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Best Flight of My Life

By Cliff Smith

After several weeks of having my feet back on solid ground, I still get a silly grin on my face when I think of my flight in a Nanchang CJ-6A. Thank you, Mike “Skidmk” Bourget, for the greatest flying experience I’ve ever had packed into a 30-minute ride.

The anticipation of an opportunity to fly in a vintage radial engine-powered aircraft and possibly even having my first experience with some aerobatic maneuvers at the same time began several weeks ago when a friend and fellow radio-controlled (R/C) aircraft modeler offered to give me a certificate he had won as a door prize at an R/C fun-fly event. The certificate was for a 30-minute flight in a 1965 Nanchang CJ-6A trainer aircraft, courtesy of High Flight Adventures Inc. This is a summer camp for children, 10-15 years of age, held at the Smiths Falls Airport every summer. Here the kids get to roll out their sleeping bags in the Nanchangs’ hangar for a week, learn about flying, and then experience flight under the guidance of EAA Canadian Council member Mike Bourget.

On November 12, the day of my flight, the bright skies and calm frosty morning air promised perfect conditions for flying, so the one-hour drive from Kingston to the small airport just north of Smiths Falls only served to build my excitement.

I met Mike at Smiths Falls Airport, and from the moment the hangar was opened, revealing Nanchang C-FXM1, the experience was both informative and hands-on. While performing his preflight inspection, Mike shared the aircraft’s interesting history and origins. After we pushed the aircraft out of the hangar, he explained the process required in starting up the radial engine and even had me assist in the engine priming procedure before climbing into the backseat and getting buckled up for the ride. Mike had himself ready in front, and then came the sweet sound of the radial engine. We were on our way.

Nanchang C-FXM1

My first taste of aerobatics began much sooner than expected with an exhilaratingly abrupt rotation at the runway’s end and with a rapid elevator ride to altitude. The next several minutes were laced with a mix of steep banking turns up to 2g and knife-edge sideslips and rolls, all of which felt amazingly smooth and natural.

Then Mike gave me the opportunity to take control. After a few minutes of flying straight and level, he suggested that I could be more aggressive, so without further coaxing I tried some more high-g left and right turns. Not as pretty as Mike’s, but they were all mine and not bad for a nonpilot, I think.

My first 2G turn

My turn at the stick finished up with Mike guiding me through one last assisted roll. Very cool! Way too soon it was time to land, but not before completing a low-level “dusting run” over open fields, then climbing back up to 2,000 feet to set up for a perfect carrier landing back at the airfield. As we taxied off the runway and back to the staging area, I felt that silly grin.

Have you never flown in a vintage aircraft or tried aerobatics, but would love to give it a try? Or, do you have a child who is keen to experience the adventure of flying? Give Mike “Skidmk” Bourget a call at High Flight Adventures Inc. for the opportunity of a lifetime.

Mike “Skidmk” Bourget
Managing Director, High Flight Adventures Inc.
Head Office: Orleans, Ontario
e-mail: skidmk@gmail.com

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