Of course, there are some rules, for example maintaining a cruising altitude determined by whether you are flying east or west. The more congested the airspace, the longer the rule book. You can't fly into the Lower Mainland or major cities unless your plane is equipped with a transponder. This allows you to be identified by a blip on a radar screen. You fly very prescriptive approaches and departures, and are yelled at by Air Traffic Controllers if you deviate.
Before we take off - anywhere - Bill files a flight plan with Nav Canada. His flight path to the Coast goes like this: "Nakusp departure, overhead Kelowna, GPS direct to overhead the Coquihalla Toll Booth, overhead Hope, overhead Chilliwack to Kilgard check point, direct Boundary Bay." He estimates an arrival time, must close the flight plan on landing, and has 30 minutes grace before Search and Rescue goes into action.
Although little information has been released about the recent crash out of Penticton, two facts have been: the Piper deviated from its filed flight plan; activation of the plane's ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) directed SAR to the accident site almost immediately.
|ELT easily accessible|
Most Canadian aircraft are required to carry a functioning ELT. We fly to Creston every second year to have ours checked and certified by a specialized technician. Our ELT is mounted beside the left rear seat, and that passenger is instructed not to play with it, as we don't want a SAR Buffalo suddenly appearing on our wing tip! It can be activated by hand, and theoretically emits a signal when the plane crashes. In practice, it fails to activate more than half the time - appalling in this age of technology. Controversy abounds on how planes can be better tracked:
For redundancy, we carry a Personal Locator Beacon in the form of a SPOT device. It has a 911 button that broadcasts our GPS coordinates, providing it sees the satellite.