Airberta Air Rally Day 2

By Dennis Fox, EAA 1030810

Day 2 of the Airberta Air Rally is starting out great again, clear skies and light winds. That’s two days in a row, somewhat rare in Alberta. The first destination airport is Coronation (CYCT) and I am wheels up at 8:30 a.m. for a 9 a.m. ETA and 71 miles. I soon hear chatter from Mel and Allan, who are on their way from the Hat. We all arrive on time and Mel tells a few tall tales from his youth about growing up here.

We depart at 9:20 for the short hop north to Killam-Sedgewick/Flagstaff Region. Touch down at 9:40 and it’s time to check out Shelley’s home baking, which is always in good supply in the terminal building. The Iron Creek Club here is very active with STOL competition, aerobatic events and I’m told even the occasional appearance by the Snowbirds for a practice session overhead. Shelley’s baking lives up to its reputation as always.

We’re off to Vermillion (CYVG) at 10:50 for a 48-mile leg to the northeast. The town is along the north side of Highway 16, the “Yellowhead,” and the airport is northeast of the town. It’s close, easily within walking distance, but we’ve got places to go, so not this time.

Next destination is Bonnyville (CYBF). Were off at 11:36 for the 57-mile flight following a track of 350. We’re heading into Alberta’s “Lakeland” country and it’s very green with lots of bush, trees, and small lakes.

Stop in Bonnyville

The Cold Lake military base is farther to the northeast, where the F-18s turn our taxes into noise. We touch down just after noon and are greeted by a local aviator who offers us a vehicle to go into town for lunch. We declined the hospitality as we brought our own bag lunch. It’s a beautiful day to sit in the sun and view the lineup of airplanes tied down. We speculate on the first one, it kind of looks like a Super Cub, but not quite. A few names are thrown out, but none of the suggestions are said with conviction, so we eventually have to walk over to see what it really is. Husky, I think, if my memory is correct.

Lunch is over and we’ve got avgas to burn. We’re at our most northerly point of today’s trip so we point southwest for 100 miles to Cooking Lake (CEZ3). Cooking Lake has been the location for much of the history of Canada’s early aviation. It was the main floatplane base for all the bush flying going north from Edmonton. Pick any book about bush flying and it will be mentioned. The bulk of activity now is land-based of course, so we’re headed to the airport. It’s busy today with planes in the circuit so probably some training going on. We fit into the flow and land without any trouble. Fuel is a good price so we line up and each take our turn at the self-serve pump. We take the time to check out the terminal building, which is dated and deserted. There are some interesting pictures which reveal some early history of the airport and float base.

The next hop is a short 30 miles south to Wetaskawin (CEX3) and we’re there in about 20 minutes. We choose to stay under Edmonton (YEG) class C to get into EX3 but they don’t sound very busy and might even be glad to have somebody to talk to.

Next stop – Wetaskawin

At EX3 we are welcomed by a young lady who is the airport manager. She is very enthusiastic about the Air Rally and showing off her airport. Across the airport to the southwest is the Reynolds-Alberta Museum and the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame. It’s been a few years since I’ve been there but it’s a first-class show. In the years BC (before Covid) they’ve had a resident barnstormer offering rides in a vintage biplane right outside the Hall of Fame.

There is lots of homebuilding and restoration activity here. In 2019 I was here to view the unveiling to the public of a freshly restored Hawker Hurricane. That same day the Reynolds Museum brought their own Hurricane across the airport and lined it up beside the guest of honor, a good two-for-one deal. The restored Hurricane was later transported on a flat deck semi down Highway 2 to Calgary’s Hangar Museum (wings on), to the amazement of a lot of drivers.

From Wetaskiwin we track 226 degrees for 35 miles to the Town of Rimbey and the greenest and smoothest grass runway the RV has touched its wheels on. As I taxi in, I recognize the green RV-9 of Claude from Red Deer. I have seen his name in some of the airport registries we have been at so I know he is in the Rally also. We are welcomed by the airport owner Wayne and his wife. Mel recognizes them right away from a Century Flight event a few years back so they have some catching up to do.

After nearly an hour of trading stories we have to get on the move as Mel and Allan are still 200 miles from home. As we lift off from Rimbey we head straight east for 22 miles to Lacombe (CEG3), our last stop of the Rally for today. This takes us over Gull Lake, which looks inviting with lots of people enjoying a day at the beach. If only I had a floatplane…

That’s a wrap for today and it’s time to head for homebase(s). We confer about tomorrow and we decide to go each on our own. We will probably meet up somewhere along the way as we have several of the same airports to hit. Today has been a good day as I’ve covered 460 miles and landed at eight airports. Tomorrow will be the longest day as we’re heading into the north. Stay tuned.

Find Part I of Dennis’ story online here.

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