BC Bush Flying
Got sent to northern BC this past week for a some bush flying. Three gravel runways and some fantastic flight experience in some very remote areas. The toughest part about flying into gravel strips is the visual illusions with much shorter and narrower runways that make the approach must more challenging. To make things a bit easier, we stick to standard approaches meaning we usually fly to the airport arriving at what is called a circuit or pattern altitude (1000 ft above ground) and then we fly a typical downwind, base and final legs, configuring the plane with flaps and gear, that helps us maintain a gradual decent profile right down to the runway threshold.
Having had some previous gravel experience in the late summer, I did find landing on winter gravel strips much easier as the snow and ice level everything out so it is much smoother, however we do have to be aware of icy conditions as we bring the aircraft to a stop. Something else we have to be aware of is snow drifts which can cause snow to be blown up into the hot brakes which when cooled can freeze up, causing some challenges to get moving again.
A few other important things to keep in mind is that we have to rely very heavily on our instruments, namely the GPS which helps us get to the airports which from altitude look very much like just another cutline in the trees for power or pipelines. The instruments also ensure that we follow safe arrivals and approaches in the mountains, which in cloudy weather can obscure our vision.
The highlight of the week was flying with a very experience captain who was very encouraging and did a fantastic job coaching me as a young pilot. Feeling like you have the unquestioning support of your colleague in a stressful situation makes all the difference.