By Leonel Richard
Saturday morning showed the promise of an IFR day to kick off the 9th annual Fly-in in Miramichi NB. Normally this is the day when we see the fly-in visitors but not today. The only non resident aircrafts were a couple of Diamonds from the Moncton Flight College socked in from the night before. As it turned out, most of the day was quite flyable within a 30 mile radius of Miramichi but the Southern half of the Province was getting wet.
Local aircrafts included air tankers owned and operated by Forest Protection Ltd. New Brunswick Forest fires are battled by vintage TBM Avengers and they are stationed at the Miramichi Airport during the fire season. The four TBMs owned and operated by Forest Protection Ltd are the only working fleet of their kind left in the world. Initially bought from the US Navy for $3000.00 each after the war, they were converted to sprayers and then to air tankers. Holding a lesser pedigree, the six new Air Tractor 802s with turbine engines are slowly replacing the TBMs.
The lack of visiting aircrafts in the field didn’t seem to have any affect dinner service with seemingly record-setting numbers of breakfast, lunch and dinner plates being served. Many came from around the province in motor homes, campers, even motorcycles for some fun and music or just to re-kindle old friendships. After the auction, the gang was treated to the visiting musicians from the western end of the Province. They played on till the wee hours of the morning.
The second day of the Fly-in began with high winds from the north and Navcan was forecasting mechanical turbulence 5000ft and below. Not the best for flying Young Eagles. After consultation with the parties involved, we were forced to postpone the event to a later date. In spite of the wind we hosted 20 visiting aircrafts including a twin with 3 onboard flying in from PEI for burgers and hotdogs.
Our Young Eagles Day was postponed to September 9th and the weather cooperated with a beautiful late summer day. A total of 51 Young Eagles took to the air plus another 14 who had flown a few days earlier for a total of 65. Bravo to pilots, Wayne Holt, Christel Pond, John Harding, Dale Mattinson, Doug Brown and David Lanoue.
Miramichi Airport from WWII training base to Community airport
Established in 1941 by the Royal Canadian Air Force as a training unit for the British Commonwealth, RCAF Station Chatham trained a total of 131,553 air crew during the war.
War time activity at the base consisted of the following units:
No. 21 Elementary Flight Training School
No. 10 Air Observer School
No. 3 Training Command
No. 113 (Bomber-Reconnaissance) Squadron, flying the Lockheed Hudson (special Submarine Hunting Detachment)
No. 119 (Bomber-Reconnaissance) Squadron
After the war RCAF Station Chatham remained as a training base with a Fighter Training School flying the De Havilland Vampire and it was also home to the 421 Fighter Squadron flying the Canadair F-86 Sabre.
In 1959 the Golden Hawks aerobatic team called Chatham home and was joined in 1962 by the 416 All Weather CF-101 Voodoo Interceptor Squadron.
In 1974, CFB Chatham, as it was known by then, had its first commercial flight in the middle of an active military training base.
Replacements for the CF-101 Voodoos were the CF-18 Hornets which began showing up in 1984. The runway was lengthened to 10,000 feet to accommodate them. The year 1985 saw the 434 Tactical Fighter Squadron, posted at the base flying the CF-116 Freedom Fighter.
From 1986 to 1995, the Air Defence Artillery was the last military unit to call the base home and CFB Chatham closed in 1996.
Today, although there are no scheduled commercial flights, the Airport is still active as a Unicom with a COPA Flight and a CASARA Unit based there. The housing units have a new life as a Retirement Community and the Hangars and other buildings have become a busy industrial park. 'VISITORS AND NEW CITIZENS ARE WELCOME'.