Flight 68 pilot members at Wiarton Keppel International Airport flew for free 159 thrilled children from 38 different Ontario communities this summer over the peninsula. It was through the COPA 4 Kids program.
Harold Fry, captain, said the program is the Canadian version of the American Young Eagles event and was introduced for the first time last year. COPA stands for Canadian Owners and Pilots Association. Before then, Flight 68 sponsored the Young Eagles event annually for the past 10 years. Through both programs that introduce young people to aviation, he estimated at least 1,000 children have been flown by Flight 68.
In June and August, donating their time, eight local pilots took to the air over the two days with the kids. Proud grandparents, parents and siblings on the airport grounds looked on, and greeted their children on return for the presentation to each child, between seven and 17 years of age, of a certificate proclaiming their experience.
Free hot dogs and pop also awaited the new young pilots after their flights.
“Many comments were received from the parents about what an excellent experience this is, and their thanks to us for hosting,” Harold said. “Unfortunately, there were 40 children also wanting flights that we told in advance we couldn’t accommodate because of scheduling problems. For safety reasons, pilots only make so many flights in one day.”
A side benefit of the event, he added, is the way the event promotes the airport as a wonderful asset for the two municipalities who own and operate the facility. “Non-area participants enrolled were from 15 different towns and nine large cities widely spread across Ontario, plus one from Vancouver. They likely were here on holiday with their families.”
The event also was popular closer to home, attracting 56 children from South Bruce Peninsula (Allenford, Hepworth, Sauble and Wiarton), 31 from the Owen Sound area (Kemble, Keady, Owen Sound and Shallow Lake), and ten from Saugeen Shores and North Bruce Peninsula – Port Elgin, Southampton, Tara, Lion’s Head, Mar and Tobermory.
Kids came from every age group – 22 7 yrs. old, 15 8yrs, 22 9yrs, 28 10 yrs, 24 11 yrs, 11 12 yrs, 10 13 yrs, 9 14 yrs, 8 15 yrs. 9 16 yrs and 2 17 yrs old.
Eight volunteer pilots flew throughout the morning and afternoons – Ken Loucks, Ron Fenton, Buster Wood, Lorne Schoeder, Tony McNamara, Rod Mathews, Rob Watton and Harold Fry.
Ground and office crew: Grace Wood, Jenn MacLeod (who also compiled these statistics), Bob White, Hank Nuis, Monty Bennett, Glen Goodyear, Bob Dolphin, John Burt and Paul Kastner.