Flight off to a busy start; club works, plays together

By Alison Crerar


The Vernon Flying Club is reputed to be one of the most successful such associations in B.C., according to comments we receive on a regular basis. The fact that several members from other aviation communities have chosen to join us seems to affirm this. While we might not be able to pinpoint exactly what makes us so successful, we do know we have a lot going on and we have a lot of fun!

A large turnout of members was on hand last month as we hosted our most successful COPA for Kids day yet. On Saturday, May 5, we had 11 aircraft in operation and 124 kids flown. Organizer Marion Ross had everything so well planned it went off without a hiccup, even though we had a great inundation within the last few days.

A slow start with registrations had just five aircraft lined up, but a sudden flurry of interest necessitated recruitment of two more aircraft and pilots, Dave Madison and Mark Payer, COPA members from the neighbouring Kelowna club. The sudden influx of keen kids had us scrambling but, in the end, worries about anticipated wait lists were quickly dissipated.

Member Bill Wilkie ran an ongoing “Ground School” with demonstrations of how an airplane “works,” safety aspects, and what to do and not to do while on board. Glider pilot/instructor Dan Cook brought along his full set-up of a glider flight simulator booth so the enthusiastic youngsters could try their hand at the controls.

Many parents and kids enquired about the local flight school, Air Cadets, and membership in the Flying Club. After disembarking from the planes, receiving their Flight Certificates and having their photos taken, the next stop for the Junior Aviators was the “kitchen” for free hot dogs (generously donated by Schneiders with a discount on buns thanks to Buy Low Foods), muffins and juice boxes.

Members who volunteer to help with COPA for Kids events get a great deal of enjoyment from seeing the kids’ excitement, their ear-to-ear grins after the flights and the appreciative comments from the parents. As an added bonus, when the happy crowd had departed, volunteers sat back to relax and enjoy the festivities of “Cinco de Mayo!”

Busy start to the year

Backing up to the beginning of the year, we got off to a busy start with lots of activity at the club. Always on the lookout for a reason to socialize and a way to help the community, January saw us participating in a “Wokathon”, which entailed a big take-out order of delicious Cambodian food from a local restaurant enjoyed at the clubhouse. All proceeds were divided between the local Cambodian Support Group and Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

Other charities supported by the club include the local Food Bank (we had Good News Bears made in the images of Amelia Bearheart and Wilbear Wright for the local television food bank fundraiser) and have contributed food and money to the Food Bank on a yearly basis.

We took part in the Heart Fund’s Big Bike Ride on several occasions, at one time being the biggest Big Bike fundraiser in the community. We’ve supported North Okanagan Community Life Society, Treehouse, Katimavik, Santas Anonymous and Teen Junction.

Our Christmas Family project has been particularly rewarding. Members have a lot of fun shopping and wrapping gifts for the families we support. The Aviation Bursaries we grant each year to promising students in aviation fields are yet another example of our club’s generosity and commitment to the future of aviation.

At the end of January a coffee morning gathering with Scotch Oatcakes and honey butter paid tribute to Robbie Burns. Planning also got underway for the airport’s “Wings and Wheels” event held annually on Father’s Day in conjunction with the Rotary Club. A Mexican Pot Luck Supper and Film Night (aviation films, of course) was held in February, and in March we celebrated Pi Day (3.14, or March 14th) with pizza and pies of all sorts (Pi Approximation Day, 22/7, or July 22, was a fly-in lunch featuring more pi’s!). Another pancake breakfast rounded out the month.

April brought a bit of spring weather so we began our summer tradition of a barbecue before the Tuesday monthly meetings. Our annual “Rust Remover” seminar on Saturday the 28th was preceded by a pot luck social on Friday evening. This event is becoming increasingly popular, and this year the 193 attendees included participants from as far away as Port Alberni, Fort Mc- Murray and Edmonton.

The Transport Canada approved seminar featured excellent topics and presenters. Gliding Instructor Dan Cook started the morning session with an excellent Power Point presentation, “See and Be Seen”. After a quick break, John Mullock, Meteorologist and partner in Weatherwise Training Systems Ltd., spoke on “Getting the Most from your Weather Briefing” and an “Overview of Summer Weather”, also a top-notch presentation on an important subject.

An excellent lunch was provided (Subway sandwiches and soup with a vast array of goodies) and coffee and tea were available throughout the day. Afternoon topics included a detailed talk on “Hypoxia” by Dr. Brad Armstrong, Family Physician, MOT Examiner, and Commercial fixed-wing and helicopter pilot. After another short break the seminar ended with Flying Club member and former Bush Pilot/Instructor Chuck Ross’s presentation on “Airmanship – a Review of Airport Procedures and Radio Etiquette.”

Wings and Wheels

The Vernon Flying Club and Silver Star Rotary recently hosted another successful “Wings and Wheels” at the Vernon Airport on Father’s Day, June 17. This was the fourth annual event and the attendance keeps growing every year.

Over 2000 people came through the gates to enjoy the rare day of sunshine and the many activities for all ages. Most popular with the kids were the airplane flights, both in the air for the older kids and ‘on the ground’ for the younger set!
The club, which is also COPA Flight 65, flew another 101 very excited Junior Aviators on 20- minute introductory flights around the area. Our pilots are keen to share their love of aviation, whether it’s their vocation or their sport, and are happy to donate their time, aircraft and fuel to give a taste of the thrill of flight.

After the 20-minute flight, it’s hard to tell who is more excited and who have the biggest grins, the kids or the pilots! The volunteer flight attendants, ticket agents and ground personnel also enjoy witnessing the excitement and joy after each flight lands.

Younger kids became “Barnstormers” and scrambled in for a ride in the barrel planes, now in their second year of operation. Towed behind a small garden tractor, the seven little aircraft are a huge hit and the ‘pilots’ took over 300 little folk “around the patch”, operating non-stop from opening to closing time.

There are more events planned for the second half of the year and we’re hoping the weather will eventually return to our reputed “Okanagan Sunshine”!

Check out the Vernon Flying Club website, www.vernonflyingclub. org . Visitors and new members are always welcome!