18th Annual
Challenger Owners
Winter Rendezvous

Chateau Montebello 25-27 January 2008
By Jean-Pierre Bonin, Dave Griffith, Claude Roy, John Sutherland

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Quad City and the Challenger!

By all accounts the 18th Edition of the Challenger Winter Rendezvous was indeed a success. Organized each year by the Canadian Challenger Owners Association the theme for 2008 was the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of Quad City and the Challenger. Time flies!

The 3-day event drew at least 25 Challengers as well as a surprising number of GA skiplanes and a really surprising quantity of helicopters - four! Not to mention hundreds of people curious about this wonderful freedom to fly on skis in the depths of the Canadian winter!

The colours and activity level of this yearly spectacle were amazing as usual. One Cessna 172 found Montebello so enticing that it landed in the snow on wheels! This resulted in the Cessna struggling to even taxi, let alone take off, so a passenger had to be left behind to allow it to get back up in the air. Oh well, there are worse places to be left behind!

(Click images to enlarge.)

Montebello is much more than just airplanes buzzing around in the winter air. It is the meeting of pilots, young and old, who want to share their passion for flying. It is new pilots benefitting from well-seasoned pilots freely sharing their experiences.

It is also the most important gathering of government agencies and pilot associations in the middle of a long winter. Pilots have this opportunity to meet officials from Transport Canada, Nav Canada, the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association, and the Ultralight Pilots Association of Canada. Subjects of discussions ranged from services provided by these agencies and associations to reviews of regulations and airspace to directions in pilot licensing.

The main attraction for the Challenger pilots on site is the tremendous support available to the Challenger community. No other ultralight group is better organized and supported. Witness the presence of Karen Oltman, manager at the Challenger manufacturing plant in Illinois, as well as Bryan Quickmire, Canadian distributor for the Challenger, along with most of his dealers from across Canada.

Puddlejumper Floats was represented by owner Patrick Vinet. Turbulence Aviation displayed their wide range of accessories custom designed to help owners make their Challenger a unique blend of personal comfort and suitability. Rotax was present via reps from their Eastern Canada service centre. All were there to meet with Challenger owners and prospective owners.

Above: Claude and Joan greeted everyone warmly at the reception desk!
(Photo by master Challenger builder Dave Griffith.)

The Saturday night banquet is a major drawing card and a crowd of over 150 people was there. All those intrepid owners who flew in were introduced to the masses. A highlight of the evening is the presentation of trophies and awards.

The Dave Allan Award for technical contribution was presented to the duo of Jean-Claude Lachance and Pauline Labrecque of Turbulence Aviation, long time provider of aftermarket Challenger products. The Maurice Vinet Award for the passion of flight was given to the very deserving Larry Whittaker from Kugluktuk, Nunavut.

Rob Mathers from Windsor won the Farthest Flown Award (for the second time!) for his 2,000 km round trip. Patrick Caron from Sherbrooke was voted the Best Show Plane Award.

After partaking of the Chateau's excellent cuisine and applauding the flyers and the award recipients the crowd sat back and relaxed for the traditional slide presentation. This year Andy Ricketts, Claude Roy, Henry McKinlay and Keith Robinson gave a most entertaining account of their summer circumnavigation of Algonquin Park on floats.

The presentation was enhanced by excellent pictures as well as numerous humorous anecdotes. This adventure was featured on the cover of the December 2007 issue of COPA Flight and the text and pictures will be added to challenger.ca in the near future.

Claude, Henry and Keith are well-seasoned Challenger voyageurs, veterans of many long distance journeys, summer and winter. This was Andy's first long distance foray in his Challenger and he described the experience as greatly "expanding his backyard", an understatement for sure!

Plans were discussed for our 2008 flying adventure which will be to Illinois to help Quad City celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Challenger on September 20-21, 2008. Along the way out and back we will visit some of the best known air museums in Canada and the United States. Dubbed the "History Tour", this adventure will stretch over 2,400 statute miles. As Patrick Vinet of Puddlejumper Floats said: "This one will require cashing in lots of love points with my wife!"

Sunday morning everyone enjoyed the famous Chateau Montebello brunch, chatting enthusiastically about Challenger experiences past and yet to come. Attendees hailed from as far west as Vancouver and as far east as Halifax, as far north as Whitehorse and as far south as Alabama. After brunch people gallop off wildly in all directions but friendships made at Montebello last forever.

No matter how you look at it, Montebello 2008 was a vibrant success! Personal aviation is shifting more and more rapidly from large, expensive general aviation aircraft towards lighter, simpler, more affordable machines. The machines may be smaller but the passion for flying is very big in the hearts of all who were present at Montebello in 2008.

When this many people with a common passion get together in one place it is impossible not to feel like you are a member of a clan. Indeed people do describe the atmosphere of Challenger gatherings as a family reunion, for old timers and new found relatives alike!

Make plans now to join us at our next Western Challenger Rendezvous on July 18-20, 2008 at the Wetaskiwin airport near Edmonton and at next year's Challenger Winter Rendezvous on January 30 - February 1, 2009 at Chateau Montebello.

Jean-Pierre Bonin took many wonderful pictures of the Rendezvous,
both from the ground and from the air in Kevin Brown's Challenger. Enjoy!

John Sutherland created a video during the 2008 Challenger Winter Rendezvous at Chateau Montebello. He shot the footage on Saturday afternoon and had it edited and put to music in time to present it at the banquet on Saturday evening. Talk about time pressure! The star is somewhat unsure about her first flight in anything smaller than a jumbo jet.

Click here to watch this fun little video to see her reaction!

Join us at the next Challenger Owners Winter Rendezvous!

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