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8/6/2019 Northbound Griffon02
by Captain Scott Miller, CD and Major Mike Minnich, CD
In late-May2000, Capt Scott Miller and five otherCanadian orcesaircrew lew a pair of CH-146 Grif-fon utility helicopters on a rare 2,400 nautical-mileformation flight. Destination: Alert, in Canada'sHigh Arctic. Here from the diary he developed ur-ing and after this memorablemission -is what thatflight north was ike.
A CH-146 Griffhelicopter slingof batteries at MGrant radar siteCanada's High All photos wereby Capt Scott Musing a low resdigital camera.
25 May 00: The countless hours of pre-flight plan-ning, aircraft checksand reconfiguration, crew brief-ings, cold-weather kit preparations, and the usualweather delays all culminated in the long-anticipat-ed "click-click-click" of the PT6 1Win-Pack engineignitors as both of our Bell CH-146 Griffon utilityhelicopters sparked into life.
Our routing from CFB Borden took us directlyover North Bay, o the first of 11 fuel stops -this oneat Rouyn-Noranda,Que. We didn't realize it then, butthe excellent lunch enjoyed by the six crewmemberswould be the last "full- service" meal we'd get untilour arrival at Hall Beach, hree days ater.
Later this afternoon, the formation encounteredsome marginal VFR weather during our 328 nm legto La Grande, which is about 60 nm east of JamesBay.
Our two long-range fuel tanks allowed our Grif-fons to easilyhandle these planned distances,and stillhave double the normal IS-minute fuel reserves.
I n the early summer of 2000, Capt Scott Miller, anair reservist with .400Sqn at CFB Borden, Ont, waspart of Operation Hurricane in Canada'sHigh Arc-
tic. This annual operation performs general mainte-nance and battery-pack replacement for a series ofunmanned microwave communications repeater sta-tions that stretches across Ellesmere Island fromEureka northwards to the military electronic-researchsite at Alert, Nunawt. Both Canadian Forcesand civilian helicopters work together to shuttletechnicians and other specialists among the sixremote sites during the short arctic summer.
Operation Hurricane 2000 was the first time thata reserve- heavy Air Command unit was entrustedwith this demanding job. Weeks of preparation wentinto the planning, and the final op order called fortwo of the squadron's CH-146 Griffon utility heli-copters to self-deploy to Alert, while a third would bepartly disassembled and air lifted inside a CC-130Hercules transport along with many squadron per-sonnel. Including handovers during the operation,several dozen regular force and reserve members of400 Sqn were able to participate in 10- to 30-daydeployments to Alert.
The two CH-146s that were to be flown up fromBorden were each modified with the installation oftwo 500-litre auxiliary fuel tanks inside the passen-ger cabin that boosted zero-wind maximum range to400 nautical miles (nm). Since each aircraft wouldonly carry the basic crew of two pilots and a flightengineer plus their kit, the space-guzzling aspect ofthe fuel tanks was not a problem, but once filled theydid put each aircraft at maximum gross weight of11,900 lbs.
Capt Miller's report begins on Thursday May 25th2000, as the two-ship formation prepared to departCFB Borden:
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The weather had improved dramatically in thesouthern Hudson Bay region by the time of ourarrival in La Grande, so after another short fuel stop-along with a quick raid on the fast-food dispenserwe were off once again. 1Wo-and-a-half hours of fly-ing over some of the most striking real estate inNorthern Canada ultimately brought us overhead hetiny Hudson Bay coastal town of Inukjuak.
The never-before-seen spectacle of two Griffonhelicopters in close formation brought out a sizablewelcoming party to Inukjuak's small gravel airstrip.
A very long first day ended after visiting the localco-op store to buy provisions for both supper andnext morning's breakfast.
across the top end of Hudson Bay and acrossEvans Strait promised a lot of over-water lying, wnecessitateddonning our tight-fitting, one-pieceberized immersion suits. I'd worn one of these green "private weight-loss centres" often dumy two coastal SAR (search and rescue) toursLabradors while with the regular force. Basicallthey'll do is keep you alive in cold water long enoto have a chance to get into a life raft. But, consing the alternative, I guess hat's good enough!By the time we were Iso miles up the coaabout half-way across to Mansel Island and towCoral Harbour -quickly darkening skies and drizzle on our windshields caught our attentionour predominantly VFR tactical helicopter worlwhich we flew at 1,000 feet AGL or less most otime on this trip, long-range radio communicaand reliable weather updates were sparse at bAfter a quick inter-plane chat and placement owindshield defroster to the full-on position, a dvector back to Iwjivik was decided upon (Griffonnot certified for flight into freezing conditions, was an easy call.)
Heading back south to Ivujivik at max crspeed or a bit more, we just stayed ahead of a sigcant band of freezing rain. We made it safely bathe welcoming grins and warm handshakes otownsfolk at this little settlement perched onnorthernmost tip of Quebec. It was all we crewmbers could do collectively to put on the rotor-hand windshield covers, tie down the blades, andfor cover in the face of an Arctic ice storm. Sureltold ourselves, tomorrow would dawn a better d
26 May 00: Bright sunshine and distant mental\ .visions of Canadian Forces Stn Alert greeted us the
next morning. Once fully fueled and flight-planned,we took off, circled the town one last time, and head-ed northwards towards Puvirnituk. While our CH-146s were capable of flying to Coral Harbour direct,we've enhanced our Arctic-flying watchword to runalong the lines of, "Never by-pass a gas station or aplace to get a hot meal!"
Puvirnituk offered not only fuel, but a newly-established "Hotel de la Co-operative" -an out-standing facility and a welcome treat in an otherwiseinhospitable arctic expanse.As we were quickly com-ing to realize, however, the true beauty of Canada'sArctic lies in its inhabitants, as once again the towns-
View rom cockpitof folk greeted us with open arms at the airport.a Griffon helicopter Our next stop, Hall Beach, loomed large in our
while approachingS. 1/, t t . k thoughts, so after a hot meal and some reluctantlevlcoroplc up ...and repositionbattery good-byes we were on our way, thIS tIme wIth the
bundles. number-two aircraft serving as "lead." The 350-nm leg 27 May 00: This morning began with three houchipping, scraping, heating, and blow-drying sorry-looking Griffons. Fortunately, both the copters and crew emerged unscathed from"freeze-dried" state, and were able to continuenorthward advance.
About half-way across Foxe Channel en routhe next fuel stop at Coral Harbour, the numberaircraft spotted a polar bear on an ice floe, whichus both a quick photo op -and a good remindwhy we had 12-gauge shotguns on board as pour survival kit.
The low overcast condition we'd flown imorning opened-up o "severeclear" upon our aat Coral Harbour. Along the way, however, t hadinteresting to discover how the Inuit-built cairns, known as inukshuks, stood out in starktrast to the endlesssnow-covered background. T
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A bewhiskeredScott Miller toself-portrait incockpit of his helicopter whiroute to Alert. were aI/owed beards due tocold weather aof water for sh
small (maybe four feet high) markers made VFRoperations much easier for us when land and over-cast sky tended to visually merge, and likely similar-ly served an orientation function for the nativeinhabitants as they trekked cross-country. (Once weentered the region of magnetic-compass unreliabili-ty, we used the Global Positioning System (GPS)andit worked perfectly.)
No time for lunch at Coral Harbour... just a quickgas-and-go, with the expectation of another airbornegastronomic delight in the form of a hot-pot and"Noodles in a Cup." Not exactly gourmet fare... butenough to keep your belt from collapsing.
I had never flown in this part of the eastern Arc-tic before, and that three-hour leg from Coral Har-bour to Hall Beach was filled with some of the mostspectacular !Cen~ry I'd ever witnessed. Massivecoastal cliffs plunged into brilliant blue water strewnwith island-size ice floes -and all of this made evenmore spectacular with bright sunshine and cloudlessskies. Our formation was making good time now,with Hall Beach ust over the horizon (located on theeastern shore of Melville Peninsula, Hall Beach over-looks the Foxe Basin).
Although the sun never fully sets at this time ofyear in the far north, it was getting late by our bod-ies' clocks... the crews were tired...and some grum-bling about styrofoam cups came over our headsets.In short, we decided to call it a day, remain overnightat Hall Beach, and have a real meal.
and, closer-in, noticed the tracks of a polar bear thathad tried to visit the kitchen during the night -it wasdifficult to tell whether flying conditions hadimproved. Poor visibilities were still being reportedover the radio, but things didn't look too bad fromour earthbound vantage point, so we saddled up.
The cook was more of a realist. The last thing weheard him say o us was, "Have a nice trip... and I'llsee you here for supper!"
The only thing we achieved that day -after threehours of dodging snow showers and areas of white-out -was a good appetite. The cook at Hall Beachshould have been a meteorologist, too, because hecalled it right: we were back there in plenty of timefor supper.
30 May 00: Day Three "at the Beach" saw he weath-er finally break and good conditions ret