The (Soon-To-Be) Great Airberta Air Rally

By Dennis Fox, EAA 1030810

Day 1 of the first-ever Airberta Air Rally, hosted by the Harvard Air Museum at Red Deer Regional Airport (CYQF), is geared up and ready to kick off at high noon on Tuesday, August 25, 2020. The weather is severe clear all around and winds are light. I lift off from Three Hills at 11:16 for the short flight to my starting point of Big Bend Airport (CEM4) near Innisfail, the location of the 2019 COPA AGM. After landing and parking in front of the terminal, I check around but it’s pretty quiet, nobody around. I was hoping for a big welcome! I take a selfie shot of the RV and the terminal just for evidence.

Next I head northwest to Rocky Mountain House (CYRM). A short 20 minute flight and the airport comes into view just north and east of the city. This is the host airport of the Canadian Aerobatic Championship later this year. It is also an air tanker base for the Forest Service.

A quick stop, selfie, and off southwest into the foothills for a run to Ram Falls. It’s a former Forestry strip that is one of several now maintained by the local flying clubs. You get a great full on view of the falls when on final for 25, breathtaking, (if you have time to look).

Next stop is the Red Deer Forestry (CFR7) strip about 40 miles to the south over some spectacular mountain scenery. We’re not quite into the first range of the Rockies so the smaller mountains here are still mostly tree covered.  If you go another 20 miles west you get into the real rocks. This is my first run into Red Deer Forestry but all reports about it are good.  After looking in the wrong valley the first time, I hop over into the next valley and there it is. The winds are light and drifting from the east. That is unusual as the prevailing winds here normally come roaring over the Rockies out of the west. It’s a very pretty spot just on the north side of the Red Deer River. It would be a great place for a picnic, but for that I would need a basket of food and I forgot that detail. A quick picture and it’s off to the next stop.

Sundre (CFN7) is downstream on the Red Deer River so it’s an easy navigation to the airport about 20 minutes northeast as the RV flies. As I climb out, I hear some familiar voices over the airways just leaving Sundre, and we make contact. They’re also on the air rally and heading for Beiseker (CFV2) so we arrange to meet up there. Short stop in Sundre and I blast off for FV2 and set up a high fuel flow rate to catch up. This is a little off my route plan, as it takes me to within 20 miles of my starting point this morning — FV2 was going to be my last stop of the day before returning home to CEN3. It’s not the first time my route plan has taken the long way around, more airtime that way.

I catch up to Mel and Allan from Medicine Hat. So now on the ramp we have a trio of RVs — Mel’s RV-7, my RV-8 and Allan’s RV-9, all “A” models with the 3rd wheel up front where it belongs (a little dig to get back for all those comments about the third wheel on the wrong end). 

Our trio of “nosedraggers”

We compare notes and decide to carry on to Airdrie (CEF4), about 30 miles southwest.  To get in we have to duck under the Class C of Calgary (YYC). No problem, just have to do a slightly lower circuit.

We confer about next stop, and High River is suggested. Although it’s not on the list of 24 airports in the Rally, it is (or near) the original High River WWII training base and we can get points for those too. It is directly south of Calgary so we have to divert east to get around YYC. This takes us over Kirkby’s east of Calgary, and then over Indus/Winters further to the south.  There is lots of activity today so we’re on the lookout for traffic as we transit the area. Our formation flying is pretty loose and we soon lose sight of each other. Allan and I carry on to High River, and wait for Mel, and wait and wait. We decided to carry on east to Vulcan, another training base. A call out for Mel and he is already over Vulcan and trying to decide if he wants to land or not. It still has a full triangle of runways however he is unsure of their condition so decides to carry on.

WW2 triangle of runways at Vulcan

Allan and I also do a flyover and carry on to Bassano where we catch up to Mel. The airport is busy with crop sprayers as we are now in the southern Alberta irrigation country.

The Bassano Airport is the first place we have stopped at that is taking the Air Rally seriously.  The terminal has a big “Welcome Aviators” poster, and the fridge is stocked with beverages and snacks for our enjoyment.  It’s nice to feel welcome, thanks Bassano!

This is our last airport stop for the day, so time to head for home. We just happen to be about midway between my home of Three Hills, and their home of Medicine Hat. Good planning, except there was no plan.

We decide to carry on tomorrow and meet at our first stop, Mel’s old home town of Coronation (CYCT). Stay tuned for Day 2 next month.

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