ARCTIC RAM: Flying in the Arctic a higher calling
Winnipeg's Cpt. Andrew Mukosky spends most of his time flying small aircraft around Canada’s Arctic.
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Both he and his orders come from Winnipeg, but Cpt. Andrew Mukosky spends most of his time flying small aircraft around Canada’s Arctic.
“I love it,” Mukosky says of his current posting. He’s based in Yellowknife as part of 440 Squadron, and is managed by Winnipeg’s 17 Wing.
“It’s remote,” he said. “How many Canadians do you know have been this far North, in the high Arctic, you know? It’s a part of Canada no one usually gets to see.”
For exercise Arctic Ram—which saw more than 120 Canadian army reservists deploy in Resolute Bay and expand North—Mukosky and the Twin Otter aircraft he flies with a small crew are the operation’s lone air asset.
He runs (or more accurately, flies) supplies, people and information out to squadrons of men that have been camping and advancing North by snowmobile.
Sometimes that’s a hard job.
Mukosky was in a Twin Otter that clipped a hard-packed snowbank with its tail section early last week during a supply run.
But the mishap was “nothing out of the ordinary.”
He explained how visibility is limited by the low sun position this season, and combined with ice fog, separating the ground from the sky is difficult.
“(With) low sun angle, it doesn’t produce enough contrast for us… it’s nothing but white around here, so once the sun does go low enough, it produces shadows, and within those shadows we lose sight of anything that might harm the aircraft,” Mukosky said. “You’re trekking along, you can only see so much given the speeds that we fly at, and of course you’ll hit a snow drift.”
The plane’s tail has protection, but in this case it “just carved right through the ice and snow.”
He got the plane back to the Arctic Training Centre for repairs easily enough, as damage wasn’t serious, but it’s part of what he and the other pilots in the north deal with every day: some of the toughest flying conditions in the country.
“Challenges up here are obviously weather, both temperature and winds,” he said. “Specifically with greater winds, we get decreased visibility and (that’s) what hurts us when we’re trying to go in somewhere.”
But despite how difficult it can be, Mukosky raves about his life in Yellowknife and work in the North.
“It speaks to me on different levels, I can’t really describe it,” he said.