couldn't get him out of it - he spent much of the afternoon cranking and banking and in aerial duals!


Light Sport Specials Climb Like Other Challengers!

While some flew, others visited


Furthest Flown Award

That would be Patrick Vinet, President of PuddleJumper Floats accepting the furthest flown award from Dave Goulet and Karen of Quad City.  Patrick and four other Canadian pilots flew their Challengers in from Quebec and Ontario.  We are looking forward to details of their two-way journey at Montebello in January, 2009.

President's Award for C-IROC!

Here, Mike is accepting the President's Choice Award from Quad City President, Founder, and Inventor of the Challenger, Dave Goulet, accompanied by Karen.

As all the pictures on this page will attest, there were many gorgeous Challengers in attendance, so we were both surprised and flattered by this.

We are proud to have this award and all the credit goes to Gord Allan and Bob Pearson builders of C-IROC, and Bryan Quickmire, for taking care of her and shining her up so pretty.

PART 4 - The Trip Home

Flight Route: 2217 km, or 1,415 Statute Miles!  24.4 Hours Flight Time

About all these maps.  They are produced with Map Source, using data extracted from the Garmin 496.  If you look really close on the pictures of the maps below, you'll see my planned route and ground track as recorded by the Garmin at 80 foot intervals (yep, 80 feet!).

I am a Sea Gull.  I like to fly.  But only when there's some high tech involved!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Today's Flight Log

Today's Route: Illinois - Iowa - Minnesota

Flight Boss Comments and Ground Support Log

This is where Tracy will tell how much further she drove than Mike flew each day, and how Mike was always waiting for her to catch up, even though he flew non-straight lines to stay close!

Captain's Comments

This was the first day of the flight home.  Unfortunately, it also meant the end of the fly-in and the visiting with many old and newfound Challenger friends who had to go their own ways.  We had tentatively planned to go as far as Fergus Falls, but 400 miles in a Challenger is pretty good progress in an afternoon, darkness was only an hour away and I would have had to rush to make the next 70 miles, and Tracy was a good hour behind me when I got to Sauk Centre so I decided to put down there for the night.  By the time I had a stretch and got C-IROC tied down and visited with the local Sheriff who saw me on the way into the pattern and dropped by to visit, it was dark.

All in all, a delightful first day, even with a 10 minute unexplained shut down of my GPS signal.  Things happen - that's why I carry charts and always know where I am!  When the GPS came back, I was right where I was supposed to be.

Departure Point - Erie Park, Illinois

Flight Preparations, Fueling Up

Pre-Departure Advice from Captain Quickmire


Lift off from Erie Air Park...

... and off into the Illinois mist


As Tracy Leaves for Home - bidding a fond farewell to our excellent hosts ... ...

On the Road Again in

... Mike is enjoying Illinois from the Air

Somehow, all I took of the Mississippi was video - no stills - guess you'll have to come to Montebello or Westebello to see more!


First Stop, Marion Iowa

This was a really friendly airport, they pumped my fuel, and had the air conditioning on in the office/pilot lounge/flight school up top there, and they had cold soft drinks, and the U.S. sectional I was missing!

Pillows at 9 O'clock

This is the part I like most about flying ... 

Clouds are so COOL !!


Nice tailwind!

90 mph ground speed on floats is pretty good.  I'd have been pegged on about 72 mph TAS.

Mason City Minnesota

It was windy here, as you can see from the flags, but the flight line was sheltered enough to leave I-ROC and head to the office behind the fire truck to pay for fuel.  Rock n Roll fans will notice this as the place where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper left from on their last flight so many years ago.


Did I mention it gets really windy here?

Apparently the local power utility noticed too.  Thankfully, the wind was more-or-less neutral or on my tail for the first two days...... That would change later.

Tracy got a different view of I-ROC and the Windmills


 From here at this rest stop ...

Look Up ... Waaaaaaay Up!

I did some lazy turns way up above Tracy parked at the Rest Stop, and took her picture from up here...

Yep, that wee spec is IROC!

While she took mine from down here!  This really is too much fun!


We met up with me again in ...

Tracy was a bit worried about IROC rolling away in the wind.

... Faribault, Minnesota

From here it was on to Sauk Centre, Minnesota where we put down for the night.  I landed not long before dark, tied I-ROC up for the night, and visited with the local Sheriff who came to see who buzzed in!  Tracy arrived an hour or so later, well after darkness.  We had a quick supper and turned in for the night - morning comes early on cross-continental flights!

Monday, September 22, 2008


Today's  Flight Log

Today's Route: Minnesota - North Dakota

Flight Boss Comments and Ground Support Log


Captain's Comments

Really strong, shearing, gusty winds.  Thankfully they were off the left or from astern for much of the day.  There was so much wind shear, that I missed the off button on the camera during a bounce and didn't notice.  I had my hands full for an hour or two after that and didn't realize until I landed at Devils Lake, ND that I had drained the battery.  Too bad, as Rugby, ND was a really nice little spot.  Oh well, I had a great visit with the chap who ran the FBO there.  He reminded me a bit of my Dad.

Today's Initial Departure Point - Sauk Centre, Minnesota

 Sauk Centre, Minnesota


Ready for taxi ...

 ... and off he goes ...

How come he's landing back here already?

After I lifted off Sauk Centre, I intended to depart, but noticed my water temperatures were a bit higher than normal on the climb out.   The louvers were full open, but having no effect.  It was then I noticed that a bolt had worked loose on the louver control lever.  I turned the cabin heat fan on as I had noticed the day before that doing so lowered the water temperature about 20 degrees almost instantly.  Things now settled down, I reentered the circuit and landed .

That bolt was given an extra zap of torque, and is now part of my pre-flight!


Off for good ...

... and so was Tracy


Not far west of Sauk Centre ...

I really wanted to dip C-IROC's floats in the water, but had promised Tracy I'd wait until we got back home to do so.  It was too windy anyways.

 ... And landed at Fergus Falls for Fuel

This was the windiest place en-route.  The fuel guy held the wing tie down while I pumped the fuel!  C-IROC flies, taxis, takes off and lands great in considerable winds with my bulk aboard, but empty, well, 40 mph is a lot of wind!


 ... West of Fergus Falls ...

It appears aliens may have visited here and drawn on the ground.

Somewhere around Cooperstown, ND


Here we are at Kenmare, ND.

I had a really nice visit with the FBO at Rugby, ND and then departed west to Kenmare.  Not long after landing there in the relative calm, Tracy pulled in behind me in the Bird, and we settled in for dinner and sleep.

After a long day of gusty flying!

A nice end to a nice day!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Today's Flight Log

Today's Route: North Dakota - Montana - Saskatchewan

Flight Boss Comments and Ground Support Log


Captain's Comments

I have had better days  for flying weather wise, and this day was made worse by beauracracy-induced time delays that provided time for the weather to advance.  All in all though, flying in weather in a Challenger is less scary to me than in my 182.  In the Challenger I'm flying lower, can fly much slower, and there are an infinitely greater set of choices available to land and wait out weather.  While I don't advocate scud running in any airplane, for no other reason than for the stress it puts on the pilot, I had to do a bit of it this day, but had good VFR navigational aids (roads, railroads and maps), and my trusty Garmin 496.   I came away from this day even more impressed with the airplane.

Key Learnings:

  1. Self-serve fuel systems in the U.S. are AWESOME.  I wish they were also everywhere in Canada.

  2. If you're on a long trip, and it looks like a crappy day for flying (adverse wind or weather), and you're in a nice place, its probably better to go sightseeing instead!

  3. Never push the weather.  Keep a constant eye on it, and be prepared to change your plan as the facts change.  XM Nexrad Weather is a big help, but remember that there is a 10 minute delay on the uploads, so it is good for strategy more so than for tactics. 

  4. Relative to GPS in general, they are a great aid to flying, however:

    • GPS satellites have been known to just up and go offline for a few minutes - probably being re-aimed, or new code uploaded.  

    • The point is, your GPS can disappear at the most inopportune times.  Mine went off for about 10 minutes on an earlier clearer day - I'm glad it didn't disappear on this day - it would have added to my stress!

    • Always carry charts!  I was glad to have my sectionals along.

  5. It doesn't matter how closely you follow the rules on border crossing, the processes and organizations involved may fail you, causing delays, and thus allowing time for weather to advance upon your intended path of flight and do its best to make your flying a challenge.

  6. Don't rely on the FAA to activate your flight plan, or to let NavCanada know that you have one.  I did, and they never activated it in either country.  That wasn't very comforting to find out after going through the remote country and weather system I encountered.  After spending money on a transponder to cross the border, it was amazing that I needed to have one in the first place!

  7. If you're planning to fly across the border even once, get a CANPASS, if for no other reason than to avoid the "hole of an airstrip/runway/border crossing" called Scobey Border Station.  Had I had a CanPass, I could have gone direct to Estevan, stayed in clear skies, and just made a phone call to clear customs!

  8. If the CFS says you have to call out for fuel, be prepared to not be able to reach anyone.

  9. When you have big head winds, the scenery rolls by very slowly at 38 miles an hour ground speed.  I think I stared at the windmills just east of Swift Current for a good hour before I reached them.

Today's Initial Departure Point - Kenmare, North Dakota

Kenmare, North Dakota

If I had the day to do over again, I'd have probably stayed on the ground in Kenmare, had a leisurely tour and a rest, and waited for the weather to the west to pass through or dissipate!    Kenmare was a very nice little town as I discovered on my climb out!

Going Ballistic on my way out of Kenmare. 

I had to get way outside of the airplane to take this one!  Actually, Tracy took it.  There is a reason so many retired fighter pilots have Challengers!


The day started out nice enough...

Just give me a ship, and a string to steer by!


The sky was really pretty ...

I went as high as 8,500 feet on this leg to enjoy the views of the clouds.  This is probably as high as I've been in a Challenger so far.  Although they will fly a lot higher, I see more at 1,000 AGL or lower.  We have really friendly ATC where we live, so maybe one of these days if they aren't that busy, I'll pull the portable Oxygen out of the Cessna, put that new transponder to work, get a clearance and flight-following and see how high C-IROC will climb.

The beginning of the headwinds though

That weather to the left on the XM weather ... didn't look too bad (yellow, orange and red zones are a lot worse than green).  It got a lot closer as the day went on, to the point where I was fully inside it.  Even the green can mean heavy precipitation.  I gradually went lower, and towards the end of the leg into Scobey, was having to fly pretty low to stay out of clouds and keep the ground in sight.



... Like this ...

 ... and then like this

Yes, I could see the ground, just fine.


 ...and back to this

That cloud looked a lot like an airplane pointing the way home.  For those of you who have read about my Dad elsewhere on this website, you will know why I took this picture.

... and then to this by Sherwood.

I had to dodge some low cloud in the pattern to land here.  I thought about calling the flight boss to bring my bed, and let the rain pass!  But, filed and carried on.

... So on to Scobey Border!

This was as clear as it got.  IFR -= I Follow Railway!  Well it was there until the last 5 minutes!

Welcome to Scobey Border Station. ... where, not long after landing, the clouds really came in and it looked like this!

 I'll tell you about customs processes in person!  Lets just say that they really are armed, and they really don't appreciate airplanes dropping in un-announced!  That will get one from each country to come out in the rain! 

Not my fault mind you, since I had kept very much in touch with the border folks en-route!  They just neglected to let the Canada guy at the border where I was landing know I was coming!  The U.S. guy had a VHF radio, so he heard me, but assumed I was going to another Scobey airport to the south.

Once I got finished with protocol and clearing customs , I taxied back to the high part of the runway so I could better tell if I was in a cloud or not, installed the air filter cover, and contemplated IROCs dash and my sectionals for a couple of hours while the rain pelted.


Nice runway, eh? 

It cleared a bit an hour or so later and I could see the other end of the runway and took this picture.   That shadow at the end on the right is the Canadian Border office.  The U.S. side is obscured on the left. 

"Power Plant in the Mist"

I waited another hour until the weather lifted and a power plant emerged from the clouds.  Distance to the obstacle  on the GPS - 6 miles.  I'm out of here! I took this picture when I got airborne and closer.

I had stayed in tough with Tracy by cell.  She had stayed stateside until I was ready to depart and then crossed at a land crossing about 50 miles east of me.


I See a Wee Bird Way Down There

Somewhere after crossing the border, I managed to contact Tracy on the VHF and located her on the way to Assiniboia.  If you look at the map above, you'll see me circling a bit while I waited for her to catch up.

Willow Bunch, Saskatchewan


Eye in the Sky Traffic Advisory

... even helped her detour around this muddy construction!

The ultimate Model Railroad?

I landed in Assiniboia and pulled into the lee of some hangars so I could exit the plane without it blowing away and went to try and find the airport fuel.  The CFS was right, you have to call out for fuel.  Of course, there was no one to answer the phone on the first several numbers I tried.  The last one got an answer and she said she might be able to make it out tomorrow.  Sheesh.  So I used my back seat Jerry cans for the first time on the trip, poured all 9 gallons in, and then waited for Tracy to catch up.  We figured I had enough daylight to reach Swift Current about 86 miles west, so off I went.

The camera batteries failed me and I never got any more pictures between Assiniboia and Swift Current,  Mind you, I had other things on my mind, like the 38 mph ground speed, and a vigilant watch on the fuel gauge.  I landed in Swift Current just before dark with a fair bit of fuel left so was in better shape than I thought.  The flow sensor on the FF-1 is accurate to within 1 litre over 3 hours!  I tucked IROC into my favourite hangar in Swift Current just before dark and awaited Tracy's arrival a few minutes later.  Then it was off to find some dinner and a campground for the night.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Daily Flight Log

Flight Boss Comments and Ground Support Log


Captain's Comments

We had a very leisurely morning in Swift Current, sleeping in and visiting with the campground operator before meeting up with my Dad's sister and family to have lunch.  I was wheels up by about 3:00 and did some circles over the family garage, and then taking a bunch of pictures over my Dad's home town, before pushing west to Leader where I landed to refuel, and then on to Coronation where I put down for the night and waited for Tracy to catch up.  Even with headwinds, air is a straighter line than highways!

Today's Initial Departure Point - Swift Current, Saskatchewan

Visiting with Aunt and Uncle Before Departure

Warm Up


Air Departure

Land Departure

Success, Saskatchewan

Pennant, Saskatchewan

Just a few miles west of Success, we come up on Pennant, Sask., a special place for me, and for my Saskatchewan family, as many of them come from there. 

Family lore has it that Grandpa Hughes and Tommy Douglas went to see the President of the CPR one day, as there was a plan afoot to close the rail line through Pennant.  It is pleasing to see he kept his word from that meeting, and it is still there.

Those familiar with the deeper parts of this web site will understand why I did a lap around Pennant and took the following pictures from many angles.



I have no clue what this is?

Some farmer with a yacht perhaps? It's located about 10-15 minutes west of Pennant.  We would appreciate hearing if anyone knows what it is.

The Sand Hills

I saw a few Pronghorns on this leg, and a cow here and there, but little else.  Since there was nothing around for miles, I eventually dropped down low and did some "contour flying"

The Battle River


A nice break from the ...


Miles and miles and Miles of ...

... very uninhabited prairie I was crossing

Broken only occasionally by a valley


Harvest in full motion ...

I did a couple of lazy 360s over these folks and IROC waved.  They waved back.  No doubt wishing they were up here.  I thought about landing and saying hi...

... in the "Middle of Nowhere", Alberta

... but decided I had better get on to Coronation.


Over Coronation, Alberta

Coronation, Alberta on the way into the pattern.  Pretty town.  Nice UFA Cardlock.  Many gallons of diesel into the Bird, 9 Gallons into C-IROC's back seat jerry cans.  Who says general aviation doesn't contribute to the economy?

At Coronation Airport

I-ROC at the Coronation terminal building.  I tied her up on the grass as it got dark and was awaiting Tracy's arrival when a local hunter showed up.  He had been out hunting when I flew over, recognized a Challenger and came for a closer look.  He'd always wanted a ride in one, so I told him to come back the next morning and I'd provide a short flight.

Tracy arrived a bit later, and we filled up with fuel and parked beside the terminal for the night.

Thursday, September 25, 2008
Daily Flight Log

Daily Flight Boss and Ground Support Log



Captain's Comments

As you'll see on the map, I started the day with a couple of short demo flights for the hunter who had come to visit the night before.  I took his pal up and went south of Coronation, and for the hunter we went north so we could fly over his house and look around.

I can fly the Challenger dead on course when I want to, but that is sometimes not all that much fun unless one is trying to make time, and I had a lot of fun on the first half of this trip chasing Tracy in the Bus, swooping down low (safe and legal low) and across the highway in front of her so she could take pictures of I-ROC.  Around Alliance,  I decided to break formation and went direct Wetaskiwin - well sort of direct  - as direct as one can when flying over, in and around one of the prettiest prairie valleys anywhere - the Battle River Valley.


Today's Initial Departure Point - Coronation, Alberta

Departing Coronation

That hunter wanted a picture or two.

Time for a Fly Bye

So I obliged!

In the Air, and On the Road Again: Our Final Leg Home

The winds were relatively light, but on my tail, so I was able to stay ahead of Tracy ...

... and meander back and forth in front of her as she peeled up the highway. 


A Beautiful Alberta Autumn Day

Fall colours abound, everywhere.  We've seen a lot of pretty country, but it is good to be getting close to home.

The Battle River Valley

High above a friendly looking Provincial Campground on the Battle River.  Tracy, we really must park the Bird there some weekend.


Hey, down there.  Look Up, Way Up

Ah yes, there she is, just below the float!  Not to say that my missus has a lead foot or anything, but let's just say that a Challenger on floats has a time getting ahead of a 500hp Bluebird.  Unless, of course, I fly straight and avoid highways that take me off course!

Alliance, Alberta

So that's what I did.  The map showed Tracy going a long ways north, before going west again, and I was conscious of fuel, so I bid adieu and banked west, gazing to the right at a nice town called Alliance at the top of a hill overlooking the battle River Valley.


A BIG Farm!

Have I mentioned that Challengers are the ultimate airborne observation and photography platform?

Forestburg, Alberta

I'm pretty sure that's what it was.  I was preoccupied with the view to the left!


Coal Fired Power Plant Near Forestburg, AB

If it weren't for my Challenger, I would not even have known this was here.  Wow - a Coal Fired Electric plant this close to home.  There are others, but this one doesn't look like moonscape.

The Battle River

Just upstream from the power plant.


A Reclaimed Strip Mine

Ever wonder what these look like?  interesting to say the least, and likely better critter habitat than what was there originally.

And the Shovel that Dug it

Here's the retired shovel at Forestburg coal mine.


And on up the valley we go!

I'm pretty sure that's the booming metropolis of Meeting Creek off in the distance.

We're getting close now!

This is our home stomping grounds.  Familiar to me, but new to C-IROC.  She will see this area many times in the coming months and years as she enables demo flights for future aviators.  Here we are at cruise power in a 250 fpm climb with indicated and ground speeds just under 70 mph.  Astute pilots will observe the flags in the next  photos and know that the winds had swung again, and we had a few mph on our tail.


Now over Meeting Creek, Alberta

I'd have normally been snapping pictures a mile a minute here, but as I got near Gwynn, it was evident that there were 4 or 5 airplanes in the vicinity of Wetaskiwin, including some commercial IFR types running low altitude NDB approaches, so I put the camera away and got my eyeballs focused.  After 1,400 miles, including the normally congested St. Paul, MN airspace, this was the most traffic I had heard since departing Erie Park.

Mike and C-IROC Arrive CEX3 at 12:30 PM

Down safe and sound, in one way I couldn't wait to get out and stretch, while at the same time feeling sad that the trip was over.  Time for some circuits?  Nah, washroom and hot chocolate - it was chilly in the breeze.

Tracy commented later that she wished we had taken two weeks and enjoyed the sights more!

Tracy and the Big Bird Arrive an Hour or so Later, enabling Pilot and Flight Boss to Pose with C-IROC!

Tucked Away, Safe and Sound

And so the tale of our Seven League Boots comes to an end.  Safe and sound half-way across a continent that not so many years ago required weeks, months or even years to cross.

I don't know if Dave Goulet meant for Challengers to fly so far in such a short amount of time when he designed the Challenger in the early 1980's, but I'm sure glad he designed an affordable and fun airplane capable of the task.

I read a lot of aviation history books, and as I read about airplanes of the 20's, 30's, 40,s, and so forth, I think pilots of that era would have really enjoyed the comfort, dependability and capability of the Challenger.  I know I sure do.

Yep, we did it.  We drove one Bird down to Moline, Illinois for the 25th Anniversary of the Challenger Celebrations, and brought 2 Birds home.  Mike flew C-IROC home over 1,400 air miles, and we  drove the Bluebird, aka mobile flight base, both ways about 3,200 miles.  It was total hoot, but at the same time, totally exhausting. 

Our faith in the Challenger continues to increase.  With the exception of a loose bolt on the radiator louver handle, C-IROC performed flawlessly for Bryan and I both.  Some 3,000 miles, in a couple of weeks.

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The Challenger - Canada's Favourite Advanced Ultralight!