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You missed a good one

Kevin Psutka

 

Two hundred and thirty people, over 100 airplanes from as far away as B.C., trade show, seminars and seafood; all packed into one weekend. And to top it all off, there was a dedication of an aircraft that has not flown for 64 years, an event that required all of the planets to line up, which they did.

Our annual gathering of aviators, the COPA Fly-in AGM, occurred June 25 to 27 in Sum merside, PEI, organized by our two local Flights from Charlottetown and Summerside under the leadership of Barry Martin and Roy Ramsey. The principal advantage of Slemen Park ( www.slemonpark.com ) at Summerside Airport CYSU, besides the tremendous island hospitality, is that everything was within walking distance of the aircraft parking area.

The event kicked off with an all-you-can-eat mussel party in the main hangar and trade show area on Friday evening, where 250 pounds of mussels were consumed as attendees checked in and greeted one another. Roy sure knows how to cook ‘em.

Saturday started with seminars on healthy living and flying provided by a very entertaining Dr.Trevor Jain and an Aircraft Ownership Made Easy briefing by Anna Pangrazzi from Leggat Aviation Inc. ( www.leggataviation.com ) and Belinda Bryce, representing Magnes Aviation Insurance ( www.magnesgroup.com ).

The next event was our Annual General Meeting, where the business of COPA was conducted as well as an update on COPA, its accomplishments and issues over the past year and an opportunity to pose questions and offer comments directly to the Board of Directors and me.

The awards luncheon honoured nine people who made significant contributions to personal aviation, including giving our highest award, the President’s Award, to John Vanlieshout for his long-time promotion and organization of youth flying with Young Eagles and now our COPA For Kids programs.

The afternoon session included a very unique and memorable event, thanks to Michael Potter and his Vintage Wings of Canada crew ( www.vintagewings.ca ).

Several months earlier, Deryck Hickox, who was in charge of a major restoration of a Lysander aircraft, came up with the idea of dedicating the aircraft to a WWII veteran, Clifton “Cliff” Stewart, who served as a spy and was delivered to and from behind enemy lines on several occasions.

Cliff lives in PEI. I connected some neurons and then suggested that perhaps it would be good to dedicate the aircraft during our fly-in. I will not go into details about liff’s story or the contribution of the Lysander to the war effort because this can best be done by the fine crew at Vintage Wings (see their web site) but I will say that a lot of volunteer effort and luck had to come together to make this happen.

The Lysander had teething issues as it approached its first flight and it came down to the wire as to whether it would fly to Summerside or be trucked. It was so important to the restoration crew that it had to get to Summerside and be dedicated to Cliff, that they were willing to truck it.

It finally flew for the first time in 64 years just a few days before the decision point for trucking. In the able hands of John Aitken, it arrived in Summerside on Friday along with a Corsair (on its way to the 100th anniversary of the Navy in Halifax). The weather not only cooperated for the flight there, it also held for Saturday’s event, at which Cliff recounted how his “spy taxi” made such a difference in his life. Now 90 years young, Cliff captivated the large audience of fly-in attendees, friends and family, with stories about the role the aircraft played, including how he jumped onto the gear fairing as it taxied by and then climbed in as it flew away, but he stopped short of disclosing details of his mission. As an employee of the British he has been sworn to secrecy for life. Suffice it to say that the event was one of those once in a lifetime moments; to share in an emotional experience with one of the few remaining veterans who had a key role int the freedom that we now enjoy.

The afternoon was capped off with seminars from Nav Canada provided by Steve Hunt and Jeff Vey and on flying safely, delivered by aviation safety expert Mike Doiron.

The final event was a lobster banquet (mm, mm, good) and Neil Armstrong Scholarship presentations to this year’s winners Philippe Hewett, Kyle Larson and Nolan Adam.

Sunday morning’s departureswere made more enjoyable by a breakfast provided by the Air Cadets and departures of the Lysander and Corsair.

One of the features of the Flying AGM was a fundraiser for the Neil Armstrong Scholarship. Winners were provided with a jet-set flight on Sunday morning in a beautifully restored Lear 23, courtesy of COPA member Dave McCulloch, and a flight in Ed Macdonald’s L39 jet (to be provided at a later date – the L39 was not serviceable for that weekend).

This could not have been a success without the sponsorship of many people and organizations (see list of sponsors on this page).

For those who did not attend, you missed a good one but next year’s gathering in Langley B.C. from June 24 to 26 is already promising to be as exciting, as our event is being combined with the Langley Aero Club’s popular annual fly-in.

Stay tuned to our website for more details but mark your calendars now so that you do not miss another celebration of our freedom of flight.