|Jean started flying in Montreal when he was 18. In 1955 he joined
the navy where he spent a couple of years flying Sea Furies. On returning
to civilian life, he journeyed to Africa where he flew DC-3s for Wenela
Air Services shuttling labourers from the bush, first to the South African
gold mines, then to the diamond mines on the skeleton coast of southwest
Back in Canada in the late 50s, he spent some time instructing before landing a job with Nordair flying DC-3s, this time on the DEW (Distant Early Warning) line in the Canadian Arctic. A stint at Quebecair followed flying DC-3s, Fairchild F27s and Convair 440s along the lower St Lawrence. This was followed by spraying in Avengers on the spruce budworm project in New Brunswick.
Jean then joined Canadian Pacific Airlines where he spent the next 24 years. From flying DC-3s, Convair 340s and DC-6Bs, he made the transition to jets in 1965 with DC-8s before moving to DC-10s which he captained until his retirement in 1985.
Flying fell largely by the wayside for almost a decade until the bug began to take hold again in 1993. He was seriously considering a partnership in a friend's Cessna 182 float plane but before that happened he came across an ad for the Challenger in Canadian Flight. "My impression of ultralights to that point was of flying garden chairs but for some reason the Challenger caught my attention. Purely out of curiosity and because I didn't live very far away from National Ultralight Inc. in Hudson Heights, I thought It might be a fun way to spend an afternoon to go see what these things were all about."
"I made an appointment with Ian Coristine who suggested that the best way to find out was to try one. We flew on skis for perhaps half an hour and Ian gave me a pretty thorough demonstration of the plane's capabilities. We skimmed along the Ottawa River low and slow waving at the ice fishermen, climbed to altitude where we explored the plane's very docile, extremely low speed handling and stall characteristics, then turned the engine off to float gently down in gliding mode to a soft and silent landing in the snow. My next sentence was - Where do I sign?"
"In conclusion, I've done pretty much all of what you can do in aviation. From bush flying to fighters to giant airliners. Each has its unique appeal but I think that it would be fair to say flying my own Challenger is probably the most fun I've ever had in an airplane. The simplicity and fun of this airplane simply charms me. It brings you back to the basics of early day airplanes, closer to the elements, but married with today's space age technology, it vastly expands their capabilities."
"I assembled my Challenger myself which I found to be a thoroughly enjoyable and very fulfilling experience. Then I had Jean-Marc Côté of Alti-maître Inc. in St-Jovite (QC) do the painting and fine tuning. I've nostalgically christened my Challenger "Lil' Empress" in honour of the Canadian Pacific airliners I flew, each of which was named Empress of... like CP's great ships. I consider myself very fortunate. I fly on Puddlejumper amphibious floats in the summer and on skis in the winter and the icing on the cake is that I have my "Lil' Empress" sitting proudly on the front lawn of my house on the shore of Lac Théodore near Ste Adèle in the lovely Laurentians. Life is good."
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