Here is a small sampling of the Canadian Challenger flights of over 1,000 miles.
These are just a handful of the Challenger owners who don't think twice before doing amazing things with their "just ultralights". How many pilots do you know who do trips like these in "real airplanes" like Cessnas or Cherokees?
Spring 2009 - Ottawa Snowbirds Fly 3,000 Miles for Sun'n'Fun
The June 2009 cover of UPAC's Light Flight shows two Canadian Challengers sitting pretty in the morning mist with tents pitched under their wings. The shot was taken on the flight line at Sun'n'Fun in Florida - the intrepid pilots were Ottawa residents Andre Girard and Gord Ekstrom. They made the 3,000 mile (5,000 km) round trip and actually had tailwinds on every leg but one!
Gord emailled our gang a picture (click here to see) with the explanation: "We're at 6500 feet, over the top, fighting a big headwind....couldn't find a tailwind at any altitude...!! That was the only time we had winds against us!...! Down and back, except yesterday, was incredible weather and good tailwinds. A heckava trip!.... :-)"
Fellow Canadian Larry Woods, who scooted south in some 240 kt bulletplane
wrote in the July 2009 issue of COPA Flight: "For years I have
been dazzled by Canadian Challenger pilots who make the trek to Sun'n'Fun,
traversing a distance that would deter a sex-driven Canada Goose in migration
Pilgrimage to Challenger 25th Anniversary Celebrations
In 2007 the annual Challenger Float Tour circled around Algonquin Park. In 2008 the circle widened and shifted west and south to the United States.
Five Canadian amphib Challengers flew in formation to Illinois to join in the 25th Anniversary celebrations. Four of the five Challengers flew over 2,000 miles on a great counterclockwise circle around the Great Lakes. The birthday fete was conveniently located about halfway round the the circle. After the party the fifth Challenger peeled off from the other four and instead of heading back east with them it trekked 1,700 miles west to Edmonton all by itself!
Update from the Challenger 2006 Summer Newsletter
Challenger owners continued to stride cross-country (actually cross-Canada) in Seven League Boots! Here are short capsules of several recent voyages:
- In April 2006, Larry Whittaker flew north from Edmonton to Kugluktuk on skis, completing the journey which started in Montreal. Now that's an adventure!
- In June 2006, Doug and Denise Gagnon flew east from Vancouver Island to Southern Ontario on wheels, the reverse of their trip in 2003. Note that this is the Challenger 1000 Mile Club, not the Challenger Mile High Club! Your webmaster has no business documenting or even speculating about what goes on in the privacy of people's Challengers at 5280 feet!
- In July 2006, Kris Falk flew west from Montreal to Edmonton on
Puddlejumper amphibious floats. The Challenger is C-IJBN call sign One
- In August 2006 as this newsletter went to press, Claude Roy of the Challenger Owners Association, Patrick Vinet of Puddlejumper Floats, and other nomadic owners are exploring Northern Quebec in their amphib Challengers.
By the way, if you're wondering about where two people in a Challenger flying across Canada carry their baggage the answer is, other than the various nooks and crannies inside the plane, they all use something called a Belly Bag!
March 2005 - Kazabazua-Mansfield-Timmins-Kazabazua
- 1,500 Miles
In March 2005 Doug Fleck gave new meaning to the term 'Great Circle Route' by flying his family's Challenger II on skis around a huge circle encompassing much of Southern and Northern Ontario. Doug described his adventure in Ultralight March Break in the June 2005 issue of COPA Flight:
"I thought about the opportunity I had been given. The idea that I, a mere 17 year old, had the chance to first of all obtain a pilots license, use it to fly our very own ultralight and then use that ultralight to have an incredible adventure that took me across the province."
If this isn't an inspiration for young and old to come out of their cabins and enjoy winter then we don't know what would be!
June 2005 - Winnipeg-Edmonton-Winnipeg
- 1,600 Miles
Rob Saurette flew his amphib Challenger II 503 all the way from Winnipeg to Edmonton to attend the COPA convention - that's over 2,500 km return! Here's an excerpt from Rob's trip report which appeared in COPA Flight:
"What I will say is although the trip was slow, about 1,600 miles with a headwind most of the way there and back, I found the flying experience very rewarding. With proper planning the trip to and from was quite uneventful. I did get a few chuckles when I landed at the Saskatoon airport for fuel - not too many ultralights on amphibs taxi up to the Esso FBO there!"
"I flew 8 - 10 hour days in complete comfort and confidence. My inspiration for this trip came from those ultralight pilots who took the time to diarize their exploits and share their experience for the benefit of all of us ultralight guys."
Prior to getting his Challenger Rob was not a pilot. Now he flies twelve months a year thanks to amphibious floats, wheels and skis - truly living the dream he first saw in the Challenger video! Good show Rob!
August 2005 - Ottawa-Blanc
Sablon-Ottawa - 2,200 Miles
Andre Girard of Ottawa flew to what to some must seem the end of the earth - Blanc Sablon - where the border between Quebec and Labrador hits the water. This is very rugged and remote indeed - not too many five star hotels out thatta way! Andre's solo trip covered something like 2,200 miles!
Of course Andre is no stranger to travelling in style - a couple of Aprils ago Andre wanted to attend Sun'n'Fun in Florida - so he hopped aboard his Challenger in Ottawa and headed south. That little jaunt was around 2,800 miles return! A very good show to you Andre!
August 2005 - Ottawa-Thunder
Bay-Ottawa - 2,000 Miles
Here is Gord Ekstrom's quick email about the trip from Ottawa to Lake Superior he and Claude Roy made in their amphibious Challengers:
"I've been on a two week flying trip with my Challenger up to Thunder Bay and back. Two of us with Challengers on floats - Claude and myself. What a trip! The scenery was fantastic. We flew mostly at 25 feet along the rocky shoreline of Lake Superior. What a rush! We put forty hours on the aircraft, landed at 15 airports and six sea-plane bases and flew something like two thousand miles or more! Final figures have yet to be tallied! Now I'm resting!"
Claude has advised that they took many good pictures and will present them at the Winter Rendezvous at Chateau Montebello on January 27-29, 2006.
September 2005 - Montreal
to Edmonton - 2,500 Miles
Then there is the little hop by Larry Whittaker and Bruce Brown from St. Lazare to St. Albert in Challenger C-INUK. For those of you who failed geography St. Lazare is near Montreal and St. Albert is near Edmonton - about 2,000 miles in a straight line! Of course Challengers rarely fly in a straight line so their odometer actually racked up 2,500 miles - 4,000 klicks! Good for you guys!
Neither Larry nor Bruce remembered to bring a camera along (shame on you both!) however here are a few word pictures from Larry:
"I'm pleased to report that my faith in the Challenger in general and the Rotax 503 in particular has been confirmed. The engine didn't skip a beat right across the country, from Montreal to Edmonton. I was also amazed at how comfortable we were. Bruce was right that we needed a stretch every three hours or so, but those three hours were A-Okay."
"The belly bag can hold an amazing amount of soft luggage, and although we intentionally travelled light, we were able to take all the necessities for both the airplane and its occupants for the week-long trip. We also utilized the seat-back bags and Bruce put an soft bag over the gas tank for his personal gear. He also found little nooks and crannies where small items could be stowed."
"Flying ten-feet off the ground for many miles over southern Manitoba was great fun. The feeling is definitely like being in a helicopter or (I guess) a fighter. We spooked a deer who almost jumped through our left wing!"
"Next step - planning the trip north to Kugluktuk, Nunavut in April on wheel/skis. I need to buy a PLB and a satellite phone and I'm hoping Santa will bring me a new colour GPS for Christmas. Already have all the clothing, camping and survival gear I need."
"Flight planning is underway - 15 possible fuel stops, three overnight stops, 1,100 miles one-way with a maximum leg of 200 miles. The flight will roughly trace the 115W meridian from Edmonton north to the Arctic coast, following the MacKenzie highway to Hay River, a 125 mile jump across frozen Great Slave Lake to Yellowknife, then Kugluktuk 400 miles later."
This time Larry: BRING YOUR CAMERA! :)
September 2003 - Barrie,
Ontario to Vancouver Island - 2,500 Miles
The 2004 Vinet Award went to Doug and Denise Gagnon of Nanoose Bay, BC. Doug is the middle of three generations of flying Gagnon's - he has 28,000 hours of air force and airline time and is presently a Boeing 777 captain. Denise has 28 hours! For decades she was a pilot's wife, a pilot's mother, even a pilot's daughter-in-law but never was motivated to learn to fly herself. The Challenger changed all that and she is now working on her Ultralight Pilot Permit!
The Gagnon's started their Challenger careers in June 2003 in Barrie, ON. Soon they were flying all over Southern Ontario together. When they bought a home on Vancouver Island the question arose: "What are you going to do about your Challenger?" Their answer was instantaneous: "We'll fly it out there!"
In September the two of them took off together on a second honeymoon in their Challenger - from Barrie, Ontario to Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island.
They flew along the north shore of Lake Superior, across the prairies, through the Rockies, and over the Strait of Georgia. A grand 4,000 km jaunt!
Their ground speed across windy Saskatchewan was 29 mph! They took some great pictures in the Rockies at 9,300 feet and still surrounded by granite!
What did Doug and Denise do enroute during weather delays? Remember, it was a second honeymoon!
The Gagnon's Challenger II C-IDDG is in our Challenger Gallery - click here.
Feb. 2001 - Sault Ste.
Marie-Montreal-Sault Ste. Marie - 1,000 Miles
At the 2001 Challenger Winter Rendezvous the "Farthest Flown" award was claimed by aviation artist Steve Daly who flew from Sault Ste. Marie, in Northern Ontario to the Rendezvous at Chateau Vaudreuil near Montreal. On the way Steve picked up Peter Girard from Blind River, ON and then detoured north, waaay north, to Kirkland Lake to formate on the Northern Lites - Don Sampson and Dale Peever - to head south to Montreal. All this mid-winter in an ultralight. Fabulous trip Steve!
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