The Friendly Fly-In: Stanley Sport Aviation
Deb and I departed from Greenwood on Friday morning to transit the Harvard up to the fly-in at Stanley, NS. After a week of operating from 7000+ foot paved runways, the prospect of landing at a 2600 foot grass runway in a very heavy Harvard gave me some concern. At the risk of revealing a secret, I felt the need to practice enroute; making a stop-and-go at the lovely Waterville airport near Wolfville. The landing seemed serviceable, so it was off to Stanley.
Nothing could have prepared us for the warm welcome that awaited us in this sport aviation heaven! Stanley is the sort of place the recreational pilots dream about. During WWII the airfield served as the BCATP base for 17 Elementary Flying Training School, flying Fleet Finches and Tiger Moths. Since 1969 it has been the home of Stanley Sport Aviation, which is the friendliest, liveliest group of aviation enthusiasts one could meet. The group has built the field into a unique aeronautical community, with a trailer park, guest quarters, running-water toilets and a club house. A collection of hangars houses a wide variety of well-loved airplanes.
This year marked the 40′th anniversary of Stanley’s Labour Day Fly-In, which they tout as Canada’s oldest fly-in. Upon arrival we met Brian Chappell and his wife Norma, who adopted us for the weekend. Nova Scotia made an impression upon us for hospitality, but Brian and Norma seemed to have invented the concept. Having decided to camp on the field (I wouldn’t want to miss a minute of it…) they set up a tent for us, made us lunch, gave us a tour of the airfield, helped us refuel the Harvard, and generally made us both feel like we were part of the family.
Things sort of spiralled into happy chaos after that. We met hundreds of people, shared a few drinks, heard some wonderful stories from Stanley’s days as a BCATP base, took a hay ride, partook in a few more drinks, enjoyed the corn boil (HINT TO STANLEY: Who’s in charge of the bonfire? It could be seen from space!), goggled at the fireworks, had a few more drinks, and somewhere along the line toppled into our tent. That was the night before the fly-in began!
We awoke on Saturday morning…to a combination of revelie, mooing cows and a revving Harley (thanks Paul!) to find a thick fog. By about 10:00 it had cleared enough to allow fly-in arrival traffic. By early-afternoon the flight line was nearly full. While Deb was doing a hot trade in Yellow Wings T-shirts, I had accepted the invitation to do a short talk about the BCATP and VWC’s Yellow Wings tour. There seemed to be a lot of interest and enthusiasm for the appearance of the Harvard. Alas, an approaching weather front necessitated an early departure from the fly-in. Deb and I packed up the Harvard and headed west around 4:00 PM on Saturday.
After only a day-and-a half in Stanley we felt like we had made dozens of new friends, and thoroughly enjoyed the warmest fly-in we had ever attended. There are too many people to acknowledge in a short note, but I must give credit to fly-in Chairman, Maryanne Hardman, for organizing a spectacular event. No question, some day we’ll be back.