MAR. 18 | So THAT'S how you calculate the required visibility for an ILS approach at your alternate when the runway has RVR.

  • Posted on: 18 March 2009
  • By: Michelle

One of the pains in converting my American pilot licenSes to Canadian licenCes has been trying to find preparatory information to help me study for the Transport Canada exams I have to pass. Unfortunately, there is no standard guide outlining the differences between US and Canadian aviation practices. The best I could find was the description of one of the exams I had to write: "The examination consists of questions on differences between American and Canadian procedures for IFR flight."

Not helpful.

Back in November, after reading through the general exam guide and scouring the internet for any information on US-Canadian flight procedures, I took a stab at the two written exams. I passed the commercial licence test, but failed the instrument licence test by one question. So ... what this translates to is that people are allowed to pay me to fly, just not in bad weather.

So this past weekend I bit the bullet and drove down to Boundary Bay Airport for a three-day ground course on Instrument Flying operations in Canada, hoping it might fill in some of the gaps (of knowledge dad, thank you very much) and get me through the written conversion exam so that I could get on with converting my flight instructor's rating, which I have been dragging my feet over for the past ... ummm ... while.

Since Boundary Bay is about a two hour drive from Squamish, I stayed in the pilot accommodations available, called the Farmhouse. This would be why it is called the Farmhouse:


I may be a city girl, but my guess is that the expanse of uninhabited land behind the house might be for growing things ...

The Farmhouse was cheap and convenient. It's just an old ... ummmm .... farmhouse ... up the road from the flight school, with a bunch of guest rooms used by long and short-term students. It has everything a pilot needs ... weather briefing numbers on the fridge, charts on the walls, bookshelves full of flight manuals, and no shortage of hangar talk. Being able to see the airport control tower from my bedroom window was a total bonus.


Although, if you are a GIRL pilot, sharing the bathroom with eight guys who have been living there for several months ... ummm ... let's just say, not a bonus.

The course, however, was EXCELLENT, and on Monday morning I marched into the Transport Canada office in downtown Van, and was, like, "Yo, give me one hour (cause ... well ... you only get an hour to finish the test) with that FAAIA exam and I'll show you who knows that you CAN slide the standard alternate minimums for an airport with a non-precision approach if your calculated minimums are not higher than the required 800 foot ceiling and two miles visibility."

And then I forgot that you couldn't use a PROB forecast in a TAF to calculate those alternate minimums, and I totally got that answer wrong.

I did however remember what the RVR equivalent of a half statute mile is and that it is perfectly acceptable to use French while flying IMC in Quebec, and got myself an 80 percent, which, while not exactly a stellar grade, is a pass.

And, yes dad, I do indeed know where the other 20 percent went. Five percent went to the inability to apply IFR flight plan procedures, five to being unable to recall 1000-foot-on-top regulations, five to forgetting how to apply cold temperature weather corrections, and five to the TAF forecast interpretation mentioned above.

I guess you better hope that I don't take you out flying on a VFR-On-Top IFR flight plan on a cold day when the weather forecast included a probability condition.