helicopters

Fort Simpson Traffic

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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. :)

What a wild life!

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What a busy gal I’ve been lately! I have 2 jobs now (I also wash cars and trucks at Budget Rentals, and I really like it actually!) and 4 volunteer things! Gads. I have decreased one of the volunteer things and I only wash cars when I feel like I have time – they never call me saying I need to go in – but I am still quite busy. I have not had enough time to sit and think, to ponder life or write very much (although I did some on the last string of midnight shifts).
One thing I have been noticing is smells! Last time I went to Edmonton, I got an interesting smell as I was driving into Whitecourt. I usually keep my windows closed when I’m at highway speeds, ’cause I don’t like the noise and pressure of the wind. But when I slow down a bit, I often open the windows a little to get some fresh air and enjoy the wind. Well, entering Whitecourt, I got the unmistakeable smell of OFF!! Bug spray! Too funny! I’m not making that up!
Lately around High Level, we’ve had that musty fall smell-of-things-decaying. It’s sort of like wet bark or leaves, and we’ve certainly had enough rain to account for that – don’ get me started on what cool and un-summery weather we’ve had this past month.
Other smells I’ve experienced lately… I met a helicopter pilot and ended up tagging along/helping out on the ground crew, so I was reminded what avgas smells like (pretty much like gasoline, actually). It was great to get out in the bush, far from everything and enjoy the deep quiet out there too. And the usual earthy bush smells. Passing by road construction, which there’s been plenty of, the nose-collapsing smell of tar and ashphalt. Ugh! How do they breathe that in all day! Freshly cut grass is another great one – although it’s less powerful now that the grass has really slowed down its growing. We’ve had some very cool temperatures at night, although I think we only had frost once. I made cinnamon buns not too long ago and I’m pretty much convinced that’s what heaven smells like (for me, anyway)!!
I’ve been trying to live in the moment as much as possible and enjoy every bit of it, and part of that is enjoying smells, even the less pleasant ones.
I’ll write more later… I’m getting pretty tired and need to crash for a nap! Take care everybody!