You just don’t come to a beautiful destination like Prince Edward Island and stay a day. There is too much magic to the place. If you need to locate PEI without a map picture the northeast corner of Canada where New Brunswick joins Nova Scotia and run your brain northeast. Before you get to Newfoundland there is an idyllic island 175 miles long from west to east. You’ll recognize it by the patchwork of dark red earth, green plants and darker forests. Fly over and gasp at the beauty. Land there and you are in heaven.
The first BAC arrival date was June 24th and the events were to officially take place over the July 1 weekend… embracing the Canada Day celebrations. However things started to move immediately with the arrival of Mike Rellihan in his Sierra. That doubled the number of BAC members on island and increased the count of Beechcrafts to four. One Sundowner, mine, spends summers here. Two Barons live year round on Prince Edward Island.
This was a joint fly-in. Seems like the fellows with various Bonanza and Baron clubs decided we were fun people. We let them join us. Good thing. Besides being Beech owners they were friendly. They even thought the same of us.
Arrivals continued all week and the crowd swelled to 13 Beech airplanes. Two were 23’s.
Tuesday brought in Mike Rellihan. He set up shop at my house on the water. Laurens South Carolina is Mike’s home and ocean is something that people there only theorize about. We have the real thing. Mike was not used to sleeping in a house with a two year old. Neither am I but a visiting granddaughter gets preference. Mike and I went to the Charlottetown Driving Park and Entertainment Center for the evening. Mike is docile and I found him easy to lead around as long as he’s got nothing else to do. Also, my slow dial up here off the beaten path hampered his abundant use of the internet. So, a trip to the local harness races was in order. And there is a casino there, cold beer and restaurant. My son Matthew joined us.
Harness racing a is a great spectator sport and it’s fun to have a little cash on the action. PEI has spent a lot of money to keep the sport active. It was only in the spirit of helping the local economy that we did a little wagering. About ten races satisfied us and our collective balance sheet indicated a slight contribution to the parimutual pool.
Ah, downstairs to the casino. By the time Mike had received his new membership card into the “Player’s Club”, I had expended my self-imposed limit in some greedy slots. Matthew did the same. Mike broke even. He opined that the only way to double your money in this place was to fold it in half and go home. (Now he tells me!)
Being tourist friendly and quaint (vs. commercial non-quaint) Mike took a sabbatical by himself and overnighted in a nice hotel near the North Cape on the northwest tip of the island. This is the spot where much electricity is generated via wind power. Mike eyeballed the huge blades on the generators and extrapolated their rotation and twisting to our propellers. This report later proved to be the beginning of hundreds of scientific observations by Mike during the week. All were accurate, interesting and appropriate. If Mike watched the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders in action, he would be thinking about the effect of the wind on their skirts and how it happens. Me, I’d be hoping for more wind no matter the source.
Our house is in Pownal just six miles southeast of Charlottetown. This is near the population middle of the island. Mid-week Mike dropped in for a beer on his way past headed for the east end of the island. He had the promise of receiving a certificate at the other tip that would certify that he in fact had appeared at both extremes of Prince Edward Island. This is not equal to having climbed Everest but it is our facsimile. If geography and friendship were not enough reason to stop, Mike had purchased a case of Alpine Beer and he knew we were depleting it while he toured. That was also true. But he got a free hat and T-shirt as a premium with the purchase. We thought that was enough. We were not interested in his hard lemonade.
Saturday was the “Meet and Greet” day for the arriving Beech people. That was spent by attending the Saturday morning breakfast meeting of the Prince Edward Island Flying Association (peiflying.ca). It was then that I was able to introduce Mike to my flying friends who live here year-round. Every Saturday morning finds the bunch eating breakfast at Cyndie’s Café at the Charlottetown Airport (8:30am CYYG). These were our hosts for the weekend.
Needless to say, there was no shortage of hangar talk through the day. All conversations and footsteps lead to the local RV 10 project. Dereck Hickox, who is the maker and Dave Corrigan, who is the owner, no longer are entertained by the “Is it finished yet?” question. They smile politely. Humor is gone from the project. Dereck started last October. He will finish August 30th. Both have good senses of humor on other subjects. Dereck and Dave are still friends.
During the afternoon, I took the advantage of Mike’s presence and spare time to put him in the left seat of my Sundowner. We flew for about an hour and I got a first class lesson on adjusting mixture and rigging. Hey, I had the “Man” there and why not put him to good personal use. He identified minor issues, which when corrected, will pay off years from now. He landed my plane better than I do but you didn’t hear that from me.
At 5pm the group, which had now swelled to 48 persons including visiting pilots, local club members and their wives, assembled at the all-you-care-to-eat New Glascow Lobster Suppers to evaluate the local cuisine. A lot of evaluating was done. There were no cheapskates there but even by Beech standards, Baron and Bonanza guys seem to be the biggest spenders. Eating with us was PEI pilot Sterling McRae. He is a principal in the flying club and owner of the “Suppers” as he calls it. Being one of the world’s most friendly and generous people, he took us on a tour of the restaurant’s lobster tanks (20,000 pounds of lobsters) and the cooking facilities where the giant crustaceans and the mussels are made plate-ready.
It was not to be ignored that we were near Sterling’s farm airstrip at Brookfield. As the traffic there is light, we drove our cars out onto the intersecting grass runways and watched Sterling’s cows eat the landing surface and watched the bulls have their way with the cows. Hopefully that put all the fly-in participants in an appropriate romantic mood.
Just ten minutes from Brookfield and parking in the appropriate spot along the Hillsborough River, the Canada Day fireworks could be enjoyed as darkness (10pm) overcame the scattered cloud sky. The temperature was lawnchair warm (in Celsius of course).
Full bellies and lots of daily activity made sleep easy at the Corcoran house after the fireworks. Especially now that we were missing the beautiful family which had earlier begun return to the Boston area via 12 hours of highways. Of course super-humans don’t need sleep so Mike set up his computer information center and Beech parts scam in the spare office/bedroom. When or if ever he slept didn’t matter as he was first up and awake.
Sunday morning brought more all-you-care-to-eat as a brunch was catered in the CYYG Skyplex building owned by the PEI Flying Association. We didn’t really need to eat but 38 people enjoyed each others company, Cyndie’s food and more international flying talk. A quick check indicated that no progress had been made in the past 24 hours on the RV10. All was normal at Charlottetown International.
Some of the full bellies jaunted over to the Belfast Golf Course for a fly-in best-ball tournament. Mike and me and my ever suffering wife Margie decided to go to the Brudenelle Auto Show of 50’s and 60’s cars. Rain interfered. We viewed the half of the cars remaining in the downpour from the comfort of our van. It was still fun. Mike out-statistic-ed me on the cars too. All was not lost on the car show stop. Mike realized that the nearby Rodd Hotel parking lot provided a wonderful high-speed wireless alternative to my miserable dial-up internet connection. This he achieved with laptop on lap in the front seat of the van. Here we accomplished email acrobatics and uploading of our photos to the BAC website in no time and for free (he had stayed at the hotel on the trip east and decided entitlement). Now it was on to all-you-care-to-eat event number three, the second “eating extravaganza” of the day… third within 24 hours.
Brian Pound is a Baron guy who lives in a house custom made by his company Gold Seal Homes of Alberta. It is surrounded by his wife Sherry’s green thumb magic. She has something like a PHD in horticulture from a better known Canadian university and the place looks it. She does with potting soil, what Elton John does with a song. The location is on a bluff at the edge of the bay with a wonderful deck that overhangs the water at high tide. The seals know the place and the pilot group took short sabbaticals from the burger eating and beer drinking to enjoy watching them laze around on nearby rocks. About nine in the evening the event ended as pilots thought about the flight home or onto new places in the morning.
Monday morning, one by one, the beautiful Beech airplanes left under IFR conditions with the headwind blowing about 30 knots from the USA. I stayed at the airport until Mike got off the ground in a driving wall of rain. I swear he had not gotten to 1,000 feet when whoosh… the wind shifted to the northeast, the rain stopped and the sun started to shine. He had a tailwind. How does he do that? The wind had blown from the southwest for eight days at 20 or better.
Well, the 2006 Prince Edward Island Canada Fly-In is history and the photos will continue to be posted. The PEI pilots made everyone feel welcome and entertained.
Credit should be given to Steve Cote from Springfield, Massachusetts who began the trip and had to turn back over New Hampshire because of weather. Also, thanks to Mike’s Paula who let him come and to one of the nicest people in the world my wife Margie who puts up with all this airplane stuff. Thanks to Tony Crowe our International Region Director for his interest and support.
There are so many things to do on PEI one fly-in is not enough. In fact, don’t wait for a fly-in. Come up. It’s only a little over two hours from Bangor, Maine in a Beech 23.
Tom Corcoran is a Founding Director of the Beech Aero Club. He lives in Braintree near Boston when he’s not at his home in Edgartown on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard or enjoying his old seaside farm acres on Prince Edward Island, Canada. He has over 3,000 hours in Beech 23’s and holds commercial and instrument ratings.