Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day, International

Promises, Promises

As tears still streamed down her face, I assured The Bear that we would return. It was May 2017 and we had just completed our first international flight to Toronto only to learn that the Toronto Zoo was closed due to a strike. It never occurred to us to check beforehand. Who ever heard of striking zookeepers?

It was a promise that was easy to keep. What pilot could resist the allure of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport?

No Thank You, I'll Take the Long Way Around

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
15 Jun 2018 N21481
SDC (Sodus, NY) - CYTZ (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
1.5 1796.6

As on our previous visit, I filed via AIRCO to LINNG, then direct CYTZ to reduce flight time over Lake Ontario. Buffalo Approach offered a direct shortcut across the lake, but doing so would have resulted in an early arrival for our date with Canadian customs and increased the distance flown over open water. Neither of these outcomes were desirable, so I declined the shortcut.

"Turn direct destination after crossing LINNG," instructed the Buffalo controller, his tone underpinned by an unspoken "whatever, suit yourself" sentiment.

Haze veiled the Toronto skyline until we were a few miles out. With a caution about wake turbulence issued by City Tower, we entered the pattern for Runway 8 second to land behind one of Porter's ubiquitous Dash 8s.

We followed the small airliner on a right base, but swung wide of the final approach course to delay our arrival when City Tower slipped a Cessna Skylane in front of us for a low approach.

Once cleared to land with the sun at our backs, the view of Toronto's waterfront skyline was breathtaking.

We waited on the ramp momentarily for a helicopter to launch before proceeding to the Porter FBO. Porter charges $60 CAD/night for overnight parking. The other FBO on the field, STOLPORT, charges the same fee. I had investigated flying into Oshawa Executive Airport, situated east of the Toronto Zoo. Surprisingly, for a more rural airport, Oshawa's overnight parking fees were $100 CAD/night, making Toronto's downtown airport more cost effective.

Welcome to Toronto!

With a quick phone call to Canadian Customs, we were welcomed to Canada for the weekend.

This time, there would be no tears. This trip was all about making my little girl happy. The zoo would be open and waiting for us the next day.

Of course, the night before we departed, we learned that the giant pandas were relocated to Calgary at the end of March. That was disappointing, but not enough to dampen our spirits (literally or figuratively).

My highly experienced ground crew took care of the Warrior's canopy cover.

As we bundled up the Warrior for a two night stay on the island, a steady stream of Porter Dash 8s planted themselves on the runway nearby, one of which stopped behind us and waited at the edge of the ramp for an available gate.

I may not be able to talk them into ascending the CN Tower, but it sets a nice scene for pictures.

Island bound, the airport is connected to the mainland via either a 90 second ferry ride or a tunnel. We used the tunnel on our last visit.

To change things up a bit, we rode the ferry to the mainland. The ferry is free for pedestrians and $11 CAD/car. Next, we retrieved our rental car from Enterprise and drove eastward out of the city to a hotel within striking distance of the zoo.

Toronto Zoo Highlight Reel

We had a long, hot, wonderful day at the Toronto Zoo. Here are some highlights in pictures.

This giraffe was pondering just how far he had to bend over to drink from that water bucket.

Have you ever seen a hippopotamus glower?

It was a hot, sleepy day for the cheetahs. Either that or we utterly bored them with our presence.

Feeding time at the zoo!


Fight! Fight! Fight!

A new definition of adorable: a six year old polar bear snacking on an intact, frozen, cantaloupe.

This komodo dragon was not for hugging.

On the other hand, this komodo dragon was totally cool with it.

The Toronto Zoo has white lions, but they were not engaged in recording any kind of scratchy-voiced hair metal. These white lions were napping.

We had a very satisfying visit to the zoo and, best of all, The Bear thoroughly enjoyed herself.

That night, I filed my IFR flight plan and eAPIS manifest, then called the Buffalo customs office to advise a 2:30 pm arrival. Because The Bear was already asleep, I wandered out to the hotel lobby to flight plan and make the phone call. At 9:00 at night, the lobby was cacophonous with multiple people engaged in loud, public Facetime sessions on their phones. When did this become thing? I had to ask the Buffalo customs officer to repeat himself several times as I struggled to hear him over the obnoxious din of people shouting at moving, talking pictures of their distant loved ones.

Father's Day with the Fishes

On Father's Day, we visited the Ripley's Aquarium of Canada set at the base of the CN Tower.

The Ripley's name is not a selling point for me, but this is a truly excellent aquarium.

A highlight of the aquarium is a serpentine glass tunnel that winds through a massive tank populated with sharks, sawfish, sea turtles, rays, and lots of fish.

It is both amazing and disconcerting to have sharks swimming just inches over your head. Lined with sharp, curved teeth, their open maws certainly make an impression. The large sawfish in the tank seemed to enjoy draping their pasty white bellies across the top of the glass tunnel. They have no modesty whatsoever.

It looks like someone found Nemo!


We watched a diver feeding the rays, at one point becoming so inundated by eager rays that we lost all sight of her. Clearly, there was a "bad boy" ray in the tank (note the edgy EXIT "tattoo" on his face).

After a great visit to the aquarium, we had lunch at the nearby Loose Moose, then retrieved our car for a return to the airport. At this point, we were on a clock and I became anxious that we would miss our appointment with customs in Buffalo when we were caught in a Blue Jays-related traffic jam.

Despite the traffic delays, we returned to Billy Bishop Airport a full hour prior to our planned departure.

No sweat.

Lost and Found

DateAircraftRoute of FlightTime (hrs)Total (hrs)
17 Jun 2018N21481CYTZ (Toronto, Ontario, Canada) - BUF (Buffalo, NY) - SDC (Sodus, NY)1.71798.3

During the ferry ride back to the island, we watched sailboats traverse the channel between the airport and the Toronto waterfront.

Looking beyond the air side windows at Porter revealed a disconcerting sight: Warrior 481 was nowhere to be seen. When I asked where my airplane was, the line staff was not entirely sure. Thirty minutes later, Warrior 481 was towed back onto the ramp where the line crew proceeded to spend several minutes trying to park it just right. As a result, we reunited with our airplane around the same time I originally intended to have the engine running.

I uncovered the airplane and performed a preflight inspection. I was thorough, but felt rushed. As before, City Ground assigned us the Island One departure procedure, then the OLAMO intersection toward Hamilton, Ontario. We were already running late and the new routing would increase our flight time significantly.

As before, the airport was busy. We were number four in line to take off with arrivals of Porter Dash 8s interwoven with the flow of departures. Once aloft, Toronto Terminal offered us a direct route to Buffalo, which I accepted. Because of the shortcut, we were right on time for our appointment with customs. In this case, the shortcut was a beneficial one.

This time, there was no need to call customs. As soon as I shut the airplane down on the Prior Aviation Service ramp, a uniformed customs agent made his way to the Warrior. He invited us out of the airplane, we chatted for a few minutes (mostly about how Rochester no longer had published customs hours on weekends), then he wished us well and wandered off.

"Are we all set?" I asked him.

"You are unless you want me to do more," he responded jovially, waved, and headed back to the CBP office.

Well, that was easy. Evidently, one's mileage will vary with customs agents. Going through customs stresses me out, but this experience was completely anticlimactic.

Our return home fell into a familiar pattern; it featured the worst landing of the entire trip.

The More Things Change

I remember going to the Detroit Zoo with Dad when I was about The Bear's age. Like The Bear's big zoo trip, I remember the day being uncomfortably hot. I also remember Dad locking the keys inside his Pinto and a police officer using a "Slim Jim" to unlock the recalcitrant door with the aplomb of a master car thief. I guess it was a good thing for Dad that no one in their right mind would ever actually want to steal a Pinto because it appeared to be really easy.

Flash forward a few decades and The Bear's trip to the big zoo featured a misplaced airplane.

That's more or less the same thing, right?