St. Paul Airlines Charter
Flights ~ December
oil sand, the Aleutian Islands in
winter, an active volcano, and an emergency air drop.
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ACE Air Cargo is a real-world air service based
in Anchorage, flying “rural routes” in Beech 1900Cs. They have a great web site. http://www.aceaircargo.com/index.html They also appear to be accepting resumes from
all wrong! These are the darkest days of the year in the Northern
and any self-respecting charter pilot should be flying south, not north! But we’ve been hired to transport replacement
personnel and supplies to northern Canada.
There’s some Big Stuff going on up there,
although we don’t hear much about it here in the States.
First off, there’s a lot of oil up
there. An exploding “synthetic crude”
industry extracts oil from vast oil sand deposits in Alberta, and
they’re prospering from rising
world oil prices. Secondly, and even
further north, diamond mines are suddenly the rage in the Northwest Territories. Everyone who’s watched the “Ice Road
Truckers” series on cable TV knows at least part of this story. After
that, we’re heading west to Anchorage, and out onto the Aleutian
for new pilots….
As usual, I’ve shamelessly borrowed a lot
of stuff from internet sources
in writing up this charter. Hopefully
this will give you some sense of the places we’re flying to, and
more than just symbols on the sectional.
The first legs of this charter are intended to be flown using
medium-sized jets, such as the 737-300 or MD-87. Beyond
PANC Anchorage, real-world carriers
favor turbo props like the 1900D or Saab 340, and low-altitude air
the rule beyond Anchorage. You are–as always--perfectly free to fly any
aircraft you like, in or out of our
SPA fleet and regardless of your rank. Some
of these legs are rather long. There’s
nothing wrong with breaking them up into shorter hops or flying them in
multiple sessions. But please don’t
fly them at “warp speed” using time acceleration. This
is strictly against the SPA rules. If you
don’t use FSACARS, please be as
accurate as possible on your PIREPs regarding fuel consumption.
Flight number format is:
For routing I used FS9’s default
navigation, and I’ve included the best
links to airport information I can find.
You can check www.simroutes.com,
too, or try Vroutes.
headed for Fort
and the heart of the oil boom,
to deliver a chemist and a pallet of the latest lab equipment. (Note that FS flight planner spells this as
“Ft McMurray:”) This is an uncontrolled
airport which is very busy at times. Not
the longest runway, either, but you can slip a 737 freighter in here
problem if you’re careful.
Then we’re off
to Yellowknife, NW Territory, and the diamond
boom. Yellowknife has had a boom-or-bust
and it was on the skids until diamonds came along.
Now its stock is hot again. A few
years ago a couple goofy geologists
convinced themselves that there had to be diamonds up here. Nobody had ever found one, but these boys
where convinced, based on the local geology and what they knew about
formation. It took a few years of
searching, but they found diamonds big-time!
The mines are all very remote. Heavy
loads have to be trucked to the mines via the “Ice Road”. We’re
going to lay over here for a couple of
days, and if you’d like to moonlight with air taxi flights, you can see
We’ve also got
for Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Whitehorse has a rich
history, although it’s a bit hard to understand what keeps it going
today. There’s some tourist traffic in
the main industry is its being the capitol of the Yukon Territory. It’s
also designated as an emergency alternate
landing site for NASA space shuttle flights, and sometimes serves the
purpose for east-bound trans-Pacific flights from Asia. Here we pick up two passengers and some human
remains, all bound for the Lower 48 via Anchorage,
cargo runs to Sand Point and Cold Harbor
in the Aleutians.
Seems the normal carriers are having difficulties of one sort or
another, and the grocery stores are down to weenies and beans. Then we have an emergency air drop for a USGS
team camped out on a volcano, Mount
Cleveland, at the far end of the Aleutians.
Ft McMurray CYMM
Stevens Anchorage PANC
Sand Point AK PASD
Cold Bay AK
Round trip via
est 600 nm
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For the first four legs, I’m setting up shop here. (737-300)
1 – KMSP to Fort McMurray, Alberta
CYMM Elevation 1211’ / longest
Approach charts at: http://charts.ivao.ca/CAP3/CYMM.pdf
CYMM -- Uncontrolled,
and reportedly rather busy. Watch out!
of Fort McMurray,
showing the Grant MacEwan bridge over the Athabasca River.
McMurray? Maybe the
map will help. Also see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athabasca_Tar_Sands
water is used to extract bitumen from the oil
sand. It is then upgraded to produce “synthetic’ crude oil and other
products. This is done by removing carbon and adding hydrogen to remove
impurities such as nitrogen and sulphur. The upgraded product is called
“synthetic” because it is altered from its naturally occurring state
by a chemical process. Synthetic crude oil is not the same as synthetic
vehicles. Synthetic crude oil is very similar to conventional oil,
just more work involved in upgrading the bitumen.
uses oil at the highest per capita rate in the world, with a
of 1.6 million barrels per day. A family of four consumes an average of
barrels of oil per year. Canada
is a large country with a cold climate, requiring large quantities of
for transportation and heating. Two tons of oil sand are needed to
barrel of upgraded synthetic crude oil. The synthetic crude oil leaves Fort McMurray by
traveling at 5 km/hr (the rate of a brisk walk). It takes approximately
3 days for
synthetic crude to travel from Fort McMurray
refineries in Edmonton
via pipeline. It takes 21 days for oil to travel by pipeline from Edmonton to Toronto.
2 – CYMM to Yellowknife
CYZF el 675’ / 7408’
Airport info: http://charts.ivao.ca/CAP1/CYZF.pdf
That inland sea you suddenly found yourself flying
you came in from Ft. McMurray was Great Slave Lake, the deepest
lake in North America and the
ninth-largest in the world. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Slave_Lake It’s
drained by the Mackenzie River. Though the western shore
forested, the east shore and northern arm are tundra-like.
southern and eastern shores reach the edge of the Canadian
Shield. Along with other lakes such as the Great
Bear and Athabasca, it is a remnant of a vast
lake. The East Arm of Great Slave Lake
is filled with islands. The Pethei
Peninsula separates the East
Arm into McLeod Bay
in the North and Christie
Bay in the south.
only community in the East Arm is Lutselk'e, a hamlet of
Reconnaissance Satellite named Cosmos
built with an on-board nuclear reactor, fell from orbit and
landed in the
lake. With all the ice and snow on the lake the satellite exploded on
causing its nuclear fuel to fall over the area. The nuclear fuel was
by a group called Operation Morning Light formed
with both American
Rock Formations Sedimentary
rock formations on Blanchet Island in Great Slave
NWT. These strata were laid down beneath ancient seas (courtesy Ron
Random House Inc).
East Arm of GSL photo by Dave Kay
For more on Yellowknife,
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Canada's diamond rush
Updated September 20, 2007
There was the gold rush in the late-19th century in the Yukon
when tens of thousands of stampeders headed north to Dawson City
to make their fortunes. Now it's diamonds, first in the Northwest Territories, now in the new territory of Nunavut.
From a standing start in 1991, Canada
now ranks in the top three diamond producers in the world in terms of
Canada's quest for diamonds
looks like one of the biggest stories in Canada for the next 10, 20
and beyond. The first diamond discovery in 1991 happened at Point Lake
near Lac de Gras in the Northwest Territories,
some 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife.
Two diamond mines have since come into production in the area:
- The Ekati,
about 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, opened in 1998. Ekati is
owned by Australian mining conglomerate BHP Billiton (80 per cent) and
by prospectors Charles Fipke and Stewart Blusson (20 per cent).
- The Diavik,
about 100 kilometres southeast of Ekati, opened in 2003. Diavik is
owned by Diavik Diamond Mines Inc. (60 per cent), a Yellowknife-based
subsidiary of Britain's
Rio Tinto PLC and Toronto-based Aber Diamond Corp. (40 per cent).
Canada's third and Nunavut's
first diamond mine, Jericho,
is about 400 km northeast of Yellowknife.
The mine, owned by the Toronto-based Tahera Diamond Corporation,
in August 2006.
A fourth diamond mine, Snap Lake-4
in the Northwest Territories about
kilometres northeast of Yellowknife,
is expected to begin production in late 2007. It is owned by De Beers.
Statistics Canada says that between
2002, 13.8 million carats have been mined, and the diamonds – precious
of pure carbon – are worth $2.8 billion. "This is roughly a
bag of ice each day for five years, with each bag worth $1.5 million,"
Statistics Canada paper says.
Even better, Canada's
diamonds have gained a world reputation for quality. They are also
"clean" in that they are not used to finance terror, war and weapons
as they are in parts of the world such as Sierra
Leone and Angola.
At the end of 2003, Canada
was the world's third-largest producer of diamonds, providing 15 per
the world's supply. The top two diamond producers are Botswana and Russia.
Canadian diamonds not only are
clean, as in not being "dirty diamonds" or "blood
diamonds," they are actually rather wholesome-looking, each etched with
speck of polar bear as a trademark. They're also fashionable, as when
teen singer Avril Lavigne attended the MTV Awards in New York in
2003, wearing $50,000 worth of
The supply of Canadian diamonds is
not expected to diminish any time soon. Ekati, Diavik, Jericho
Lake are expected
to keep producing the
best diamonds in the world for the next 18 years. By then, of course,
by the prospecting, claims and permit action in the Canadian North,
diamond mines will have come on line, probably lots more.
The intense diamond activity
produces more than diamonds. Many ancillary activities spin off the
action, such as non-residential construction, transportation in the
well as Arctic and sub-Arctic
projects. No other pursuits – not gold, not pipelines – promise more
excitement and riches than the production of diamonds in the vast
the Canadian North.
This means high-income jobs, many
of them permanent, not just smash-and-grab projects. Workers directly
in diamond mining in the North increased from 90 to 700 between 1998
Recent figures say diamond-jobs are nearing 2,000 in early 2004.
The average salary is about $63,000,
with nearly a third of the jobs – in some regions, nearly 80 per cent –
aboriginals. Trained diamond cutters – many in Canada
from Armenia, Israel, China
– command salaries above $100,000.
A Globe and Mail report in
February 2004 referred to "a new wave of diamond
lust" in the Canadian Arctic, reporting that prospecting companies have
laid claim to more than 70 million acres in the Northwest
Territories and Nunavut.
The newspaper said the most dramatic increase in diamond action is in Nunavut, where
number of prospecting permits jumped to 1,518 in 2004 from 190 in 2003.
The lure of diamonds has ignited a
boom that is the talk across the North. Skilled tradesmen are in short
in places such as Yellowknife,
as top tradesmen are hired away to work at diamond mines. The ripple
resulted in hikes to an already high cost of living, with low vacancy
high rents. A basement apartment in Yellowknife
can fetch $1,500 a month.
Yellowknife Mayor Dave Lowell said
in 1998 that the diamond rush might have saved Yellowknife. "Quite simply, it is our
said. "We'd be going into quite a recession if it wasn't for the
Beginning on Dec. 1, 2003,
companies had a month to apply for prospecting permits. There were
round-the-clock line-ups at offices in Yellowknife
and Iqaluit. It costs about 10 cents an acre to register a claim, $1.50
an acre to stake a claim. With 70 million acres involved, this could
quickly. To speed things up, especially in the brief periods of
winter, some claim stakes have been dropped from helicopters.
SPC 71203 Leg 3 – CYZF to
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory
CYXY el 2317’ / 9480’
A better history
Whitehorse in 2002.
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SPC 71204 Leg 4 – CYXY to
PANC 152’ / 11,584’
know…Ho-hum…Another flight to Anchorage. Sorry gents, but it just seems to be on the
way to 50 percent of everywhere!
info at: http://www.airnav.com/airport/PANC
Another great choice: This is Milton Shupe’s Dash
7-100—an FS9 freebie from AVSIM. This is
the Air Greenland livery, and the planes are used extensively by that
These days they write their name in English, however.
World War II forced
the American military to learn
the Aleutians--how to conduct
and how to fly there. This booklet was written by a navy meteorologist
them well, to help pilots cope with some of the worst flying weather in
North America, if not the world.
This entire historic
document is available in PDF
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by Jill Smith…
My long flying day was
coming to a close. I was flying over Cold Bay
Alaska, my home
base, with a plane load full of eight Dutch Harbor
high school boys and their coach. I was flying a Piper Navajo Chieftain
is a ten seat airplane with two 350 horsepower turbo-charged engines,
with prop and windshield heat to remove and/or prevent ice and de-ice
As I crossed Cold Bay, I called my base on
our company frequency to check the weather. I spoke to Jamie, our
manager, head dispatcher and my housemate in our company-shared
was staying at the office because I was still out on this flight. I was
way from Dutch Harbor, Unalaska (in the Aleutian Islands) to Sand Point
Popof Island in the North Pacific ocean) to deliver these boys for a
game the next morning. Jamie informed me that Sand Point was clear and
with freezing temperatures at the surface, not surprising as it was
Ah, that was good news. It was also beautiful at Cold Bay.
I could see for miles.
As I am descending
through the clouds, I check on the ASOS at Sand Point. It says 4800
broken. No problem—my first altitude I'm descending to is 4300 feet, so
should be clear and be able to make a visual approach. As I'm
through the clouds, it is getting darker out and I use my wing light to
for ice buildup. Yup, there is some, about a quarter inch. Wow.
No problem, I hit the de-ice
boots and look again. Nothing
happened. The boots didn't inflate. I hit the de-ice boot switch a
as I'm watching. Again nothing happens. Hmm…I don't like this. It's
time to be
out of this ice. I expedite my descent and level off at 4300 feet.
Unfortunately, I'm still in the clouds. I proceed to the initial
(IAF) and then turn outbound to go to the procedure turn (there aren't
radar services out on the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutians at low
you have to always do the full approach with the procedure turn). Now I
descend to 4000 feet until I'm five miles outbound from the IAF. I get
altitude and I'm still in the clouds. Great. The ice is still there but
thankfully not building as fast. I hit the five mile point heading for
procedure turn and now descend to 3000 feet. I'm still in the
is setting in. Oh, man… I turn inbound now. Down to 1900 feet and still
clouds. What is going on here?! It was supposed to be clear and then
feet broken! At the five-mile mark inbound, I start down to
I don't believe this. I'm not clear of the clouds yet and now I'm at
Keep going to the missed approach point, maybe the airport is clear. As
flying along, I listen to ASOS again—thankfully the number two comm
already set to that frequency. Ceiling 900 feet! How did that happen?
approach point—I don't see anything—get out of there!
Smith, as published at: http://www.montereybay99s.org/jsmith.html Go to the web site and read this entire
account, plus a few others about Jill’s Alaska
SPC 71205 Leg 5 –PANC to
Sand Point PASD el 21’ / 5213’
No ILS. VFR conditions average 3 hrs
Airport Info: http://www.airnav.com/airport/PASD
Info about Sand
And this is
interesting, although it has nothing to do with our charter: http://www.sailwx.info/shiptrack/shiplocations.phtml?lat=55.33670&lon=-160.50170&radius=500
these parts is provided by PenAir, formerly Peninsula
Airways. They have an interesting fleet,
including a Goose and two Saab 340s. Fleet photos and info at: http://www.penair.com/index.htm
Sand Point in winter
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Beach in Sand Point, Alaska.
SPC 71206 Leg 6 – PASD to
PACD el 96’ / 10,415’
More on Cold Bay: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_Bay
The building below is the city hall &
And if all this
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the tough part of this charter…
SPC 71207 Leg 7 –PACD and
back again! el 96’ / 10,415’
Ash plume from Mount Cleveland (May 23, 2006), photographed by
Williams onboard the International Space Station. Williams was first to
the eruption, even before the Alaskan Volcano Observatory. Also note
bank on the north side of the island.
There’s now a
Geological Survey team camped out at Mt. Cleveland,
measurements and sunbathing. They’re
having a great time, but have run low on beer and Kingsford charcoal
desperately need an air drop. Our job is
to find Mt.
their camp, and push
some crates out the door at the right time. This will all be pretty
easy if the
weather’s good, which it probably won’t be.
off from Cold
and fly to Nikolski IKO. (GPS routing
only in FS9.) Over-fly IKO, then come to
heading 255 deg. and descend to 6,000 ft.
show up on your GPS using
the 35 mile range. The image below is
from Google Earth. The airport icon at
the far right is Nikolski IKO. Use this image and the photos that
locate the drop area. The pin and
NASA icon show the eruption site. The
survey team is camped on a low saddle of land between the island’s
summit and the eruption site. Exact GPS
coordinates for the volcano are: 52*49’24”N, 169*56’51”W.
and the base camp, make your drop flying as low and slow as possible. This means heading into the wind if you can. Once the drop is complete, return to Cold Bay.
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than you may want to know…
See these links:
Mount Cleveland is
an active stratovolcano that forms the western half
Island in the
central Aleutian Islands
of Alaska. The Alaska Volcano Observatory currently lists Cleveland as
Aviation Color Code ORANGE and
Volcanic-Alert Level Advisory, meaning a small ash eruption is expected
underway, with the ash plume(s) not expected to rise above 25,000ft
level. This symmetrical volcano is one of the most active of the
the Aleutians and has been the site
numerous eruptions in the last two centuries; the most recent eruption
in 2005, although it has spewed numerous clouds of ash since then, most
recently on August 24, 2006. In 1944, a U.S. Army serviceman was
killed by an eruption from Mount Cleveland, the only known
fatality in the Aleutian Islands. …
elevation of 1,730 m (5,676 ft.), this volcano is the highest in the
Four Mountains group. Carlisle
Island to the
north-northwest, another stratovolcano, is also part of this group.
feeds eruptions of ash and lava from Mount
is generated by the northwestward movement of the Pacific Plate beneath
North American Plate.
Approaching the Islands of Four Mountains.
Will the real volcano please belch?
The survey team’s base camp is in the
saddle below the active volcano, which actually looks pretty tame here.
Lining up for the drop.
Flaps at 66%, 110 KIAS.
area but too high. We don’t want the burger patties and brots going
The copilot went aft to push stuff out the
haven’t seen him since.
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cowboys! I hope you all enjoyed
yourselves and found a few challenges along the way.
Happy holidays, and see you in January! (We
may be starting from Cold
Gwen Brogmus SPA 270