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Stranded 737 makes it out in time for CYXD closure

A “stranded” 737 A Boeing 7370-200 was an exhibit at the Alberta Aviation museum since 2005. This retired airplane was in service for Pacific Western Airlines starting 1979 and flew out of City Centre, CYXD, which closed on November 30, 2013.   In fact, the runways at CYXD were built in mind to keep the maximum performance and weight of this aircraft. The real reason the runways are the length they are is to give ample amount of runway for the airliner to be able to operate from that airport.

After Pacific Western Airlines folded it belonged to Air Canada until it was retired from service. The Alberta Aviation museum is staying at it’s current site but it was learned that the 737 would not fit in the property lines allotted to the museum, hence the plane has to be moved – if not it would have to be destroyed! It took volunteers months to make the plane airworthy and suitable for flight. Since the plane is valued at $1.6 million, it was worth it to obtain permission to move the plane.

It took volunteers just three and a half months to do something that would normally take 8 months or more. Then finally, the day before the airport was scheduled to close the airport, final checks were completed and the airplane was given permission to fly. In the afternoon of November 29, the 737 took off in afternoon light for the last time. It was a bittersweet moment for many.

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Top Ten Gifts for Pilots

What do pilots like?  Well aside from the obvious, airplanes, there are numerous things that you can buy for your favourite pilot friend or family member or simply any aviation enthusiast.

Coming up with holiday gifts can be tough but for gadget loving aviators, there are lots of options from small to luxurious. Most aviators love everything airplanes!

1. Aviator sunglasses

rayban aviator sunglasses
Ray Ban RB 3025 Aviator Sunglasses

With the sun shining in the eyes, protective eyewear in the cockpit is a necessity. Even in wintertime and on overcast days, it is so bright outside that you simply cannot do without sunglasses.  Aviators are important because they have thin arm bands that fit under the ear cups of the headset.  The arms of standard sunglasses are not compatible with the other cockpit necessity – the headset. Most arms are thick and push out the seals on the ear cups and are uncomfortable.

I have recently come across “Flying Eyes” brand eyewear, and I think they would be a great idea. These glasses have an adjustable cord instead of arms, that fits around your head and won’t obstruct your headset. The glasses also come with fixed plastic arms that you can use outside of the cockpit.

Other nice aviators are made by brands such as Ray-Ban and Oakley.  There is lots of choice out there.  Many are compatible with prescriptive lenses.

2.  Flight Paraphernalia

Do they have a sense of humour? Pilot paraphernalia is always a fun gift.
Do they have a sense of humour? Pilot paraphernalia is always a fun gift.

If you’re dealing with a pilot geek, things like keychains and ornaments are nice to give. You can buy all sorts of things here.

From t-shirts, to mugs, to wall and desk clocks to doormats, coasters, stickers to jewellery, there is a lot of choice.  There are hats, weathervanes, ties and license plate frames. I’ve even seen a runway mat beach towel. Seriously. If you think of something, likely it’s available with a humorous aviation twist.

The classic “Remove before Flight” keychain or t-shirt is always a great idea. I’ve got one, and a lot of my pilot friends do too.


3. Movies and shows about flying

Many pilots love any aviation-themed movie – think of the cult classic Top Gun.  Most of my pilot friends have a copy. Other favourites include Flight, Disney’s Planes, Ice Pilots, Arctic Air or the Aviators TV Show. The show MayDay is one of my favourites however only the older shows are available on DVD.



4.  Flight Bag

Jeppesen captain flight bag. Image from Pilot
Jeppesen captain flight bag. Image from Pilot

There are numerous choices here.  I have a pink flight bag from Powder Puff Pilot that I regularly use, but there are lots of nice ones (and not so nice ones) out there!  The pink bag is definitely a great gift for the female pilot.

When you are selecting a bag, basically you need a bag big enough to fit a headset, notebooks, an iPad, charts, maps, books, a water bottle and snacks. The bag should have an outside pocket for small items such as pens and a few outside pockets on the side, and an interior big enough to house the main items.

If you want to spoil your pilot, check out the Classic Flight Bag, made of hand-cut leather, it’s rugged, durable and very stylish.  The bag is just under $500 and features one large back pocket, two smaller pockets on the side,  and a detachable and adjustable shoulder strap.  Very nice quality.

5. Headset

Flying with my pink ANR headset from Powder Puff Pilot.
Flying with my pink ANR headset from Powder Puff Pilot.

Every pilot needs their own headset.  Again, I’ve got a pink headset from the same company (Powder Puff Pilot) which I like. There are lots of options available here, starting from lower end (under $150) to high end ($1000 and up). Consider how much your pilot flies and whether or not they are considering a career in aviation.   If they are a more casual pilot, a less expensive but still good quality headset would serve them well.

Again, if you want to spoil them the most high-end styles are the Bose and Lightspeed Zulu.  I’ve also read that Sennheiser makes very nice headsets and they are quite a bit less expensive than the Bose and Lightspeed. For example the Sennheiser S1 Passive headset is priced under $400.  The David Clark brand also has lots of options.

Higher end headsets will have better noise attenuation (they will be quieter) and have a better fit.  Lower end headsets often rely on thick ear cup padding to provide most of the noise buffering and some of them can be quite tight on the head and heavy, which is not great for long flights or regular, daily use.

6.  Foreflight subscription

The ForeFlight Software for iPhone
The ForeFlight Software for iPhone

Foreflight is one of the most popular flight-planning software out there, and it’s sold on a subscription basis. If your pilot has a iPad or other tablet, or an iPhone, they will appreciate the simplicity of this app.   In this app you have your maps (VNC and VTA), IFR enroute charts, instrument procedures, and documents (iPad only).  You also get full screen weather maps, airport data, plates, SIGMETS, AIRMETS, NOTAMS, real time map imaging with either IFR or VFR maps. There is less to carry around when you have this app!

The app is sold on a subscription basis, and a standard subscription for the U.S. costs $74.99 and a professional $149.99. The app now has updates for Canada, and a Canadian subscription will cost $149.99 for the year.




7. Kneeboard

Those most pilots will have a regular kneeboard, many pilots now use an iPad or other tablet for flight planning, maps and calculations and not paper.  An iPad kneeboard is a must have in this case, it keeps your iPad conveniently on your leg so it doesn’t slide around, and a comfortable elastic strap goes around your knee without the bulk.

A kneeboard makes a great gift. It was one of my first gifts I received when I started doing my pilots license.

8. Electronic Flight Computer

Flight Computer from Sporty's pilot shop
Flight Computer from Sporty’s pilot shop

Most student pilots use the E6B, a manual flight computer that does unit conversion, fuel burn calculations and calculates wind correction angle, density altitude, among many other things.

Consider getting them either a nice metal E6B, while it’s also a manual computer it’s made of metal and is a lot more robust than the paper one that comes with most ground school kits.  Nicer calculators like an electronic E6B are a great gift and priced around $60.  They do all the same calculations and more convenient and quick.



9.  Flight Review or training DVD’s

Almost everyone who flies, no matter if they are working on their license or already a working pilot, can appreciate a bit of a skill brush up.  Many manoeuvres are seldom practiced past flight school. For example, stalls, precautionary and forced landings or things such as steep turns which don’t have much use in ordinary flight.  But they are important and those skills need to be retained and reinforced.   A review DVD or book can give an entertaining take on the basics to keep their skills sharp.

You can even buy whole courses such as the instrument training course, and more. So if they are considering doing more training you can buy them an online course so they will have a head start.

10. Refresher course with an instructor

Not into books or DVD’s?  Another idea is to buy your pilot a refresher session with an instructor at your local flight school instead of an instructional DVD or book. Often times many pilots want to do this but never find the time, so they will appreciate this.  Flight instructors are always teaching and they know this stuff that most of us forget inside and out.  An hour with an instructor typically costs $60 or so and with aircraft rental it will be around $180, depending on the school.

For the aviation enthusiast? Consider getting them started in flying with a familiarization (fam) flight at your local flight school. A fam flight is a deeply discounted first flight lesson which introduces them to flying and counts towards their training. I surprised someone with a fam flight for a gift once – and the look on their face the first time they flew a plane themselves was so worth it!

Happy gift giving!

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Asiana Airlines Flight 214 Captain Concerned with Visual Approach

The fateful flight into San Francisco International Airport last July where the Boeing 777 flew in at 30 knots below normal approach speed and a dangerously nose-high attitude has been investigated by the NTSB and has released details of a hearing held Wednesday December 11.

The NTSB has just released new footage of the Asiana crash.  The captain of the Boeing 777 who piloted the fateful flight was flying manually. At one point on the approach, the speed of the jet dropped substantially, and the jet hit the seawall at an airspeed that was 34 knots to slow.

The NTSB’s investigation has uncovered that the captain of the jet was concerned and stressed out by the visual approach.  The approach was made with aid of the PAPI lights but without the vertical assistance that would have been provided by the ILS (Instrument Landing System). The captiain proclaimed that it was very difficult to make the approach in such a heavy airplane.  According to the Asiana air operations safety divisions director, the captain, an employee of the airline for eight years, Lee Kang Kuk, was an experienced pilot with no record or poor performance or disciplinary actions. The landing should have been no problem for him.

The fact that this landing caused such considerable stress is disconcerting, and many are wondering and asking the question which is so de rigueur these days – is there an over reliance on automation?

The NTSB has released new surveillance video of the crash.

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Instrument Approach in the Mountains

We came across this video this morning and could not resist sharing.  This is one of the most beautiful instrument approaches – and it’s in the mountains too.  The video is an approach into the airport in Queensland, New Zealand, to runway 05.   Not sure what airplane it is taken from, but the sped up video is mesmerizing.

This is exactly why we fly!

The airport at this resort town of Queenstown handles large jets such as the Airbus A320, 737, lots of small charter planes and heavy helicopter traffic. The airport is always listed as one of the world’s top approaches.

This is the fourth busiest airport in New Zealand in terms of passenger traffic.  It is only 1171 ft ASL.  Runway lights were only recently installed in July 2011.  The airport features only Precision Approach Path Indicators (PAPI) as a flying aid, so use of the airport is limited to within daylight hours only. Night flights are proposed but are controversial with the local community.

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Cessna 208 Caravan from Flying Wild Alaska lost in fatal crash

Sad news of a tragic crash in Alaska last weekend of a Cessna 208 Caravan, featured in the popular show Flying Wild Alaska. This aircraft was operated by Hageland Aviation which is a part of Era Alaska, the airline featured in the show.

Ten souls were on on board the Caravan as it was described by surviving passengers to have “dropped out of the sky” near St. Mary’s, Alaska, and out of those, only six survived.  There were four casualties including the pilot and a 5 month old baby.  The pilot of the Caravan was 68 year old Terry Hanson, and he wasn’t part of the cast of Flying Wild Alaska where the plane was featured.

The flight was operated in conditions reported to be low ceilings and freezing rain. The temperature at the time of the crash was -8 Celsius, or about 18 degrees Fahrenheit.

The weather conditions were so bad at the time of the crash it took rescuers over an hour to find the wreckage. The emergency locator beacon (ELT) was triggered during impact and helped air ambulance locate the scene.  St. Mary’s is a remote village in Alaska inaccessible by road. It is about 760  km (470 miles) north west of Anchorage.

The airplane was one of the many aircraft featured in Flying Wild Alaska, a show that aired on Discovery channel from 2011 to 2012.  The crash occourred on in the evening Friday, November 29.  The flight was enroute from Bethel, through Mountain Village and scheduled to land in St. Marys, where it crashed 4 miles before the town.  The footage of the crash was made available by the State of Alaska and is shown here. The image is disturbing and shows a hard touch down which appears to be consistent with a nose-down attitude. No details are known.

Cessna 208 crash. Image provided by the State of Alaska and from NBC
Cessna 208 crash. Image provided by the State of Alaska and from NBC

Alaska is truly the land of flying and has the highest number of pilots per capita of any U.S. state and Canada, where one of 78 residents are pilots. Bush flying is very popular in Alaska and can also be very dangerous due to the remote terrain and often IFR flight is often not available due to the steep, mountainous regions. Alaska bush flying was explored in the show, Flying Wild Alaska.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), this accident pushes the number of deaths from aircraft crashes in Alaska up to 35 this year.

The NTSB is investigating the incident.

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Planning a flight from Canada to the U.S.

Planning a Flight from Canada to The United States – a Brief Guide for Canadian Private Pilots 

Ever thought about flying to the U.S. once you are done your license? Or are you thinking about flying to the U.S. and don’t know where to start?  Find out what you need to do in this guest post by John Maxwell from Golden Horseshoe Aviation!

Disclaimer: This post should not be used in lieu of a briefing from a qualified instructor or as the sole source of information, as rules and regulations are subject to change over time.

Start planning early

While there are a few extra steps involved in flying into US airspace, some procedures of flight planning are consistent with flying within Canada. As with any flight preparation, it is critical start flight planning a few days before take-off.  There are several good online resources to help with the planning process, including COPA[1] and SkyVector [2]

Learn about US airspace before you go. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Learn about US airspace before you go. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

1.  Ensure that your documentation is in order (airworthiness certificate, registration, etc.).

2.  Obtain charts and airport directories prior to taking flight and have these onboard when leaving, When flying to the US, ensure that you have current copies of both the US airport/facility directory (A/FD) [3] and The Canada Flight Supplement on board.

  • Using a GPS and flight following will add extra layers of safety.
  • Be aware that when you reach US airspace the flight watch frequency that reports weather and other flight related information changes from 126.7 to 122.0.

3.  Call 1-800-WX BRIEF to check Notice To Airmen (NOTAM) advisories as well as Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR), These restrictions can move and change on a day-to-day basis, so ensure that you recheck them again shortly before your departure.

  • Just as you should check TFR, you should read charts to become familiar with military operating areas. Take note of their dimensions and floors. You may need special clearance to fly through these areas or you may be able to fly beneath their floors.

4. Register your flight plan with the US Department of Homeland Security and submit your manifest to eAPIS (Electronic Advance Passenger Information System).

  • NOTE: simply filing with eAPIS alone is not enough. You also must provide advance notification to Customs by phone.[4] Moreover, you will be required to purchase a US Customs and Border Protection Decal and display it on the outside of the aircraft to demonstrate your free has been paid.[5] Remember that you must be in a plane with Canadian registration, unless you have a FAA license, in which case you can fly a plane registered with the USA.

Circuit procedures at uncontrolled airports

Perhaps the most notable difference when flying in the US is the circuit joining pattern at uncontrolled airports. When crossing the border either into Canada or into the USA pilots need to be on a flight plan and need to be in contact with ATC and your landing airport. The landing airport must have border services.

Open your flight plan!

While flight plans in Canada are automatically opened according to the proposed departure time, in the US they are not. Therefore, if you do not contact your ATC (or flight watch) directly to have your flight plan opened, your landing will technically be “illegal” as you will have flown without an opened flight plan. You can either call your ATC or flight watch or radio them to have the plan opened.

While most cross border flights are uneventful, it is prudent to consult a certified instructor and review the latest regulations during flight planning.

About the author:

John Maxwell
John Maxwell

John Maxwell is the Chief Flight Instructor for Golden Horseshoe Aviation in Hamilton, Ontario CYHM.  He has developed and delivered both private and commercial ground school training programs. He is a seasoned Transport Canada Commercial Pilot, Class II Instructor, Multi Engine as well as an FAA Commercial Pilot, Multi IFR, ATP written. He has over 3300 total hours flight time including 170 night, 100 instrument and 28 Multi Engine. He has provided over 2400 hours dual flight instruction.

John is a career instructor. While many instructors are building time to move on to ‘get a job as a real pilot’, John enjoys people and teaching them to fly airplanes. John’s collaborative style enables him to build lasting and meaningful relationships with his students.

As GHA’s CFI and Chief Operations Officer John is responsible for all operational aspects of Golden Horseshoe Aviation.

Thanks to John for his article!

Helpful Resources:



[3] The A/FD can be ordered from

[4] U.S. to Canada (CANPASS at 888-226-7277). Canada to U.S (call CBP office at Airport of Entry)

[5] Decals are available for purchase here