I woke up to another lovely, sunny, November morning. All of a sudden, the prognoses for a solid day’s work in the hangar were not so good. OK, I thought. I quit smoking cold turkey many years ago, so I should be able to resist the temptation for going flying. How difficult can it be? After all, it is not an illicit substance I am hocked on, it is just flying I am talking about!
I have a proper door on the hangar, but for some reason I reached down, unlocked the padlock, and pushed the sliding door full open. There he was, my flying friend. Even the half-polished spinner, the ugly paint, and other signs of his age, could not take away from his cheerful disposition. I managed to quit smoking, but to resist going flying – impossible. I topped of the tanks, and soon we were on the way. Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast seemed like a good destination.
Cleared over the Alex Fraser Bridge, I wanted to stay low. The folks operating the Vancouver Harbor tower are a very friendly bunch, while over 2500 feet, I would be under the Czar of main Vancouver control zone. I tried that once before. They told me to climb to 6500 feet, and then minutes later I had to come down for landing. Flying at a comfortable 2000 feet, at least I could enjoy the view much better.
Here is Port Moody. I lived there once; in fact, I found my wife there. The Vancouver Harbor Tower has a jurisdiction from the Second Narrows Bridge, barely visible at distance, up to Point Atkinson Lighthouse.
Hugging the North Shore Mountains I had a great view of the water reservoir. It looked quite full, spilling its water over its dam. This is from where the Vancouverites get their drinking water.
Just a bit west from the reservoir, I was amazed to see the expanding residential developments of West Vancouver. Yes, I knew that there were houses there, but seeing it from the air, and how far up the hill they extended, was a bit of a surprise.
To my right was the entry to the Vancouver Harbor, filled with cargo ships waiting their turn to get to the dock. I marveled at the view for a moment, remembering the meandering coastal road down below, and the memories of driving there in my 1958 Pontiac Stratochief, many years ago. In a jiff, I was over the Point Atkinson Lighthouse, leaving my distant memories behind.
With the last of the mainland disappearing quickly to my right, I could see the Sunshine Coast Ferry carrying its passengers and cargo to their destination. I made this trip many times as an Earthling on my way to visit relatives in Garden Bay; how much more satisfying it is being up here. I noticed something, slightly above and to my right – about two-o-clock position. It was approaching fast. I wish I had my camera ready. A majestic eagle soared just over me – what a splendid site.
Once past Gibbsons Landing, it is only a short distance to Sechelt. I listened to the airport radio frequency for a while, and soon realized that there was not much going on there. I flew over the airport with a good margin of altitude safety, looking for the wind direction. It looked like it was blowing from the sea. OK runway 11 it is. My approach would be from the north over the descending hill. It is amazing how deceptive approach like this can be, if you are in an unfamiliar area. My approach was a bit too high, so I elected to go around. My second approach was just right – I touched down right on the numbers.
I parked my plane, on what I determined to be the main apron, shut down the engine, and went searching for a bathroom. There was not a living soul to be seen anywhere.
I walked towards a building that look like may have the desired facilities. I looked inside, but this was not it. It was a meeting place for a local chapter of Recreational Aircraft Association. The sign in the windows called for a Saturday meeting. I carefully avoided the frost on the deck, and went to search some more. There must be a bathroom somewhere, I thought, or better say I had hoped.
Ah, here it is, I found it, the airport terminal. The sign over the door informs visitors that the local aero club runs it, and that everybody is welcome to use it. It was cozy inside; I took a beeline to the washroom first. It was very clean, with ample supplies of toiletries at hand. There was a desk with a computer, and a telephone – the essentials for a visiting pilot to file a flight plan, or get information on the town’s offerings. Oh, did I mention that the coffee was on.
I heard some distant voices. A quick look around, and I noticed two men readying a Cessna for a flight. These were the first souls I encountered at this quaint sleepy aerodrome. Then as I was walking to my plane, I noticed a man walking towards me. We exchanged a few words, he urged me to come again, and wished me a pleasant flight back home. He assured me that in the summer there is much more activity there. He suggested that on my next visit I should go for a hike in the hills, and definitely visit the town. What a friendly fellow, I thought.
We departed on runway 11, and soon we were back under the watchful eye of the friendly folks of Vancouver Harbor Control Tower. The tower cleared us to fly over the Third Beach, towards Simon Fraser University. I requested 2000 feet, and the tower obliged.
Within minutes, the beautiful Stanley Park slipped underneath of our flight path. In some distance to the north lies the busy North Vancouver Harbor, with its mountain of bright yellow sulphur – a picture I remember from many years ago. It looks like this heap of yellow substance is the only thing that did not change over the years. It is still gleaming in the sun, as I always remember it. I am quite sure that even the size of it is the same.
It always amazes me to see the spectacular growth of this beautiful city from the ground, but from 2000 feet above, it is simply breathtaking. I remember the day I first arrived here. The tallest buildings in the city were the old BC Hydro building and the Hotel Vancouver, both dwarfed now by much taller buildings, peppered all over the downtown peninsula. The bridges connecting the downtown to the mainland Vancouver, no longer span the unsightly industrial lands of my memories. These lands are now vibrant living spaces, with parks and amenities to play in and enjoy.
Recently, the ever-evolving skyline of this metropolis got its new face. The old pillow-like air-supported roof of the stadium, gave way to a new retractable one. When closed it almost resemble the old pillow – the supporting masts of the new roof are the sure giveaway. I am not sure why they had it closed on this bright sunny day; I suppose old habits are hard to break.
Once out of the Vancouver Harbor airspace jurisdiction, it was time to descent to 1100 feet for the Alex Fraser Bridge arrival for Boundary bay. The friendly controller cleared us for right base arrival of runway 25. Exit on Charlie, I bid “good day”, to the controllers, and pushed my happy Colt to his usual position in the hangar. Some bookkeeping, 2.1 hours of cross-country to my logbook, and I left grinning for home, with the thought that I must return to Sechelt soon, spend some time exploring there, and hope to meet some more people.