3 Rides in Northern Saskatchewan

Written by Walt Rhodes
Thursday, May 12, 2011

Walt RhodesLearning something new can be challenging, frustrating and rewarding all at the same time. When it comes to learning a new airplane, the consequences can be, well…let’s not go there. The start of the 2011 Breeding Population and Habitat Survey has been extremely busy for me. It actually began last fall with transitioning into a new aircraft, and continued almost literally up until the day I left for the survey. Over the last three years I will have now flown this particular crew area in three different airplanes. I flew a 19?? Cessna 206 amphibian in 2009, a 1980 Cessna 185 amphibian in 2010 and this year’s ride is a 2010 Quest Kodiak amphibian. The newest plane offers improved visibility, greater hauling capacity and the reliability and benefits of a turbine engine. The training involved learning new systems, building enough time in the plane to become proficient and finally passing a check ride. All of this was in addition to the usual preparation required for conducting a survey—which in the case of this crew area covers an area over 200,000 square miles in size.

The Kodiak that I was scheduled to fly was in a hangar in Spokane, Washington, which meant taking a commercial flight to Spokane from South Carolina and forwarding all of my gear. With apologies to Darlington racetrack and The Lady in Black, the Kodiak, to me, is The Lady in Orange for the same reasons. My daughter, who has a habit of nicknaming planes I fly, calls her Floaty Mountain. After spending a day equipping the plane it was off to Saskatchewan. No matter what she’s called we are hoping for a good ride in 2011.

N723, a Cessna 206, sits on the ramp at La Ronge, SK, during the 2009 BPOP survey.

N723, a Cessna 206, sits on the ramp at La Ronge, SK, during the 2009 BPOP survey. Photo by W. Rhodes, US FWS

N60984, a Cessna 185, was used during the 2010 BPOP survey.

N60984, a Cessna 185, was used during the 2010 BPOP survey. Photo by S. Folsom

This year’s survey will be flown in N758, a Quest Kodiak.

This year’s survey will be flown in N758, a Quest Kodiak. Photo by W. Rhodes, US FWS