But let's face it; flying is not exactly cheap. Unless you're lucky enough to be relatively wealthy, or else you are like me and willing to budget yourself to within an inch of your life and work your tail off at two or three jobs, it's unlikely that you will get to spend a great deal of time in the sky. The Ottawa Flying Club (my second home) offers introductory lessons/city tours for approximately $90 after taxes, which is really reasonable in the aviation world, but still doesn't exactly qualify as spare change.
When I heard about the annual Fly Day, it sounded to me like a brilliant idea. City Tour flights are offered by experienced pilots in small planes for $30 per person, and all proceeds go to charity. I knew I wanted to volunteer and help out, so at Ridiculous AM on Saturday morning after driving home from Montreal the night before, I dragged my butt out of bed and headed off to the OFC. I am beginning to get the idea that a life in aviation and getting a good amount of sleep are two things that are totally incompatible. But really, who needs sleep when there are airplanes nearby?!
It was a gorgeous fall day, if a bit cold, and the weather looked very promising. The odd low cloud here and there, but nothing that looked too menacing. By the time I arrived, things were already well under way. A line of planes were on the tarmac, dropping off passengers, picking up new ones, getting refueled, and taking off again in a steady routine. I was given a very stylish orange vest and put to work as an Escort (of passengers...to and from the planes. This is a family show people.) Already there was a crowd, and I was told that almost two hundred tickets had already been sold.
|Marshalling in the traffic.|
As the day wore on, I was amazed by a number of things. The amount of planning that must have gone into making this day a success must have been staggering. I can't even begin to imagine the co-ordination with the OFC, the pilots, the ATC tower and the Rotary Club that it must have required. It appeared that the Tower was pretty relaxed with us too, although I can't imagine we made their day an easy one, with flight after flight after flight taking off and landing, so I am quite sure that their co-operation and patience was appreciated by all! The pilots flew relentlessly, some only stopping long enough to fuel their aircraft and then head off again with the next load of passengers.
The passengers themselves impressed the heck out of me too. In the end I believe somewhere along the lines of four hundred tickets were sold, and almost three hundred and fifty people took flights. We stopped selling tickets at around 11am, and needless to say it took all day to get through all the passengers that waited it out. But everyone was, for the most part, incredibly patient. It must have been especially difficult for families with small children to keep the little ones from throwing tantrums at the idea of having to wait all day, but I witnessed very few meltdowns. Impressive. I got the impression that people realised this was something worth waiting for, and that they appreciated the restrictions we had to work with - such as only being able to send three people at a time in each plane, and the necessary stop times for refueling and pilot breaks, and so on.
Based upon the remarks from the passengers after their flights, most of them seemed to think that it was well worth the wait, which I was very happy to hear. Obviously I am a little biased, and think flying is just about the best thing ever. But it was nice to hear that people were happy to wait for so long and were still able to go away content. It made me feel very proud of the OFC for pulling off such a successful event. To add to the enjoyment, Vintage Wings brought over a few of their planes - a Harvard and a Tiger Moth - which caused a little bit of excitement, and a few lucky people got to take flights in them.
A more surprising addition to the party came with the arrival of a Norseman. One lucky couple took a flight in that amazing plane, during which time the young man made a successful marriage proposal! How's that for romantic! I'd definitely have a hard time saying "no" if someone proposed to me in a vintage aircraft.
At the end of the day, everyone left happy, and the Ottawa Rotary Home went away having raised almost $10,000! Quite the feat! Please visit the Ottawa Rotary Home's website for more information on this fantastic organization, and if you are interested in next year's Fly Day, check out the official website!
The stunning photographs were taken by Mike McKay from the OFC - as always, demonstrating his enviable photography skills! In true form, I had (as always) left my camera at home. But I was too busy enjoying myself to have taken any photographs anyway!