Big turnout shows up for annual ‘Fly-in Drive-in BBQ’

While just a few planes flew in for the sixth-annual “Fly-in Drive-in BBQ” at the Fort Frances Airport on Saturday, organizers still have deemed the event a success.
“Overall, it went very well, except we didn’t have the planes flying in that we would have liked,” said Bruce Caldwell, who’s organized the fly-in barbecue since its inception.
“That was because of the weather at both ends [in the Winnipeg and Thunder Bay areas], and other some things,” he noted. “But the weather here was beautiful.
“I’m almost glad it was windy; it would have been unbearable if it wasn’t,” he added.
Caldwell said at least 180 people came through the gate between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., well up from the roughly 75 who showed up last year. In 2003, some 220 came out for the day—a record attendance for the event.
But Caldwell felt the number of people—and pilots—could be boosted next year with more advertising, as well as by working with other groups such as the local Alzheimer Society, which holds its “Ride for Memories” the same day as the “Fly-in Drive-in BBQ,” to ensure the activities don’t draw away from each other.
“Maybe we can co-ordinate the events and get them to ride out our way,” he suggested.
A very popular attraction Saturday was a Ministry of Natural Resources CL-415 Bombardier Canadair waterbomber—one of only nine in the province.
“The big plus was the 415 waterbomber. We didn’t expect that. We were sure hoping and it finally happened,” remarked Caldwell, adding he only found out the plane would be coming in here Friday afternoon.
“We would have advertised it if we knew,” he said. “It was the first time we had one there.
“It was impressive. Everybody liked it,” Caldwell added. “The pilot and co-pilot were good people, showing everybody the whole works there.”
This particular CL-415, which has a four-compartment, four-door water tank system that can hold 6,137 litres of water/foam mixture and refills its tanks by skimming the surface of any suitable body of water, normally is based in Dryden.
Also on hand Saturday was the OPP’s Pilatus PC 12/45 fixed-wing aircraft and its two-person crew—pilot Sgt. Gord Leslie and co-pilot Cst. Scott Rome of the Aviation Services division, based out of Thunder Bay.
The plane, which is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is used for everything from prisoner escorts to surveillance to VIP transport, noted Cst. Rome, adding the plane has been everywhere from Miami and San Francisco to St. John’s, Vancouver, and Yellowknife.
The only other planes here Saturday were two smaller private ones.
But for fans of vehicles that stay on the ground, there was six classic cars and five motorcycles on display at the airport Saturday. Ed Halvorsen got the People’s Choice plaque for his Ford Roadster Rumble Seat while John Wood won a plaque for having the best motorcycle.
Although there wasn’t too much radio-controlled airplane flying going on due to the strong winds, seven miniature aircraft were on hand for the public to look at.
Brian Church’s plane was voted the people’s favourite.
And once again, the local 908 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron was at the “Fly-in Drive-in BBQ” preparing and selling both breakfast and lunch at the airport.
They raised $733, which will be used for squadron events.
“They did a great job,” remarked Caldwell. “From what I understand, they enjoyed the whole day.”
The air cadets also played music and went through various drills throughout the day.
The “Fly-in Drive-in BBQ” has become an annual event designed to showcase the local airport by having private pilots fly in here for the day.