Arctic Foxtrot. And more...

Aviation brings people together. In 2017, when Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday, aviation unites the country by bringing the technology and inspiration of airshows to the most remote areas of the country - where people have never seen anything like this in their lives. With 97 airshows North of the 60th parallel, EVERYBODY will have a chance to celebrate Canada's 150. Official website: https://caat2017.com. This is a blog of Anna Serbinenko, the only Canadian female aerobatic performer, embarking on this once-in-a-lifetime journey.
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Three years later. I have travelled, explored, discovered, dared, fell down, got up, did it again, achieved, conquered, enjoyed, loved, remembered, lived... So many experiences are just too grand to keep them to yourself. So i decided to revive and keep up this blog with sporadic postings. Subscribe to get notified about the new articles!

Welcome to Healthy Aviation

Hello fellow aviators and air travellers,

Many of us get to see the world and enjoy an exciting lifestyle. But it also comes at a price of constantly disrupted workout routine, diet messed up by easily available junk food and accumulating fatigue aggravated by jet lag. Repeated over the years it translates in low productivity, poor physical shape, or even loss of pilot medical and various health problems.

But it does not have to be that way! 

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It will be OK (written in the times of COVID19)

Today is the Orthodox Easter. I had a long drive today and time to think. Looking back at the last weeks, where our life as we knew it changed beyond recognition, I realized I felt... peace.

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Sky Dance, Ice Fly…

I’ve always been somewhat different, and my life is backwards. I had been a university student and a part time high school language teacher at the age of 15 – time when most people are still thoroughly enjoying their childhood.

Today, I’m a new competitive athlete, 2 years into the sport of figure skating. Many skaters are retired before their 20th birthday. I’m 36 and I’m writing this on the flight back home from my first international competition, Winter World Masters Games 2020 (WWMG2020) in Innsbruck, Austria.

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Day 19 and 20. On the way home

  It is a very sad day, because Anna Sky Dancer is completing her first part of the Canadian Arctic Aviation tour, phase 1 (Western part). I may rejoin the Tour in the Phase 2, on the East Coast of Canada. This part is still in the planning stage at this time. But for now, it’s time to go home soon. It’s a bittersweet feeling. I missed home, family and team of the flight school. I met many new friends here up North, and I know that I will be back here. I tried not to make it too hard, and “rip off the band-aid”: a few hugs to the team and the Fort Smith welcoming ground crew, and I was on my way to Fairview, AB. 

The trip was scenic, but it was more and more “civilized” scenic. More groomed fields, more towns, bigger and bigger every time.

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Day 17 and 18. Yellowknife and Fort Smith

  We have quite a big road map for today – half a dozen wheels-up airshows for communities around Yellowknife. Ken Fowler with the Rocket and Jim Hrymack with the Harvard faster and longer-range planes) take the Eastern route, Ross Granley with the Yak 155, Tanya with the Nanchang and myself with the citabria go North.  

Until about 10 years ago, Nanchang was the primary Chinese military trainer aircraft. It looks like a fairly old warbird, but this one was built only in 1983. They are robust and capable, but were intentionally designed with small fuel tanks: so that the Chinese student pilots would run out of fuel and crash within the Chinese borders before they get a chance to defect. So we are now sure that Tanya will not leave the CAAT for the same reason :)

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Day 15 and 16. Norman Wells, Fort Simpson, Yellowknife

  We had a long day ahead of us: transit to Fort Simpson with several wheels-up airshows, visiting the school, flying Fort Simpson airshow, and then another transit – to Yellowknife. But we were on the other hand looking forward to sleeping in the next day. 

Nancy mentioned that since the beginning of the trip, she was riding nothing else but a twin otter, so I offered the citabria ride.

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Day 13 and 14. Fort Good Hope to Norman Wells, NWT

 In Wilfred’s B&B in Fort Good Hope, we started the day by cooking our breakfast with whatever we found in the fridge. Then went to meet the local school kids. The principal explained that they would have classes today as usual, just they will “take the class to the airshow”. I wished my school principal was that cool back then! 

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Day 12. Tuktoyaktuk. Fort Good Hope

  I woke up in the anticipation of a very cold water event (swimming in the Arctic ocean), and even right away put the bathing suit on under my flight suit. The weather decided for us differently though. The morning started with low overcast in Inuvik, and IFR ceilings and snow in Tuktoyaktuk. 

Having the unexpected waiting time, we decided to maximize on touristic activities before departure and checkout the local cuisine. The local most recommended place, Alestine’s, is cooking on a school bus on the front yard, and serve in an authentic looking cafeteria.  

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Day 10 and 11. Inuvik, NWT

  This is the first day off! It has been a particularly intense week, and my first order of the day was to sleep in. But I failed. Full blown daylight made me wake up at 3, 5, 6, and 7am, feeling well rested every time. By then I gave up and got ready for breakfast. 

By now, we started getting used to the Northern hospitality. Local sailors whom we met last night at the Legion, invited us on their boat for a tour and lunch. So we headed their way soon. We were totally expecting some small river cruiser, so to find the actual huge vessel took us a moment.  

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Day 09. Aklavik, NWT

  Our schedule for the next couple of days gets a bit more relaxed. We are staging out of Inuvik for a few days, and flying for a day to the communities around, like Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk etc. Today is Aklavik. 

The flight to and from Aklavik is only 15-20 minutes over the same delta of MacKenzie.   

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Day 08. Fort McPherson to Inuvik, NWT

 The (very) chilly morning in Fort McPherson started in a local school – they invited us over for breakfast that they cooked themselves.  

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Day 07. Dawson City, Old Crow, Fort McPherson

  Now that I am officially the slowest airplane on the team, my departure from Dawson City was scheduled 30 minutes prior to everyone else. An authentic local cab driver took me to the airport early, telling me local stories that I learned a lot from. Quick refuel and I was on my way to Old Crow, YT.    

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Day 05 and 06. Whitehorse and Dawson City, YT

That DC-3 put on a pole is actually rotating and turning into wind!

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Day 04. Watson Lake to Whitehorse, YT

 Nostalgic view and nostalgic music “These magnificent men and their flying machines” put us in the mood several decades ago. Planes from the same era make the ambiance complete.

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Day 3. Fort Liard to Watson Lake

Before going to bed last night I asked both the Lead Pilot and the Safety Officer what time do we gather in the morning. The uniform answer was 9.00am. It did not help, because Bud Granley was knocking on my door 8.10 wondering why am I not at the truck! I’m sure by August we will figure out our communication eventually…

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Day 2. Rainbow Lake to Fort Liard

Wow I was tired! We had our departure from the hotel planned for 7.30am (Alberta time! – 6.30am Vancouver). I set the alarm for 6am, never heard it, and woke up in a panic 7.15. I got ready for 7.30, and showed up at the reception – just to find out that our departure got pushed back to 9.00. Tried breakfast – it did not want me. Went back to the room to write about yesterday for you.

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Day 1. Boundary Bay to Rainbow Lake

Tuesday night finished on Wednesday. It was well past midnight when I finally had all shopping done, instructions written, arrangements made and everything packed. Always takes longer than you plan. And yes, of course, everyone comes to you with “just one quick question” ignoring the big note on the door “I am not available”. 

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The North is Calling

Aviation unites people every day regardless of whether it’s a small aircraft or a large jet. With that said, there is nothing more natural than using aviation to unite the entire nation during this very special year where we commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary. It is from that sentiment the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour was born, to bring celebration to remote communities across Canada’s Arctic, many of which can only be accessed by flight.

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How Far North is Too Far?

I am curious - how is it there, in the Arctic? I discovered a few things about the Arctic and the North Pole this week i had no idea about!:

  1. North Pole turns out to be actually pretty warm. About 30oC (60F) warmer than the South Pole. Average summer temperatures are around 0oC (32oF), highest temperature ever registered was around 12oC (54oF). I thought if i was crazy enough to look for the top of the Earth, it's would be an icy landing strip... But maybe I should take my swimsuit instead.
  2. I should definitely try the local food (seal?) and get one of those super warm native made winter boots (mukluks)!
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97 Airshows

The map is impressive. The schedule is tight and event-packed. We will be flying around the clock, as we will have the benefit of the 24 hour daylight. And the special treat - it will be the record of the most Northern show ever! Alert is only 400nm from the North Pole!

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