By Steve Hubrecht
The Columbia Valley Airport Society’s second annual Fly-In event was a smash success, with large crowds of visitors and many more aircraft than expected.
This year’s version of the event was originally scheduled to happen in August, but at the time the Fairmont Hot Springs Airport was still being heavily used by wildland firefighters battling the Horsethief Complex (a trio of major wildfires that flared up in the valley in mid-simmer). So organizers pushed the Fly-In back to the morning and early afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 16. The event ended up featuring 27 aircraft and drew a crowd of 250 visitors.
“Coming off of a very busy wildfire season in August, we are thankful that so many members of the community were able to attend the postponed event,” said society president Pascal van Dijk. “The society and its volunteers were keen to build on the success of last year’s event and I think it’s safe to say that was accomplished.”
Society volunteer Kim Collens told the Pioneer that organizers initially expected about a dozen aircraft to participate in the Fly-In, so when 27 showed up “it was a pleasant surprise.”
Most of the aircraft were small, two-seater planes, but Glacier Helicopters was also on hand, as was paragliding duo Max and Penny Powers.
Visitors got a pancake breakfast, as well as firsthand looks at the planes, with pilots explaining everything. They also had the option to go up in a helicopter with Glacier Helicopters, or could try a flight simulator.
“We had a lot of positive feedback about everything, but especially about the flight simulator,” said Collens.
The Fly-In served as a fundraiser for the Columbia Valley Airport Society (as well as the Windermere & District Lions and Fairmont Lions Clubs). The airport society will use the funds for much needed maintenance and upgrades of the airport building, which is more than 20 years old.
Other activities included games for kids, door prizes, an online auction, and a 50/50 raffle.
Collens explained that part of the purpose of the Fly-In is to help raise public awareness about the airport, which is heavily used by firefighters and for medical evacuations.
“It’s a busy little airport, and very integral to the valley,” she said.
The society expressed its thanks for the volunteers, the Windermere & District Lions Club, the Fairmont Lions Club, and Windermere and Fairmont firehall volunteers who all helped with this year’s event.
The society has already begun planning next year’s Fly-In.