Kingston, ON Canada
We get asked a lot about the challenges of flying a single engine airplane around the world. Landing in Kingston, we had already covered 7,932 nautical miles (14,690 kilometres) and recorded 78.2 hours of flight time, landing at 66 different airports, and there were a lot of flying related challenges during that time. But a significant challenge that 5intheSky must deal with each and every day is finding suitable, cost effective accommodation for the crew. In northern Canada, outside of the main population centres, dealing with food, transportation and accommodation were at least as challenging as the flying.
Arriving in Kingston on July 14 was as close to nirvana as we had come so far, as we had a great minivan to drive (thanks to the Kingston Flying Club) and a two room “residence” to stay in at Queen’s University (yes, after flying across large, remote swaths of Canada, a minivan and university dorm room is actually close to nirvana!).
Ian graduated from Queen’s way back in 1987 from the MBA program, and was looking forward to meeting with some of his classmates for an informal 35 year reunion. Unbelievable as he doesn’t look a day older than 45! (editors note: this was added by you know who…). Sydney has accepted an offer to attend Queen’s for science (but needs a deferral to September 2023 due to her participation in the 5intheSky expedition) so she was interested in getting better acquainted with Kingston. To kick off the stay, Ian took the entire crew for dinner at the Queen’s University Grad Club, a place where he had studied and socialized while at Queen’s (and where the Tragically Hip had played to a small room of grads before anyone knew who they were). The Grad Club name sounds impressive, but is a typical red brick home on the edge of campus, converted to a pub and meeting spot, the interior of which was grubby in 1987 and doesn’t appear to have been upgraded since. Regardless, the memories of campus life started coming back and Ian was a little jealous that he wasn’t heading back to Queen’s in the fall of 2023.
Day two in Kingston and we enjoyed down time around town, then met up with Bob, Les and Wendy for dinner. We quickly learned that Les, a licensed private pilot and recently retired, has far too much time on his hands and was using a Cessna 172 in Microsoft Flight Simulator to follow us, and fly our exact route as we travelled across Canada - now how cool is that! We did suggest an airplane upgrade, which is much more reasonably priced in Flight Simulator than in the real world.
We had a great time catching up over dinner and hatched a plan for them to come out for a tour the next morning. The “bottle to throttle” rule in Canada is now 12 hours (i.e. no flying until a minimum of 12 hours since having a drink), so we agreed to meet up a little later the next morning…
Flying with friends
We met our friends at the airport and after completing the pre-flight inspection of the airplane and safety briefings, Sydney and Ian welcomed them aboard. (Although the AirVan is an 8 seat aircraft, we have removed 3 of the seats for the 5intheSky expedition, so we are limited to a total of 5 people on board). We took off and flew over the Thousand Islands area to Gananoque then headed northwest to the Rideau Lakes area, where a friend has a family cottage, before returning to Kingston. The air was smooth and the views outstanding, so thankfully nobody asked for their money back.
Back at the Kingston Flying Club, we poked our head into the clubs cavernous hangar, and looked at a beautifully preserved Tiger Moth, with its very low-tech airspeed indicator. You can learn more about the tiger moth HERE
Sydney and Chris went to the Museum of Healthcare, nearby Kingston General Hospital, and learned about different plagues and how they were treated - a history that is now being re-written. The museum featured artifacts and stories from healthcare during the world wars, old surgery and pharmaceutical kits along with exhibits on the first vaccines and how they treated illnesses. They even had an iron lung, a machine that stimulates breathing, the one pictured below being used by a hospital in Toronto during the Polio epidemic. The museum was built in the former residence for the Queen’s nursing program, so naturally there was an exhibit on the evolution of nurses and their training at Kingston. The museum was free (as all museums should be) and we recommend checking it out if you are in Kingston: https://www.museumofhealthcare.ca/
Samantha and Sydney, licensed private pilots and insured to fly the AirVan, had each flown portions of some of the legs flown, but needed some dedicated practice landing and taking off in the AirVan. As background, while they are both qualified and current private pilots, each with around 140 hours flying time, it was difficult to get insurance for them to fly the AirVan. In actuality, it was difficult to get any insurance to fly the AirVan around-the-world, as the aviation insurance market is currently hard, having taken a major beating due to the number of airplanes grounded during the Covid pandemic. As such, the best we could do was get them insured as pilot-in-command from the right seat only and only with Ian flying in the left seat. Not ideal, but we’ll make it work. The instrument panel in the AirVan is angled to favour a pilot being seated in the standard left seat, plus the flaps are more challenging to operate from the right seat, so we planned to head out for some circuits at Kingston airport for Sam and Sydney to get used to the configuration.
here was one other airplane doing circuits when we arrived, but by the time we were airborne off of runway 19 we had the airport to ourselves. Samantha and Sydney each got 3-4 circuits and did great adapting to a larger and heavier airplane than they are used to. We topped up on fuel and then taxied over to the Kingston Flying Club hangar to wash the AirVan.
After washing off the bugs, dirt and grime accumulated in over 8,000 nautical miles of flying, the AirVan was sparkling, and we left it in the sunshine to dry while we went into Kingston to tour the Kingston Penitentiary. For over 100 years the Kingston Pen housed the most dangerous criminals in the country and it’s an interesting and sobering tour through a former maximum security prison, with inmate graffiti and messages still written on walls, and former guards discussing their experiences while working at the prison. It was a maximum security prison, holding around 560 inmates, the youngest prisoner being 8 years old (back in the 1890’s). When the prison was first built the cells were only 2.5 feet wide, and were built facing away from any windows so that the prisoners had no access to any natural lighting. Eventually the prison cells were made bigger, and turned around so that the prisoners had larger (but still small) cells and could see natural light.
Kingston Penitentiary closed for good in 2013 due to aging infrastructure making the prison not-viable to operate anymore, but don’t worry, all of the guests were transferred to a new facility just outside of Kingston. It was almost time for 5intheSky to move on, after a fun few days in Kingston. We had intended to fly to Ottawa and visit the offices of SOS Children's Villages, however the weather did not cooperate with our plans, as low cloud, rain and high winds combined to keep us on the ground. After the storm, we looked westward and saw a really, really tall tower we wanted to fly by….