I don't like flying. I avoid leaving the islands by plane whenever possible, Alex Rinfret writes. (Of course, I don't like the ferry either, which is a whole other story.) I'm the kind of person who grips the arm rests with two hands even when we're cruising smoothly at 24,000 feet, and who asks annoying questions like "What's that weird noise?" if I detect the slightest change in the motor's hum. I'm always absolutely amazed and relieved when the plane I'm in lands without the slightest incident.
That said, it was hard to resist when my boss offered me a free trip to Vancouver.
"You can check out this new TK Air-Hawkair route," he said. "Then you can write something about how long it took to get from your house to Vancouver, and what the service was like."
So I did. And here's what I found out.
The first leg of the journey is on TK Air, which flies a little plane from the Masset airport to Prince Rupert. The flight leaves Masset at 7:30 am, which is great because you can get to Vancouver earlier in the day, but a bit inconvenient when you live in Tlell. I figured I would have to leave my house by 6:20 am in order to get to the airport by the 7:15 check-in.
Checking in at the Masset airport is as easy as it gets. There were four of us passengers and two TK Air crew, as well as a squawking tropical bird in a purple cat carrier who was also headed for Vancouver. It was Friday - a beautiful clear sunny day. We were led out to the little six-seater Piper Navajo plane. The seats are covered in red plush and the windows are relatively big. It was actually very comfortable and I felt a lot calmer than I expected (the bird must have felt calmer too because I didn't hear a single squawk while we were flying). The plane left right on time at 7:30 am, and we had a fantastic view of North Beach and Rose Spit and all the little islands around Prince Rupert before landing at the Rupert airport at 8 am.
This airport has the most stringent security staff I have ever encountered (although as I mentioned, I don't fly too often). They examined every item in my bag and even swabbed my camera for who knows what. Other passengers had to have their cell phones inspected, and some even had to take off their shoes and put them through the x-ray machine.
Hawkair's Dash-8 left Rupert at 8:30 am, right on schedule. The plane was about half full. The flight attendant handed out coffee and newspapers. Two hours later, we landed at Vancouver's South Terminal. My backpack was unloaded in about five minutes, and my brother was there to meet me, having parked his car right outside the main entrance. By 10:40, we were on the highway - exactly four hours and 20 minutes after leaving Tlell.
The return trip on Sunday evening was equally uneventful. The Hawkair plane left the South Terminal right on time, at 5 pm, landing in Rupert just after 7 pm. (I love this departure time, because I enjoyed a full day in Vancouver but still arrived home not too late.) Dinner was juice, a ham and cheese sandwich, and cookies. This flight was more full than the Friday flight and I didn't have a window seat. At 7:20, the TK Air flight left for Masset. Of course it was calm and sunny in Rupert but as we approached the islands there were billowing clouds and fog over the land. The ocean was clear and I was amazed to see huge fields of brown kelp swaying in the waves. Then Masset came into view - from the air it looks just like a toy town. We landed, and I was home in Tlell by 8:45, just three hours and 45 minutes after leaving Vancouver.
Bottom line: much more convenient than taking the ferry. The Masset-Rupert leg of the journey is extraordinarily scenic, and the check-ins were quick. No hanging around in long lines at the airport. I'm already planning my next trip!