On July 26, 2010 I was on the road early to catch Air Canada AC257, an A-320, to Winnipeg. The mission this time? To re-visit my good friends at Friesens printers down in lovely Altona, not far from lovely Gretna, close to lovely Winkler. I looked forward to the trip, having enjoyed Friesens and Altona since first visiting in 1995 with CANAV’s big Canadair project.
As it always seems to go these day’s, our A-320 was chock-a-block, not a seat in the house. It departed “YYZ” (Toronto) as advertised and at 0810 — 2 1/2 hours after pushback at YYZ — our pilot (or his auto-land system) greased AC257 onto the runway in Winnipeg. Taxiing in, we could see how far along is “YWG’s” new terminal — lookin’ good! Perimeter Metros and Dash 8s were all over the place, as were Westjet and FirstAir 737s and various Air Canada types. All looked pretty normal on a glorious Manitoba morning.
Picking up a zippy little Accent at Enterprise, I headed to the top end of the ‘drome to catch a few landing shots. There are some good spots for shooting up there, right near Eagle & Brookside. Brookside Cemetery is itself worth a visit and has a huge military section. No time today, however, for the dearly departed. After grabbing some interesting arrivals, especially Perimeter and Bearskin, I headed back to the ‘drome to get some research done at the Western Canada Aviation Museum.
The WCAM is home to one of Canada’s premier aviation libraries/archives, but this is a well-kept secret (don’t tell anyone). A researcher hardly knows where to begin and your head swirls as astounding material pops up at every turn. Typical of the WCAM holdings are the Found Brothers and Transair archives, each with boxes and boxes of goodies. It’s encouraging to see so much material so well and safely stored, and available to the earnest researcher. With decades of experience, the WCAM can boast a fine cadre of archives volunteers, who fastidiously catalogue material and take time to ably assist any visitor. The WCAM is a model institution rich not only in airplanes, artifacts, programs, books, journals and rare tech manuals, but also in priceless personal and corporate collections. This is what aviation museums/archives should be all about.
By 1400 it was time to push off to Altona, so down Hwy 75 I drove on a classic Manitoba day. By this time the “Towering Q” was a-building and storm warnings were being aired on all the radio stations. But the storms saved their fury for points north of Winnipeg. Turning onto Hwy 14, I stopped to photograph a winter wheat harvest, wildflowers, some impressive weather to the north, etc.
Arrived at Friesens, I got T’d up with my good friends in book manufacturing. Tomorrow we had a job to do — print Vol.3 in CANAV’s new series — Canada’s Air Force: Evolution of an Air Force. After setting me up in some nice accommodations (the boss’ suite), Mike Fehr treated me to supper. Come 0800 next morning and CSR Elvira Filion was briefing me about the job. The first sheet for approval rolled off the press at 1000 and from then on the day was busy as we checked/approved some 24 sheets, including endpapers and dust jacket.
In between press runs I took some time to photograph the windmill farm going up to the east of Altona.
Local citizens are never overly sold on the “invasion of the windmills”, but there seems to be at least a bit of a payoff for everyone in the neighbourhood. Cash is king, eh! I also checked out Altona’s local ag operator, Steve Kiansky’s Southeast Air Service. Since last year he’s traded up from his piston-pounding Air Tractor AT-301 (R-1340) ag plane to a turbo-powered AT-502 (PT-6). Over at Winkler, the same trend – Arty’s is converting from his Weatherlys with their oft-cantankerous R-985s and now has three factory-fresh AT-402s (PT6). Back to the windmill story, one Manitoba business that is really vulnerable to these new “green” gizmos is crop dusting. Huge areas previously covered by aerial application become no-fly zones once the “war of the worlds” windmills are in place at 150-300 feet. Another reason maybe to scratch your head about the brilliance of “alternative” energy sources, eh! Later in the day, Mike Fehr sent me out to meet his farmer brother-in-law, Adam Wiebe.
Adam was harvesting winter wheat and took me out for an hour’s “flight” in his mighty John Deere 9750STS. Powered by a 350-hp diesel engine (fuel cap. 250 US gal) and with a 300 bushel hopper, this beauty has a gross weight about that of a DC-3. While Adam filled me in about farming this year in Southern Manitoba, I tried to answer his many aviation history queries. Back at Friesens, I checked some final proofs, then knocked off for supper at Bravo’s — top notch.
Come the morning of the 28th and it was bye-bye to Friesens — see y’all next book. Back up I drove to the WCAM, stopping only in the cemetery in Morris to photograph a few RCAF stones.
Today’s job at the WCAM? Grinding for several hours over the astounding log books of Roy O. deNevers, one of the many unsung Canadian aviation heroes. Look for his story in Vol.4 — Aviation in Canada: The RCAF Overseas 1939-1945. Along the way, author Bill Zuk showed up, working with a team taping several RCAF Lancaster aircrew. Bill and I had a pleasant walk, then some cool ones in the Airport Hilton lounge (you’ll know some of Bill’s books, including his bio of the great Janusz Zurakowski of CF-105 renown).
Finally, it was time to catch AC268 (A-320) for a 1600-hour departure. Back on the ground ay YYZ after two hours, I caught a glimpse of the Emirates A380, collected my car at Park ‘n Fly and soon was home. Lots done, lots learned, bags of fun and all in a 3-day Toronto-Winnipeg CANAV turn-around. If you get the idea that CANAV never sits still, you’ve pretty well got that one figured out. Why sit around when the world awaits? If you have a minute to spare, read CANAV’s new booklist and get the details about the ACEAF and a hundred other excellent books.
Have a great summer!