I’m the kind of guy who’s not scared to try new things. When I would fly my RC plane, I always thought how nice it would be to sit behind the controls and have freedom. My uncle bought me an intro flight in a Cessna 150 at a local flight school, and at the age of 17, I had my private pilot’s license. Just after my 18th birthday, I had my commercial license and a seaplane rating. Not long after, I started giving taildragger training. A pilot I was training put me in touch with an owner of a Piper J-3 Cub that was based in the Yukon. He needed it to be ferried back home to Quebec, some 3,000 nm away. One thing leads to another in the aviation world—you never know what might come up next—and I was on an airliner to Whitehorse, Yukon.
August 5—Touchdown at Whitehorse Airport in Air Canada’s Embraer 190. I walked over to the Cub. C-FPPK was its registration, serial number 18527. The engine was a 90 hp Continental, and wing tanks extended endurance to five hours. I looked through the log- books and flew touch-and-goes. I found an empty room near the pilots’ lounge and put my sleeping bag on the floor.
August 6—I swung the prop a few times, and the Continental came to life. After a bumpy ride through the mountains, my first stop was the dirt strip at Teslin. I filled up my extra five-gallon jerry can and strapped it into the front seat. It was raining, and the visibility was greatly reduced. I had to follow the Alaska Highway at a very low altitude toward Watson Lake. After fueling up, I crossed the border into British Columbia and flew over Toad River. I landed on a little grass strip and camped in my tent beside the Cub.
August 7—It was a calm, early-
morning ride to my fuel stop in Fort Nelson. I flew over my relatives’ home in Alberta. We met at their local airport, and I stayed for a two-night visit.
August 9—I reached Camrose, Alberta, when the weather turned bad and thunderstorms formed to the east. I spent the night on the couch in the small terminal building.
August 10—The weather wasn’t good enough to fly, so I stayed in Camrose.
August 11—I stopped at Provost for fuel. Right after departure, the top bracket of my left side windows let go, and the windows fell inside the plane. I landed again, and the local guys helped me reattach the bracket with rivets. I flew east toward Corman Air Park near Saskatoon.
August 12—The winds were really blowing, and I was cruising at 90 knots instead of 60 knots. I ended up staying in Regina for three nights because of really bad weather systems moving slowly east.
August 15—The winds were still blowing, but I wanted to head east. The forecast showed winds of 15 knots gusting to 20 knots, but when I got to Brandon, Manitoba, it was 25 gusting to 32 knots! After an exciting landing, taxiing was a real workout. This is when it’s very useful to know how to place your elevator and ailerons into the wind! I put the airplane in a hangar and slept on the flight school’s couch.
August 16—At Lyncrest Airpark, a retired Air Canada pilot let me try his Fleet Canuck, and another pilot flew me in his Ercoupe to his runway for supper.
August 17—I took off from the wet grass for Ontario. First stop was Kenora and then Thunder Bay for some fuel. At Marathon, I camped in the terminal.
August 18—Ceilings were around 500 feet. But I took off, wanting to make progress, and it eventually cleared up. I landed at Hearst Air’s dirt runway where they operate fishing camps. After fueling, I made it to Kirkland Lake where it was pouring. The terminal was locked, the phone didn’t work, and there was no place to eat. Night was coming, and I had just enough time to take off for Rouyn-Noranda. It was still pouring, but at least I found a place to eat and sleep.
August 19—The ceilings were low again, but the visibility was good. I made it to Val d’Or, where I met a pilot and stayed at his place.
August 20—The second-to-last leg was a stop in Mont-Laurier, and the final leg brought me to Beloeil, Quebec. I arrived at 1:30 p.m., and was greeted by many people and reporters. The plane’s owner was really happy to see his plane at his local airport!
An adventure like the one I had is worth a lot more than the 60 hours it took. I experienced all kinds of weather and real-life decision making. It even led me to another job—I returned to Hearst Air for two months working on their dock and building hours in a de Havilland Beaver. As I said, one thing leads to another in aviation—you never know what might come up next.