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Flight flies to Carcross Yukon

 

Carcross Yukon was the destination of COPA Flight 106's third fly-in event this summer. This small community lays tightly nested between four mountain valleys and two large lake systems in South West Yukon. The threshold of runway 05 abuts the Klondike Highway which travels the 100 miles from Whitehorse to Skagway Alaska. The airstrip is situated right beside the town and has been an integral part of the community for nearly 100 years.

Aircraft that have historically used this facility include Fairchilds, Fokkers, Ford Tri-Motors and even the Eastman Flying Boat that is featured in the excellent museum at the Victoria airport on Vancouver Island, for those who are fortunate enough to visit there. The airport is part of the flying heritage of the North. Into this spectacular fall setting of blues, greens, yellows and reds, and tranquil rugged mountains and cold clear lakes we ventured on September 8, 2007.

For this event the first aircraft to arrive were a pair of Super Cubs and a Scout that overcame occasional 35 Knot ground speeds enroute from Fort Nelson on Friday.

The first aircraft into Carcross this morning was the author in his RV-8. Prior to the arrival of any crowds the RV-4s exercised briefly and before long a selection of aircraft and COPA members began arriving. Randy Shewen in a 172, Thor Flender in a nice 140, Bob Gates in his Aircoupe, John Rogers in a Beech Sierra, Russell and Diane Bamford in their BushMaster on Floats, all reported on 123.2 as they entered the zone. Chris Pearson, Matt Essau and Randy Kosik punched their way up from Grand Haven in Fort St. John in a 172 to our appreciation.

Ken and Rod Rombaugh and Wade Roberts had done an excellent job of preparation. By the time we arrived the grass along the edges of 23 = 05 was mowed back to the edge of the trees, some flying competitions were already laid out, and a kitchen trailer was set up beside the threshold to 05.

Ken and Rod's company, Skyway Services, donated all the food for breakfast, lunch and even supper for those of us that-stayed over. Ken had recruited Buck and Robby Fraser and Gail Laroche from the community of Carcross to do all the cooking. They worked all day cranking out Bacon, eggs, sausages, pancakes, burgers, coffee, soft drinks and even an excellent supper by the lake. Donations were accepted and all money received was split between the costs and the COPA Legal Fund.

As breakfast progressed people from the public began arriving. Murray Adams started scheduling Young Eagles and matching them to their pilots. Before the day was out seventeen young people received their first ride in light aircraft and their level of excitement was contagious. Soon there was no one in view that wasn’t equipped with a large smile and the good will carried through the rest of the day.

The windsock hung limp off and on at Carcross for most of the day, but 40 miles away in Whitehorse the winds increased and shifted so some mountain turbulence was encountered by a few late arrivals. The variable winds certainly kept each competitors attention up. The decision was that any one landing "short" of the line was disqualified, and the author was in good company leaving the painted line unmarked on that score. Finally, some may say inevitably, one of the Super Cubs flown by Pat Middleton aced it. It has to be said that some others gave good contest before he carried away the hardware.

Ken and Wade managed the flour bombing competition that came next. They had prepared one pound bombs made from flour in paper lunch sacks. Each was tied neatly with a piece of red flagging and the entrant’s registration was written on the flagging in sharpie marker. Each competitor in turn took their two bombs from the box and dropped them on target in successive passes. After each hit a nail was driven through the ribbon holding it securely at the location of first hit because some of the bombs tended to "skip", especially the last attempt by Russell and Diane Bamford from their Bushmaster on Floats (Diane, you have to throw the bomb past the float!). They were a no-show on the precision landing contest. Again, not surprisingly, another of the Super Cubs from Fort Nelson won this competition too, this one flown by Dennis Ellington with his partner Linda Hiney doing the actual bombing duty.

An impromptu short take-off and precise landing competition sprang up. There was no prize for this "Crow-Hop" adventure, but I noticed a local Cessna 172 flown by Randy Shewen did pretty good. Dennis’s Super Cub took credit for the shortest take off at the end of the day.

Other highlights this day seemed to be Bob Gates flying his Aircoupe with a Young Eagle or Two, and (and now this is surprising) even a full size passenger on one occasion. Of course Vans products (two RV-4’s and an RV-8) drew a lot of attention, as did Rod Rombaugh's pristine Scout, fresh from a rebuild by Joseph Villager in Hythe Alberta. Of course Joseph’s reputation for quality work extends well into the Yukon. By the end of the day most of the flying community had been fed and watered and flown to satisfaction.

Local aircraft started leaving for home base in the late afternoon, but some of us elected to make the most of all the excellent local hospitality. We put our aircraft safely to bed and enjoyed a hearty supper and campfire prepared by the Carcross crew and camped out overnight. The Super Cubs left to return to Fort Nelson on Saturday morning, but alas the tail wind they now enjoyed was likely lost to the weight of prizes they were forced to carry back.

Next year will be bigger and better. Hopefully, should Rod decide to leave his Scout up here for a while, us locals are hoping that his father will get enough practice dodging gopher holes to beat those Southern Super Cubs into submission next year.

If you want to attend next year, or even just check up on what we are up to look at; www.copayukon.com.

We try to keep our site updated on our activities. If you’re wondering about current weather conditions you can also check the Fraser Weather Cam (located in the valley several miles Southwest of Carcross). It can be accessed at;

http://www.weatheroffice.pyr.ec.gc.ca/RVAS/default_e.html or at http://akweathercams.faa.gov/sitelist.php.

Successful lessons from this event include;

  • Have 2 people on the Young Eagles desk if possible to control the paperwork and administer the flights
  • We had visited the local school 2 days ahead of time and provided packages and forms to them. 1/2 of the kids that flew arrived with those forms already in hand. This was important.
  • Have your safety person in a high-vis vest to marshal all start ups and returns.
  • Kens method of running the flour bombing (all bombs kept in a box except the flying aircraft) kept excellent control of the number of aircraft in the circuit at any one time
  • You can have a number of light aircraft operate safely in confined and uncontrolled airspace by following the simple safety rules we all know and practice.
  • Practice my precision landings some more, witnesses seem to have a direct effect on lift.