Dozen female pilots slated to fly in here

Peggy Revell

A dozen women pilots are set to touch down in Fort Frances on Sunday as part of the annual cross-country “Gold Cup Air Rally.”
Anyone interested in airplanes, meeting the pilots, and watching them land or take off are invited out to the Fort Frances Airport, said Marilyn Dickson, one of the participants who has been flying the skies for more than 20 years.
The Gold Cup Air Rally, open to all women pilots, was started by members of the East Canada Section of the Ninety-Nines—an organization that began in 1929 for American women pilots to “provide mutual support and advancement of aviation.”
Held in different regions of Canada each year, the purpose of the rallies is to draw attention to women pilots, give them opportunities to hone their skills, and increase their knowledge—such as with spot landing contests.
This year’s rally will take the dozen pilots from Hanover, in southwestern Ontario, to Brandon, Man.
“If people are interested in airplanes, they can see a few different types,” noted Dickson.
Some of the aircrafts the pilots will be flying include a Mooney, Piper Cherokee, Cirrus, Cessna 172, and Cessna 180 amphibian aircraft.
“As we go along, we have challenges to perform and questions to answer, and that sort of things,” Dickson said.
One of the challenges is to get a “good souvenir” from each place they visit. So if anyone coming out to see them wants to help out with that part, it would be welcome.
The prize at the end of each leg of the rally is a gold cup, plus the chance to plan the following year’s rally.
While they are planning to land at the airport around noon for lunch on Sunday, their exact time arrival time is still up in the air.
“We don’t always get where we’re going as planned because of weather,” explained Dickson, pointing how they had planned a similar route across Manitoulin Island and Northern Ontario, with Calgary as their final destination, back in 2001.
But the weather meant they ended up having to fly south around Lake Michigan, past Chicago, and weren’t able to return to Canada until reaching Lethbridge, Alta.
Those interested in dropping by to meet the pilots can watch for an updated estimated time of arrival on the online version of this story at the Fort Frances Times’ website (www.fortfrances.com) or on the Times’ Facebook page.
The camaraderie that comes with flying with fellow women pilots is one of the things Dickson said she enjoys the most about trips like this—saying that while it’s a competition for a prize, they all still are good at working together if another team needs something.
The dozen pilots participating in this year’s rally range from an aircraft broker and Ph.D. student to a real estate agent, farmer, veterinarian technician, and a former nurse.
Last year’s rally was held on the East Coast, which entailed flying over Newfoundland, rugged boggy terrain, the Atlantic Ocean, and the north shore of the St. Lawrence River.
“This year’s rally will be quite a contrast—going over an awful lot of lakes and trees,” Dickson said.
“You always plan for the events which you hope will never happen,” she added, noting that when they’re flying over remote regions, they always bring survival equipment with them.
“One of the things that we do as we’re flying here is we always keep an eye out for a place to land if we ever had an engine failure,” Dickson explained.
“Nobody has ever had that happen, but good pilots watch for it,” she stressed.
“Our challenge in the area around Fort Frances is going to be to figure out where you could land if you had to because there aren’t so many open, flat areas.”