July 10, 2015 - 1:00 PM
PENTICTON - A local pilot made an adventure out of his trip east to retrieve a new aircraft.
Mark Humbke of Naramata recently completed a cross-Canada trip in his brand new, German made Auto-Gyro, an unusual looking aircraft that uses a helicopter style rotor for lift and an engine powered propeller to provide thrust.
The $110,000 aircraft sports a two-seat, open-air cockpit. A main rotor provides lift after the aircraft gains forward motion from a backward-facing propeller mounted behind the cockpit. Behind the propeller is the aircraft’s tail section.
He purchased the aircraft from a dealer in Quebec and it took 10 days to make the trip back to Penticton on a solo flight that had a few adventures along the way.
“I had no support, but then, I had a whole bunch of support,” he says of the few serendipitous circumstances that seemed to occur at just the right time.
For a brief period of flight over Norther Ontario Humbke lost his GPS navigation signal over dense, trackless boreal forest.
At one point he landed in North Bay, Ont., just minutes ahead of a wild storm front. With a damaged microphone in his helmet, he found himself grounded, wondering how he was going to make the delicate electronic repairs. As he walked out of the airport, he came across a sign directing him to Canadore College, where he was able to find an avionics instructor still on campus who was able to help him.
Then again, further west, Humbke was forced to make an emergency landing because of weather at the Canadian Forces Base near Medicine Hat, something he says isn’t normally done by civilian aircraft.
As he landed, he was met by the base’s commanding officer, who invited him up to his office where several monitors displayed local weather information.
When he got to B.C., Humbke decided to fly overtop of the mountains instead of following the circuitous route of Highway 3.
“I was at 10,500 feet between Pincher Creek and Cranbrook. It was like flying a cork on the ocean,” he says.
Humbke says most of the flight was made at a height of 1,000 to 2,000 feet above ground level. Flying solo meant every logistic and flight detail had to be planned in advance. Humbke says he was up at 5 a.m. every day with flight maps out to plot the day’s flying. Constant weather checks were also part of the routine, as was planning for hotel stays and refuelling stops.
Humbke, 62, learned to fly the Auto-Gyro seven years ago. This is his second auto-gyro, replacing an older and smaller horsepower unit he recently sold. The new aircraft is powered by a 115 horsepower aircraft engine that uses premium automotive fuel, at between 16 to 23 litres an hour at 5,500 rpm. Humbke says he bought the aircraft for the extra safety margin provided by the bigger engine.
Humbke also has his instructor’s rating for the aircraft and he plans to offer discovery flights in addition to teaching people to fly. For more information, he can be contacted at 250-328-2328.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015