A land where pilots are noble

Over 100 planes will be in the Yukon this weekend as the Century Flight Club heads for Whitehorse, its first destination event following last year’s successful cross-country trek.

Now, 100 planes in one place is always an impressive sight. Talking with John Lovelace last week, he could barely find the words to describe it. And yet he was the organizer of last year’s effort and, as the writer, producer and host of Wings Over Canada, a series that ran 174 episodes long and was shown by 50 broadcasters around the world, he has seen it all.

We shouldn’t expect these planes to blot out the sky — as they will be spread out over two days — but it will be a very, very busy weekend for our local airport.

But these good people at Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport handled Sept. 11 just fine, when dozens of unscheduled landings were forced, and they did just fine for the Canada Games’ “Turnaround Day”.

As amazing as this will be for us Yukoners, I can only imagine the thrill that will meet these visiting pilots and their families and friends.

I am reminded of the reception my Uncle Earl received at a sky-diving club he visited with a friend. Uncle Earl was a para-rescue technician … he would jump out of planes to take care of those trapped on the ground. These hobbyists met the nobility of their beloved sport and they really liked what they saw.

Likewise, these visiting pilots will see a land that depends on air travel as much now, as it did 83 years ago when the Yukon Airways and Exploration Company opened shop.

There are still Yukoners living in cabins that are accessible only by plane.

Medical emergencies often depend on air travel.

Visiting Grandma in Vancouver is either a two-hour flight or a four-day drive.

And would any of us be here if we didn’t have water bombers to douse forest fires, and helicopters to ferry in firefighters?

Interesting, too, when the visiting recreational pilots meet our working Yukon pilots, they will be looking into a mirror. Each of them like to be appear wild, but they are all the most careful individuals you would ever meet.

The late Lloyd Ryder once told me: “There is no such thing as an old, bold pilot.”

It is as true for hobbyists as it is for professional bush pilots.

Mr. Ryder, who lived in Riverdale, would check his oil before driving downtown. He told me it never needs oil, but that’s just the mindset of a bush pilot.

Meanwhile, my cousin has a small plane that he uses for recreation. As if he and Mr. Ryder were separated at birth, he checks the gas level on his plane one night, and again the next morning to ensure none evaporated. And he doesn’t trust those dials in his modern cockpit … no, no, no … he uses a stick.

So, you see, our visitors will feel very at home here. Because they are.

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