Aviation In Canada

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Bay of Fundy VFR Flight Plan

A pilot recently contacted me through the internet, and mentioned that he tried to get to the maritime provinces last summer, but weather prevented him during his vacation. Such is life, I suppose, but he asked me some questions, so I provided him with some details. I thought I'd share, supposing some others might be interested.

His path would have him approach our area from the southwest, along the coast of Maine. In a single-engine aircraft, he wanted to avoid long treks over water, so this was perfect, I thought, for a scenic tour. I suggested he land in CCS3, St. Stephen, NB, to clear customs and have a lunch. It's a small town, but it's near enough to some tourist attractions that a day could easily be made of it. Once airborne again, a flight over Grand Manan Island would be spectacular, if the weather is good. Even making another couple of days out of a visit there would be great. There is an airport there with a paved runway (CCN2). Seeing fishing wharves that tower 50ft over the rocky beach at low tide and barely break water at high tide is something that can't be appreciated until it's seen.

Leaving Grand Manan, whether you stop there or just overfly, head up the Bay of Fundy coastline on the New Brunswick side. After passing Saint John, the coastline gets quite rugged, and quite beautiful. Cliffs upwards of 600 feet above the water with very steep grades. Rivers emptying into the bay. Martin Head, a prominent stretch of sand meeting a rounded, tree-tufted "mountain" a fair distance out from shore. Many things to marvel at while cruising by all the way up to at least the Fundy National Park Area. From here, crossing the Bay of Fundy's cold and unforgiving waters is only a few miles. I recommend that you continue up the coast a few more miles, though, to take in another spectacle, Cape Enrage. There's a lighthouse on a spit of land that has some 200 foot cliffs, then there is a marsh area, and another rise of high, rocky land.

Once you cross over the the Nova Scotia side, you can circle Cape Chignecto. More Bay of Fundy cliffs here, and some wild coastline out around the point to the west. Following along this tide-swept area of rocks, Cap d'Or holds a lighthouse along a mountain ridge that ends sharply in the bay. Cape Chignecto is the western point of land that comprises the isthmus which connects Nova Scotia to the mainland. Continuing along the south end of Cape Chignecto, you'll see Cape Split rise from the waters on the right. There is another body of water to the south of Cape Chignecto, called the Minas Basin, which splits Cape Chignecto from the southwestern portion of the province. Cape Split itself is a narrow point of land jutting into the bay with cliffs at some points upwards of 500 feet high. The real attraction here is a nearly treeless end with, I believe, 3 towering mesas separated from the accessible portion. Since none of these are reachable from land, birds flock there and have created their own little community, undisturbed by man. There is a hiking trail to reach this point from the nearest road, but make sure you have three hours or so if you want to walk it.

After you pass Cape Split, turn south and run down toward the St. Margaret's Bay area. If you have time (and fuel), starting a little further west affords you a look over Mahone Bay as well. The point of land between St. Margaret's Bay and Halifax Harbour should not be cut across, but rounded on the south side to see the intricate coastline there and its fishing villages. When you follow the coast around turning north to Halifax Harbour, you can fly up the harbour between Halifax and Dartmouth, the largest populated area in Nova Scotia, over the large suspension bridges that cross the divide, and north over the Bedford Basin. There is a ton of history in this area. Finally, leave the Bedford Basin toward the northest and you're pointing at CYHZ, Halifax International Airport.

A few notes now. The whole coastline between Grand Manan and Cape Enrage, as well as the area around Cape Chignecto rolling, rocky terrain. There are not many large communities here, and there are few places to land if something goes wrong. The Bay of Fundy waters are notoriously cold, and the wild tidal action generates strong currents to fight the strong winds that are normally present in the area. Similarly, the southern coast of Nova Scotia is dotted with small communities, but not many places that would make good emergnecy landing areas. None of the roads are straight enough long enough in many areas. The Halifax Terminal Control Area is about 40 NM around, and is Class D airspace which means you'll have to make contact before entering unless you want to fly low. The Halifax Harbour is in the control zone of Shearwater, military base clearly visible on the east side of the mouth of the harbour. Do not mistake this as Halifax International. You won't be welcome there unless you're in an emergency. The Bedford Basin sits just about 10 NM from CYHZ, and if you're over it, you're getting very close to the final approach path for runway 06. Finally, as the pilot who started this whole thing knows, weather is an issue in this neck of the woods. While not as thick as experienced in St. John's, NF, the fog over the Bay of Fundy can rolls in quick and thick. Halifax International can also experience nasty fog, hence their need for the CAT II ILS. Being so close to colder waters over the bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the weather can change dramatically over a pretty short perido of time, so make sure your planning includes a thorough weather briefing and alternate landing spots.

And that's just getting to Halifax from the southwest. Going home can offer more treats. The Northumberland Strait, the Cape Breton Highlands, PEI. Too many more to mention in one post. If anyone has any other flight plans like this they can detail, I'd be happy to take them through e-mail for my own info, and I may even post them here, if people indicate they want to see more.