Members of the Vernon Flying Club. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Members of the Vernon Flying Club. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

WATCH: ‘Total freedom’: pilots fly in formation over Okanagan cities

Black Press Media got a first-hand look at what the Okanagan looks like, from above

Nothing will stop this group of North Okanagan pilots from flying.

Members of the Vernon Flying Club meet once a week to fly in formation over the city. Before the pandemic hit, the group would meet four times a week and fly to other flying clubs in neighbouring cities to have coffee with their fellow pilots from Kelowna, Penticton, Kamloops, and Salmon Arm.

But with gathering and travel restrictions, the group now meets once a week to practice and fly in formation over Vernon, landing back at the city’s regional airfield.

John Swallow is a member of the Vernon Flying Club and he also leads the flight formation. A former military pilot, Swallow typically flies over 150 hours for recreation in a year. Because of the pandemic, he only flew about 65 hours in 2020.

“(The pandemic) has really curtailed our flying. Originally, at the beginning of (2020) until March, we were going down to the various places. Now it’s primarily taking off here and landing here,” he said.

Member Chuck Ross said they wanted to keep doing what they love without putting themselves at risk.

“We don’t want to mix with a bunch of people at coffee, but we can (fly) together, we can have picnic lunches and still have separation,” he said.

“And we fly six feet apart.”

Swallow said the club also used to run an initiative where they would take children from the ages eight to 17 for a flight to encourage them to take up piloting.

“Donating our time and our aircraft has been curtailed and we didn’t get to share flying with the children last year, and we likely won’t this year either,” Swallow said.

Things may have changed and they may not be able to gather and fly wherever they please, but the club’s members still get out to tip their wings at the residents below to help brighten their days.

Besides showing people what they can do, the group continues to fly because it gives them a sense of freedom. Swallow said it’s difficult to describe unless you’ve taken flight and have seen the world from above.

Another member of the club, Franz Fox, said it’s exhilarating.

“To me, flying is total freedom,” he said.

“Once you’re up there flying, you can basically do whatever you want… it’s a totally different perspective and when you look down at what’s below, it’s just a wonderful feeling.”

READ: B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

Airport

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Dixie Fried Hep Katz are featured in episode four of the Focus Online Series, March 4-7. (Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre photo)
Okanagan talents shine under Vernon spotlight

12-year-old from Lake Country, Enderby singer-songwriter-guitarist and Kelowna duo in Focus

School bus fees are being charged to all riders in the Vernon School District. (Courtesy photo)
Parents pressure Vernon school board to curb bus fee hike

More than 1,200 signatures on petition against $200 rider fees, to be discussed at board meeting

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. has cleared the Lumby RCMP of any wrongdoing after a missing person was found deceased in December 2020. (IIO photo)
Police watchdog says Lumby RCMP played no role in missing person’s death

The body was found by a family member shortly after the RCMP suspended their search

Vernon’s Vasek Pospisil has been named one of five winners of PacificSport Okanagan’s Community Sport Hero 2021 athletic excellence award. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Vernon’s Vasek Pospisil, Elena Gaskell, honoured for excellence

Tennis player and freestyle skier win PacificSport Okanagan awards

An off-duty Vernon Taxi driver got a 24-hour licence suspension, vehicle towed, after failing a standardized field sobriety test around 1:40 a.m. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (John E Green - Facebook)
Vernon Taxi towed after driver suspected impaired

Off-duty cab towed from McDonald’s drive-thru early Tuesday morning

The images are of Bald Eagles feeding.
Photos: Birds of prey

Princeton photographer captures compelling photos of a Bald Eagle breakfast

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

Kamloops This Week
Cause of Kamloops landfill fire may never be known

Fire investigators are dealing with too much destruction in too large an area

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

Okanagan College
Okanagan College holds March Madness fundraiser

Money from the fundraiser will go to support the Okanagan College Foundation

Penticton city council has unanimously shot down an application from BC Housing to keep a shelter for people experiencing homelessness open for an additional year. (Jesse Day - Western News)
Penticton council denies extension of cold weather shelter

The Victory Church shelter will now be told to cease operations April 1

(Black Press file photo)
Penticton man arrested while sleeping in stolen vehicle, again

30-year-old Penticton resident Shane Pope is well-known to police

Most Read