Friday, August 12, 2011

Clouds over the two rivers

Getting a flight briefing
I'd like to add a note about our flight home from Montmagny on August 2nd and record how the cloudscape changed as we followed the rivers west to Ottawa.

Rising cloud seen from Montmagny
The journey began with a weather briefing at Montmagny airport by the St. Lawrence, where the crews responsible for Air Montmagny flights were sitting round in the office, waiting for the ceiling to lift before they could get airborne. Normally this 5-aircraft company (run by a father and son team––we met owner Jean Gosselin) does as many as twenty flights a day from Montmagny, among which are flights during term time to get eight school children from the Isle aux Grues to school on the mainland and back. I think that's a marvellous service. The children concerned think so too, as flying to school does have a certain glamour about it. As it says in the Wikipedia:
Durant l'hiver, l'île est uniquement accessible par avion. Information amusante : les enfants de l'île aux Grues doivent se rendre à l'école à Montmagny par avion car le traversier ne peut opérer qu'à certaines heures à cause des marées et cette restriction ne permet pas de synchroniser le traversier avec les heures de classe!
Orographic cloud north of the St. Lawrence
Chris filed IFR to Gatineau as the clouds began to lift over the river; after the previous day's storms there was a lot of moisture about. On the climb out he reported a cloud base at 500 feet and flew through that thin layer, through which we could still see some of the landscape below us. On the north shore of the St. Lawrence the mountains (Mont Sainte-Anne, etc.) were capped with orographic cloud. We were on course for the VOR at Quebec climbing to 8000 ft, but during that climb ATC reported a heavy build up of cloud (detected by their radar) on our route, a remnant of the occluded front now moving east of this area. Other pilots were reporting lightning flashes from the cloud and we could see that threatening part of the sky as well, so made a slight detour to the north to avoid it. The weather en route was reportedly better towards the west and beyond Quebec as we approached Trois-Rivières that was indeed the case, no more than summer cumulus ahead; although some of these clouds were beginning to tower it would be much later in the day before they'd cause much trouble.

Layers of cloud above the St. Lawrence, east of Quebec City

Edge of the storm near Quebec

Better weather ahead

Approaching Rockland over the Ottawa River

Flying in straight lines from VOR to VOR along the Victor Airways meant that we didn't overfly the confluence of the Ottawa River with the St. Lawrence at Montreal. As soon as we came beyond the higher ground of the Laurentians, around the Mirabel VOR, we could see a long way into the distance over the nose of our aircraft, the course of the Ottawa River leading us home. By that time it was a sunny, carefree day.

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