Twenty minutes of magic for 90 high-flying Vernon children

John Swallow


Mason Simpson of Armstrong was one of 90 children who experienced the thrill of flight as they took to the air on April 10, courtesy of the members of the Vernon Flying Club.

Participating in the COPA For Kids Aviation Program and volunteering their time, money, and aircraft, the Flying Club introduced children from Vernon and surrounding area to that magical feeling you experience when you take to the air.

Under the auspices of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, the mission of the COPA For Kids Aviation Program is to provide a motivational aviation experience for youth, focusing on a flight in an airplane for children between the ages of seven and 17. The event had been planned for several months; an advertisement placed in the local paper had resulted in sign-ups for nearly 100 children.

Although the day started on the cool side, it did not quench the enthusiasm of the prospective junior pilots who were eager to go as soon as the doors opened for business.

Upon arrival at the Vernon Laidlaw Airport, the children were quickly processed through the necessary paperwork by Marion Ross, Alison Crerar, Bev Bonner and Laurel Nelson, and then, handed off to event organizer Randy Rauch who gave them a combined information and safety briefing.

Randy, who is also qualified in ultralight aircraft and hang-gliders, had the children gather outside around Bev Bonner’s aircraft where he identified various parts of an aircraft and explained the more salient features.

Moving back to the “departure area,” the children were met by more Flying Club volunteers who collected their “tickets,” walked them to their respective aircraft, introduced them to their pilots, and, if required, assisted with their strap-in. Their pilots then gave each of his passengers a quick briefing on his particular aircraft and then it was “switches on! Contact!” and the engines came to life.

What followed was approximately 20 minutes of magic for many of the children as the aircraft departed to the northeast, overflew the city of Vernon, headed up Swan Lake, across to the head of Lake Okanagan, down its west side, then easterly across Adventure Bay to a landing back at the airport.

For many of the children, this was the first time that they had been in a small aircraft; for others, it was the first time that they had been in an aircraft at all. The smiles on their faces when they returned to the ramp to be greeted by their parents was visible proof of the success of the morning.

As they exited their respective aircraft, the children were given a certificate suitable for framing signed by their pilot attesting to their flight. The fact that there were free hotdogs served up by Chef Fred Biollo waiting for them in the club house was icing on the cake.

The successful outcome of Saturday’s venture can be directly attributable to our club volunteers who again stepped up to the plate; the pilots who donated their time and aircraft included Rob Kennett, Stan Nelson, Rick Thorburn, Franz Fux, Barry Jackson, Barry Harsent, Ken Fenner, and Frank Rowe.

Ensuring the safe and orderly movement of children were Marshallers Bob Brandle, John Smith, Steve Swallow and Art Ratte. As mentioned above, the paperwork was ably handled by Marion Ross, Alison Crerar, Bev Bonner, and Laurel Nelson.

All told, 90 children were exposed to the wonders of flight in an elapsed time of approximately five hours; an admirable feat, considering that six of the eight aircraft were two-seaters.

The Vernon Flying Club under - takes this venture once or twice a year with the whole-hearted support of its members, the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, and the Vernon Airport.