OPINION: Members of this club mix love of flight and community    

Three members of the 44 Squadron Air Cadets, from left, Flight Corporal Mika Magtanong, LAC Andrew McCully and Sergeant Johnathan Hemstreet, check out an aircraft at Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport along with Bill Pedlar and Mark Seibutis, members of COPA Flight 7. Darren McKeegan Photo

Bonnie Stevenson

Canadian veterans deserve our thanks, and 10 members of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) Flight 7 flying club have found a way to ensure their sacrifice isn’t forgotten.

Bonnie Stevenson

Bonnie Stevenson

For the past few years, club members have used their flying skills and experience to offer tight formation fly-overs at Remembrance Day services and other special occasions, such as the up-coming Canada 150 celebrations.

Now known as the 403 Honour Wing, they provide this service free of charge, with each member flying his own aircraft and covering all costs, including fuel. They also put in numerous hours of training and strategic planning to safely execute their fly-over formations.

The team’s name is a nod to the Royal Canadian Airforce, Sarnia 403 Wing, a veterans’ group that has supported its efforts from the start.

As an associate member of the club, I get to see how the members’ passion for flight is diverted to other community needs as well. In 2015, for example, after three years of planning and hard work, they completed the restoration of the badly damaged Golden Hawk Sabre jet memorial in Germain Park.

They also recently set up the Keith Murray Memorial Scholarship for youth ages 14-18 with an interest in flying, and club members are involved in various activities that give Sarnia 44 Squadron air cadets a chance to interact with pilots and their aircraft.

Another major project underway is the construction of a large event trailer. The trailer will feature a washroom, cargo space and other amenities and be available for use by community groups and private functions.

To further support local cadets, the COPA Flight 7 flying club is hosting two fundraisers during the appearance of a rare B-17 Flying Fortress bomber — known affectionately as the Sentimental Journey — at Chris Hadfield Airport. An NHL jersey will be auctioned off during the evening dinner and dance on June 22, and a fly-in breakfast is planned June 24 for club members and general aviation visitors.

I have been fascinated by flight ever since the ill-fated Avro CF-105 Arrow flew over my childhood home when I was a little kid, and being a member of COPA Flight 7 lets me indulge that fascination.

Pilots, aspiring pilots, and anyone with a passion for flight and a desire to share their interests with like-minded people, are welcome to join the COPA Flight 7 flying club.

For more about the club or 403 Honour Wing, contact president John Wood at 226-402-2646.

 

Bonnie Stevenson is a local freelance journalist and author