It’s the weather that René Huessy checks first each morning. Not by looking up at the sky stretching over the US/Canada border region: René does so by consulting his cellphone, on which he has various weather apps. They tell him all about the local clouds before he even sees them. Like “Bkn 015” and “Bkn 023” – broken cloud (i.e. a mostly cloudy sky) at 1,500 and 2,300 feet. “For my tourist flights it’s the lower cloud cover that could be a problem,” René muses as he checks the engine oil in the Niagara Helicopters hangar. Pilots tend to overfly the Falls at around 2,000 feet. So any cloud lower than this will obscure the natural wonder. Thirty-six-year-old chief pilot René isn’t too worried, though. “That’ll soon clear,” he predicts. And he’s right. By 10.30 a.m. the pilots are pushing their helicopters – four new Airbus H130s – out onto the pads, and at 11 a.m. René takes off to conduct a current weather check. He flies a short way along the Niagara River and radios in that visibility is good. Then he turns back for the airfield. His route takes him over a residential zone. “Looks like my wife’s at home with the boys,” he remarks, pointing to a construction site below. “There’s her white SUV.” The family of four have just moved into their new house, while the building is still going on all around.
October 01, 2015