This morning I headed off to the Fort Vermilion Airport. I had never been there before, so I was excited to see what I would find. They're extending their runway by 1000 feet, so I'm going to do an article on it for the paper.
I called yesterday to let them know I was coming, and, like many stories dealing with a business/company, people tend to scatter when they see me walk in the door with my camera and reporter's notebook. I finally got ahold of Jason, Chief Pilot, who answered a few of my questions for me. Then I asked if I could take photos, and he said sure, go ahead, and basically left me to take my photos. I asked where I was and was not allowed to go, and he said, "You can go wherever you'd like, you can walk down the runway to get a better look. But if you see a plane taking off or landing, just step to the side."
Um, really? Just step to the side while a giant bird tries not to land on you. This is so much different than security at Pearson International, in Toronto, or any other airport I've been to, for that matter.
So off I go, walking down the runway. I got lots of photos of the machinery moving dirt and doing a whole lot of things I didn't really understand, and then headed back to get photos of the planes. There was a larger medical evacuation plane there, so I wanted to get some photos of that.
As I'm walking toward it, the two pilots greet me. They were wonderful! They told me all about their experiences being pilots and why they love it. The man and co-pilot said he likes to take tons of photos while he's up there, and the captain and woman pilot said he has thousands of pictures of clouds, and laughed. He said he also likes to put his feet up and read the paper, which triggered my fear of flying in airplanes again and further proves that my fear of flying is not "nothing!"
The woman let me in the plane and showed me around and how it all works. It was so cool! There was enough room for two stretchers in there, plus a few family members/medical staff. She said she has been flying for ten years and would never give up her job driving for Alberta Health to fly for Air Canada or West Jet. "It's boring," she says, and less rewarding.
When the ambulance came, she said I could stay to take photos of them take off. They were flying a one month old baby to Edmonton. She says most of the people they fly to Edmonton are babies, but this one is probably one of the oldest. The youngest has been a half hour old.
She said I could walk down the runway, if I'd like, and that she would taxi out to the other end of the runway and take off at this end, so I could get a better photo. She said she would be sure to try not to hit me as she was taking off, and laughed.
As they taxied out, they waved to me and posed for a photo, and then as they took off they waved as I got some amazing photos of them. The plane's wheels lifted off just as they were passing where I was standing. It was so amazing!