by Jim Hanson
Published in Midwest Flyer – August/September 2019 issue
I like to fish, and I fly to Canada often. There are so many great lodges in Canada, but my favorite is “Webber’s Lodges” at North Knife Lake, Manitoba. I’ve been going there for 26 years…sometimes several times a year (it doesn’t take much for me to be induced to make the trip!) Webber’s also conducts goose hunting trips near Churchill, on Hudson Bay. They are the leader in conducting Polar Bear and Arctic Natural Tours under their sister company, “Churchill Wild.”
North Knife Lake is located exactly 1,000 miles north of my home near Albert Lea, Minnesota. I usually fly to Kenora for Canadian Customs, then to Thompson (the end of the road). North Knife Lake is an additional 150 miles north, near the end of the tree line. The fishing is superb, the accommodations unmatched in the northwoods, and the Webbers take special care to meet the needs of every guest.
I mention this because I’ve obviously developed a special relationship with the Webber clan. A few years ago, they asked me to teach their granddaughter, Karli, to fly. EVERY kid in a remote area like that should be able to fly. I manage the Albert Lea Municipal Airport, and though I own a number of planes, I lease them to Accelerated Aviation Instruction (AAI) to conduct the actual training.
Karli came down for a month to stay with us, and learn to fly. She had her paperwork in order from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) so she could learn to fly in the U.S., had her written passed, and was ready to learn, and learn she did!
Karli was one of the best students the flight school ever had. She received her Private Pilot Certificate in hand with the bare minimum number of hours. The FAA Designated Examiner pronounced her performance on the check-ride as “possibly the best Private Pilot examination I’ve ever given!” He was so impressed, that when I asked if he would give her tailwheel instruction and the endorsement (something he rarely does), he agreed. Karli received the endorsement in only 2 1/2 hours of flight time. “There was nothing more I could teach her,” he explained. “I demonstrated each and every maneuver—full stall landings, wheel landings, crosswinds, taxiing…she just DID them!” I later gave her a high-performance endorsement on the U.S. license, as she would be flying her grandfather’s Cessna 180.
This year, Webber asked me about teaching a grandson to fly – Josh Wright. He had a little less than a month in which to do it. Like Karli, he would have the TSA approval completed before coming down, and he would stay with us. He came down on May 5, 2019, and immediately got to work. He needed a U.S. medical certificate – FAST! AAI made the calls…he could get in at Lamoni, Iowa, the next day, nearly 200 miles away. But if this was to happen, he HAD to get the first available medical. He drove down to Lamoni, and came back with a First Class Medical. Step 1 was out of the way!
The next day, Josh started flight training…not only the usual air work, ground reference maneuvers, and takeoffs and landings, but also night flight. Canada requires 10 hours of cross-country night flight time outside of the traffic pattern. His instruction was tailored to meet BOTH U.S. and Canada requirements.
With all of the extra time, Josh didn’t solo until day 6. He also had two days “off” due to bad weather, but put them to good use with ground school. He still had to take the FAA written exam, but had studied prior to arriving in the U.S. The refresher and practical knowledge for the cross-country planning must have helped. He passed the written exam with a 90% on day 5. Step 2 accomplished!
There was too much wind to solo on day 6, so AAI started dual cross-country training. Having demonstrated his ability to fly cross-country, Josh and his instructor arrived back at Albert Lea, where he still made his first solo flight on day 6. He did a good job. After all, he had 14.1 hours in 6 days, including night and cross-country time! Step 3 accomplished!
The next two days concentrated on knocking out the required cross-country time, but that was not enough. After resting, AAI put him in the Redbird simulator where he practiced his long cross-country, airport layouts, takeoffs and landings, and radio work before actually flying the cross-country. He also practiced some night visual work, and “wouldn’t you know it—he inadvertently flew into clouds in the simulator at night—having to resort to instrument flight to escape the unseen clouds.” (Sarcasm.) Valuable experience! Step 4 – concentration on the requirements – accomplished!
Having completed the requirements for the Private Pilot Certificate, Josh took and passed his Private Pilot check-ride on day 20. He had 51.1 hours total time, 37.2 hours of dual instruction received (including the 10 hours of night time required for his Canadian certificate and the hours in the Redbird-approved flight training device), and 6 hours of instrument time in the aircraft (some of it in actual conditions at night!). MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
Josh didn’t rest, however. His uncle is a former Chief of Flight Training for a Canadian airline, and gave him this piece of advice: “Get all of the night cross-country you can. We have people coming in for their Airline Transport Pilot Certificates that don’t have 50 hours of night cross-country.” In some places in Canada, there are few airports to make a cross-country to. At Thompson, Manitoba, for example, there is no nearby airport for night cross-country. The nearest lighted airport is at Gillam or Lynn Lake – both 120 nm away over roadless forest! Josh set about building flight time, and as a Private Pilot, he could now take along an instrument instructor, and log time in several categories – night, cross-country, and instrument. The hours were piling up FAST!
We looked for other experiences and ratings for him – opportunities to LEARN, not just log time? Why not get his high-performance and “complex airplane” endorsements while conducting the above? He could now log time in up to five (5) categories! Josh obtained those two endorsements in the next two days!
We looked at doing his multi-engine rating as part of his complex aircraft endorsement, but his application for the TSA training as a foreign national was for Private Pilot Single-Engine Land. It would take too much time to change it.
We looked at a tailwheel endorsement or a seaplane rating, but in Canada, any commercially-rated tailwheel or seaplane pilot can give those endorsements. It need not be a flight instructor or examiner. Josh’s grandfather, Doug Webber, could give him those endorsements once he returned to Canada. We also considered a glider rating, but while there would be time for the flight instruction, Josh had a deadline…he had to be back in Canada by May 28.
True to form, Josh didn’t rest…he flew the simulator (you can log up to 20 hours of the Instrument Rating requirements on the simulator, and up to 50 hours toward the Commercial Pilot Certificate), and he took the opportunity to conduct IFR training in actual conditions. On the 28th — ONLY 23 DAYS AFTER JOSH ARRIVED, a friend, Rich Skagerberg, flew him to the unique Piney/Pine Creek Airport that straddles the U.S. and Canada border in northwest Minnesota. They stopped at airports in the area along the way. Rich is “collecting airport stamps” to work on his “Fly Minnesota Passport.” Once he has visited all public-use airports in Minnesota, the Minnesota Office of Aeronautics will present him with a leather flight jacket.
As a friend of the Webber family, as a flight instructor myself, and as a long-time FBO manager, I am SO PROUD of Josh! He worked hard, and never complained, and did whatever task was assigned. He will be going to college this fall with his pilot certificate already in his pocket, and with a lot of experience.
EDITORS NOTE: Jim Hanson is the long-time manager of the Albert Lea Municipal Airport in Minnesota (KAEL). He has been flying for 57 years, has over 30,000 hours in airplanes (he is type rated in six jets), helicopters, single and multi-engine seaplanes, gliders, and balloons, and holds flight instructor certificates in each of those categories as well. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Accelerated Aviation Instruction is a separate flight training company located at Albert Lea Municipal Airport. As the name implies, the company specializes in accelerated one-on-one instruction for Private, Commercial, Flight Instructor, and Airline Transport Pilot Certificates, and Instrument and Multi-Engine Ratings, dedicating a flight instructor to each student. Accelerated Aviation Instruction can be reached at 507-363-9210 or 507-383-5710.