Sunday, March 11, 2012

All flight paths lead to Hall Beach

I'm back in Grise Fiord since last Thursday, and re-adjusting to that crisp and clean arctic air (BRRRRRRR!)

On my way here, as is the norm for the past 2-3 years, the plane to Resolute stopped in Hall Beach to refuel.  It didn't used to do this back in the day, we used to get fuel in Arctic Bay, and the plane has enough fuel to get all the way to Resolute even when the weather would be down in Arctic Bay / Nanisivik.  I've heard several theories on why we need to do this, as I gripe about it with other passengers on each flight:

1) they have too much fuel in Hall Beach and need to use it up (but it's been several years now...)

2) fuel truck broken in Arctic Bay (sometimes it was, but not all the time?)

3) can't reach the fuel guy in Arctic Bay (it's a scheduled flight though... guy must know about it?)

4) plane needs fuel so it can still get to the alternate if Resolute closes in (good point, but this isn't a new standard, and Pond Inlet is up there too as an alternate if both Arctic Bay and Resolute closed in; and Hall Beach is not on the unbeaten path to Arctic Bay)

So, I don't know why they really do it, but it's a total pain as it adds at least an hour to the trip.

This year, it was a really big pain, as once we landed in Hall Beach, something with the plane's computers broke or wouldn't re-set or something, and we couldn't leave.  We sat for around an hour before they told us the plane had gone mechanical... and sat for longer while they decided what to do about it.  Finally they told us that the plane was totally flyable, but it would be around another 2 hours while a mechanic flew in from Pond Inlet to sign off on something and certify that is was OK.  Around an hour after that, after some phone calls, I guess the powers that be at First Air authorized us to proceed to Resolute, so they rounded up the passengers (many of whom had gone into town at this point), and off we went.

I felt bad for one guy on the flight... he had left Hall Beach that morning to fly to Iqaluit where he transferred to his flight to Resolute.  You'd think if they were going to keep the habit of stopping there, they'd at least let passengers fly between those destinations directly, rather than pretend there is no direct flight?  He was really good about it, turns out he'd forgotten something so he got a chance to pick it up.

I'm glad we didn't have to overnight in Hall Beach, it's not exactly the hub of the arctic, I'm not sure if they would have even had enough hotel space for us.  I really wish we didn't have to stop there all the time on flights to Resolute.  Maybe one day the present will catch up to the past, and they will figure out again how to get us there without a routine stop in the flattest little Hamlet I have ever been to.

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