The challenge so far has been anything but quiet. Remember when it was a simple case of where would Sharon turn up? Now, thanks to a few interesting characters that (in retrospect) were foolishly allowed to fly the baton around the world, we have a multi-national maniac chasing after us, for reasons still really unknown. Various rumours have flown around with the baton, as to what it contains.
This would be my 33rd time flying the baton (twice in ATWC 1, 5 in ATWC 2, 4 in ATWC 3, 3 in ATWC 4, 6 in ATWC 5, 11 in ATWC 6 and 4 previous legs in this challenge). Never before has the pressure been so high. At every turn there may be a gun, and it appears far closer to me that I would ever like over the course of the next flight......
Picking up the baton from Mike in the arrivals hall, I wonder what to do. Of course, I had already sampled Toronto's railway system (all in a professional capacity observing timetable operation, of course. I didn't like the job at all...........), but that didn't provide me with a ride out to La Guardia. There were plenty of commercial options from Pearson, but that felt like cheating. Plus I wouldn't be in command. Late one night, a message appeared in my inbox
Now, considering how the challenge has been going so far, I was convinced of a set up. Who would just randomly e-mail a guy waiting for a lift? A bit of digging revealed the sender of the email: David Dufrenois (Google him). Interesting.
At 0800 punctually (see, being a professional timetable writer allows you to plan properly!) I arrive at Toronto City airport. There is M. Dufrenois with a couple of other gentlemen, whom I will call William and Ernest. They were coming for the trip back to New York, where they would carry on to Washington for some 'business'.
My ride would be the CS-300, recently renamed as the Airbus A220-300 to reflect the change in programme ownership. A big aircraft for a small airport. Luckily we were lightly loaded. Although all the ground handling equipment was impressive!
Rapidly all of this was got rid of and we started push and start
Being a FTV (Flight Test Vehicle), various additional cameras were fitted
While taxiing out, we came across the more regular aircraft in Toronto, although it had a little accident.....
A quick press photo by a random photographer
We had requested a tug to follow us and push us to the edge of the concrete
Although surprisingly it was quick to accelerate!
"Rocketship departure. NOW!"
Passing the Rogers Centre stadium
With the airport a couple of miles behind us, I was instructed to attain a more normal ascent altitude
Turning over Toronto
During the cruise, I asked William why he wanted me to do such a departure. The stare I got back suggested he didn't want to talk about it. Shame
The Eastern Coast of the USA filled the windscreen as we followed ATC instructions down through one of the busiest pieces of airspace around
During the descent, Ernst came up to the cockpit. "We are going to buzz Newark. Now". Hold on a minute, just dropping out of the sky would land me in trouble. David, who must have known what was coming, didn't seem worried. Verbally, I told Ernst to go forth and reproduce (although not quite like that!). A jabbing feeling in my ribs forced the control stick forward. "I did say now. Do it".
It felt that being in a Stuka rather than a civilian airliner. I was sure that a few F-22s would appear in moments, although ATC were strangely quiet
Starting to pull out
"See that bridge there? Go under it". Considering what happened last time I refused, I did what I was told
We then headed for La Guardia, gaining the escort of an A320 in the process
A rather firm touchdown was followed by rapid deceleration.
With a United retro-jet taking off after us. Just
Taxiing in behind a MD-80 series aircraft. I was sure there would be a welcome committee
And indeed there was
As I was escorted away, William and Ernst were discussing matters. I overheard "this would be good for..........."
JG - I'm in the clinker. Not hard to find, I'm the one with an Iron Maiden t-shirt and hi-vis orange trousers (don't ask!)
Aircraft used: Camsim C-Series