Demo Flights - Alberta Style
by Bryan Quickmire

One of my favourite things is to introduce people to the Challenger's unique capabilities by taking them on a demo flight. You would think after all the flights over all the years these would become routine for me, but they never do. It's a magic carpet ride and magic never gets old!

At the 2012 Western Challenger Rendezvous my Garmin 496 GPS captured flight paths and later I downloaded four tracks to GPS Visualizer, an online mapping tool. From it I created a web page showing the flights from Wetaskiwin Airport (at bottom centre of image below).

GPS Visualizer allows you to colour the flight paths by a variety of metrics. I chose altitude and specified bands of 250 feet starting at 2500 feet above sea level (ASL), the surface elevation in the area, and going up to 4500 feet ASL, which is 2000 feet above ground level (AGL).

Click the GPS Visualizer screenshot below to enlarge the static image. Or, even better, click a choice of size at the end of this sentence for a live Google Maps page which you can zoom in or out and pan in any direction:  small, large, huge. Try it!

The track on the left of centre is from Friday evening when I went on a look-see to evaluate conditions. Why so? The area was enveloped in thick smoke from forest fires in BC! Visibility heading west into the low sun was "interesting". Here the route of flight is clockwise and you can see from the legend that the altitude was mostly around 4000 ASL which is 1500 AGL.

The tracks to the right of centre are three demo flights done on Saturday morning before the start of the presentations. These go counterclockwise and are vastly different from Friday.

Each time after takeoff we climbed to 1000 feet AGL until well clear of the town then we descended for a close-up look at the flora and fauna. Deer and white pelicans are common sights. As well we made discoveries of an abandoned homestead in a copse of trees and a derelict cabin hiding in a wooded clearing, both far from the current roads.

From the Challenger low and slow you can see first hand how erosion works: trickles become streams which become rivers - ruts are worn deeper and wider until some very impressive winding gorges are formed. One has a train track wending its way along the precipice! Another shelters a small ski hill with several T-bar tows - not exactly Whistler but great for the local kids.

This area also has broad glacial meltwater channels from the last ice age 12,000 years ago. In these you can fly a hundred feet BELOW the level of the surrounding terrain! 100 feet BGL!

You can view the same area from a typical General Aviation airplane's altitude of several thousand feet above ground, but you don't feel the same level of engagement. Think of a fine work of art, a painting, viewed from up close, where you can see the brush strokes. Compare that connection with the painting to viewing it from across a parking lot, or across town...

Completing the circle and nearing town we climb up to 1000 feet AGL and enter the traffic pattern for the airport. Over the course of half an hour at a leisurely pace we have meandered 50 km with nary a straight line in the flight path. We have strayed less than 10 miles from the airport and used less than 10 liters of regular car gas. Yet passenger and pilot are delighted!

Of course Challengers, being famous for their versatility, can also fly high and fast, in a straight line, if that's what the misson calls for! Click the image below to see the routes of Arnie and Dave who flew in to Wetaskiwin from Grand Prairie and Calgary respectively! !

Whether you fly low and slow or high and fast, near or far, on wheels, skis or floats, in the Challenger we measure our flight's success in mph - memories per hour!

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