Flight plan

To wish you were up there...then to achieve it...trumps everything...
Captain D

......My flight plan....

My blog is to inspire and motivate those who have a love for aviation. I will attempt to virtually open the flight deck door and allow a peek behind the scenes. And please help make this blog interactive by sending in comments. Don't be shy! :)))))

If for any reason you have an issue found within, send an email and I will rectify it. [email protected]

Again, this blog is for aviation enthusiasts so welcome aboard!!!

My style...

My Style

Even though my writing comes off as lighthearted and carefree when dealing with aviation issues, one can rest assured the "T"s are crossed and the "I"s dotted when it comes to weather, safety and maintenance issues. If I wrote in a stoic style my blog would turn into an aviation manual. And who would read that?
.... gone flying..........

YYZ 05

YYZ 05
"Pic of the day" sent in by Craig R landing on runway 05 (Toronto)

Runway 05

Like Craig R, I landed on runway 05 at 10:00 p.m last night during a route check. I was suppose to stay in Calgary for the night. Even though I work in the most regulated industry I know, it sure is dynamic.
Yesterday, one of my flights was subbed to an Embraer, so I deadheaded and then once deadheading we were drafted to fly to Toronto.

Can anyone guess what that yellow hook like device on the wing is?

Gone flying again....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sable Island (The Graveyard of the Atlantic)

Well it's been thirty years since Captain Doug visited Sable Island, the Graveyard of the Atlantic. I just turned 19 and was taking flying lessons for my private pilot license. I finished first year university and had been painting for the summer when this job popped up. I hope you enjoy this post as I fly back in time.

(P.S I was going to include a picture of a nineteen year old hitchhiking on Sable Island in his underwear, but I don't want to scare away the readership) lol

There are about 200 to 350 of these wild horses roaming this sand shifting island. The romantic theory of how these horses arrived has always been from shipwrecks. But a new theory claims they were sent here in the 1700s. Many books have been written on these unique Sable Island horses.

This is the "A frame" house allotted for scientific study. Much of the grant money came from Dalhousie University in Halifax. But many a drink were imbibed during our research. :)

Yours truly with "Zoe" the boss and Derek. Zoe would work on Sable Island for many years to come. Derek is a talented Graphic Design artist.

During our stay, a technician from a local oil rig had to set up transponders on the island for the rig to accurately position itself. Of course I sampled this machine on the 24 mile crescent shape stretch of sand. During our visit in August, it quickly felt we had our own tropical island.

The "Britten Norman Islander" landing on a huge flat sand bed near Wallace lake.

Another animal which inhabits this haunted island is the grey seal. The technical name being a "pinniped." (Nadia, of course you know the name for seal in French is phoque but when we "Anglos" say the word it sounds like a bad word..fhawk) :)

The "Islander" leaving it's tracks demonstrating it's STOL (Short Take off and Landing) capability.

My co-workers during a magnificent sunset. Fritz (red hair- Swiss origin) painted with me (that's how I got this job) plus he tree planted. The next year scored me a tree planting job. Good ole networking. Fritz ended up being a director, etc. making documentaries mostly in Asia. It's where he presently resides.

A wannabe pilot eating up everything aviation at the Halifax International Airport.
The trek to the island is about 180 miles southeast of CYHZ.

The end of the island, a "spit." One can see seals at the edge. This had an eerie feel to it during dusk and night where the land met the unforgiving stormy Atlantic waters.

The Graveyard of the Atlantic

Nestled on the continental shelf is a constantly shifting sand island about 42 km long with it's widest point of 1.5 km. Since 1583 there has been 350 recorded shipwrecks. Plus there are downed aircraft. It's home to 200 to 350 wild horses. (Their population changes according to the severity of the winter). Birds from many parts of the world fly here and hundreds upon hundreds of seals call it home. Located near the mixing of two huge currents (Gulf of Mexico and Labrador) it makes for a dumping ground of floating debris. Yes, we found notes in bottles. Rumour has it, a chair from the Titanic washed ashore.

About 15 people live on the island year round and most are weather types. They launch radiosondes (weather balloons) twice a day. (Midnight and 1200 Zulu). Plus they observe weather. The Identifier is WSA or YSA. It used to be a position report waypoint for overflying airliners, but not any more. One has to have a scientific reason to visit the island. It's deemed a sanctuary.

My job for a month was to build an enclosure for a horse study. The best time to visit this island is August where advection fog is at its least. I rummaged through some old letters and I found one written to my girlfriend (now wife).

Here's some of my banter:

Things weren't going as smoothly as I anticipated. Zoe, the boss got on my nerves. I guess it was my chauvinistic pride. I didn't like her telling me what to do. She was the only one who drove the tractor and she is too picky with the construction of the fence. I didn't think I could last the trip.

Well the weather cleared and it's been sunny ever since. Finally we finished the fence and things are looking better. I even got to drive the tractor! Zoe started to soften up and now I'm getting along with her really well.

Sable island is beautiful! There is nothing but sandy beaches, grass, and horses roaming the island. It's hard to believe it's haunted. Sable Island is an amazing place in the daytime, but at night it takes on a different picture. I've had only a few good sleeps....

Zoe, in hindsight, was a curly blond blue eye beauty. She had a deep voice with a spunky disposition, but at the time she was ancient. She was in her early thirties! Too bad I can't turn back the clocks. :)

Being the young rookie the others certainly had fun pushing my buttons. They told me lots of ghost stories. Here's one:

Mrs Copeland....
A lady by the name of Mrs. Copeland had the misfortune to be shipwrecked there and in her half-drowned state was set upon by the n’er-do-wells that had set up shop on the island to take advantage of the shipwrecks. They tried to take her jewelry, but one large ring in particular would not come off her swollen fingers. The thieves cut her finger off to retrieve the ring and left poor Mrs. Copeland on the beach to die. Since then, Mrs. Copeland has made appearances to those who stay on the island, each time appearing as a bedraggled woman who has just pulled herself out of the surf and is cradling her mangled hand.

My "A frame" roommates taunted me now and again by saying she particularly looked for young men. They would go into a skin crawling chant..."where's my finger, where's my finger?" At the time it wasn't funny for a naive 19 year old, but this cynical old captain can now laugh at it. I think.

Transatlantic cable:

Years later when I was building time flying Navajos out of Halifax, one of our contracts was marine surveillance. There are submerged transatlantic cables which traverse the ocean floor from Nova Scotia to Europe. Fishermen drag their nets along the bottom and run the risk of snagging a cable. Our job would fly along the coordinates of the cable and find illegal fishing boats. They weren't suppose to be there. We would dive bomb the boat, take pictures to send to court and try to make radio contact with these guys on marine radio. Some of them only had junior high school education or less and you should have heard their language. Oh well, it was a great way to get three hours of Navajo time.

After the surveillance we would fly over to Sable Island and buzz it. You should see the seals wobble for the water. But what a minute, this island is deemed a sanctuary and one could not fly 1000 feet or lower over the island. Well then, I guess it never happened.

I hope I can sleep tonight...and not think about Mrs Copeland.... :)


fche said...

Doug, do you happen to have a pointer to the specific type of plane shown in three of the above pictures? It looks like a 2/3 scale of a modern twin otter.

From the Flight Deck said...

Fche. Opps, I posted too fast. Didn't proof read it well enough. The airplane is an Islander.

Daniel said...

lol, I would have loved to fly there. Get like a dune buggy or something else like that. Neat though !

Anonymous said...

Hi Doug!

Another great story Doug! I am quite jealous of you for when I was young and a horse-lover that was my destination of choice. :) At least I can enjoy it through your pictures!

Umm...I'm about to go to bed so I'll read the ghost story in the morning...seriously...

Is landing on sand any different than a regular runway?


cstclair said...

Doug - great post - I always have wanted to go to Sable - someday still - thanks for the peek - FYI we've been extremely busy at TWN rewiring etc for our switch to HD next month - it's why you've not heard from anyone (I rarely get a call anymore as the focus is totally on this project - however winter is weeks away - I'll be giving you a shout soon to plan a couple segments)

Cheers - Chris

Andrew said...

What never happened? Bet it could have been quite a view if it did.


From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Heather. Like any ghost story it's about setting to make it more believable.

There were a few abandoned buildings we visited during the day. Actually, the shifting sand engulfed many of the structures on the island. I remember going in the basement of one house. There would be no way I'd stay the night there.

In a way, the island is a huge cemetery. And sometimes the shifting sand reveals clues.

As far as landing on sand, no big deal if you have the correct tires.

The bigger issue is finding the island in the fog. And if the fog was there, the plane would not be getting in.

It only had an NDB approach.

Captain Doug

From the Flight Deck said...

Well Put Andrew!

Daniel. Actually most vehicles were forbidden on the island. That vehicle I was driving was sent back to the rig.

Daniel said...

Awww, now they fly out these http://www3.telus.net/linz/Main/By%20Small%20Helicopter.JPG with equipment. They still have ATV's and stuff out there I am pretty sure.

From the Flight Deck said...

Daniel. Yes, it makes sense to fly helicopters, but I'm not so sure about payload.

I was told no unnecessary vehicles were allowed on Sable because of erosional reasons.

Who knows? It won't be a place I'll visit again unless the cruise ship I'm on goes aground. :)

From the Flight Deck said...

Hi Chris. As a fellow Nova Scotlan, I thought you might like it. Maybe you can get out there doing a weather related story?

It truly is unique, and I must thank my lucky stars I had the opportunity.

It's amazing what is in our backyard. No wonder it's written on Nova Scotia's license plates....CANADA"S OCEAN PLAYGROUND. :)

Yes, we'll keep in touch. Good luck with all that HD stuff.

Andrew said...


you weren't by any chance fling on flight 1150 today?

From the Flight Deck said...

Andrew. No home cleaning for the boss's arrival. What's up with flight 1150?

Andrew said...

I heard it had to return to Calgary, something about hydraulics

S.O. Lukas said...


I'm surprised the media still reports these things. Transport's CADORS lists tons of occurances daily (not that it is a good thing mind you) and it rarely makes it to the public eye. Maybe a politician was aboard?

Andrew said...

ya its interesting, you'll hear about these every once and a while, but other incidence dont get covered in the press.

Anonymous said...

Re: AC1150

Unfortunately the press always does a terrible job reporting anything regarding the aviation industry at all.

I've personally witnessed several emergency landings in YYC, often with members of the press rushing to cover it. I'm unsure what purpose it serves aside from making those who are afraid of flying, even more afraid.

Captain Doug, what's the most serious issue you've had to deal with in the air in your career (AC or otherwise)?

YYC Dispatcher

From the Flight Deck said...

YYC Dispatcher and others. I here ya about the media. Plus the Discovery Show, Mayday, is doing a "number" on our passengers.

I was in Calgary when our flight from Victoria to Toronto diverted there when they encountered wake turbulence.

I could not believe the press coverage. You'd think it was another 9/11.

Then again, I couldn't believe how many middle management came out of the wood work as well. :)

As far as incidents on my flight, sure I've had a few, but they were all non events. Just the way I like them, :)

Anonymous said...

That Zoe? I saw a TV show on HD-Net couple weeks about about this Roberto guy who's a New York fashion photographer, he was photographing the horses on Sable Island, in 2009, I think. In one scene he's walking with a biologist and I think her name was Zoe. Blonde, and definitely in the age-group that would be consistent with your Zoe described above. Said she had spent most of her adult life living on Sable Island. Could it be her? The intrigue continues.

From the Flight Deck said...

Anon. That would be ZOE!!! A great and unique person. Doug