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Calgary Hosts Centennial of Flight Celebration

Submitted by Bill Beaton, EAA 830995, and a COPA director

Calgary’s Springbank Airport (CYBW) showed national pride and provided western hospitality when it hosted flying enthusiasts from across the country July 17-19 in celebration of 100 years of powered flight in Canada. Five Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) flights spent months planning the fly-in convention, trade show, air display, and several social events. The Calgary Flying Club, the Calgary Airport Authority, and the Aviation Department of Mount Royal College generously provided the venue for the events. More than 140 members from the local Calgary Flying Club, COPA flights, EAA chapters, and the RAA provided in excess of 4,200 volunteer hours taking care of all the planning and execution of this landmark event.

COPA Centennial
COPA’s Centennial of Flight Celebration

About 185 aircraft flew in for the festivities, the busiest time ever for the infield grass at CYBW. NavCanada tower staff did a great job getting planes in and out safely. A young pilot from Corner Brook, Newfoundland, was presented with Calgary’s White Hat Award for being the pilot who flew the furthest to attend . . . some 3,600 statute miles!

There was plenty of “eye candy” provided by exhibitors - not to mention the fly-in aircraft. The programs included kick-up-your-heels social events, educational presentations from technical experts, aerobatic flight displays, and more. Attendees also had the chance to participate in COPA’s governance and connect with other flying enthusiasts.

The Friday evening Hangar Hoe-Down, with 750 attending, was one of the anchors to the weekend and a fun kick-off for the 52 exhibitors. Live western music and libations from the “COPAcabana” kept the evening hopping. About 20:30, the first of five air displays graced the skies over Springbank runway 16-34.

Night Aerobatics
Ken Fowler and Eric Hansen of Rocket Aerobatics concluded the evening with a
two-ship night aerobatics routine including full pyrotechnics streaming from each aircraft.

Technical seminars filled Saturday with concurrent streams built around mountain flying and the Centennial. Twenty-nine participants from the mountain flying workshops took the fly-out opportunity into the majestic Canadian Rockies.

Mountain Flying
The majestic Canadian Rockies provided the backdrop to the mountain flying seminar.

Nearly 500 attendees were treated to the Centennial of Flight Banquet at Calgary’s Red & White Club. Local dignitaries welcomed conventioneers before everyone was thoroughly entertained by a local theatre troop performing a humorous spoof of It Won’t Fly, a fictional look at the weeks leading up to the flight of the Silver Dart. After a first-class meal, Stéphane Guevremont, a nationally recognized aviation historian from the University of Calgary, gave the keynote address featuring photos, video clips, and narration taken throughout Canada’s last 100 years of powered flight. He assembled little-seen archive photos to accompany his spirited and entertaining review of our storied aviation history. Wrapping up the program were the presentations of the COPA President’s Award and the Neil Armstrong Memorial Scholarship.

A blessing of the fleet and mass departures followed a well-attended Sunday morning airport breakfast.

Amateur-built aircraft, at various stages of completion, were a big hit with the some three thousand patrons who toured the display area and flight line over the three days. From the 1000hp Legend and turbine Lancair IV-P to the turbo’d Subaru RV-7 and amphibious Super Petrel, local builders and owners showed the results of their efforts to intrigued pilots and flying enthusiasts. The favourite was probably the 1937 Pietenpol AirCamper that fought head winds to come some 850 miles and showcase one of the early experimental types in Canada.

Subaru RV-7
An RV-7 equipped with a turbo Subaru engine attracts attention.

The Centennial of Flight was marked in fine fashion. Calgary, again, stepped up with the hospitality they are so well known for around the world. Congratulations to the volunteers and supporters that made it all possible.

Marking the anniversary, every convention registrant and banquet attendee received a unique commemorative crest. See more photos of the celebration here.

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