May 15, 2010 was a spectacular day! It was warm, just on the verge of hot by mid-day, winds were light early in the day becoming almost calm by mid-afternoon, and the sky was clear and blue - in short, a perfect day.
When aviation activities are planned months in advance, it’s the luck of the draw and we lucked out on Saturday, May 15 in Neepawa, Manitoba.
Since the Manitoba Aviation Tour is a Manitoba Homecoming 2010 event we decided early on to do something on or around Manitoba Day and since Neepawa was chosen to host the official Manitoba Day celebration it seemed like a natural place to do it.
When the organizing committee in Neepawa was approached they were most encouraging and welcoming, so the decision was made.
Neepawa has a great airport although somewhat underutilized and under appreciated by the community, so we felt holding an event there and shining a positive light on the airport might be helpful.
When it was announced that the first Canadian Forces Snowbirds show of the 2010 season, the only Manitoba show, was going to be in Neepawa as part of the Manitoba Day celebrations we knew we had made a good choice!
COPA for Kids was the natural choice for the occasion; after all, the five Manitoba COPA Flights are the organizers of the Aviation Tour. Many of the pilots signed up for the Tour are COPA members although anyone can participate. Neepawa is in the Central Plains Tourism Region of Manitoba, what a great way to fill that entry in the Tour Passport!
Being a retired teacher/school principal, the natural source of kids is the school; a letter to Hazel M. Kellington School prompted an encouraging reply from Principal Allen Henke.Allen took the idea to his Superintendent who was also encouraging and arranged time at a School Board meeting to make a presentation.
Allen and I attended, I presented the history of the Young Eagles program, the formation of the COPA for Kids program, and talked about the criteria for the Program. Allen talked about the curricular connection to the Flight unit in Grade 6 Science.Permission was received a few days later with the proviso that we meet with parents to explain the program and answer any questions so that parents could give informed consent.
An evening meeting on a beautiful early April evening had 45 of the 62 Grade 6 kids represented so we knew we were going to have a good turnout.
The parents quickly accepted the request that they feed the pilots and volunteers (and themselves and their kids) who were going to make this event happen.Parents who were unable to attend that night had the option of meeting with Allen to have the program explained to them.
May 12, Manitoba Day, was the kickoff of the celebrations in Neepawa and the official ‘Take Off’ of the Manitoba Aviation Tour. Three aircraft flew in for the day and took part in the opening day activities, unfortunately some miscommunication and another commitment caused me to miss my moment of the stage with the dignitaries.
Friday was the day to get things ready at the airport and was the Snowbirds practice day.Town staff swept the ramp with brooms (!), delivered barbeques, picnic tables, garbage cans, and were ready and willing to do anything they could to help out.
The Neepawa Co-op delivered corral panels to serve as a physical barrier for the flight line. It was a nice but very windy day and the Snowbird practice went ahead with a few concerns; I missed it as I caught a ride home to Shoal Lake to get my airplane.
George (retired air traffic controller) and Audrey Porayko arrived in their motor home and set up their UNICOM station.An evening of last minute preparations and a good night’s sleep in my trailer at the airport ended the day.
Up early, I went for breakfast at Tim Hortons, and then flew the route to confirm the time it would take and to have it clear in my mind for the pilot briefing. Aircraft started arriving, the Neepawa Air Cadet #9 Squadron members who were parking cars and doing ‘security’ trickled in, display aircraft arrived, the place started to come alive!
Colette Pierce spearheaded pilot registration assisted by Brenda Carritt, Helga Roehr and Sherry Hall. Shortly after 9:30a. M. the pilot briefing started. I briefed them on the route and procedures, Bruce Ashton did a safety briefing and George Parayko briefed us on radio and circuit procedures.
By 10 a.m. Bruce took the first group of six kids to his C-150, did some teaching about the aircraft systems, did a walk-around, and gave them a safety briefing for their flight.
The first group of six and their teacher Scott Freeman were thrilled to fly with Dennis Mockford in his Noordyn Norseman; imagine being able to take turns in the right seat during the flight!
Bruce briefed the next group of six and they were matched up with pilots and, just as thrilled as the first group, headed off. By 11:30 a.m. 42 kids had flights in nine different aircraft.
By then the parents were barbequing and serving food while we were gathering the pilots and kids together for the presentation of the certificates and photographs.Unfortunately, because there were so many things going on that day, some kids had already left.
The Brandon RC Club then took to the skies and made all of us envious of the performance of their aircraft and their flying skills! Before long people started arriving for the Snowbirds show, mistakenly as they should have driven another mile down the highway to the Show Line on the other side of the airport.
Some people left when they realized there were no concessions and no sound system but many stayed, checked out the display aircraft, and just enjoyed being around aircraft. The Snowbirds started their show right at 3p. M. against a magnificent blue sky, the smoke gradually faded away after each manoeuvre with no apparent drift; it was a great show even without sound!
Once the spectators cleared out there was a mass exodus of aircraft as people left for other commitments. By 7 p.m. everything was cleared up and I headed for home in my Cavalier SA102.5 leaving the van and trailer for another day.
There were 42 COPA for Kids Flights, 23 aircraft, fuelling arranged by Bruce McEwing, display aircraft including Ross Hessom’s Titan T51 Mustang (his trip to Sun n Fun was highlighted in the July issue of Flight), a GY30 Mini Cab, a Cosmos trike, and several RC’s, a few hundred people over the course of the day (even if some of them were in the wrong place).
It was a great day and definitely shone a light on the Neepawa Airport. Coincidently and as a bonus, it was International Learn to Fly Day!