ABOVE: Huronia Airport manager Zachery Premate said that the annual Winter Ski/Wheel Fly-In was a success, with plans to make next year’s event “a little bigger and better”. (Photo: Derek Howard, MidlandToday.ca)
— By Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca
None of the aircraft landing at the Huronia Airport over the weekend had pilots flying by the seat of their snowpants, but skis on the plane’s wheels sure helped.
Located at 20 Ed Connelly Dr. in Tiny Township, Huronia Airport (CYEE) played host to their annual Winter Ski/Wheel Fly-In with food and beverage for the aviators, public and volunteers attending the event.
Parallel to the normal 4,000-foot runway, a secondary snow-laden landing was created along the west side to accommodate any aviators who had skis on the wheels on their planes, specific for taking off and landing on snowy terrain.
Bill Snelgrove, president of Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) local Flight #73, anticipated roughly 25 aircraft would have used the airport within the few hours of the event, a small portion of those being equipped with skis.
“We want to showcase the airport,” said Snelgrove. “A lot of people in the area don’t know we’re here, and they’re more than welcome to come out and talk to all the folks out here about aviation and the passion that that inspires.”
Past-president Rob MacDonald also shared some of the joy that comes with flying throughout North Simcoe and along Georgian Bay.
“I find that there’s a lot of freedom, and your mind goes completely somewhere else when you’re flying an airplane. Work doesn’t matter, things at home don’t matter, and schedules don’t matter other than what you’re doing in the aircraft. It’s a very focused way of having fun,” MacDonald shared.
Huronia Airport is jointly owned by the three municipalities of the towns of Penetanguishene and Midland, as well as Tiny Township where the airport is situated. Tiny Township Councillor Dave Brunelle stopped in to enjoy the sights and people, as well as indulge in the food and refreshments offered.
“The residents need to know more about these events,” said Brunelle who admitted he was surprised about the ski fly-in. “I want to come here and start beating the drums on these kinds of events.
“My dad was on the commission in 1970-1980, and when I came in here I was just blown away – from this building in particular, how far it’s come, and how it’s developed so much. I just want to promote this event and promote the whole airport.”
Brunelle added that “we’re in good hands” with Tiny Mayor Dave Evans and Penetanguishene Deputy Mayor Dan La Rose on the Huronia Airport Commission, stating there would be greater activity in store for the airport.
While the ski-in was created to draw attention to the airport during the winter months, other activities and events also take place throughout the year.
In May, the airport is planning to host a motorcycle show and swap meet; and although dates haven’t been confirmed, plans for a Discover Aviation (formerly COPA for Kids) event is in discussion for the summer. Also, a traditional aerobatics competition takes place in September.
“We’re looking at doing ‘Women in Aviation’,” said Snelgrove, “which is a very popular event down in the greater Toronto-Hamilton area and southwestern Ontario; that’s in the early planning stages. We’d like to bring them up north because we have women up here that are interested in aviation.”
Airport manager Zachery Premate was on hand, and shared what the potential could hold for the airport over the next five years.
“(To make this) a general aviation airport for North Simcoe,” said Premate, “we’ve got big plans with our hangar development and other different infrastructure improvements at the airport. We’re going to keep growing that general aviation base and also dabble in commercial development as well.”
As for the winter ski fly-in, plans for improvement were already in the works.
“We try to have this on an annual basis; next year we hope to have it a little bigger and better,” said Premate.