Friday, December 01, 2006

Not so sunny Okanagan

Commonly reffered to as the "Sunny Okanagan" Kelowna, British Columbia rarely has snow during the winter and enjoys scorching hot summers. I was fortunate to be able to visit Kelowna while I was out in Calgary for training but when I broke out of the clouds I was about to see something I have never before witnessed here. There was a few inches of snow on the ground, temperature was -15 Celsius and the winds were gusting out of the north at 25 knots !
Now to understand my surprise I had lived in Kelowna for two years with a car that ran pure water through the radiator and I never had to worry about it freezing in the winter. Reason being was that the water pump was shot and if I used anti-freeze the extra viscosity would cause the fluid to leak out. Money was tight back in those days so thank goodness for the warm climate. The only downside to Kelowna in the winter is that you tend to get valley cloud which sometimes persists for as long as a week. Its when cool air sinks in the valley and moisture from the lake cause a cloud deck to form around 1000 feet agl. Its only a few thousand feet thick and usually sky clear on top. You can drive to Big White enter the cloud and be on top as you reach the hill to ski in sunshine.

Another aged 727 sitting on the ramp at Kelowna Flightcraft. I am not sure if this one has kicked the bucket or is just waiting for an overhaul. KFC has a huge maintenance facility so they can bring back airplanes from the dead. They do lots of contract maintenance for other airlines such as Harmony. The also have the Purolator (Canada's version of FedEx which is owned by Canada Post) contract and have aircraft flying all across Canada at night.

Taxing for departure off Runway 34 (used to be 33 when I used to fly here). We had a flow time into Vancouver so we taxied nice and slow because they will not give you an IFR release till your time is up. You can see the wind blowing the snow around and the whole time I just can't believe the weather here.

FL240 direct BOOTH intersection setting up for the arrival landing the 08's in Vancouver. I didn't think there would be any opportunity to see the mountains as a major low was just to the south and snow had just stopped in Vancouver. But thankfully I was allowed one or two shots of the snow covered peaks. When we landed in Vancouver there was one taxiway open and one entrance and exit to the aprons for the scheduled airlines. The ground controller sounded a little frazzled as he should because he was not able to use the standard operating procedures and had to work on the fly.

Since most of my flying is in Eastern North America we are usually cleared on pre-defined and preffered IFR routings. So basically you are always on a highway in the sky and usually never get a short cut till away from the big centers such as the NYC area. Well my short stint out here in the west was such a difference from my ordinary flying. We filed direct to the IAF (initial approach fix which is about 10 miles from the airport) on a 250 mile leg and got our flight planned route right on take off ! Also you would hear the ATC asking people when they check in on his frequency what they want for a fix to go to ! Hell in Toronto you don't even know what runway you will get till they give it to you 30 miles out. One thing with the preffered routings though is that you always know what you are going to get so you can save the flight plan's in the GPS to load up. All in all it was a great time out west for the short time I was there.

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