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Central Alberta Air Tour

By Jeff Seaborn, EAA 793688, Chair, EAA Canadian Council

August 2021 – I was able to participate in the Central Alberta Air Tour, which happened recently.

The tour started from Drayton Valley (CER3), to Rocky Mountain House (CYRM), to Ponoka (CEH3), and finished in Wetaskiwin (CEX3). The route itself wasn’t overly long but since I was coming from south of Calgary, I had to travel quite a distance to get there. I put four hours on my Hobbs meter yesterday, which is a big difference from my normal 40-minute aerobatic wring out-type flight that I do. Being from the south was to my advantage later in the afternoon when the weather changed.

The tour was a great opportunity to expose the communities to aviation and their local airfield. I would say that it was a tremendous success. Each community had a large number of locals who came out and watched the aircraft arriving and departing. Each stop provided an opportunity for the local folks to check out the airplanes, talk with the pilots, and take pictures.

Central Alberta Air Tour - Arriving aircraft lined up
Arriving aircraft lined up
Central Alberta Air Tour - Arriving aircraft limned up and some with overhead propellers
and some with overhead propellers!

There was a tremendous variety of aircraft. There were a few RVs, a Cozy Mk IV, a Sukhoi, a Stinson Gullwing, a Harvard, a Pitts Special, a couple of Ercoupes, a Kitfox, a couple of Cubs, many Cessnas, C170, C172, C177, C185, and three helicopters (Bell 207, R44, and something else I didn’t recognize). In total, there were 35 aircraft that made the tour.

Central Alberta Air Tour - Beautiful Sukhoi SU-26
Beautiful Sukhoi SU-26

Starting in Drayton Valley, the local chamber of commerce provided complimentary breakfasts for everyone. I’m told they were great. I didn’t partake as I’d already eaten breakfast 2.5 hours earlier (I wouldn’t have made it otherwise). There were hundreds of locals out enjoying the morning, the warmth, and the opportunity to see something outside their COVID lockdown cells.

A short hop to Rocky Mountain House provided the same experience. Hundreds of locals out to see the aircraft activity. Most of the community of Rocky Mountain House are active supporters of aviation. We’ve seen similar interest and enthusiasm from the locals when we have an aerobatic contest there. Some kind sponsors provided a hamburger lunch to the pilots and K2 Fuels at Rocky provided fuel at a significant discount. I believe there was a show and shine with some of the local car enthusiasts. I had the opportunity to put some kids in my airplane. They were quite observant and very inquisitive, asking intelligent questions. It was such a great time I didn’t think to take pics.

Another short hop took us to Ponoka. Ponoka has a small airstrip and a small ramp area so not all airplanes landed or stayed. It was scorching hot, close to 35 degrees without a cloud overhead, but it didn’t deter the locals who came to check the airplanes out.

Finally, the last stop was in Wetaskiwin, home of the Reynolds Museum.

Locals, food, museum, and nasty weather developing out of the northeast.

We had a bit of time to visit, answer questions and hydrate. Water, please! My EAA shirt was soaked and ripe by this point.

As we kept one eye on the incoming weather, we got ourselves a burger and fries. My second burger for the day. Sadly I didn’t have much time to enjoy the delicious burger and fries (they truly were fantastic!). I was stuffing the last of the burger into my mouth when the wind hit. Within minutes it went from calm to gusting 20-30 MPH from the NE.

Central Alberta Air Tour - Harvard heading out from CEX3 before the front arrived
Harvard heading out from CEX3 before the front arrived.

Note the jets in the background of the Harvard picture. They WEREN’T part of the tour. They are static display at the Reynolds museum. The large hangar they are beside holds the rest of the museum display aircraft.

Those of us heading south bugged out of there ASAP and put our tails to the weather. In the first few minutes of my departure, I had tailwinds of 40-50 mph. My 1-D was seeing more than 200 mph ground speed, flying straight and level at cruise settings. In 10 minutes I was in clear air back to my home base at Indus (CFY4).

The pictures don’t show the numbers of locals who showed up to see the airplanes and we didn’t really have a group photo. It was very casual. Within half an hour it was black and boiling and just about upon us. We’d been watching it all day and were glad to get home uneventfully.

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