Northern Quebec ultralight flying adventure

By André Girard, Claude Roy and Patrick Vinet

For more than 15 years, Canadian members of the International Challenger Owners Association (ICOA) expand their horizons by promoting and organizing exciting group flights to unusual ultralight destinations. This year, Northern Quebec is this year’s playground. 

The idea is to get out of the beaten path, fish a little bit, and generally venture where ultralights normally don’t go.

The trip project was publicly announced last January at Annual Winter Weekend Rendezvous in Montebello, Quebec. Participation rules were kept to a strict minimum: (1) participants are to be equipped with amphibious ultralights; and (2) pilots are required to have a minimum of one year’s experience on floats.

This year, only three people answered the final roll call:  Dr. André Girard from Ottawa, Ontario, flying his own 1993 Challenger II C-FSJD; Mr. Patrick Vinet from St-Jovite, Québec, flying his 1989 Challenger II C-GMAV; and Claude Roy, a retired Air Force Officer from Ottawa, Ontario, also flying his own 1992 Challenger II C-IROY.

Having extensive experience in long cross-country flights aboard ultralights, Claude takes the lead and prepares an initial group flight plan. Once circulated to potential participants, the flight plan is quickly approved.

No ground support was planned, leaving the flyers with full flexibility to go where they please, as they please.

In early July, the final list of participants is set at three aircraft. Since two participants are from the same Ottawa Region, the plan calls for a round tour with Patrick departing first from St-Jovite to pick up André and Claude in Ottawa. The tour will finish after Patrick is dropped off in St-Jovite by his flying companions who will be returning to Ottawa.

While planning is easy, the most difficult part is for all three participants to pry themselves away from their normal activities and make the starting line with two entire weeks devoted to only one thing: living the adventure.

During the whole trip, all participants felt upbeat and confident about measuring themselves against the many unknowns. Overall, the group safely covered more than 1,261 air miles (2,029 kms) in 15 days, landing on 20 occasions while visiting great places and meeting with many new friends. Here is a brief account of each one of these 15 days of adventure.

Day 1, Saturday, August 5.  Sunny, 25 degrees C, winds N 15 kms.

The day dawns clear and bright. André and Claude show up at the Carleton Place Airport (identifier CNR6) around 10:00 hrs and wait for Patrick’s arrival while finishing up their own preparations.

As expected, Patrick is seen flying overhead the airport at 11:30 hours. After a good lunch and refueling, Patrick is ready for his initiation at group flying.

Once a great number of pictures are snapped, departure follows at 14:00 hours. The first stop is made at Pembroke, Ont. (identifier CYTA) where all three airplanes refuel and all three pilots do the reverse.

The next leg offers novelty as the direction is northeast bound and the destination is Ten Mile Lodge ( situated on Ten Mile Lake, approximately 75 miles northeast of Pembroke. 

André and Patrick are avid fishermen, so Claude had built into the schedule a couple days of fishing for the boys to enjoy. Isn’t that a good use of a floatplane?

When hearing of this project, Bill Dawes, the Ottawa dealer for the Challenger series of aircraft (, decides he would join the group with two of his own fishermen friends.  So, on the same day, Bill and his two friends, George and Kent, drove on a “cow path” road to Ten Mile Lake and the lodge.

The airplanes arrive first, followed about an hour later by the ground convoy. Already, the three flyers have made friends with Patty and Richard Lauzon, owners and operators of Ten Mile Lodge.

Since there was enough daytime left, André and Patrick, who already are set up with their accommodations, go down the road and set out for a little bit of fishing. They were successful and they bring back supper (white fish and walleye) for all to enjoy.

Day 2, Sunday, August 6.  Sunny, 25 degrees C, winds NW 10 kms.

This is supposed to be the “big fishing day.” Fishing fever is at its very highest. The fishermen were ill-prepared with poles, tackle box and little else.

They did not exactly know what to expect for services from the outfitter and they did not ask. So they got what they got. After a whole day without any food, drink or solar cream, and having to walk over an hour on a bush lane from another lake, André and Patrick show up at the camp around supper time, bushed and tired, but happy to show their collection of pike and blue walleye.

Bill’s party was better organized, perhaps, but less successful on their own fishing expedition. Nevertheless, there was more than enough fish to please everyone and there was even fish left for breakfast the next morning.

Day 3, Monday, August 7.  Rainy, 20 degrees C, winds NW 30 kms.

An expected cold front passed through the area overnight. At about 01:50 hours, Claude, Patrick and Richard, the lodge owner, were awakened by winds and heavy rain. They soon found themselves parading outside in torrential rain, with very little clothes on, wet as noodles, checking out in the dark for airplanes which had been left standing without ropes in a wind-protected, marshy bay.

As hoped for, the wind just blew over and away, shielded by the high grounds around the little marsh. Nevertheless, for three guys to get up in unison, in the middle of a rainy night, there definitely was plenty of rain and wind to be heard outside.

Bill, George and Kent departed on the road home at 11:00 hours. As it clears in the afternoon, André and Patrick go back fishing.

Having been rain soaked a couple times while fishing, the two flyers still manage to have a great smile when they show Claude their great catch of blue walleye.

Tomorrow, following the cold front, the weather will be crisp, clear and flyable. The boys review their progress and plan to make it out to Rouyn for the evening.

Day 4, Tuesday, August 8.  Sunny, 23 degrees C, winds N 15 kms.

The weather is as good as if ordered directly from the Flying Gods. After bidding “Au revoir” to their hosts Patty and Richard, the flyers go 60 miles due west which brings them back to civilization and to Mattawa, Ont (identifier CMA2).  After a good lunch at the Valois restaurant, overlooking the Ottawa River and the airplanes, the guys go across the street, fill up their plastic cans full of gas and load up, ready to go to the Temiscaming area.

The flight to St-Bruno-de-Guigues, Que. (identifier CTA4), on the northeastern corner of Lake Temiscaming, went without a hitch. Once landed, the group meets with a local flyer who gives them a return ride to the village to go and get gas. Patrick also takes just enough time to call ahead to a long-time engineer friend in Rouyn, who agrees to come and pick us up at the Rouyn Airport.

Today’s last flight to Rouyn (identifier CYUY) would have gone unnoticed if it wasn’t for the ATC people at the Rouyn Airport who were seemingly asleep at the switch. It takes three times and an elevated tone of voice for Claude to get the FSS operator to spell his aircraft identifier right. Let’s guess the Rouyn tower people are not used to work with disciplined formations of ultralights.

Once parked and secured for the night, all three flyers walk away from their aircraft to meet the Bergeron family. Sylvain, accompanied with his wife Sandra and their daughter Elsa, worked previously with Patrick, so he is visibly happy to get to see Patrick and the group. 

Curious about the airplanes, the whole Bergeron family follows in trail to the airplanes for an appropriate series of briefings. Elsa, who is only 5 years old, does not seem convinced.

After a ride downtown to a selected motel, the whole group reconvenes at the motel’s main entrance around 19:00 hours for a wonderful supper at a nearby restaurant on Rouyn’s Main Street.

The supper lingers into a late, comfortable evening. There is no pressure to go to bed, as tomorrow’s program calls for only one flight and the weather is expected to be VFR all day.

Day 5, Wednesday, August 9. Partly cloudy, 23 degrees C, winds W 15 kms.

A leisurely routine seems to establish itself: all up around 7:00 hours, breakfast at 07:30, towards the airport by 09:00 and flying by 10:00 hours. On the way to the airport, the taxi makes a stop in front of a local auto parts store for André to buy additional 2-cycle oil for his trusty ROTAX 503 DCDI.

Once at the Rouyn Airport, all goes according to plan and the flyers perform a remarkable formation departure from the wide runway. Patrick, who strictly operates at home from lakes and grass strips, is quite excited at seeing so much flat asphalt.

The sky is overcast and the winds seem to be on the increase. As we fly above the road between Rouyn and Val d’Or we notice the cars, normally faster than us, now seem much slower. A quick look at our GPS indicates a ground speed of 102 mph! That’s what you call a decent tail wind!

On the way to Val d’Or, the flyers go right by the town of Malartic. Claude, who has flown around here before, alerts his companions to the existence of a very sandy, dusty landing strip, situated in the northwest corner of town. The strip is only good for ultralight activities. The guys look on, decide to pass and fly onwards to a more suitable place where to land.

Compared to the previous Malartic strip, arriving at the Val d’Or (Que.) Airport (identifier CYVO) is like going from famine to feast. The runway is so long and so wide that Claude, who is leading the group to a landing, gets lost in the process. So the group gets airborne again, flies a little more only to land two miles later, at the very other end of the runway.

Once there, they taxi to the Q-60 hangar where Réal Létourneau manages the local FBO.  He directs the flyers to good parking spots and generously offers his vast knowledge of the area to these visiting pilots.

The group is also met by Gilles Racicot, one of many people working at the STAVIBEL Group, a reputable consulting engineering firm headquartered in Val d’Or. Specialized in commercial and industrial construction projects in arctic regions, the STAVIBEL Group employs more than 100 people in the immediate Val d’Or area.

Patrick worked in the Montreal office of the firm as a mechanical engineer for 17 years, so it is nice to come back and visit them. Even after all these years, they still think very highly of Patrick. The extent of their warm welcome to Patrick can be gauged by the fact that a courtesy minivan is delivered by Mr. Racicot to the flyers at the airport for the duration of their stay. They also get invited for supper in a nice downtown restaurant.  Life cannot be any better.

Once the motel arrangements are made, the flyers find their way to the appointed restaurant to meet Gilles Brisson and Gilles Marcotte, two of the main partners in this engineering firm. The formal portion of this meeting is dealt with swiftly by Mr. Brisson saying aloud: “Patrick, you can come back anytime.”  The rest of the evening is spent very slowly, sampling delicious food and sipping fine wines.

Day 6, Thursday, August 10. Partly cloudy, 20 degrees C, winds N 30 kms.

Having been more than intrigued all evening long by all these tales of high flying on floats, Gilles “B” and Gilles “M” had to come to the airport the next morning to see for themselves the simple engineering Patrick had built into these PuddleJumper Floats.  They might not agree entirely, but they now understand why Patrick had to leave them to take over the PuddleJumper Floats Company and pursue his father’s legacy.

By the time the engineering delegation leaves, a headwind has developed. After about two hours of witnessing the flyers’ hesitation, Réal, the FBO Manager, wins everybody over by saying to the boys: “If I were you, I would stay put for the rest of the day and try again early tomorrow morning.” Case closed. A taxicab is called and all minds are put to rest, since tomorrow’s forecast looks promising. 

Patrick tries to convince his buddies to join him for an afternoon golf game at the Val d’Or Belvedere Golf Club. After being told that they were not golfers, he went on his own and ended up playing a round of golf with three lovely ladies.

Day 7, Friday, August 11. Gradual clearing, 18 degrees C, winds NW 20 kms.

Our expected destination today is Chibougamau. This should be the biggest flying day, both in terms of time and distance involved. Everybody today is up at 06:00 and they find themselves airborne at 08:30 hours.

However, they could have stayed in bed a little longer. By Senneterre, they have caught up with the solid cloud cover and try to go underneath, to no avail. So they spot a good beach and land right on the Bell River, at the northeast end of town. 

Once the aircraft are neatly beached, they meet Gaétan “Ti-Père” Delisle, the owner of Le Point d’eau Campground where they just landed. Accompanied with his friend Jean-Maurice Durocher, Ti-Père profusely welcomes the intrepid flyers, mentioning to them they are lucky because the weather had just lifted around there. He simply confirmed the flyers are bumping against the back side of this same weather system they had observed all day yesterday in Val d’Or.

So, now with more time to kill, they leave the floatplanes on the beach and walk two kilometers to downtown Senneterre and the local Subway Restaurant.

At 14:00 hours, the ceiling had lifted enough to be able to get airborne from Senneterre and make it to Lebel-sur-Quévillon (identifier CSH4). Once on solid ground, they meet Colette and Ghislain Fortin, who live next to the runway, and take great care of the strange visitors. 

Serge brings the group into town for filling up their gas containers and, upon their return to the airport, more friends show up to greet the flyers and to possibly lend a hand.

After lots of explanation given about their journey and their machines, the flyers get back into the air for The Aboriginal territory of Lake Waswanipi. There is no airport there, but the municipal campground offers a great sheltered beach which, curiously enough, is deserted at this time of the day.

So the planes land in open water into strong winds, get to the protected beach, transfer all their spare gas into the main tanks and get airborne quickly.  There is little time to waste if they want to get to Chibougamau before it gets dark.

Fortunately, all goes well and the good weather holds just enough for the airplanes to reach the Chibougamau Airport (identifier CYMT). Yes, just enough, because it is raining in downtown Chibougamau, situated a few kilometers further.

After nearly six hours of flying today, the guys are beat and the rented minivan ride to downtown is relatively quiet under the misty rain. They quickly secure their room at the famous Hotel Chibougamau and walk to the nearby Le Coq Rôti Restaurant for a bite to eat. The discussions around the table center, once again, about fishing tomorrow. 

This is fishing paradise, so the flyers quickly turn in for the night with great visions of catching mounds of trout and pike from a bridge not too far…

Day 8, Saturday, August 12. Cloudy, 17 degrees C, winds NW 30 kms.

This is a planned fishing day in Chibougamau. The guys have breakfast together, then go shopping for trout lures and information gathering, asking the locals many questions.  They also go back to the airport to do some aircraft maintenance and meet with Daniel Dubois, a 35-year veteran firefighting pilot on standby here in Chibougamau. 

Daniel’s Canadair CL-215T is parked next to Patrick’s aircraft, so they strike a conversation which culminates with a full aircraft visit and briefing on both machines.

Once the ultralights are refueled and ready to go, the boys go back downtown for lunch.  Soon after, André and Patrick depart on their fishing expedition while Claude visits the town. Upon the fishermen’s return from their fun afternoon, they all retreat to a downtown brasserie for a leisurely supper.

Day 9, Sunday, August 13. Sunny, 19 degrees C, winds NW 35 kms.

Today is “destination day.” The excuse for this trip was the annual floatplane meeting organized by the APBQ - Aviateurs et Pilotes de Brousse du Québec. The fact that this annual event had been cancelled about a month ago would not dampen or change the group’s resolve to get to Lac à Jim. Not only that, they would get there the hard way, via the long way around.

Following their normal morning routine, all are up at 06:00 hours and at breakfast at 07:00 hours, trying to get airborne before the expected high winds get going. They get airborne a few minutes after 09:00 hours, under the curious eyes of many onlookers.

It was a nice flight with a great tail wind at 4,500 feet ASL. Given this, the group flies right over their planned refueling point on Lac Chigoubiche and fly direct to Lac à Jim.  Once near their destination, the guys don’t quite know what Lac à Jim looks like, so they do about 15 minutes of additional flying around to ascertain the correct spot. The landings are into a lot of wind, but uneventful.

After a good lunch at the main lodge, they meet with Vital Doucet, their local contact from the APBQ. Claude had met Vital in the military 10 years ago, so he is very happy to meet an old aviation friend.

Vital goes out of his own way to help his ultralight friends. He brings gas to them, drives them to his cousin’s wild blueberry farm, brings them home for a drink, and that’s not all!  The group then goes to Le Kastelet, a local restaurant, visits a couple Super Cub builders and gets chauffeured back to their digs for the night.

It is a great day that ends well.

Day 10, Monday, August 14. Rainy, 17 degrees C, winds E 10 kms.

This day is a quiet day for all. André and Patrick have a trout lake to fly to, but the rainy weather will not alloy them the joy of flying.

The grounded gentlemen take it slow, sleep a bit here and there, and just pass on an opportunity to participate to an all-out bingo night. Maybe some other time.

Day 11, Tuesday, August 15. Cloudy, 20 degrees C, winds W 30 gusting 40 kms.

This is not a beginner’s day. The skies are clear, but winds are blowing. Our takeoff from Lac à Jim sure qualifies as a “rock-and-roll” departure, but the planes all make it to their next destination, the Alma Airport (identifier CYTF).

Again, the landing in a 30-degree, 40 kms/hour crosswind is one of the more difficult ones during this trip. No matter, all make it without any consequence.

Once there, they meet with Roger Bouchard, a local Challenger pilot who has his beautiful, new machine mounted on Patrick’s floats. Roger is excited to have Challenger companions all of a sudden. He takes advantage of the opportunity and gets into a long discussion with the flyers, more akin to comparison shopping. Looking at this collection of older machines, Roger gets an idea of how his own Challenger should age gracefully.

The next flight is Claude’s flight. He gets a thrill at bringing his flying buddies to Canadian Forces Base Bagotville (identifier CYBG), his old stompin’ ground.

Claude is from the Saguenay Valley. His life’s calling took precise shape on Saturday, May 27, 1967, when his father took him and the whole family to the Special Centennial Edition of the Bagotville Air Show. Claude stood there, in the middle of the tarmac, looking at all this wonder world of flying, saying to himself: “That’s it!  That’s what I want to do in life!”

Some thirty-nine years later, Claude is back, following a full Air Force career, proudly leading a formation of ultralights to a soft, into-the-wind landing on Bagotville’s main runway. Life sure is good.

The rest of the day is spent touring around the Saguenay Valley. An excellent supper with Claude’s mother concludes this great day.

Day 12, Wednesday, August 16. Cloudy, 21 degrees C, winds W 20 gusting 28 kms.

Today’s objective is to fly down the Saguenay River, cross the St-Lawrence River and carry on southwest bound to Lac Etchemin (identifier CSC5), southeast of Quebec City, near the American border.

At 10:00 hours, on schedule, the three aircraft lift off from Bagotville, only to land about ten minutes later on a lake near St-Félix d’Otis, Que. On takeoff, André’s gear gets stuck somehow. He decides to land on the St-Félix d’Otis lake for repair and the other two planes follow. Once all three aircraft are beached on a protected sandy bay, the problem is quickly analyzed by Patrick. 

A field repair puts an end to André’s anxiety and all get airborne again. The flight over the Saguenay fjord is majestic. André is excited to fly over the village of l’Anse St-Jean where he worked as a physician for two years at the beginning of his career.

As they get closer to the St-Lawrence River, they start spotting multiple pods of beluga whales. In all over 50 whales are seen in less than 20 minutes. 

The next landing at Charlevoix (identifier CYML) is routine. On approach though, another Challenger is heard calling in for landing. This one, you could say, is slightly larger: it is a Canadair Challenger Jet bringing high profile guests to the region.  

Once on the tarmac, the jet’s pilots request help from the other Challenger (ultralight) pilots to push the Challenger Jet back to a parking spot! There, they also meet another Challenger (ultralight) owner, Marc Deraps, who is quite happy to meet this bunch of long-distance fellow fliers.

The next leg is a long one, thanks to favorable winds. The plan is to fly over l’Ile aux Coudres (identifier CTA3), then over l’Ile-aux-Grues (identifier CSH2) to land at the Montmagny Airport (identifier CSE5), on the south shore of the St-Lawrence River.  Once over l’Ile-aux-Grues, Claude makes a quick fuel calculation, using his GPS information. “If you can wait for supper, we can make it to destination from here without stopping.” The two others agree and the Montmagny Airport frequency only hears of three airplanes over-flying their location.

After dodging some localized showers, the group spots Lac Etchemin and goes straight for the city-run airport. Once over it, Claude comments on how narrow the runway is.  Patrick also comments on the total absence of life near the runway: no car, airplane or people. “Let’s go to the lake and land at the Manoir Lac Etchemin.”

Claude has been here before and he knows the shore in front of the Manoir will accommodate three amphibious Challengers. He lands first, gets to the sandy shore and the two companions follow soon after.

Of course, three floatplanes arriving to a four-star hotel looks pretty neat. It gathers an immediate crowd of onlookers, two of them being René and Johanne Fecteau, from the famous Air Fecteau aviation family. 

They and others look at the machines, question their size, but are caught up in the undeniable crowd appeal the Challenger creates.

Paul generously offers his help for the next morning’s takeoff preparations. Claude immediately counters in offering Paul a complete early morning tour of the three aircraft. 

The Manoir Lac Etchemin has a great reputation for fine cuisine and a superb view of the lake from its second floor dining room windows. Our three gentlemen can only agree of this excellent venue and indulge in the pleasures of a great meal, while contemplating their airplanes disappearing below in the day’s fading light.

Day 13, Thursday, August 17. Sunny, 23 degrees C, winds W 15 kms.

Another perfect flying day is in store for today. Once breakfast is done, the group finds both René and Johanne near the airplanes. They drive André and Claude to a nearby gas station while Patrick prepares his airplane.

Of course, the word has spread out that the planes would be leaving in the morning. A gallery of a dozen people is on hand to wish the flyers “Farewell” and “Bon voyage!”

It is an easy takeoff on Lake Etchemin and a westbound heading brings the airplane along the US/Canada border to the Chaudière Valley and the guys intercept the Chaudière River south of St-Frédéric, Que (identifier CSZ4).

From that point, it is a northbound trek to St-Lambert-de-Lauzon, Que. (identifier CST7), meandering along with the beautiful Chaudière Valley below. Once down at St-Lambert, the group is warmly welcomed by Jacques Gagné, the local airport owner and operator of Beauciel Inc., a ROTAX Service Centre.

While Claude and André transfer fuel to their main tank, Patrick is busy talking floats with Jacques. At some point, Claude has to get near them and break their great conversation, saying something like “It is now time to go, Gentlemen.” They oblige.

At this point, all agree to push it no further than Trois-Rivières today. The weather promises rain only for Saturday evening, so there is no rush for Patrick to get home before mid-day Friday. It will leave room for a group supper Friday evening and enough time Saturday for André and Claude to complete their journey before the rain arrives in Ottawa.

So they take off in a westbound direction, consulting their GPS to stay just out of the Quebec City (identifier CYQB) Terminal Area. They end up facing the Donnacona  Bluffs, straight ahead on the north side of the St-Lawrence River. Lowering their altitude, the three airplanes end up flying westbound and up river, 20 feet over the St-Lawrence Seaway.

What an unusual, majestic view of the rural scenery along the St-Lawrence. Claude, again, wants some pictures of his companions. He has to “corral” and cajole them to a tight flying formation which produces a very decent photo session.  Claude likes to be bossy sometimes!

The landing at the Trois-Rivières Airport (identifier CYRQ) is smooth and it does not take long to get a taxi ride to a downtown hotel. Once there, they clean-up a bit and walk to a nearby restaurant. They stretch their meal time as much as they can and walk back to their hotel for a quiet evening.

When the lights are all out and the “Good night” wishes are all done, Claude, in one of his classic moves, says to “Rookie” Patrick:  Remember, this is your territory.  Tomorrow, you lead. Goodnight!”

Patrick, who has lazily followed the others all the way up to this point, is taken aback by this comment. Now, he has trouble sleeping!

Day 14, Friday, August 18. Hazy, 27 degrees C, winds SW 15 kms.

Today is an easy, hazy day of summer flying. With only two flights on today’s program, they plan to depart late enough in mid-morning to be able to land at Joliette (identifier CSG3) just before lunch time.

Patrick, who has to play “Formation Lead”, does an excellent job on the radio and the three-ship takeoff is picture-perfect. One hour later, the formation establishes itself in the circuit at Joliette where Mr. and Mrs. Ghislain Charette, from Charette Assurances Aviation, are waiting for the flyers.

Ghislain bought a used Challenger not long ago and is still experimenting with it. The visit of three seasoned Challenger pilots and their mounts has Ghislain all excited. He wants to drill as much information as he can during this too-short visit, so he invites everybody to an excellent buffet luncheon in town. Their son Jean-François also joins the group.

The lunch hour stretches a bit, but the flyers must go if they want to get to St-Jovite around 16:00 hours. The guys bring back auto fuel from downtown and replenish their tanks, take a few pictures and really thank the whole Charette family for being such great hosts.

With everyone feeling good about the Joliette experience, the Challengers get airborne again under Patrick’s lead. The takeoff is no sooner done that Patrick really gets into his new role of showing his own aerial backyard to his two companions. Comfortably playing the role of a Tourist Guide, Patrick knows his way around these mountains and guides his friends on a direct path to the north face of Mont-Tremblant.

The group over flies the mountaintop installations, throttle all the way back and glide their way down the south face of Mont-Tremblant. Patrick gives the whole group an opportunity to tour around Lake Mont-Tremblant, complete with a formal touch-and-go in the water. The trio then takes on some altitude near the Mont-Tremblant Resort area, jumps over a couple mountains and fly over Lac Ouimet to the St-Jovite Airport (identifier CSZ3).

Patrick, as our fearless leader, is no sooner down when he sees his mother waiting by the runway side. This provides for a joyful family reunion, only more complete when Patrick’s wife and his two kids show up moments later.

André and Claude are kindly invited to the Vinet homestead and partake in an all evening celebration. For so long, Patrick wanted to do such a trip, and now it is done, safely done.

Day 15, Saturday, August 19. Hazy, 28 degrees C, winds SW 10 kms.

André and Claude are up at 07:30 hours. They have breakfast with the whole Vinet family, but their minds wander about the flying soon to be done. The Vinets are gracious hosts and they all come as a delegation to the airport to see Patrick’s friends fly away.

The haze is there, but the winds are not, so the takeoff in between mountains is easily performed. Both Challengers climb to their planned 4,000 feet ASL altitude. They follow valleys and lakes to come out of the mountains north and east of St-André Avellin, with the Ottawa River gradually appearing out of the haze. 

The rest of the trip around to the south of Ottawa Terminal Area is uneventful and the flyers find themselves landing at Carleton Place.

Monique, André’s wife, is there to greet the two travelers. She has brought a ton of home-made sandwiches, so Claude joins André and Monique for a celebratory lunch in André’s hangar. The trip is over.


All told and not counting any individual or local ground travel, this Northern Quebec adventure involved 20 group flights and covered a minimum straight-line distance of 1,261 statute miles (2,029 kms) in 15 days. The trip was done in 30.9 flying hours for an average speed of 41 miles (66 kms) per hour. The trip’s average leg length was 63 miles (101 kms), while the longest leg was 91 miles (146 kms) and the shortest was 32 miles (51 kms).

What conclusions can we draw from such an adventure?  First and foremost is the fact you can travel long distances in a well-equipped ultralight. Yes, you fly slower, you fly shorter legs and you land more often, but this should make any flying adventure more enjoyable to a pilot.

Also, you get to exercise your judgment in unfamiliar terrain and unusual circumstances.  No matter what the size of your aircraft, any bush-country flying experience such as this one is invaluable: it forces you to know and respect your limits, making you a better pilot.

Best of all, there is an important human aspect in these group flights: you get to know others and you even get to learn a few things about yourself. We are all very different and we all have unique strengths. To recognize and use all these group talents makes any trip like this one a truly wonderful human experience.

Another interesting fact: since these yearly group flights started back in 1990, no ICOA-run expedition has ever left a pilot or a machine stranded behind. Big or small, airplanes have mechanical issues, but we stick together and the destination becomes just an excuse for discovering ourselves along the way.

Let us leave you with one final thought: flying is fun and adventure flying is one of the best ways to discover your own planet. You don’t have to go very far in time and space to transplant you and your aircraft into a new world full of discoveries. Two flights away from home base will do it. So why don’t you?