By Rosemary Westwood - Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 0 Comments
He’d spent his life flying around the world—he even married his wife on a flight
Robert Murray Heath was born Nov. 7, 1957, in Mississauga, Ont. His father, Robert, was an engineer and his mother, Betty, was a telephone sales operator. Robert Sr. owned a hobby plane and Robert spent as much time as he could beside his dad in the cockpit, falling in love with planes.
Robbie to his parents and one older sister, Gail, “Bob” to most everyone else, he attended Mississauga’s Allan A. Martin Public School. When he was 12, he joined the Air Cadets, where he learned to fly gliders, then small planes, and earned his pilot’s licence. After graduating from Gordon Graydon Memorial Secondary School, he moved to Moncton, N.B., to do commercial and instructor ﬂight training.
In 1985, Bob took a job with Sabourin Airways in the small community of Red Lake, in northwestern Ontario. He flew small planes—the Beechcraft 99 and Piper Navajo Chieftain—mostly to remote reservations and on hunting and fishing trips. On a medevac flight, he met Lucy Geno, a dark-haired nurse who worked at the Red Lake hospital. She was 10 years his elder, and he courted her with gifts of doughnuts and rabbit-trimmed hats. Lucy was the mother of three grown children when the couple met, and Bob soon became Papa to them all. The couple married on Nov. 17, 1990, in a Twin Otter flying at 5,280 feet—exactly one mile—above Red Lake. Lucy wore an embroidered red parka; Bob wore his flight suit. Continue…
By Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press - Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at 11:16 AM - 0 Comments
MONTREAL – WestJet Airlines plans to test a new entertainment system next year that…
MONTREAL – WestJet Airlines plans to test a new entertainment system next year that will allow passengers to use their tablets, computers and smart phones to access in-flight television and connect to the Internet, CEO Gregg Saretsky said Tuesday.
A prototype is expected to fly some time in the first half of 2013. The new system could eventually lead the Calgary-based airline to do away with seat-back systems and shed about 1,200 pounds (544 kilograms) from each aircraft.
The current system plays 24 live TV channels and four channels with stored content. However, it also rents out pre-loaded tablets for about $10 on some flights as an interim solution.
The new permanent entertainment system will allow passengers to hook up their own devices to a network with about 1,000 movies, Internet connectivity and a few live channels for sports and business.
Saretsky told the Scotiabank transportation and aerospace conference that WestJet is still working through the business model, including potential charges.
WestJet (TSX:WJA) also has to decide whether have the entertainment system communicate with towers on the ground or a second satellite downlink. He said the airline has already had discussions with vendors.
Meanwhile, Saretsky said the addition of premium economy seating will change the airline’s egalitarian philosophy by giving some passengers refundable tickets, priority boarding, onboard amenities and more leg room.
He wouldn’t say how much additional revenue WestJet expects to realize but pointed to U.S. carrier Jetblue, which experienced a $150 million bump from a similar change.
The additional leg room in premium economy will be accommodated by shrinking space in some economy rows by one inch.
Saretsky said focus groups that saw a prototype of the changes couldn’t distinguish the difference and new seat technology with thinner seats will give passengers the illusion that space has actually increased.
On the Toronto Stock Exchange, WestJet’s shares gained four cents at $18.64 in morning trading Tuesday.
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 10:37 AM - 0 Comments
Robert Zemeckis and Denzel Washington turn an action movie into a drama about addiction
Not everyone has a fear of flying. But what if the smooth-talking captain on your morning flight had just swigged the last of a beer left on the hotel night table, smoked some pot, snorted a line of cocaine to jolt himself awake, then slipped two mini-bottles of vodka into his orange juice before taking off into violent turbulence? So goes the opening sequence of Flight, a compelling new film starring Denzel Washington as an addicted airline pilot named Whip. And that’s only half the premise. Shortly after takeoff, a mechanical failure sends the plane into a harrowing nosedive. Whip, a former fighter pilot, rolls the aircraft upside down to stop the dive and executes a miraculous crash landing that saves most of the passengers. Then the movie turns into an addiction drama, as the pilot’s heroic feat is tarnished by an inquiry into his fitness to fly.
What’s remarkable is that this picture comes from director Robert Zemeckis, the former whiz kid best known for such wholesome fare as Back to the Future and Forrest Gump, and the motion-capture animation of Polar Express and Beowulf. In the past three decades, the closest he’s come to provocation is Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s cartoon vamp sighing, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way.” With Flight, the director tackles his first live-action movie since Tom Hanks shared a beach with a volleyball in Cast Away (2000). And it opens with a full frontal shot of a naked flight attendant crawling out of our hero’s hotel bed. After the crash, as a gonzo drug dealer (John Goodman) waltzes into his hospital room to the tune of Sympathy for the Devil, we could be watching a Scorsese film.
“You make the movie you’re making,” Zemeckis shrugs when asked about his sudden move from special-effects blockbusters to risqué drama. “We were going to get an ‘R’ for cigarette smoking, so we might as well tell the truth.” The U.S. R rating requires adult accompaniment for viewers under 18. “You can’t make a movie like this for $150 million. It cost $30 million—both Denzel and I waived our fees.”
By Tom Henheffer, Martin Patriquin, and Michael Friscolanti - Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 9:35 PM - 60 Comments
Portrait of an accused predator
Years before Col. Russell Williams was an accused double murderer, he was a rookie instructor at the Canadian Forces flying school in Portage la Prairie, Man. He was such a standout in the cockpit that his boss, Major Greg McQuaid, selected him for the farewell flight of “Musket Gold,” a now-defunct air force demonstration team that peaked in the 1970s. “I handpicked him because of his skill,” McQuaid told Maclean’s. “I knew he would do a good job. I liked the guy, he was sharp, and he had all the characteristics of a good military officer and a good pilot.”
It was 1992, and the four-man team spent two months training for the big finale, practicing turns and formations in their bright yellow, single-engine TC-134s. Musket Gold’s last hurrah was captured on VHS video, and it was Russ Williams, then a young lieutenant, who edited the footage, added some background music, and gave it to his fellow flyers as a keepsake. When McQuaid first heard about the shocking charges against his old friend—two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of sexual assault—he immediately thought of that old VHS tape. “He showed no indication that he could do something like this—zero, absolutely none,” he says. “He fit in well and got along well with everybody, and was respected by everybody.”
By Rachel Mendleson - Thursday, November 26, 2009 at 12:00 PM - 8 Comments
Quebec considers building a road to the isolated Inuit region
For the 12,000 residents of Nunavik, the Inuit region that spans the northern third of Quebec, getting out of town is a major undertaking. With no roads linking the 500,000-sq.-km territory to the rest of the province, a trip south requires a plane ride, which can cost upward of $2,000. But that could change: Quebec is considering extending the provincial road network to several Nunavik communities—a move that would “have a drastic impact socially,” says Raymond Mickpegak, mayor of Kuujjuaraapik, an Inuit village on Hudson’s Bay. “It will open North America to us.”
According to Transports Québec official Denis Blais, the province began seriously exploring building a road last May, at the behest of community leaders in Whapmagoostui, the Cree village that abuts Kuujjuaraapik. If it goes ahead, Blais says the project, which would bridge the 250-km gap to the twin Inuit-Cree communities, could cost up to $300 million. But Nunavik residents remain skeptical: “It’s over 15 years that I’m living here,” says Claude Depars, bar manager at the Auberge Qilalugak Resto-Pub in Whapmagoostui, “and it’s over 15 years that I’ve heard about the road coming soon.”
While many in the region are excited about the prospect of more affordable travel and a lower cost of living—food and supplies, which must be shipped by barge or plane, are marked up accordingly—there is concern about drugs and alcohol. “I know it’s in the community already,” says Mickpegak, “but with a road, the door’s going to be wide open.” If the plan goes ahead, he says checkpoints should be put in place to “control what’s coming in.”
For the foreseeable future, however, cars and trucks won’t be travelling in or out of Nunavik: a pre-feasibility study is slated to wrap up in 2010, but according to Blais, even if the proposal goes forward, it will be at least four years before construction can begin.
By Rachel Mendleson - Thursday, September 10, 2009 at 1:40 PM - 5 Comments
He loved working on the farm, and adventure. His latest passion was the freedom of flight.
R yan Bartt Chute was born on Sept. 13, 1980, in Moose Jaw, Sask., the second of four children to Bartt and Marla Chute. His parents were grain farmers whose sprawling fields, located about 25 km north of town, had been in the family since the 1920s. A “fun-loving” child, Ryan “loved to tuck his head in the crook of your neck and cuddle,” says Marla. He was drawn to the outdoors—particularly whatever his dad was doing. As a toddler, he had his own corner in the tractor cab, complete with a pillow and blanket. “When he got tired, he’d lay down and have a sleep,” says Bartt. The harvest was an early source of fascination. In late August, he would spend hours in the fields with his dad, watching him combine the lentils, peas and wheat.
A curious boy, Ryan trailed Bartt in the workshop, tinkering with the machinery. Like his father, he was eager to try new things, and fuelled his bent for adventure with dirt bikes, jet skis and snowmobiles, later learning to drive a motorcycle and a big rig. In school, Ryan’s ability to elicit laughter made him a favourite among his classmates, if not always his teachers. “He spent a fair bit of time in the hallway,” says friend Jason Doney. He extended his good-natured teasing to sisters Andrea and Alana, but was also protective—his brother Reid, born in 1985, died in infancy, and Ryan kept a close eye on them. Continue…
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 1:40 PM - 0 Comments
Why flights will continue to drop off the screen—for now
For most people, flying is an act of faith. Take a seat, place your trust in the skill of the pilots, the quality of the aircraft and the diligence of those who maintain them, and shut out thoughts of anything less than a happy landing. But tragedies such as the as-yet-unexplained June 1 crash of an Air France Airbus A330 into the sea off Brazil, which killed 228 passengers and crew, crystallize all our old fears. And they occasionally highlight things few travellers had ever previously worried about. Like the fact that transoceanic flights disappear from radar a half-hour after clearing land, leaving air traffic controllers to only guess at their whereabouts for large portions of the voyage.
In an age where your cellphone can track your location—and that of your friends—within a couple of feet, and your car’s dashboard navigation system can plot every twist, turn and rest stop of a cross-country trip, it seems inconceivable. But while airline pilots know their aircraft’s location thanks to satellite GPS, that information isn’t always readily available to those back on the ground. Traditional radar can only reach about 320 km offshore because of the curvature of the earth. And the wide expanses of the ocean make it difficult for planes to share their position. Radio coverage can be patchy, depending on distance and weather, and transmission via satellite is too costly for constant use. (Air France, like many carriers, gets bulletins from on-board computers about mechanical issues that crop up during flights, so it can be ready to fix them once the plane lands. In the case of Flight 447, those messages—sent directly to the airline’s headquarters—were the first, and as it turned out only, indication of trouble.)