Red Knights inducted into Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame

— By Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer (Submitted photos: The Columbia Valley Pioneer)

Fairmont resident Darwin (Tex) Deagnon’s mood is soaring as he was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame for his time flying high as a Red Knight in the early sixties. The induction took place on the evening of June 23 at the Marriott Calgary Airport hotel where he was joined by his wife Annmarie and son Conall for this prestigious honour. Deagnon was joined for this honour by two other former Red Knights who he once flew with; Bill Fraser from Vernon, B.C. and Wayne Mclenan from Mississauga, Ontario.

“It was great to see them again,” said Deagnon. “The induction was supposed to happen in 2021 but Covid put a stop to that. We found out earlier this year that the induction would go ahead in June.”

The Red Knight was nominated by author John Corrigan who wrote a book about the history of the Red Knight titled of the same name. The Red Knightreceived the Belt of Orion. The Belt of Orion Award for Excellence was founded by Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame to honour organizations, groups, societies or associations who have made outstanding contributions to the advancement of aviation in Canada.”

The Red Knight was the solo aerobatics performer of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s (RCAF) Training Command from 1958 through 1969. Deagnon was an alternate in 1964 then was a regular Red Knight during 1965. “You were alternative for a year then Red Knight for a year then you had to move on and let someone else do the job,” says Deagnon. In the beginning they were only authorized to perform three shows but over its span of twelve seasons the Red Knight went on to make over 600 appearances, throughout North America which was shared by 17 different pilots.

The three Red Knights in attendance on June 23 were presented with a plaque honouring their induction. “We got to go on stage with all the inductees and have photos with friends and family. The plaque will be donated back to the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame so others can enjoy it,” said Deagnon. He shares that his nickname Tex started way back in his college days. For freshman days he dressed as a cowboy, six guns the whole bit and the name “Tex” came about and stuck. Two of us from college joined the RCAF at the same time the nickname went with me. At 18, Deagnon joined the RCAF and knew instantly he wanted to become a pilot.

“My dad was my greatest influence in myself becoming a pilot,” shares Deagnon. “When I was stationed at Portage La Prairie, I volunteered to become a Red Knight.”

Commonly sent to venues considered too small for the established aerobatics teams of that time. The Red Knight pilots brought an extremely impressive and professional aerobatics show to communities that might not otherwise get the chance to see such an event; in their trademark breathtaking red aircraft which was the T-33 for the first ten seasons and for the last two Red Knight pilots flew the CT-114 Tutor.

During the year Deagnon sliced the skies as a Red Knight his most memorable moments were the airshow at the Calgary Stampede in 1965 as well the waterfront airshow he flew in Comox BC. Deagnon shares that in the moment when he was flying it didn’t sink in as much but looking back, he feels truly honoured and humbled by the experience he had.

“During the ceremony last month, I fully realized the influence I had over people entering into aviation. It was said that because of the Red Knight it inspired people to learn to fly,” says Deagnon. “It was a fantastic experience from beginning to end. It brought back lots of memories from the past and I also got to share this special evening with my family. Not only did I get to reconnect with the two other Red Knights, I met with pilots who I taught to fly like General Scott Cements. I also got to meet the other inductees. Canada truly has an amazing history of aviation, and I’m humbled to be a part of it.”

Fairmont where Deagnon resides is located on the traditional territory that runs along the Columbia River of the Secwepemc (Shuswap) and Ktunaxa (Akisqnuk) First Nations.

Stephenville Airport deal signed

― By Jaymie White, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wreckhouse Weekly News (Photo: Wreckhouse Press)

The Stephenville Airport deal has been signed, sealed and delivered, confirmed Carl Dymond, CEO of Dymond Group of Companies.

“We signed for the Airport today!,” stated Dymond via text message last Tuesday afternoon, June 28.

Dymond first announced his intention to purchase the Stephenville airport Sept. 9, 2021. Few details on the progress of the sale have been made public since then, prompting plenty of skepticism.

The airport’s website,, has already gone live, prior to any official news release by the Town of Stephenville or the Dymond Group of Companies.

Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose has long been a staunch supporter of the airport sale to Dymond and the Greater Newfoundland and Labrador Partnership (GNLP).

“I’m very, very, very happy because it breathes new life; a new business plan. It’s an entrepreneur with a vision and the vision is where aerospace is going today. Drones, satellites are big, and the infrastructure that we have here at this airport, built by the US core of engineers, one of the best pieces of infrastructure in North America. It’s paying dividends now for the community, for the province, and for the country.”

Even in the face of delays and public concerns expressed since the announcement last September, Rose never once wavered in his belief that the deal would go through.

“My role is to stay focused, stay positive on the file until there is an absolute saying it’s not going to happen, and to me, I understood the business file pretty good. I understand aerospace and aviation. I started my career as an air traffic controller in the Air Force. I know a little bit about the industry. I’m the former chair of the Airport Authority, the first chairperson in 1990, and it’s interesting. I was 30 years old when I was the first chair of the Airport Authority and the current chairperson, Trevor Murphy, is 30 years old and he’s the chair who made this deal happen. It was a big day for Stephenville, a big day for our council, a big day for the residents of this town, and it breathes new life, new jobs, new economics, and it gives us pride.”

The next steps for the airport will begin with the closing date, when the deed of transfer switches.

“Just like buying a house, funds have to be transferred within the framework of the deal. Then Carl Dymond and his team will start the process of their project management. With all this, there’s engineering that has to happen, capital, tenders, and contracts. So as quick as Carl Dymond and the Greater NL Partnership can start issuing tenders and putting some tangible evidence on the airfield, it’s going to be well welcomed by the community.”

Rose said the fact that Carl Dymond will be taking the airport out of debt is something else that will happen and, even though it won’t be something people can see, it is something to be excited about.

“It’s not like seeing a building being built on the airport, but it’s very, very important because, up to this point, the Town of Stephenville and its council have been using taxpayer money to keep their airport open, and it was a great investment because look where we are today. It showed leadership, not just on this council, but on previous councils that I’ve been part of, and previous councils that I wasn’t part of. We never stopped believing in the airport, but it was to the point that the infrastructure needed new investment, new capital, new corporate abilities, and a network of companies that can actually monetize and make this airport something of value.”

Rose said the benefits for the Town are going to be significant.

“It’s going to be a big savings for taxpayers, revenue for taxpayers, good paying jobs, social/economic benefits to the community, and it’s going to be about family. There may be opportunities for families that – whether it’s a spouse having to go away for rotation and be away from their family, there may be opportunities where they can now look at working in Stephenville. I’m really excited. I’m glad to be a part of it. It was a long 14 months, but when the announcement happened from September to now, for it to happen this fast, it’s really good.”


Celebrating Tom Vance, a Canadian Spitfire pilot

By Gustavo and Clara Corujo

On July 6th, friends and members of 434 Wing Royal Canadian Air Force Association gathered to celebrate Tom Vance’s 100th birthday.

Vance, the last of the 411 squadron Spitfire pilots from WWII was born in Ottawa, Ontario, on July 26, 1922. Vance joined the RCAF on March 2, 1942.

By the end of the war, Vance was attached to 414 Squadron RCAF in Dunsford, England. He took his last flight as a fighter pilot in the Mk IV Spitfire.

Vance’s good friend and fellow aviator Alfred Beam organized the private event where he was treated by a Dr. Dave Martin solo aerobatic display, Pete Spence and Dave Hewitt (former members of the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team) and the T28 Trojan formation headed by Alf Beam, Danny Richer and Brent Mahoney.

For more photos of the event visit Gusair’s website.

FLIGHT FEST returns Aug. 6

— By Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice

Nothing signals possibility like the return of Chatham-Kent’s annual aviation event.

This year’s “Hope is in the Air” FLIGHT FEST will take place at the Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport on Aug 6.

The free day-long celebration is a joint effort between Flight 203 Inc., the local chapter of Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA), and Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport management.

Tim Schinkel, vice-president of the Flight 203 COPA chapter, said organizers are happy the popular event is about to return.

“We are absolutely delighted to share our spectacular aviation event,” Schinkel said.

“We want the whole family to join in,” he explained, adding there’s “something for everybody,” at FLIGHT FEST.

Schinkel said the theme for this year’s FLIGHT FEST came out of the idea of offering hope to citizens and businesses negatively impacted by shutdowns and restrictions during the pandemic.

“Many have been devastated,” Schinkel said, noting everyone can use a “glimmer of hope.”

A full slate of activities are on tap for “Hope is in the Air,” including a number of static aircraft displays, followed by an evening of music with a feature performance by Merlin native Michelle Wright.

Unique vintage biplanes, an aerobatic helicopter, world-renowned warbirds and jets of yesteryear will be on hand for public viewing.

Along with the displays, multiple aircraft will be arriving and departing throughout the day. Schinkel said an invite has been issued to residents in Lambton, Essex and Middlesex counties to allow them to see aircraft up close and speak to the aviators who fly them.

An opening ceremony at 10 a.m. will kick off FLIGHT FEST, with festivities and displays running until 4 p.m.

Other activities such as face painting will be offered, as well as a barbecue.

Christian musician Dan Bremnes will take to the stage at 5 p.m, followed by Eagles tribute band Hotel California at 6:30 p.m. and Michelle Wright at 8:30 p.m.

Although not directly connected to the festival, Sunday will feature an outdoor praise service that will include music.

There’s an added bonus for those who pre-register for the free event with the winner of a draw claiming a free scenic flight.

Key corporate sponsors include Waste Connections of Canada, Engie, COPA YCK 201, Schinkels Legacy, TekSavvy, JM Controls, Clarke Construction, Apollo Property Management, DAJCOR, Maple City Homes as well as several other local businesses.

Organizers will be collecting donations on behalf of charities chosen by the group. To date, “Hope is in the Air” is supporting UCB Canada, Hope Air and the Mission Aviation Fellowship of Canada.

To pre-register access online.

(Photo: Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport, Facebook)

Mass timber funding at YLW

The province of British Columbia will provide $500,000 from the Mass Timber Demonstration Program toward the Kelowna International Airport, CYLW, Air Terminal Building Expansion.

“This project showcases what is possible when we promote innovation in the construction sector and support the development of mass timber in large infrastructure projects in BC,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “This initiative will help the airport and region grow, while also aligning with a key goal of the StrongerBC Economic Plan to grow a clean economy that works for all British Columbians.”

The airport will receive $500,000 from the province to help with costs associated with the use of mass timber, as well as the creation of a digital construction twin, advanced fire modelling and life-cycle assessment of building materials. CYLW explains the use of prefabricated mass-timber panels will reduce construction time and will result in less construction traffic to the site. The airport, noted as Canada’s 10th largest, will remain open and fully operational throughout the nearly 8,000-square-metre expansion.

“I’m thrilled to see that the terminal expansion will use mass timber, showcasing the versatility and design capabilities of BC lumber, while also contributing to the local economy,” said Colin Basran, Kelowna Mayor. “As YLW is the gateway to the Okanagan, the choice to use mass timber is an important decision to highlight the characteristics reflective of the region.”

Building off the project at YLW and the success of the first two intakes of the Mass Timber Demonstration Program, the province is also announcing an additional $2 million to open a third intake, which begins immediately.

“We would like to thank the province for investing in YLW and in the use of mass timber for our terminal building expansion,” said Sam Samaddar, Airport Director, Kelowna International Airport. “With the increases in both aircraft movement and passenger traffic, this terminal expansion enables the Kelowna International Airport to continue offering the highest level of service.”

In spring 2022, YLW will began enabling works for the ATB expansion. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2023, with phase 1 complete in 2026.

Phase 1 includes: expanded Departures Lounge to improve connections to aircraft gates and increase food and beverage options; expanded security screening area to reduce the time it takes to clear security; new direct access to south gates for departing and arriving passengers; and improved wayfinding.

Phase 2 includes: Expanded terminal building for relocated domestic arrivals area with new baggage carousels; repurposed existing arrivals area to accommodate larger area for international arrivals and CBSA; further expansion of the Departures Lounge to increase capacity; and relocated rental car, shuttle and tourism booths.

(Image: mcfarlane biggar architects)

Top Gun NOTL: Dreams of a high-flying career

— By Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report (Photo: Evan Saunders)

Air cadet Shay Vidal has some high-flying dreams.

Being a member of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s 809 Newark Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron has shaped Vidal’s future.

“It’s the best program I’ve joined in my whole life,” 17-year-old Shay says.

“It’s offered me countless memorable experiences and I’ve met some of my best friends in this program.”

And now, after five years as a cadet, Vidal is getting ready to pursue a career as a pilot.

“I’m looking at Royal Military College or if I don’t choose to go the military route I’m thinking Waterloo, Moncton or Mohawk (among other options),” he said.

Shay said his experience in the cadets has not only helped him discover a passion for aviation and determine a career path but also given him invaluable skills.

“The biggest thing is leadership. I’ve learned how to be a leader and just to be dedicated overall to the program,” he said.

“It’s given me a great work ethic, (taught me) how to work with people and how to lead others,” he said.

But the focus on aviation has truly changed the young man’s life.

“I’ve learned more about piloting and aviation than I could have ever dreamed. It’s helped me tremendously in my goal to become a pilot.”

The robust education and lessons he has received in the program made a big difference, he said.

“I’ve taken away more from this program than I’ve taken away from my entire high school career.”

A love for aviation runs deep within the cadet crew. A few weeks ago, the entire squadron went out to see the new “Top Gun: Maverick” film together.

“We went to the prescreening,” Shay said enthusiastically.

“It was a great film. The second half was a love letter to planes, to aviation.”

Shay was with one of his fellow cadets, several friends and some parents at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 124 for the recent Cadet Bottle Drive.

“The bottle drive covers a lot of (the cadets’) expenses,” parent Christine Lett said.

This year’s bottle drive netted more than $2,500 for the program, said chair Cory Abt.

The bottle drives have been particularly important this year as the cadets get to return to normal training after summers disrupted by the pandemic.

“The guys haven’t had a normal experience in the last two years. They’ve missed a lot of the hands-on stuff,” said Lett.

Among other things the fundraiser will help cover hands-on training this summer and provide the money for learning materials, such as the parts to build model planes.

But it hasn’t all been book learning and engineering lessons for the cadets. The organization ensures they have fun as well.

They recently spent a free day at Canada’s Wonderland, which hosts a Cadet Day every year.

“We just wanted to let them have fun,” Lett said.

Meanwhile, the squadron collected several truckloads of bottles at collection stations across NOTL to help cadets make their high-flying dreams a reality. The next bottle drive will be in September, after the Labour Day weekend.

TSB reports on fatal South River Airpark accident

Map showing the accident sequence at Sundridge/South River Airpark, Ontario. All annotations related to the aircraft’s operations are approximate. (Source: Google Earth, with TSB annotations)

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada released its investigation report (A21O0085) into the loss of control and collision with terrain that occurred in September 2021 at the Sundridge/South River Airpark, Ontario.

The TSB conducted a limited-scope, fact-gathering investigation into this occurrence to advance transportation safety through greater awareness of potential safety issues.

In the early afternoon of September 16, 2021, a privately registered Mooney M20J aircraft departed from Runway 15 at Toronto/Buttonville Municipal Airport (CYKZ), Ontario, for a visual flight rules (VFR) flight to Sundridge/South River Airpark (CPE6), Ontario, with 1 pilot and 1 passenger on board. The occupants were aiming to meet with members of The Ninety-Nines for the East Canada Section’s 2021 Gold Cup Air Rally.

On its final approach to CPE6, the TSB explains that observers of the accident reported, that during the latter stages of the final approach, the aircraft’s nose-down pitch attitude increased, and its airspeed and rate of descent were faster than a normal approach for a Mooney M20J aircraft. During the initial flare, TSB explains the aircraft ballooned into the air and then bounced three times on the runway surface.

The pilot initiated a go-around after the third bounce and retracted the landing gear, explains TSB, noting that as the aircraft slowly climbed and cleared some smaller trees located approximately 250 feet from the departure end of the runway, it was reported to be moving slowly and not accelerating. The aircraft then disappeared from view and, shortly afterwards, crashed into a wooded area located approximately 1,300 feet from the end of Runway 30. The passenger was found at the site fatally injured, while the pilot died during air ambulance transport before arriving at the hospital.

For the full report visit TSB’s website.

FNTI aviation program takes flight again after devastating fire

— By Patrick Quinn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nation (Photo: First Nations Technical Institute)

When a massive fire destroyed its hangar and aircraft fleet February 24, the future of First Nations Technical Institute’s (FNTI) popular aviation program looked uncertain. However, the aerospace community’s generous support has enabled students to continue their flight training while the school recovers.

“Everybody started reaching out and we executed this plan fairly quickly so now all our students are flying, both on and off campus,” said FNTI aviation dean Jo-Anne Tabobandung. “It was very daunting to even decide what the next steps would be, taking stock of not only what we lost but, more importantly, what we’re grateful for.”

Constructed to train pilots during World War II, the hangar collapsed in flames only minutes after responders from multiple fire departments arrived on the scene. The disaster destroyed 13 airplanes, five of which had been recently purchased, along with FNTI’s maintenance operations and dispatch services.

The estimated loss is in the tens of millions of dollars, but the school is grateful nobody was injured. Winds drew the flames away from nearby student residence and other campus buildings. Nine students in residence were taken to a local hotel where they were provided mental health and cultural support.

“We have a huge student support section,” Tabobandung told the Nation. “Our cultural advisor provided sharing circles, something I personally needed to start moving forward. These ceremonies reinforced our strength. Indigenous people are inherently hardwired to be resilient – that’s how we roll.”

Located in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ontario, the country’s only Indigenous aviation college program has trained aspiring pilots from across Canada since 1989. As a student in one of the program’s first classes, Tabobandung met her husband and was married in the hangar destroyed in the fire.

Less than a week after the disaster, students near graduation were sent to Cornwall and Kingston to complete their training. With the support of industry partners, FNTI arranged for students who couldn’t return to campus to continue their flight training closer to their home communities.

“The aviation sector is such a small community, we all contribute to filling that critical pilot shortage,” explained Tabobandung. “WestJet is flying students, me and a cultural advisor out to Medicine Hat this summer where three of our female Indigenous students are currently flight training.”

By the end of April, FNTI had leased two Cessna-172 aircraft from Seneca College in Peterborough and another from a local operator in Kingston train 20 students on campus. From the ashes of tragedy, new relationships are being formed that may cultivate long-term benefits.

“The outreach and compassion exhibited by Seneca to ensure that we can complete our students’ flight training is extraordinary,” said FNTI president Suzanne Brant. “We would like to share our gratitude to Seneca and their compassionate, enthusiastic and friendly staff.”

In May, Brant unveiled a proposal for a new FNTI that would consolidate its two campuses with an academic and administration building, new air hangar and student accommodations, renovated runway and taxi, and Indigenous Learning Centre. Within a decade, this proposal is projected to double or triple enrolment for FNTI’s numerous Indigenous-focused programs.

“All of FNTI’s programs are oversubscribed,” confirmed Cathie Findlay, FNTI’s government relations and communications director. “Aviation is not alone in that area – Indigenous people want to come to school at an Indigenous institute. We’ve had to limit the intake in the aviation program for a few years now. That’s not due to the fire – that’s just the demand.”

FNTI’s promotion of an inclusive learning environment leads to a much higher proportion of women than in the overall industry. While Tabobandung remembers being the only female during her studies, Indigenous women now represent nearly half of enrolment, including seven of 13 students in the most recent cohort.

“When everyone feels welcome, naturally more women apply,” Tabobandung suggested. “When someone goes solo for their first flight or gets their licence, we celebrate their achievement through Facebook. Indigenous youth looking at these pictures think she looks like me, maybe this is something I can do.”

Avfuel to buy 1 billion gallons of sustainable fuel in Alder investment

Avfuel Corporation made a multimillion-dollar investment in Alder Fuels, described as a clean tech company pioneering first-of-its-kind technologies for producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) at scale. Avfuel is making the investment through its subsidiary, Avfuel Technology Initiatives Corporation (ATIC).

Alder Fuels converts abundant biomass, such as regenerative grasses and forest and agricultural residues, into sustainable, low-carbon crude oil that replaces fossil crude in existing refineries producing aviation fuel. Avfuel explains, that when calculating the fuel production carbon life cycle from field to wingtip, Alder’s technology has the ability to produce an ultra-low to negative carbon crude oil that, when refined, meets current jet fuel specifications. Alder’s biocrude refined into SAF is currently in the process of global certification as a 100 per cent drop-in replacement for petroleum-based jet fuel and anticipates the SAF will become available in the first quarter of 2024.

As part of the agreement, Avfuel will purchase 1 billion gallons of SAF over a 20-year period, and use the SAF to supply both business and commercial aviation globally. Avfuel’s purchase agreement is the first ever long-term offtake from a fuel supplier, explains the company, making this partnership the largest publicly-announced SAF agreement in business aviation history.

“Avfuel is committed to providing sustainable solutions for its customers, including business aviation, fixed based operators and airlines,” said C.R. Sincock, executive vice president of Avfuel.

“We have been a forerunner in supplying SAF to business aviation and this transformative agreement builds upon our commitment to lead its adoption,” said C.R. Sincock, executive vice president of Avfuel. “Avfuel is making investments via ATIC to ensure SAF is available and we are excited to partner with Alder in scaling the fuel globally.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Avfuel explains U.S. forestry residues and agricultural residues alone could provide enough biomass energy to generate more than 17 billion gallons of jet fuel and displace 75 per cent of U.S. aviation fuel consumption.

(Photo: Avfuel)

Chartright opens FBO at Lake Simcoe Regional Airport

Chartright Air Group on June 28 announced it has opened a facility to provide Fixed-Base Operator services to the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport (YLS), situated outside of the Greater Toronto Area toward cottage country.

The Lake Simcoe Regional Airport (LSRA) notes the addition of the Chartright FBO enables its to offer a full suite of passenger and aircraft handling services, including baggage handling, on-site customs, complete line service, aircraft cleaning, fueling, de-icing, hangarage, aircraft parking, catering, hotel, and car rental coordination.

Chartright will also operate a full-service aircraft maintenance organization with a focus on turbine/jet aircraft. The company and LSRA also anticipate that a full-service FBO, particularly one of Canada’s largest operators of private jet aircraft, will act as a catalyst for future investment at the airport.

“Lake Simcoe Regional Airport is one of Canada’s newest and best positioned regional airport facilities and will enable Chartright to better serve the needs of our customers and the aviation community,” said Adam Keller, Chartright Air Group President. “We look forward to welcoming customers to our new facility at Lake Simcoe Regional Airport.”

Chartright’s 34,000 square-foot FBO and hangar facility at LSRA features a large modern lobby, passenger and crew lounges, pilot snooze rooms, a meeting room, and weather and flight planning facilities, which can accommodate aircraft up to the size of the Global 7500.

“We’re excited to welcome Chartright Air Group to the LSRA,” said George Cornell, County of Simcoe Warden. “When we became the majority shareholder in the airport in 2020, County Council committed to ensuring that the Airport would soon become an economic engine for our region. With a growing business park, new labour opportunities, partnerships, and expansion of our infrastructure, we’re truly seeing our investments take flight. We thank Chartright for choosing Simcoe County and bringing jobs, business, and visitors to our region.”

Richard Norcross, County of Simcoe Councilor and Lake Simcoe Regional Airport Board Chair, added: “We are pleased to see the expansion and progress at the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport. Through continued investment, combined with strong partners like Chartright Air Group, we know that our vision to have the LSRA fuel our regional economy is on the right path.”

(Photo: Chartright Air Group)