A plane descends

A plane descends

Flying club honours long-time member at fly-in breakfast

Members of Stettler's Flying Club watched the weather with a bit of trepidation over the long weekend.

Members of Stettler’s Flying Club watched the weather with a bit of trepidation over the long weekend, but other than a quick shower Monday morning, the rain kept away.

The windy and overcast weather kept some fliers and members of the community away from the annual Labour Day Fly-in Breakfast, which is held every labour day by the flying club. This year, it fell on Sept. 7.

This year’s breakfast had a surprise, special segment, as the club honoured long-time member John Wittwer. Wittwer, now approaching his 90s, volunteers his hours maintaining the Stettler Airport.

“John was actually a farmer in the area, for a number of years,” club President Cam Andres explained. “He started off crop-dusting…flying out of his farm strip. He used a Piper Cub, then he bought a bigger, commercial spraying plane.”

That Piper Cub, bought in 1975, was recently sold by Wittwer. The restored plane was the basis of the plaque made by Andres to honour Wittwer, which was revealed to the crowded hangar of breakfast seekers and Wittwer, who looked surprised and a bit embarrassed by the attention.

This year’s weather wreaked havoc on the numbers of attendees, but Andres said the event was still great. The furthest fly in was either from near Medicine Hat or just north of Edmonton – Andres said he wasn’t sure which ended up being the furthest.

Twenty-six planes landed on the airport, well down from the usual hundred or so, but the support was still strong for the community event, weather not-withstanding.

“We’ve had people who’ve flown in from Victoria (B.C.),” he said. “They’ve flown over the mountains to come. We’ve had people come in from central Saskatchewan. From the north, we’ve had people come in from Peace Country. When the weather’s nice, people make a day of it.”

This year marked the 38th anniversary of the breakfast. For Jay and Lynne Bell, flying in to different airports for events like this has been a great way to enjoy flying and learn more about the airports in the area.

The pair, who flew in from Olds, Alta., split almost as soon as they hit the tarmac, with Lynne going for breakfast and Jay, the pilot, heading to investigate the other planes and chat with other pilots.

“Stettler puts on a great breakfast,” Lynne Bell said. “We try to come every year.”

The pair flew in on an RV-7A, a home-built kit-plane.

“We built it together as a family,” Lynne Bell explained. She, her husband, and their children Kelsey, Ian and Elyse helped put the plane together. While Jay is the only pilot, and a hobbyist pilot, Lynn and Ian have gone flying with him in the small plane before.

Henry Johnson, a member of the flying club, appreciates people like the Bells, who fly in every year. He also noted that the event would be nowhere as fun without the community support.

“We’re very lucky to have the support we have from our community,” he said. “Sometimes we’ll have 150 planes fly in, but serve 600 breakfasts.”

Involving the community in the breakfast was something the club planned from the start, Andres said.

“We could have done it for just the pilots and the club,” he said. “But this is a venue for the people in the community to come and see what’s going on at the airport. We find they love to come and see the planes fly in and out.”