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Canadian Pilots take off for Canada 150 Arctic Aviation Tour
Published Thursday, June 1, 2017 5:37PM MDT
Acrobatic pilots from across Canada, along with a handful from the United States are taking off for an airshow tour over the next couple of months. They’re flying to remote communities throughout the summer to give a Canada 150 experience unlike any other.
Fifteen pilots are participating in the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour, and most of them started their journey from Rocky Mountain House to Fort Liard in the Northwest Territories Wednesday.
Bud Granley is one of the more experienced pilots who’ll be a part of the adventure through Canada’s North.
“I learned to fly in 1955 with the Royal Canadian Air Cadets.”
Granley, originally from Mayerthorpe, now lives in the United States. He has a long history as a pilot; including flying a Canadair Sabre in Germany and as an instructor in central Alberta.
But he jokes: “I’ve been flying three and a half years steady in the air. That’s about 30-some-thousand hours.”
The 80-year-old took off from Rocky Mountain House on a two-day journey to Fort Liard, which is the first airshow stop north of the 60th Parallel on this tour.
Right behind Granley was pilot Kyle Fowler. He may not have as many years under his belt, but he’s grown up in the airshow industry. “I’ve been going to airshows with my dad for about 20 years now,” he said.
Fowler said he used to announce airshows his father was flying in. In the last decade he got his own private and commercial pilot licences, and will now spend the summer flying alongside his dad Ken Fowler.
“This is an adventure of a lifetime. I got the opportunity to be a part of this project and we’re going to go to places of the world where people just don’t go,” he explained.
Fowler said he’s looking forward to showing off his plane called a Long-EZ, a unique aircraft that people don’t often see.
It has taken two years, and a large team of volunteers to make this project a reality.
“We say that this project is what should be important to all Canadians. It’s about heritage, it’s about culture, education, social justice and national pride,” said organizer Nancy McClure.
McClure explained the tour has been planned almost entirely out of Rocky Mountain House, dubbed the Aerobatic Capital of Canada. But they wanted to highlight something many people may not recognize.
“We talked about something that we could do that would celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday in a sort of unique way,” she added. “We’re delivering it using airplanes, which is something so critically important to the north…Aviation built the north but it’s now more important than ever as the north grows.”
Crews have packed and planned precisely, but McClure says challenges lie ahead.
“We’re in an environment that is not normal for this type of aircraft. Aviation fuel which is what they all run on is in many of the areas not available. So we’ve had to pre-bring it in. The terrain is rough, the runways are not paved.”
On top of that, there’s the factor of unpredictable weather, making for some unique flying conditions.
McClure says there is 98 Aerobatic Shows planned throughout Canada’s arctic. Some will be fly-bys and others will be complete stops. She adds the communities they’re stopping in have been instrumental in making this a reality; each has planned their own special, cultural events for the airshow stops.