One-hundred planes over the Yukon

When these planes pass through an airfield, they gulp up 20,000 litres of aviation fuel.

It takes a total of two hours to watch them fly overhead.

When they are on the ground, wingtip to wingtip, that’s one kilometre of aircraft.

Yup, 100 planes flying to one location is a big event … and it is coming to the Yukon this weekend.

One year after a successful flight across Canada, from Boundary Bay Airport to Sydney and Baddeck, Nova Scotia, the Century Flight Club has a destination in mind: the Yukon.

“Last year’s flight was monumental,” says John Lovelace over the phone. “It was eight different cities, so it was eight mini-conventions.”

He says that is too many takeoffs and landings, really, but it was worth it to celebrate the 100th anniversary of flight in Canada, from Baddeck, NS, six years after the Wright brothers’ historic achievement.

The organization has stayed together and are looking at annual destination trips instead.

“The group picked Whitehorse,” says Lovelace, “and I favoured it.

“To me, it is an ideal place to go for aviation. It has everything there for a group like us. We are trying to promote tourism by aviation.”

At this point in the conversation, Lovelace turns from the organizer to the advocate. As the host, writer and producer of Wings Over Canada, a program with 174 episodes beamed from 57 broadcasters around the world, he has promoted the idea of vacationing via aircraft.

“It is a misunderstood concept, there are 20,000 airplanes – non-commercial airplanes – in the air over this country every day.

“And a lot of it is coming in internationally. In the States, there are a quarter of a million planes.

“[Aviation] is an area that’s not developed for tourism; and that’s what Wings Over Canada was all about: we had thousands of e-mails.”

Although Lovelace is no longer producing Wings Over Canada, he is still a film producer. He is filming this trip for several six-minute clips for The Aviators, a show on PBS and Global Television.

As well, this trip will be featured on West Coast Escapes, a new show for PBS and CHEK TV.

“A lot of people will come to the Yukon because of these shows.”

And Lovelace is basing this on experience in the business as well as his many, many trips to the Yukon. Indeed, he has visited here four times in the past six months to line up hotel rooms, car rentals and the many logistical issues this type of operation has.

He says Watson Lake will be the first Yukon destination as the the western and eastern flights converge, led by flight marshals.

Then, on Saturday and Sunday, July 17 and 18, all 100 planes will land at the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport.

“You’ll know we are there,” says Lovelace with a knowing chuckle.

The pilots and friends and family will have a barbecue at the Transportation Museum.

On Monday evening, there will be a barbecue that is open to the public. It is part of the “Public Day” when Yukoners can meet with the visitors and check out their aircraft. It all happens from 4 to 6 p.m.

The aviators will be in the Yukon for five days. Other than visiting Whitehorse locations, there are planned trips, of 20 planes each, to Atlin and Dawson City (with a stop at Braeburn Lodge for a cinnamon bun).

“This is not a military operation,” says Lovelace. “This is about fun.”

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