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Connecting with Friends

By Jeff Seaborn, President, EAA Chapter 1410, High River

Connecting with friends. That’s what we hear about EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. It’s all about connecting with friends. In the last couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with all sorts of friends through aviation.

Of course, there was AirVenture. With hundreds of thousands of visitors, you’d think it would be impossible to even find someone you know. But it’s amazing; we were continually running into friends and constantly making new friends. It’s an event that you have to experience.

After AirVenture, there was the Disley fly-out. This was an opportunity to meet with some of our fellow Canadian EAA members. We met halfway between Calgary and Winnipeg on a nice grass strip near Disley, Saskatchewan. I won’t share all the details, but I’ll say it was great to connect with members from Chapter 63 in Winnipeg and Chapter 154 in Regina. There’s already talk of plans for next year, and maybe even a fly-out over “the rocks” to meet some friends in Cranbrook.

In early September, Ralph Inkster sent out a broad invite for breakfast at his hangar in Springbank. My youngest son, Brodie, flew in with my dad in the Stampe. My oldest flew in with me. There had to have been more than 50 people there throughout the morning. There was good food and great conversations. Again, it was another opportunity to connect with friends. Thanks for hosting the event, Ralph.

A week later was the fifth annual J3 fly aboard  breakfast hosted by Ron Janzen. You don’t need to fly a J-3 to attend. The name actually refers to the three pilots who share the hangar there. They all have names starting with “J”. There had to be more than 20 planes and dozens of locals who came to connect with their friends. It’s a really nice event and a real treat that Ron and Susan host this breakfast for all their friends and neighbors. Thank you, Ron and Susan.

Finally, the latest event that I took part in was a really odd connection. Imagine if you will: One grass strip south of Calgary; five port-o-potties; half a dozen television cameras and their associated film crew; 600 Subway sandwiches and Tim Horton Donuts; 500 University of Calgary engineering students bused in on 10 buses; tens of thousands of dollars in video production equipment and the trucks to haul them; 1,200 white LED lights mounted onto 300 identical light panels; the International Space Station; and finally a Cessna 185 flown by chapter member Soren Christiansen. How can all these be connected?

Well, Soren went to university with Bob Thirsk. Bob is currently in the middle of his six-month fly aboard the Space Station. Someone somewhere came up with the idea to send Bob a message via Morse code from lights on the ground. It was planned, rehearsed, and executed.

Based on the speed that the Space Station travels, it is above our horizon for only six minutes. That doesn’t leave much room for error. The only thing that didn’t cooperate was the weather. There was a band of clouds over southern Alberta when the Space Station went overhead. Unfortunately Bob didn’t see the lights due to the clouds, but considering this had never been done before, it was still an amazing orchestration.

Not only did the students send a message via Morse code, but they also spelled out a word using the lights to make the letters. This was done for the TV cameras.

From the air, it apparently looked amazing. I was on the ground, in my plane, communicating with Soren, who was circling for half an hour in the dark with a brave camera man hanging out the side of his C-185. I was the voice connecting the camera in the air with the person directing the students’ running the lights.

While we were on the ground preparing, the Space Station was on the other side of the earth. Nevertheless, Soren’s cell rang. It was a call from Bob asking how the preparations were coming. How’s that for cell coverage?

All kidding aside, it was truly an amazing event to be part of. Of course there were many other flying events that happened recently, but these are the ones that I took part in. Oh, you may be wondering what the students spelled out:


Fitting isn’t it?



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