Flight 144 flies 144 kids

By Jim Farmer



Rod Mathews with his Cherokee 180
and three newly minted junior flyers.


Volunteer groundschool instructor,
Jay Murdock, is a WestJet first officer.


Owen Sound Billy Bishop Flight 144 held our first ‘COPA For Kids’ day on Saturday September 19. Coincidently we flew 144 young people.

Thanks to the volunteers it was more successful than we could have hoped. It wasn’t that difficult, but the organization made it seem easy. If your Flight is interested in putting on a COPA for Kids day, here is what we did.

Our local pilots responded en mass. We had two Cessna 172s, two Cherokees, a Cessna 150, a Stinson 108-2 flown as a two place and a Robinson R44 - to add something truly different. That allowed 17 seats, and at two flights per hour we could move 34 people per hour.

There are some simple requirements for flying in a COPA For Kids event. The pilot must be a COPA member, the aircraft must be registered in Canada, and their must be ‘seat’ insurance. The COPA For Kids handbook lists all of these requirements and is available at www.copaforkids.org.

We had talked up the program for the past six months at meetings and open houses. A Facebook page was established called ‘COPA For Kids Owen Sound.” It had the links to the brochure/release form. Photos taken that day will also be posted there.

We also had the support of the radio station and the newspaper. The newspaper put the event in the Coming Events section, and being a small city of 20,000, most people still read the local paper. The radio station also broadcast it. We flew from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and still had to turned people away.

The day started with a pilot briefing. A single page was handed out with the suggested route, loading and unloading procedures and suggested radio calls. From there the pilots refined when to make position reports to minimize radio clutter and maximize safety and fun.

A sign-in table was established at the door and that turned out to be the nerve centre of the event. Laura Farmer and her friend Erik VanderDuim did yeoman duty all day.

The COPA For Kids brochure includes a release form that must be signed by the parents, and a form that must be signed by the pilot. We also had a ground school for kids and parents that included ramp safety, theory of flight and flight safety. This included when you could talk to the pilot and when you had to observe a ‘sterile cockpit’. A small plug for learning to fly was always included.

The paper work flow made it all work. Laura ensured that the forms were filled out, made out name tags for each flyer, and put the forms into a pile next to Erik. Erik manned the computer, and entered the names from the COPA For Kids brochures and filed them in groups.

When a group was called by the ground school instructor, the sheet of name tags went with the instructor. He gave them out after ground school, so we knew that when a ‘Kid’ had a name tag on, they had been to the safety briefing.

We found one of the keys was to have the ground school instructor hand the kids off to the pilots. The ground school class went to the ramp door of the terminal, and the kids were individually assigned to the waiting pilots. All of the kids and pilots went out as a group, and loaded at once. A ramp volunteer was there to keep parents on the grass and off of the ramp. All of the planes started at once when the all clear was given by the ramp warden.

The flights were about 20 minutes long and started with a take off on runway 36, with a left hand turn out. Our ramp is on the south end of the airport so this allowed a taxi to the button and immediate take off.

The route took each plane south on the west side of the city, turned and came north on the east side of the city, so seats on both sides could see. If there was no other traffic in the circuit, a landing on ‘18’ brought the planes back to the ramp on roll out.

Our COPA Flight sponsored hamburgers and pop for the day. Bob Old slaved over a hot BBQ all day to feed us. This was also welcomed by the pilots, as a lunch time break allowed a rest and some food and fluids.

When most of us fly 25 to 50 hours per year, 12 flights in one day can be fatiguing. Making sure pilots eat and keep hydrated is a definite safety measure. Lunch was served to the kids after they had flown.

Once the kids had landed all aircraft were shut down and all passengers were taken back to the terminal. Erik had typed names on the certificates while they were in flight, and the returning pilot told him what airplane they had flown in.

Erik added that and then printed the certificates right then. The pilot signed both the COPA form and the individual Certificate that the kids could take home.

Leavens Aviation kindly supplied balsa wood gliders as a give away, and most were out of the package and flying in the parking lot before the kids got to the car.

Certificates and the release form are pre-printed and supplied by COPA. Thankfully the certificate is also on the website, as we ran out and had to print some of our own. It is a good idea to have a second printer available. Ours required service in the middle of the day but thankfully cartridges and a knowledgeable person were both on site.

Our airport is under some scrutiny from the city, as are most municipal airports. We had a city councillor and the mayor bring grand children for a flight. They saw the facility absolutely humming with activity, and full of smiling taxpayers having fun at the airport.

We think that the COPA For Kids day will be the talk of the town for a while, and it will surely come up during conversations at the upcoming municipal Service Analysis meetings. Thanks again to our great volunteers.