These were the adjectives most often heard at the Challenger Owners Association
8th Annual Ski Fly-in. Some 80 people enjoyed a wonderful weekend
of flying and camaraderie at the renowned Chateau Montebello on the Ottawa
River midway between Ottawa and Montreal.
Low ceilings and 30 mph winds laced with turbulence from the mountains to the north could not prevent 18 owners from arriving in their Challengers. The well-winterized Ottawa River served as an endless runway for the skiplanes and secure tie-downs were located in the protected harbor in front of the hotel.
Wayne Irvine, Don Sampson and Dale Peever continued what has become a tradition by flying in formation 1400 km return from Cochrane / Kirkland Lake in Northern Ontario. Bryan Quickmire in his well-known XSL made the 1000 km return trip from Barrie, north of Toronto near Georgian Bay.
Ray McBain flew his Challenger "El Tortugas" 600 km out and return from Quebec City, stopping at Three Rivers to join up with Patrice Imbeau and his wife Sylvie in their Challenger.
Maurice Vinet, Maurice Patton, Christian Corbeil, and Jean-Marc Côté with his wife Suzanne Charland encountered the worst of the weather on their flight from the mountainous Mont Tremblant area. Other owners flew in from Montreal, Ottawa and the Thousand Islands.
Over two dozen additional owners, as well as numerous aspiring owners and dignitaries, braved the much more hazardous public roads in their motor cars.
The morning was spent greeting old friends, making new friends and admiring the Challengers. Three Challengers sported the latest development from the factory: a new design of fiberglass wing tips that shorten the wingspan by 2 feet. Maurice Patton, Maurice Vinet and Claude Roy all reported increased speeds and crisper, quicker rolls. Maurice Patton said it was actually like flying an entirely new model!
On Saturday afternoon everyone moved into the chateau to enjoy some highly interesting forums. Challenger owner Major Claude Roy presented a slide show entitled "Jet Hitchhiker", telling of his adventures in CF-18s while stationed at Canadian Forces Base Bagotville.
The F-18 and the Challenger are very much alike: both carry two people; both have excellent visibility from front and back seats; and both can land on the snow-covered Ottawa River, although the F-18 can only do it once. Okay, so the F-18 is faster than the Challenger - but then the Challenger doesn't need an aircraft carrier to land on the water.
Following a break for coffee, Lindsay Cadenhead gave a "State of the Union" address that brought everyone up to date on current initiatives on the regulatory side of flying. Lindsay is stepping down after several years at the helm of recreational aviation at Transport Canada and will be sorely missed.
Frank Hofmann, director of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, gave a compelling talk on the importance of safeguarding the recreational aviator's right to the skies from undue regulation, complication and cost. For many years Frank has been an ardent spokesperson on this subject and his eloquence has achieved results benefiting all recreational flyers.
After the forums, attendees headed back out to the flight line, gathered in informal groups to swap flying yarns and enjoyed the amenities of the chateau. Built in 1930 out of giant BC trees, the Chateau Montebello is probably the largest and most spectacular ‘log cabin’ in the world. It offers facilities like an indoor spa and Olympic size pool, as well as every conceivable form of outdoor winter activity, from skiing to dog sledding. The food is gourmet, the rooms luxurious and the fireplace several stories high. There is no better place to be in winter, except of course in your Challenger!
In the evening, the annual banquet and awards presentation was hosted by Claude Roy, director of the Canadian wing of the International Challenger Owners Association. Arlo and Maureen Speer attended as well as Lindsay and Kim Cadenhead. Arlo is Chief of Recreational Aviation and Special Flight Operations for Transport Canada. Lindsay was the manager of Transport Canada's Recreational Aviation Project.
The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association was represented by Frank Hofmann, accompanied by his wife Margaret, and Garth Wallace, who attended with his wife Liz. Garth is publisher of Canadian Flight Magazine and is a well known aviation author and humourist.
The group was also joined by Challenger enthusiasts General Maurice Baril, Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces, and his wife Huguette, as well as Lieutenant-Colonel (Ret.) Réal Levasseur of the National Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Lt-Colonel Levasseur is the former Commanding Officer of 433 "Porcupine" Squadron (which flies CF-18 Hornet fighters).
A delicious meal was followed by the world premier of a stunning video that was literally hot off the presses. The video had been in production at studios in Toronto up to and including the night before. It was driven at high speed to Barrie early Saturday morning where Bryan Quickmire was waiting in his Challenger to rush it straight to the fly-in for the grand debut.
The video highlighted excerpts of an upcoming television production on Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. The phenomenal aerial photography was shot exclusively from an amphibious Challenger II piloted by Jean-Marc Côté. The plane performed flawlessly in spite of being called upon to carry the pilot and a 185 lb. cameraman with three battery belts - plus two 77 lb. Beta SP video cameras, a wingtip barrel camera, three monitors and, of course, the amphibious floats!
Gros Morne is an area of great natural beauty, a landscape where mountain highlands and coastal lowlands are juxtaposed. In the video, Jean-Marc's Challenger skims over sandy beaches and coastal bogs then flies right into fjords with 2,000 foot cliffs on either wingtip. The park's rocks and fossils tell geologists of the death of an ancient ocean and the collision of continents hundreds of millions of years ago. The scenery and geology are so unique that Gros Morne National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Following the video, the annual awards were presented. The 'Farthest Flown' award was presented to Wayne Irvine for his 1500 km return flight from Cochrane in northern Ontario. Wayne graciously shared the award with Don Sampson and Dale Peever, his flying companions for 1200 km of the journey.
The 'Best Showplane' award was won by Major Claude Roy's brand new Challenger II which proudly displayed the colours of the CF-18s of 425 "Alouette" Squadron from his former base at CFB Bagotville. Claude insisted that the award was not his and instead presented it to those who had actually built and detailed the plane - Jean-Marc Côté and Suzanne Charland of Alti-maître Inc.
The 1998 ICOA fly-in was honored to be selected as the venue for the first presentation of the important new Canada ' Freedom to Fly' Award. This award was created by Frank Hofmann whose vision is to recognize and reward individuals or organizations who have made outstanding contributions to preserving or enhancing all Canadians' rights to fly. This award is unique and will become much sought after as in addition to a beautiful, engraved plaque it includes a financial reward made possible by industry sponsors.
Lindsay Cadenhead of Transport Canada was the deserving inaugural winner of this honor. Lindsay was instrumental in the creation of the Recreational Pilot Permit as well as in ushering in numerous other sensible and welcome changes to Canada's aviation regulations. His contributions set a most high standard for future nominees!
After the formal proceedings the attendees continued to socialize in the banquet hall and many moved on to partake of the night life of the resort.
Sunday turned out to be one of those perfect flying days with bright sunshine and deep blue skies along with totally calm air and limitless visibility. After dining sumptuously at the spectacular Sunday Brunch buffet, groups of owners headed off on local flights to explore the area, enjoying the simple pleasure of flying in formation with like planes.
Many meters of air-to-air footage were shot at the fly-in, formally and informally! On both Saturday and Sunday a television crew from Radio Canada was on site to produce a French language newscast of the event for "l'Outaouais en Couler", a regional CBC series. Aviation photographer Nick Wolochatiuk was also on hand to record the proceedings on the ground and in the air.
A final forum was presented Sunday morning by Daniel Sasseville of Aéro Propulsion Technologie, a Quebec Rotax Repair Center. He hosted for the second year what has become a very popular question and answer session on the care and feeding of Rotax motors.
Finally it was time to leave and the 18 Challengers headed off in all directions for an idyllic flight home. It was a perfect conclusion to a fabulous Challenger weekend. As the saying goes: "A good time was had by all!"
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