Arnprior, ON to Muskoka to South River, ON Canada
We enjoyed our stop in Arnprior and were airborne in the cool morning air of July 8, destination Muskoka airport (CYQA). We were not in a hurry, and took time to enjoy the beautiful sunny weather and cruise along the lakes and rivers that stretched between Arnprior and Muskoka - all the time keeping an eye out for moose that might be grazing in one of the many wetlands we passed over. The moose remained well hidden and after an hour-and-a-half, we radioed Timmins Radio to notify them we were approaching Muskoka Airport. As one would expect, Muskoka Airport is neat, tidy and well organized. We were looking forward to this stop as some family friends had graciously offered that we could stay with them for a few days. They met us at the airport with a spare vehicle that fit the whole 5intheSky crew, plus gear, as this was an opportunity for us to clean out the AirVan and cull some of the gear we had departed with.
It’s a challenge packing for any expedition, and 5intheSky had some unique challenges. While the AirVan has a decent useful load, by the time we had allowed for full fuel, 5 people, safety and survival gear, camera and computer gear, spares and supplies and a limited amount of camping and sporting gear, each person could bring about 20lbs of personal clothing (including toiletries and shoes). To avoid exceeding our maximum weight, everything we brought had to be as lightweight as possible, and there were many discussions on what should come and what should stay.
Non-Pilot Tip: The Useful Load of an airplane is the difference between the Empty Weight of the airplane and the Maximum Gross Weight that it can legally fly at. The Useful Load includes the weight of fuel for the intended flight, all people on board and any luggage and gear. The GA8 AirVan we are flying has a maximum gross weight of 4,200lbs and an empty weight of about 2,530lbs, resulting in a Useful Load of 1,670lbs. Fully fuel (87 gallons or 329 litres) weighs about 522lbs, so planning so that we can always fill the tanks to their maximum, we have about 1,148lbs for people and gear.
We were looking forward to taking a break, seeing some of Muskoka, doing laundry and generally relaxing. Our hosts were wonderfully accommodating, and we enjoyed real home-cooked meals for the first time in weeks. The 5intheSky crew went boating on the beautiful Muskoka lakes and enjoyed the sunny, warm weather.
We also took over our hosts garage floor to lay out all of the 5intheSky gear, and reduce it by around 40lbs, the main item being cut was the 6 place oxygen (O2) system we were carrying in anticipation of flying at higher altitudes, particularly in the Andes region of South America. We had flown to almost 13,000’ in Kluane Park in the Yukon and didn’t require the O2 system, but the height of the peaks in the Andes is a different situation altogether. It was a tough decision, but in the end we determined that carrying almost 30lbs of gear that we may or may not use (as we would still need special permission to land at high altitude airports in the Andes) just wasn’t worth it.
We could have all settled into the Muskoka summer lifestyle quite easily, but we had to repack the AirVan and move on, as we planned to rendezvous with some of Ian’s classmates from Queen’s University in Kingston.
Back at the airport on the morning of July 13 we were greeted by the Mayor of Gravenhurst who thanked us for visiting Muskoka airport and wished us luck on our journey.
We then chatted with a number of local pilots, including the pilot of a Citation CJ1+ business jet who gave us a quick rundown of the jet’s performance and then let the 5intheSky team take a quick tour. Samantha and Chris were set to jump ship on the AirVan and join the private-jet lifestyle, with the CJ1+’s 389 knots cruising speed, but cooler heads prevailed when they heard the hourly operating cost.
Check out the deluxe interior! You can read more about the Citation CJ1 Jet HERE
Our mission for July 14th was to leave Muskoka, tour around the Georgian Bay Islands and then fly to Orillia Airport for lunch, as we had heard there was a good restaurant at the airport and we had now become used to having more than one good meal per day. After arriving over Georgian Bay Islands National Park, we flew south to Penetanguishene and then on to Midland Airport (CYEE). From there it was a quick 15 minute flight to Orillia where we enjoyed lunch at ‘Tailwinds’ and viewing lots of floatplanes, all looking tidy and clean, as they don’t have to deal with the caustic salt-water environment we have in coastal British Columbia.
From Orillia we all wanted to spend more time over Georgian Bay, so we headed over to The Massasauga Provincial Park and from there flew over the thousands of islands Georgian Bay is famous for, northwards past Point Au Baril. We were enjoying the flying and the scenery, and debated continuing up the coast to Killarney, but opted to change course to the east and head to South-River/Sundridge Airpark (CPE6).
We again flew low and slow, this time along the Magnetewan River, looking for Moose and generally enjoying the scenery. CPE6 is a privately operated airport that is well maintained and well worth a visit. We landed on runway 30, an asphalt runway made with reclaimed asphalt from a highway reconstruction project that is smooth but with some loose material on the surface. Compared with some of the gravel strips we’d landed on it was no issue, and the longer, perpendicular grass strip looked in fine shape.
We filled up with fuel and met the airport owner, who graciously lent us a well-used Jeep to drive the few KM’s to town, where we enjoyed the shallow, warm water of Lake Bernard and bought groceries to cook dinner, as we had decided to camp overnight at the airport. It was once again a beautiful warm summer evening, and we took advantage of the courtesy bikes to bike around the airfield, taking photos and videos of our shadows as they got longer and longer as the sun slowly set.
The next morning we shook the dew off of the tents and laid them out to dry while we had breakfast, checked the weather and planned our flight to Kingston. We looked for airports to stop along the way, but ultimately decided to fly direct. We climbed a little higher than usual, as the late morning heat was creating beautiful cumulus clouds along our route, which also meant bumps and turbulence below cloud-base. Above cloud-base the air was very smooth, and Sydney and Ian took turns steering the AirVan between the puffy white clouds, which just never gets old.
Approaching Kingston from the north, we tuned into Kingston Radio and were surprised by the amount of local traffic. Once again, we had to repeat our call sign and type of aircraft to the radio operator, a situation that had become a running joke of sorts, but is understandable as there are so few Gippsaero GA8 AirVans flying around in Canada. ATC or radio operators are used to hearing aircraft types such as “Cessna 172”, however when 5intheSky makes radio contact it’s “Kingston Radio this GA8 Airvan, Golf-India-Papa-Uniform”. This is usually followed by a few seconds of silence and then “Golf-India-Papa-Uniform this is Kingston Radio, please re-state your Aircraft Type”. What was different this time however was, after clarifying what type of aircraft we were flying with Kingston Radio, another pilot listening on frequency chimed in to say he’d never heard of an AirVan either! We had a good chuckle and then focused back to setting up our approach into Kingston.
Non-Pilot Tip: When making a radio transmission to Air Traffic Control(ATC), on initial contact the pilot must state their aircraft type and call sign, using the phonetic alphabet. For example, “Kingston Radio this is Cessna 172, Golf-Charlie-Hotel-Zulu”.
By the time we got to the airfield, all the traffic had dissipated and we landed on runway 25 into a light wind blowing off of Lake Ontario. It was a hot afternoon, but lucky for us the Kingston Flying Club welcomed us with open arms and air conditioning. The Kingston Flying Club has been around for 93 years, opening its doors in 1929 to train pilots for their recreational, private and commercial pilots licenses and various ratings. The club is a registered charity, so all revenue generated goes directly back into the flying club. The flying club also allowed us to use a courtesy van for the time we were in Kingston which was of great help, as we needed to return to the airport a couple of times during our time in Kingston.
Landing in Kingston, Ontario, the 5intheSky team had logged 78.2 hours of flight time covering 7,932 nautical miles (14,690 kilometres) of the country while stopping at 66 different airports.