By Bill Evans, EAA 794228, EAA Chapter 266, Montreal
There is a remarkable fly-in to Casey, Quebec, each September. This year, it ran September 3-6.
Gord Larsen and I went on September 4. We departed in his STOL C-172 early and refueled at Lachute, Quebec. We made plans to meet Leo and Nora Nikkenen based at Les Cedres. But we met dozens of pilots new to us. Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by Sandrine Gressard. She made my day.
Since the demise of VOR and ADF, I primarily use ForeFlight installed on an iPad 2, and Gord had a backup Garmin GPS. Might be a Garmin 495. This Garmin needs to be plugged into the aircraft 12V system. The GPS battery is long dead. We also brought maps.
The wind was from the west but I did not find it rough. To make the trip in a day, we left early. I did not notice on ForeFlight that the drift was remarkable and we arrived close to what ForeFlight estimated. It was less than two hours. Leo had videoed our landing. It is here (captions all in French):
Once you fly north of Lachute, the terrain is increasingly rugged and difficult to identify when viewed at angles. The lower you are, the harder lakes and mountains are to identify.
The curveball: There is an AD on Cessna 172s to remove the fuse (below the aircraft battery) from the cigar lighter. Some owners downgraded the fuse to allow its use as a power source. We did not know the fuse was missing. The reason is that some pilots/passengers lit tobacco products and dropped burning tobacco embers on the carpet which started fires. If you’ve ever had a fire/smoke in the cockpit you know why the AD was approved.
COPA and the organizers put on food and memorabilia. Casey was a SAC emergency landing base. There remains a (hangar) floor which would house a B-52. The RCAF based CF-100 Canucks and CF-101 Voodoos there for NORAD exercises. The runway is about a mile long. Casey was very handy because NORAD had a B-52 base at Plattsburg and in the 1970s we often heard the towers passing off aircraft that were practicing bombing runs. The key term was Oil Can Alley.
There were perhaps 50 aircraft on the ground and operating that September day. Given the location, it’s an amazing turnout. The local town is Casey and everyone turns out. The airport has been developed some and the locals support and protect the site.
Even with maps and photos Casey is hard to identify. The 50-75 aircraft helped.
After lunch and buying a $25 coffee mug, we kicked the tires and lit the fires to return to CLA6 (Lancaster Airpark). There was an option to refuel again at Lachute if needed. The Cessna 172 might hold 5.5 hours fuel.
Takeoff was uneventful as was climb-out over the mountains. ForeFlight calculated the route heading home to eliminate drift and we flew it. Our flight plan was less than two hours
About 30 minutes after takeoff, the iPad gave us a warning of low battery. We plugged it in. No joy. We plugged in GPS. No joy. About 60 minutes into the flight, the iPad screen went blank. We broke out the maps and endeavoured to fly the ForeFlight heading exactly until we should cross the Ottawa River.
Now the Montreal, Ottawa, Kingston triangle is Mesopotamia — that land between the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers. There is also the Nord River north of Laval and the Rouge River through Lachute. Gord tells me the turbulence was noticeable on the return leg at all altitudes we tried and the clouds looked ragged.
Surely if we held our southerly heading we would cross a river and easily find our way to CLA6. It’s right on the river. But within about 90 minutes we recognized nothing we saw and what we did recognize was not what we saw. It mattered not; we are headed for Mesopotamia. Big rivers. We departed the Laurentian Mountains with a big river right in front of us. Ha! Success, we thought.
When we arrived over the river it was much bigger than it has been six hours earlier. It also had lots of barges and ships at anchor. Huh?
There was a town and it was at a junction to a navigable river. While my ancestor turned south on that river to their new home at Kingsey in 1832, I did not recognize it. Gord said this must be the St. Lawrence. At cruise speed that Sorel/St. Francis river junction is more than an hour east of our route. Surely the west wind had not increased that much. Impossible I thought, but the ships said “St Lawrence.”
We decided to follow the river east some and within 15 minutes there was a nice big paved runway in sight. There was a maintenance base and jets obviously undergoing maintenance at eight or so locations. One runway. No tower. We landed and taxied up to the tarmac and looked at the sign? It read “Trois Rivieres.” We were over an hour east of our destination. Jazz and Air Canada and others were there. Why not us? Air time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.
The only thing to do was re-fuel. As I recall we nearly filled the tanks. $300 in fuel this day. No doubt we’ll do this again regardless. Obviously we need to be greeted by Sandrine again.
We asked a few questions and re-tuned the comm. We drew an ink line on the map with five-minute intervals and prepared to fly it. That worked out very well. There were frequent islands, rivers, and highways at all our intervals. The time back to Lancaster was 1 hour, 15 minutes. The landing was uneventful.
Yves Chevalier (retired RCAF tech) helped us clean and re-fuse the now internal power socket, and verified it powered the GPS and iPad. It does. Thanks, Yves.
The Best Buy salesmen are a bit snarky, but they sold me a big 20,000 milliampere-hour lithium polymer power bank. It will power the iPad until the Second Coming.
- Know exactly what the battery life is of your navigation devices. If there’s no 12V socket, buy a spare battery(s).
- Failing that, get a power bank. Think big.
- Assume nothing. Have a way to test your 12V plug during pre-flight.
- If the battery of your nav device is depleting, make a better plan.
- Know locations, headings, and fuel of alternate airports nearby.
- While ForeFlight does pack an e-suitcase for your route, winds change and winds before takeoff may be wrong four hours later.