How popular is the COPA For Kids event, presented by the Vernon Flying Club at the Vernon Regional Airport?
Lineups litter the tarmac on event day as kids aged eight to 17 waited for a free 20-minute flight around the North Okanagan courtesy of pilots with the Vernon Flying Club—pilots who donate their time, their planes and their fuel, all without compensation.
Pilots are vetted through an RCMP criminal record check.
COPA (Canadian Owners and Pilots Association) For Kids will return to the airport on Saturday, July 13. Flights will be hourly from 8 a.m. to noon.
“The most kids we’ve ever had was 150 but we’re capping things this year at 100,” said Alison Crerar with the host Vernon Flying Club.
“We have more than 50 registered so far.”
The club has teamed with eventbrite.ca to help with registration.
“The purpose is to introduce kids to flights as perhaps a path to a career in aviation,” said Crerar.
“Pilots, maintenance. We hope they get a spark for aviation.”
The free flights for kids are just one of many good things the Vernon Flying Club does but unfortunately, said Crerar, it also receives a lot of flack from the public.
There are many who think a (different) noisy plane that drops skydivers belongs to the club, and the VFC receives a lot of nasty correspondence, including threats.
“That plane has nothing to do with us,” said Crerar, hoping the club can receive some positive publicity.
On top of the COPA For Kids event, the club has taken passengers from the other end of the age spectrum—seniors—for tours around the airport.
“It sure brought back a lot of memories for them,” said Crerar of the group seeing the airplanes up close.
“We’ve had daycares come out, too. We had a high school photography class come out to take photos of the planes and the airport.”
The Greater Vernon Museum and Archives is devoting space to local aviation and the club will take part in that.
Besides the free flight for kids, pilots will be involved in the July 1 Living Flag event, organized by North Okanagan Community Life Society, to photograph participants from the air who have formed a red-and-white Canadian flag.
They’ve donated two, half-hour flights to the Lions Club golf tournament to support Camp Winfield, and flights for two winners of a draw supporting the Okanagan Rail Trail.
They donate flights each to the annual Kal Rotary Dream Auction.
There is also the annual Rust Remover Seminar to promote and teach safety for general aviation pilots, which brings in pilots from all over the province and beyond.
That brings money into the community.
“We provide a warm welcome to visiting pilots, offering rides and assistance with hotels and restaurants, etc.,” said Crerar.
“We have around 100 members and many meet every morning at 10 a.m. for coffee and chat, and interested parties are encouraged to join us.”
More information can be found on the club’s website, www.vernonflyingclub.org.