The Cross Country That Never Ends

Once again, apologies for the long delay between blog posts. I departed for my american cross-country in the Harvard last friday Sept 30th and expected to be back on the Monday Oct 3rd with plenty of cool stories to tell. However, due to many many delays I did not get back until yesterday October 8th. That's over a week instead of just 4 days. So this blog post is going to be all about my misadventure down to the states and my unexpected holiday there.

So, first let's go over the original plan:

  • Day 1: Depart Moose Jaw to Great Falls,MT for fuel and onto Seattle,WA for the night
  • Day 2:Leave Seattle for Boise,ID for fuel, and onto Denver,CO for the night
  • Day 3:Leave Denver,CO for Billings,MT for fuel and onto Lethbridge,AB for the night
  • Day 4: Early morning flight from Lethbridge to Moose Jaw

                                                                             Us on our way to Seattle, obligatory cross-country selfie

So where did it all go wrong? Well the first day went off as planned with us flying into a blazing sunset into Seattle and flying in over the harbor for the airport. The next morning went well too with us successfully making it into Boise,ID around lunchtime. On our way to Boise my instructor and I chatted about different things and I asked if he had ever broken down while on cross-country. He said that he had on several occasions, and in fact broke down previously in Boise, ID. Talking about breaking down while on a cross-country probably wasn't the best idea. On our departure out of Boise for Denver, we took off and I retracted the gear and flaps and completed the post-takeoff check calling the gear up and locked, the flaps retracted, and the speed brake in. A few moments later I heard my instructor call "I have control" and I transferred control to him and was confused for a few moments about what I had messed up until I looked down and saw unsafe gear indications on our right main gear. What this means is that the right main gear is in an "unsafe" condition of neither up and locked or down and locked. The instructor brought the power back to keep our speed below the maximum gear speed and advised tower we would be remaining visual to troubleshoot our gear malfunction. Some of the possible scenarios for the unsafe gear indication include having our right main gear "hanging" in neither an up and locked or down and locked position, having our gear up and locked but the gear door still open, or an indication issue where the gear is up and locked but the sensor is malfunctioning. Not knowing what situation we were in my instructor selected the gear down and we got "three green" safe indications. The instructor elected to cycle the gear back up again and see if we could get safe indications. When he did this I was able to answer my question about why I had missed the unsafe gear the first time. When the gear was selected up the gear retracted and the lights extinguished indicating up and locked, but a second later the right main gear light illuminated again indicating unsafe gear. Unable to get the gear up, the instructor once again selected the gear down and with the three green indications we returned to Boise for landing.

Once on the ground we called the maintenance crew in Moose Jaw and asked for advice on the gear situation and whether or not we could troubleshoot further. The answer: the aircraft is U/S until a tech can be sent down to service it, and because it was a weekend the earliest that could occur would be Monday.  With nothing to do until Monday we spent the remainder of Saturday and Sunday exploring downtown Boise as well as going to the zoo! Since my instructor had been to Boise the last time he broke down on cross country, he knew all the good restaurants and places to go. Boise is in fact a very nice town with a nice downtown area and the only blue football field in the U.S. The pictures below are a few of the things we saw during our time in Boise.

When Monday came around we received word that they would not be sending technicians down to Boise as they figured it would take several days to troubleshoot and fix the issue and the cost would be too high. Instead they decided to try and get a flight permit to fly the aircraft home with the gear down. Another option was to send another aircraft and pilot down to Boise and have one pilot fly the broken aircraft home while I continued on my cross country in the second airplane with my instructor. By Tuesday we had got the flight permit but an early winter weather system over the prairies had shut down flying operations in Moose Jaw meaning that not only could they not send out an aircraft to us, but we were unable to fly into Moose Jaw. On Wednesday we were told to fly the aircraft to Lethbridge, AB since the weather in Moose Jaw was still shutting down flying operations.

                                                                                                       Finally leaving Boise!

                                                       The weather in Boise was fantastic, too bad I can't say the same about Moose Jaw

We made it safely to Lethbridge and got a hotel for the night anticipating flying to Moose Jaw the next day. However, on Thursday the weather continued to keep aircraft grounded in Moose Jaw and we spent the day in Lethbridge. Friday morning the weather in Moose Jaw was still bad but forecast to get better in the afternoon. While waiting in Lethbridge however, we realized the weather was closing in on Lethbridge with snow and freezing rain forecast. With that, we fled Lethbridge and went to Medicine Hat to wait for the noon forecast for Moose Jaw. At 11:45 when the new forecast came out, instead of showing reduced icing over Moose Jaw like the morning forecast, it instead showed moderate icing across the entirety of the prairies from Alberta to Manitoba. With that, we were once again stuck.

With the weather keeping us on the ground, and the realization that we were going to have to spend the long weekend in Medicine Hat, I got permission to have my girlfriend drive out and rescue me from Medicine Hat. On Friday night my girlfriend drove 4 hours from Moose Jaw to Medicine Hat, only to turn around and drive back with me, finally bringing an end to this never-ending cross country.

*The happy ending to this story is that my instructor was able to fly the aircraft into Regina on Saturday afternoon and wasn't stuck in Medicine Hat for the long weekend.

                                                                   A cool shot from the rear seat while up at altitude enroute to Lethbridge

                                                                   Frosting over once again up at altitude, decided to be punny.

Despite having spent a week flying all around Canada and the states, I only completed three of the seven requisite missions since all the flights with the gear down were "ops missions" flown by my instructor since they were under a specific flight permit.  That means this week I will likely depart once again for two days to finish up the last four flights. 

Even with the lengthy delay in Boise, I am coming down the home stretch of this course with only fourteen flights left and over a month until my grad date. I can't believe how quickly this course has gone by, and that I'll be studying for the Hawk course before the end of the year. Thank you for following along, and please share with anyone who is interested in aviation or a career in the air force. I love getting emails from people who read my blog and are interested in a career in the military, and I am glad that I can provide a little bit of insight into a life in the air force.