Winter speed festival brings back ice fly-in

By Ken Zachkewich


After a one-year hiatus, the 26th Winter Festival of Speed was once again held on the frozen water of Lac La Biche in Northeastern Alberta. The first Ice Fly-in held in conjunction with the winter festival was in 2010. The ice conditions last year prevented on-ice activity and unfortunately we had to cancel.

On March 3 and 4, 2012, the Lac La Biche Flying Club, COPA Flight 165, hosted the ice flyin adjacent to the racing tracks for cars, snowmobiles, motorcycles, and ATV’s. A 4,000 x 80 foot runway was cleared with three taxiways. The strip was marked with small trees and cones.

We had a reception area with facilities to warm up, use a restroom, enjoy a coffee and roast a hotdog.

Mother Nature provided certain challenges this year. The preferred site on the frozen lake next to the small community of 3,000 people was changed due to large ice heaves. The new location was near the historic Lac La Biche Mission approximately six statute miles west of the town site. On the first day of the event, snow and low ceilings kept most visiting aircraft away. Only four local fixed-wing aircraft and one helicopter landed on the frozen lake.

Sunday the weather was a bit more forgiving. Thirty-two fixed wing and two helicopters braved the elements and landed on the lake. Aircraft types included Tayorcraft, Cessna 172’s, 177’s, 182’s, a 170 and 185, Piper Cubs, a Pacer, Cherokees and Arrows, a Comanche, a Grumman, a Maule, a Zenith 300, a Bushmaster, Beech Sierra, a Sonex, an A-Star and Long Ranger, and a Pipistrel Virus all landed on the ice.

A weather system south of Edmonton kept a disappointed bunch from the Southern half of the province from attending. Most of the visitors were from the Edmonton region and North. Pilots flew in from as far west as Whitecourt, as far East as Meadow Lake, as far north as Ft. McMurray and as far South as Lloydminister and Wetaskiwin.

We were pleased to host the event and hope that the weather and ice conditions will allow for an even better event in 2013.