By Dennis Schoonbaert
Held during Manitoba Homecoming 2010, the Manitoba Aviation Tour was a joint project of the five Manitoba COPA Flights – Flight 103 Lac du Bonnet, Flight 135 Winnipeg/Lyncrest, Flight 145 Morden, Flight 162 Shoal Lake and Flight 138 Russell.
The Tour was conceived as a way to get aviators and their passengers to see all parts of Manitoba in a Homecoming year, to encourage communities to plan events that would encourage pilots and their passengers to visit, and to strengthen connections between aviation communities.
The Tour started in February and ended in October with a Final Celebration at the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon. In all, over 60 pilots registered, many visits were made all over the province, and many new friendships were forged.
I think we all felt the Tour was a success, that there was more potential than was realized, but would there be any lasting legacy from our efforts?
One of our most successful Tour events was a COPA For Kids day held in Neepawa in May 2010. Neepawa was chosen to be the center of 2010 Manitoba Day celebrations for the province. We partnered with Hazel M. Kellington School in Neepawa, worked closely with the staff, especially the Grade 6 teachers who taught a Science unit on flight, and with the parents who were required to attend a meeting to ensure they were giving informed consent to the Flights.
It was a picture perfect day, we had pilots from around the province (and beyond), we gave flights to over 40 kids, the Cadets were indispensible and the parents fed us all! To top it all off we watched the Snowbirds first show of the 2010 season against a perfect sky.
This year we did it again on May 14, 2011. This time we had more than 40 kids from Hazel M. Kellington School and neighbouring Carberry School. School staff prepared the students with the flight curriculum, parents attended a meeting to become informed before giving consent, the Cadets again were invaluable, we had eight pilots from across Manitoba giving the flights, the parents again fed us all... ; it was a great success in spite of a windier, cooler day than last year.
Both pilots and the schools were talking about next year – that’s a legacy!
Last year we were fortunate in attracting a number of Tour sponsors – 20 in all. These ranged from communities to airports to aviation businesses to lodges to small businesses operated by people with an interest in aviation; these sponsorships were the financial foundation for the Tour. Participants paid a fee
of $25 to join the Tour. Manitoba Homecoming supported us with a $500 donation. At our Final Celebration we were able to give everyone who completed the Tour a prize donated by a sponsor or a certificate to be redeemed at one of our sponsors, which we then paid to the sponsor.
On Friday, August 12 Tour organizers from the five Flights met in Morden for their weekly flyday barbeque and donated the remaining $625 to the COPA Freedom to Fly Fund. That’s a legacy that will help aviation across the country!
The North Tour was a very successful Aviation Tour event. An itinerary was developed and people were invited to take in whatever part they could, the final destination was Churchill. In all eight aircraft and 17 people participated.
Ken and Colette Pierce were so taken with the north that they immediately began planning another North Tour for 2011. July 2011 saw 12 aircraft, one truck and 26 people participate including six aircraft from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.
Okay, I’ll explain the truck! Roland Kuip from Riding Mountain was so disappointed when his Comanche came up with a bad cylinder just before the Tour that he and Joy drove to Flin Flon to join the others at Bakers Narrows Lodge for a couple of days on the first leg of the trip. From there the flight went to
Gillam, then via York Factory and Port Nelson and up the Hudson Bay coast to Churchill. A stop at York Factory was a high priority after last year, but damage to the short gravel strip by ice floes prevented any landings and the other option of going in by float plane was just too costly.
There were many things to do in Churchill including a visit to the just opened Northern Study Center at the old rocket range and Ken, Colette and Melodie snorkelling with the belugas.
The Lazy Bear Lodge provided accommodations and meals – a great place to stay! Two aircraft continued up the coast to Arviat, Nunavut for a day trip. Ken and Colette Pierce and Bruce and Noreen McEwing enjoyed the hospitality shown by the residents, the stone carvers effort to locate completed items they might be interested in, and the community locker plant used to store beluga, caribou, Arctic char, geese, and other meat obtained from the air, land, and sea.
They were surprised that the convenience stores were open daily from 6 p.m. until 1 a.m. which makes sense when people are on the land during the day. A tour of the Kettle Rapids generating station near Gillam on the way home was also interesting.
Not surprisingly, the Pierce’s are already planning for 2012, this time going much further into the north – Arviat, Baker Lake, Hope, Kugluktuk, Tuktoyaktuk, Yellowknife. Now that’s a legacy!
We hope that our Tour sponsors profit as a result of the Tour. The increased aviation activity benefits many people directly or indirectly. We hope that places like Bakers Narrows Lodge, our first Tour sponsor to sign on, will continue to have people visit their Lodge as they did in 2010 and 2011. That too would be part of the Tour legacy.
The Tour website: www.manitoba-aviation-tour.com is still active. The Tour model might work for other groups who wish to accomplish similar goals - contact information is on the website. Now that would be a legacy!