— By Phil Lightstone (Photos: Ed Johnston)
During 2023, Hope Air has launched a program called Give Hope Wings with three unique expeditions focused on Western Canada, the Prairies and Eastern Canada. Give Hope Wings’ goal is to raise funds and awareness for Hope Air. The expeditions stop in large urban airports, Hope Air patient communities and hallmark aviation communities. Highlights will include aerial views of some of Canada’s most unique aviation sights, connections to Hope Air patients along the way and community events in both urban and rural settings.
The week of June 5, 2023, saw the execution of Hope Air’s Give Hope Wings Eastern Expedition. The expedition had 20 people participating with 13 aircraft, 17 pilots and three non-pilot passengers. Additional fundraising activities leading up to the expedition were conducted at Brantford (CYFD), St Thomas (CYQS) and Chatham-Kent (CYCK) airports with fly-in BBQs. The three BBQs raised over $18,000 in donations. Supporting Hope Air, the Brantford fly-in had 60 aircraft, 200 attendees and 18 volunteers attend the event.
The Eastern Expedition’s plans were changing on a daily basis based upon the smoke from Ontario and Quebec forest fires, reducing visibility to near IMC levels. Ed Johnston, one of the Eastern Expedition Leaders reports: “With a high degree of airmanship and collaboration, the flying became more challenging as the Expedition moved further east, with visibility coming down.
“With pilot and aircraft safety as one of our primary concerns, two VFR pilots stopped around Sudbury due to low visibility caused by smoke,” continued Johnston. “However, one VFR pilot made it all the way to Gatineau QB [CYND].”
With a low-pressure system sitting over Eastern Canada, including icing as low as 3,000 feet, the decision was made while at Gatineau to remove the Maritimes from the route due to inclement weather. A wise decision was made to put the Expedition on pause, wrapping up with a leg from home bases to Kingston for the finale before proceeding home.
One of the outcomes of the smoke generated from the forest fires was a fine ash which coated the aircraft. The pilots were concerned about their engines ingesting the ash and impacting the longevity of their aircraft if not causing the engine to fail during flight. These concerns caused them to adjust their routes to avoid the smoke with a goal of ensuring that they spent no more than one hour in the smoke and reduced visibility. Apparently, the aircraft will require a good washing once home.
Organized receptions were held in Goderich (CYGD), Sudbury (CYSB) and Kingston (CYGK). At Sudbury, three levels of government attended the BBQ at the airport. The support and hospitality of the aviation community, local community and governments contributed to an air of collaboration contributing to the fund-raising activities.
It has been reported that COPA Flight 45 at Goderich put on an unbelievable BBQ. In Kingston, the reception dinner was held at Milestones restaurant at the old S&R Department Store, which itself is a historic limestone building. The dinner reception BBQ was held in Northern Aviation’s hangar. At each stop, roughly 60 to 70 people would participate at the event. The events at Sudbury and Goderich generated just over $10,000 in donations.
Give Hope Wings 2023 continued to Western Canada between June 10 to 18 and the Prairies June 18 to 23. Checkout their website at https://support.hopeair.ca/give-hope-wings/ for further information, inclusive of community event details.