Since working in Fort Simpson, I have tried to describe what it is like. I’ve told you about the town, but now I thought I would talk about my work a little.
I am an Observer/Communicator, or, as I usually just say “I work at the CARS station.” CARS stands for Community Aerodrome Radio Station, and they are spread throughout the Northern airports. What I do is actually quite similar to my work as a Flight Service Specialist for Nav Canada. There are a few minor differences I won’t go into here, but suffice it to say, my training for FSS is serving me very well here in Fort Simpson.
And why is that, you say? Well, we have some very interesting aircraft traffic! I work at the main airport, a paved strip 6000 ft long located about 11 km southeast of the village (abbreviated YFS). Right in the village there is a second airport, a gravel strip only 3000 ft long and two charter companies operate out of it. We just refer to it as “the Island” (nothing like the movie). Then, there are the float planes which use the Mackenzie River day and night (mostly day), and a couple of helipads. I made a diagram to help you picture it all (thank you Google for the background image)!
Did I forget to mention the ferry crossing? This becomes important when the ferry is not operating (or the ice crossing is closed) because people and groceries have to be brought across by helicopters (just across the river, or back to the helipads), like this:
Add in the other helicopter traffic, mostly pipeline patrols (NW-SE) and points to the southwest, and it looks like this:
Here at the main airport, most of our aircraft go either northeast (Yellowknife), southeast (Trout Lake), southwest (Nahanni Butte, the Nahanni National Park), or northwest (Wrigley, Norman Wells) like this:
At the island, it’s pretty similar, except they hardly ever go to Yellowknife, and they often come over to pick people up at the main airport in order to fly them home (to Nahanni Butte or Trout Lake, for example, which are fly-in-only communities at this time of year). Check it out:
Floatplanes almost exclusively go to the Nahanni National Park — which I hope to go visit sometime soon! — or lakes and rivers in the mountains. Their traffic pattern is something like this:
So, can you imagine what happens when there are guys going every which way, more of less all at once? Here you go!
That’s why pilots have to make sure they make radio contact with us and keep their eyes out for other planes and helicopters. It can be quite a zoo out there! :)
As for species in the zoo, we have Cessna 172’s, Cessna 206’s on wheels and on floats, a twin otter, a beaver on floats, the usual helicopters (JetRangers, AStars), and our scheduled air carriers generally operate with Cessna Caravans, Beech 1900’s or an ATR-42. Sorry, I don’t have photos of them all, but here’s the ATR-42, which you might be the least familiar with:
Nice plane, eh? So, let me just say that I am so happy I took this job! I am having a blast, I enjoy my work every day, and when it’s not busy, I get paid to write or knit! :) The best of all worlds! In fact, I did all the Photoshop work and wrote this article while at work! Night shifts!
I wish the same for each and every one of you (ok, you might not want to write or knit… but you know what I mean). May you love what you do, find it interesting and not overly stressful, and feel like money is coming easily to you. :)