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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Early Morning Flight

Tuesday morning June 26th, was a normal day at Stony Rapids. Both the Turbo Otter and the Twin Otter were making flights to Selwyn Lake Lodge for Guest changes departing at 7:00AM. On route to Selwyn I spotted some smoke just East of track, so I called it into dispatch to pass on to the local fire center.
At 9:15AM, while completing my paper work, I was told there was someone to see me outside. I stepped outside and it was the local MNR officer, which I thought was to talk about the fire I had spotted. It was not!!!! He asked if I was Wayne and we needed to talk privately. We stepped away from the office area and he introduced himself and told me that I was flying him tomorrow morning (Wednesday). I said great, as I was not yet aware of that flight because normally I received next days flights at 8:00PM from dispatch.
"We need to conduct a Search Warrant tomorrow morning" is what he told me, and "we only have a small window in which to do it". I said no problem, when do we need to leave. "We need to be 108 miles from here at 6:00AM, and how long will it take to get there". I told him 1 hour. He said "great, lets be off the water at 5:00AM".
He also told me there would be 8 officers from the MNR and one RCMP.
So, I continue my days flying and planning for the morning. My routine is wake two hours before flight time, which will mean 3:00AM. Also not knowing if additional flying at the destination would be necessary or not I would take extra fuel.
The officer did warn me that the reason to get there early was to surprise the occupants in order to prevent confrontation, but should they hear us, be prepared for a quick departure
So, in my mind I am creating a mental picture of how this will work out, the GOOD, BAD and UGLY.
Wednesday morning I woke at 3:00AM, made some breakfast and walked down to the float base. I arrived at 3:45 to prepare my aircraft. Two dockhands arrived shortly after to assist with fuelling and preparation. The officers arrived at 4:45AM and we were ready to go at 5:00AM.
This time of year twilight sunset is around midnite and daybreak is 2:30AM, in an emergency one could fly all night.
It turned out to be a beautiful still morning and on route we discussed what was expected of me to ensure a quiet arrival. Also, for me, never having seen this place I was not familiar with the shoreline for good access. Also with a turbo Otter the words "quiet arrival" are not in the dictionary.
I will not mention the facility we went to (since this may well become a court case in the future) but it was a American Plan Lodge which had been established many years ago. I suggested to fly over at 4000 ft take a good look below and plan to get to shore as close as possible. And this is what I did. It also turn out to be a glassy water morning, mirror image and vary hard to judge elevation. I also believed that at 4000ft should the aircraft be heard it would probably be expecting to be flying to another destination as opposed to land at the camp. As I flew over and saw the site for the first time and I noticed what looked like a nice sand beach just west of the lodge which would have a rock outcrop approximately 30ft high, a perfect shelter.
I flew over and made a long turn to the North and in a few minutes turned South and started my decent from 4000 to land just North of the camp. I was still concerned about the engine noise, as you start to place the power setting into reverse the entire community knows your in town. I set up for a glassy water landing, touched down approximately 300 yds from the site and lined up for my beach.
MY BEACH ended up being all rock, so my initial plan had already dissolved, but we had very little options at this point. So, I pointed the aircraft in that direction and pull the power and feathered the prop 30 yds from shore. The engine and prop noise was limited and the prop stopped very quickly.
The next surprise was when the aircraft stopped it was 30 feet from shore in 2 feet of water, stuck on a few rocks. How will I explain this to the officers!!!!!!!. I did not have too. They were in the water and on shore in seconds, lined up and started the approach to the Lodge.
All I could do was wait. Then I heard the officers making their presense known to the occupants.
Everything had been a success, just as they had planned. After 4 hours it was decided I would fly out 4 officers, 2 guests and 2 workers and then return for the last officers later.
I will not go into the reason for the search warrant, but at the end of the day everyone was safe, work was completed and I had something to write about.

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