By Richard Corbet
Flight 106 moved its 5th annual COPA For Kids event ahead to May 15th this year. It turned out to be a good move – after three inches of snow midweek, Sunday dawned dry, clear and calm and warmed up to 15 Celsius.
We had half a dozen eager kids in hover mode well before the 9 a.m. start and by 3 p.m. there were 124 kids from the ages of 7 through 17 who had gone through ground school, flown and received certificates.
Well, almost; we ran out of certificates with half an hour to go but that’s what can happen when you have an increase in turnout of over 40% from last year.
The last of the kids will be getting their certificates via Canada Post (we hope).
I’m sure some of the credit for this needs to go to the CBC; to Sandi Coleman who taped a radio interview one morning onfive minutes notice, and Mardy Derby who spent two hours at the event getting feedback from everyone.
Once again, the Grey Mountain Lions Club hosted their usual excellent free barbecue for everyone; burgers, hot dogs and drinks had vanished by 1:30 p.m.
Goodwill was everywhere on the airport and the appreciation of parents and kids was stated again and again. Many seemed surprised that the entire event was free and entirely funded by the pilots, COPA and the Lions Club.
Without being too shamelessly selfpromoting, we did point out that we’re the low-profile part of aviation and most of the industry professionals started out just like us.
While Whitehorse airport may well have required its shiny new $16 million Customs facility to accommodate 20 or 30 international flights every year, our main concern was to point out to all kids and parents the need to walk carefully over the WWII - vintage apron with its baseball-sized chunks of disintegrating concrete.
As always, the support volunteers are the ones who make these events a success. Without dedicated and organized people greeting the kids, getting the required paperwork completed and the kids and pilots sorted out through the whole process, success would simply be impossible.
Sure, the flying is work but also fun; it’s the ground crew who deserve the most sincere congratulations. We thank Patti Sedeberg and Carol Corbet, the spouse support crew at the registration desk, who were expertly assisted by Erica Trimble, who is working towards her private licence; Miles Hryniuk who put aside piloting to run the ground school and Murray Biggin, our resident silverback pilot and ex- Harvard driver who knew everybody and helped shuffle papers and people like a pro.
Safety is a top priority and that requires a leader and ground handling staff who are visible and dedicated through the whole day. Christoph Altherr and his crew, Rob, Stan and Wayne made sure pilots, passengers and aircraft all moved smoothly.
The Nav Canada team did a great job from the tower, too. It can’t be easy trying to run a no-radar airport in a mountain valley with eight or 10 private aircraft in the air, their pilots distracted by excited kids.
Being off the beaten path, the only display aircraft we could muster were a pristine 1943 Beech Staggerwing, a very sleek Glasair III and, for the rest of us mortals, a solid little Christavia Mk I. Many people were surprised to learn that two of the three are covered in fabric!
Flying this year we had: Murray Adams, George Balmer, Richard Corbet, John Faulkner, Tom Law, Wade Roberts, Ken and Rod Rombough, Randy Shewen and Gerry Whitley.
The flying fleet was composed of a 185, a 182, a quartet of beautiful RV’s, the ‘Old Paint’ squadron of 172’s and a muscular little Super Cub that appeared to excel at very short, very loud takeoffs. All these people volunteered their time, aircraft and fuel and none of them have any regrets at all.
Finally, George Balmer reported that the highlight of the day for him was when Richard, on one mile final in his 172, called to report “Over the College”, but his words were nearly drowned out on the radio by the sounds of children’s whoops and laughter coming through his intercom.
Now that had to be some background noise level; thank goodness for noise cancelling headsets. And, yes, it was a new experience watching one little guy trying to see what the microphone tasted like plus the pair of nine year olds in the backseat in ‘turbulence annunciator’ mode but we’re all keen to do it again – in Teslin, end of June.