Thursday, 15 April 2010

Flying to Winnipeg, part 1

There I was, minding my own business, making plans for Toonik Time (festival in Iqaluit in mid-April), when I got a phonecall. A good friend was sick and going for major surgery in Winnipeg. Now, that's her story to tell, if you don't know her that's all you need to know. I made the decision to come to Winnipeg for her recovery time, or at least part of it. It took some help from friends and some trading of shifts, but I managed to get the time off to come to Winnipeg for almost two weeks.
As I was making plans, I found I had a choice between two flight routes. There's the one I always take, that goes Iqaluit to Ottawa, Ottawa to Toronto, Toronto to Winnipeg. (The flight from Ottawa to Winnipeg was sold out.) This flight pattern would mean taking off at 1:30pm and arriving at 10:30pm. My other option was the milk run (multiple stops in between) from Iqaluit to Rankin Inlet, then Rankin to Winnipeg. That flight would mean leaving Iqaluit at 9am and arriving in Winnipeg at 4:30pm.
Honestly, even with the early departure, I'd rather get in earlier... but there was a possible problem with the plan. Rankin is prone to bad weather. As in, the week before I was leaving, they had a blizzard that lasted 4 days. I knew I was taking a risk... and I took it anyways!
On April 8th, after being on call all night (soooo thankful the hospital wasn't too busy), I arrived at the airport just before 8am. The flight was scheduled to leave on time. I checked my bags and curled up with a good book, waiting for security to open. About 8:50, security still wasn't open, and there was someone standing by the gate nearby, so I went over to ask if there was a delay. And here's where things got interesting. First, I learned that I wasn't going through security, since I was going from one northern community to another. (Seriously??? There's got to be something wrong with this picture!!! Plus, I was so careful to pack my liquids in the tiny ziplock, and to wear the jeans least likely to set off the metal detector, and emptied all the change out of my pockets etc) Then I learned... there was a good chance they wouldn't be landing in Rankin, and that I'd end up in Baker's Lake until the weather cleared, paying for my own hotel because they don't cover weather-related problems.
Nevertheless, I left on the plane at the expected time,
In reality, a much smaller plane than I thought I would be on. Note the windows are below the wings, and there are propellors attached to the engines. Also, the back door doubles as a staircase. Anyways, we took off into beautiful clear skies.
Few clouds, no storms, lovely day! You could see for miles and miles, and the snow-covered landscape was gorgeous. As with northern airlines, we got food on every leg of the trip. I started to feel like I might over-eat. Except that it was all just light enough. First leg of the flight the meal was a muffin with crackers, cheeze, and applesauce. The next flight we got little snack bags of nuts or breakfast bars. And then... um, can't recall, but it was nice and light and enjoyable.

It wasn't long (about an hour) before we were landing in Cape Dorset and being told to get off the plane. Apparently they don't allow us to stay on while they are refueling (told you it was a small plane...). So we all got out (all 7 of us) and went into the small terminal and waited the 30 mins before we were ready to take off again. I was thinking, praying, focusing on getting to Rankin. If we could only land in Rankin everything would be all right.
Off we went, still on schedule. Can you see the propellor in this picture? Does that mean it's going pretty slow if I can capture it on film like that? Just wondering.

Next stop, Coral Harbour. Even smaller than Cape Dorset, we hung around in this little airport for 30mins, same as the last airport, while they refuelled. One man chose not to join us, since he was on his way to Winnipeg and didn't want to go if he might get stuck in Baker's Lake. This time I decided to ask the flight attendant what the weather was like in Rankin. Her response: 50/50. Which didn't tell me why we might not land, but did give me a clear picture of my odds of landing. And I kept praying we would land in Rankin.
Next stop, Chesterfield Inlet. I can honestly say that's the smallest airport I've ever been in. We ended up sitting around for over an hour in hopes of the fog clearing in Rankin so we could land. A teenager from the flight who was sitting on the bench beside me suddenly looked over at me at one point and asked if I'd like him to draw a cartoon version of me. He was planning on becoming an Anime artist at some point in the future and wanted to practice. I said sure, and he stood up, notepad in hand, and made a little drawing. I don't think I'd fit into the Anime world very well. Sweet kid though.
Finally we were ready to try flying to Rankin. Chesterfield is only a 20 min flight away, and as you can see, the sky is as clear as it's possible to be. I kept praying we'd land in Rankin. As we got close and started to descend, the fog was still quite low to the ground. To the point where it was a little scary to burst through and realize how close we already were to the un-paved, pre-runway ground.
What a relief to land safely, and just 20 minutes before my plane was supposed to leave for Winnipeg. Things were looking up! I had made the right choice after all in coming through Rankin. Or so I thought.

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