Dashing through the snow...

Nov 18, 2012

Most people live their lives striving for the next big thing. They start small and work their way up to bigger and better.  I, on the other hand, like to do things a bit different. Just over a year ago I was soaring through the skies on an Airbus A380.  I loved that plane more than most people could love a hunk of metal.  It was beautiful, innovative, and the largest passenger jet in the skies. It was my dream plane, and I was one of the lucky few able to call myself an A380 crew member. Passengers boarded in awe, snapping photos of every shiny new aspect of the jumbo jet. On a few amazing occasions I sat in the flight deck for take off and landing into some of the world's largest cities. Those are the stories that I'll tell my grandchildren.  
Love led me home to Canada, and because of my addiction to the skies I was quick to return to the career.  There isn't a Canadian airline that flies the 380, and I knew that my move home meant downsizing. I was okay with that. The Boeing 737 was still a great plane, even without the luxuries of lounges and showers onboard.  It took me to some much smaller, more calm cities.  
This week, I stepped back even further, doing something that I swore was out of my element.  I was off to train onboard a tiny Dash 8.  I'd be flying to places so small that I'd never heard of them before accepting this job.  As a member of an airline with 2 aircraft types, it's my responsibility to be capable of working on either plane, as reluctant as I was.  
Life is about new experiences, and who knew... perhaps I'd fall in love with the tiny (to me) prop planes and the distant north destinations it would take me.  The evening before my Dash day, I flew to Yellowknife as a passenger and spent the night in the hotel.  The was a rather unhappy baby in the room next to mine and it was a terrible evening in regards to sleep. 
I woke up early and bundled up.  I knew how cold it was going to be up north, and I was taking no chances of being uncomfortable for the entire day. I was going to be nice and cozy with long johns underneath my uniform, snow boots, a scarf, mittens and my massive parka.
I met the rest of my crew... the pilots and the flight attendant training me. On the Dash 8, you work solo as a flight attendant.  This was something I could barely fathom. If I was to work many of these flights I'd need to invest in a large supply of books to read.  
The morning went smoothly with everything running ahead of schedule for once despite the cold conditions. We flew to Gjoa Haven, Kuugaruk, and Taloyoak.  It was absolutely freezing cold despite all of my layers.  As afternoon approached the sun set.  It was a rather strange thing flying at lunch time and watching it grow dark outside.

  By 3 pm, it was pitch black outside as we boarded our passengers to head onto our next destination. I was nervous, seeing as how it was my first flight as operating crew and I'd be assessed on my performance.  Everything was normal until we learnt of of a flat tire. We were forced to get the passengers to disembark as we headed inside to wait for a plan.  When you are in Taloyoak, Nunavut, don't expect such situations to be resolved quickly. I was told that it is the northernmost community that is attached to mainland Canada.  They don't have many spare aircraft tires and mechanics sitting around.  We were forced to wait for both of these things to be flown to us all the way from Yellowknife.  It was a long evening filled with endless rounds of card games and waiting patiently.... there wasn't else much that we could do.  We wandered the tiny airport, trying to occupy ourselves in a boarding lounge with a total of 10 chairs.  I certainly wasn't on the A380 anymore.  
Eventually a mechanic came to our rescue, fixing the tire and allowing us to fly back to Yellowknife. Any longer and we would have exceeded our already extended duty day and been forced to spend the night in Taloyoak. Despite how exhausted I was and how cold the plane was on our journey back, it was a peaceful flight with the northern lights dancing in the skies around us. It was 2 am when we landed back in Yellowknife, 17 hours after we'd left that morning. The few hours of daylight had made it seem like an even longer day.  I was happy to return to the hotel, but a bit upset that I'd been unable to properly finish my training flight. Rather than go home the next morning, I'd have to return to the north and do it all over again the next day.  
I slept in as long as I could before housekeeping woke me up with their vacuums slamming into the walls of the next room.  I proceeded to get ready for my day, piling on the layers of clothing once again.  Shortly before it was time to meet downstairs, I received a call informing me that the flight was cancelled due to poor weather. I'd be going home after all! Myself and my crew were quick to change out of our uniforms and make lunch plans. We headed out into the cold, trekking to a Vietnamese restaurant. Nothing is better on a cold winter day than a bowl of spicy beef noodle soup.  We opted for a taxi back to the hotel to avoid walking back in the cold. 
A short while later we met to catch our airport shuttle and we were given boarding passes to return to Edmonton. 

Though it had only been a few days, it had felt like I'd been gone much longer. I couldn't wait to get home. My first northern trip had come with its share of mishaps, but overall it had been an adventure. Since I've yet to complete my required training, I'm certain I'll return to the north again soon!  


danhall1984 said...

Well... an interesting experience. Would have been nice to get it done, but at least you can say you've been there!

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