February 2-3, 2002
12th Annual
Winter Rendezvous
Chateau Montebello, Quebec

The Complete Report

Rendezvous 2002 was a resounding success - 146 people at the banquet plus lots of daytrippers had a perfect opportunity to practice the theme: Networking!

The article below was written by Major Claude Roy and submitted to COPA for publication in Canadian Flight. It's a long read but worth it!

Challenger Owners Winter Fly-in: Growing fast!

By Claude Roy, Director, ICOA Canada

The flat growth encountered in General Aviation these past few years does not seem to affect any of the enthusiasm around the Challenger series of aircraft. On the weekend of 2-3 February 2002 a record 146 Challenger enthusiasts, up 32% from last year's event, joined in a festive mood for the banquet at the 12th annual Challenger Owners Association Winter Weekend Rendez-Vous.

In addition to a large crowd from Ontario and Quebec the happening attracted a sizable contingent from New Brunswick and even two people from British Columbia. Challenger owner General Maurice Baril, who recently retired as Commander-In-Chief of Canada's Armed Forces, flew in from Switzerland for the banquet! (No, he did not cross the Atlantic in his Challenger ultralight!)

This year's Rendez-Vous, organized by the Canadian Branch of the International Challenger Owners Association, was held at the magnificent Chateau Montebello in Montebello, QC. The theme for 2002 was 'Networking' and all attendees wore colourful Challenger ID Discs throughout the weekend to invite interaction with each other.

In February 2000, the 10th annual Rendez-Vous saw 24 Challengers on skis parked in front of Chateau Montebello on fresh white snow under calm blue skis. In 2002 though Old Man Winter did his absolute best to get even! Heavy snow, freezing rain, and winds of 80-100 km/h the two days prior turned the usual flocks of long distance flyers into long distance drivers. In a follow-up punch, unflyable quantities of snow were forecast for Sunday through Wednesday so most local flyers who work weekdays also became drivers.

Nevertheless, at least 9 owners did fly to the festivities, demonstrating yet again the all-season capabilities of the Challenger and its pilots. The arriving hum of their engines caused a mass exodus from the dining room as people finished their sumptuous breakfasts and rushed out to greet the aviators!

By weekend's end, the airplanes were indeed snowed in, but all pilots agreed that there is no better place to be 'stuck' than Chateau Montebello. Touted as the largest log structure in the world, Chateau Montebello has an abundance of charm and a casual 'après-ski' atmosphere. Guests are usually found outside milling around the airplanes or inside congregating in the circular lobby, chatting around the 60 foot high, six-sided stone fireplace. A number of events of international importance, for example a G-7 conference, have taken place under the Chateau's imposing roof.

Better still, in the eyes of the winter flier, Chateau Montebello is the friendliest and safest winter destination you can find. Bounded on the north and west sides by high terrain covered with mature 60-foot pine trees, the harbour area with its docks left in position all winter is the perfect natural shelter for airplanes to slip in to port and use the marina's docks and hooks as tie-downs.

With a very experienced and knowledgeable staff in place and a worldly crowd using the premises, Chateau Montebello makes any and all flyers feel safe and comfortable, both for the airplanes, for themselves and for their loved ones. It is no wonder why ICOA Canada, the biggest and most active winter-oriented flying group in this Country, has adopted Chateau Montebello as most worthy of their business and patronage.

For the 12th edition of the fly-in, ICOA Canada had three top-notch sessions lined up for the Saturday afternoon. The first was given by Eric Tucker, from ROTECH Research Canada Ltd, in Vernon, B.C., distributors of ROTAX aviation engines in Canada. Eric is North and South America's foremost expert on these engines. He flew in Friday from the Bahamas in direct defiance of Mr. Winter!

Eric gave a most enlightening presentation on Rotax - its corporate history and the aircraft division with its separate design and manufacturing facilities. Founded in 1920 in Europe and now wholly owned by Bombardier of Canada, Rotax manufactured its 4,000,000th engine in 1996! As an indication of where aviation is headed, Rotax produces 2 to 3 times more new aircraft engines per year than leading GA engine providers Lycoming and Continental combined!

Eric carried on with a technical discourse on the ROTAX 503 Dual Carburetor / Dual Ignition aircraft engine which powers most Challengers. During the last portion of his presentation, Eric opened himself to questions from the floor. Everybody there reveled in the knowledge cast upon them!

After a pause for café and commercial announcements Frank Hofmann took the podium. Frank is the COPA Director for the Quebec Region and Secretary of COPA's Executive Committee. He is also the delegate of the International Council of Aircraft Owners and Pilots Associations (IAOPA) to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which is headquartered in Montreal.

Frank gave to the assembly some of his views on where Canadian recreational aviation fits into the global picture. As an aircraft owner Frank has a perspective that most other delegates do not have. In fact, Frank confirmed that very few ICOA delegates have ever owned a personal aircraft or and that most countries do not show any interest in furthering private or recreational aviation. Frank reaffirmed that Canada is a beautiful exception around the world, with the airspace, the knowledge and the resources available to make recreational aviation a sizeable part of the overall aviation activity in this country.

The third learning experience of the afternoon was a bilingual presentation on Aviation Safety by Sylvie Perreault from Transport Canada and Claude Roy from ICOA Canada. Entitled 'Risk Factors and Decision Making', the focus of this presentation was on the risks associated with ultralight flying and the importance of pre-flight planning.

The session stressed the fact most accidents have a human cause and originate from poor decision making. The presenters recommended the use of a personal checklist to supplement the usual mechanically-oriented check lists. The mnemonic 'PAVE' was used to step through Pilot, Aircraft, enVironment and External factors. Such a checklist is a great way to help pilots evaluate human factors and therefore prevent human-related accidents.

On the mezzanine outside the session hall there were exhibits by National Ultralight, the Canadian Challenger distributor, as well as Turbulence Aviation, producers of numerous Challenger accessories, and Five Aces Enterprises, which entered the market with a combination wheel/ski for Challengers. The Canadian Owners and Pilots Association set up their booth and distributed copies of COPA's monthly Canadian Flight publication. A PC running Microsoft Flight Simulator allowed people to fly the VIP Group's virtual Challengers and was a huge hit!

In contrast with the afternoon's more serious tone, the evening banquet is a perfect blend of gala and relaxation. Of course the Chateau's chefs outdid themselves with a most delicious buffet. The weekend's theme being 'Networking', people were encouraged to engage with each other and exchange as many business cards and email addresses as possible. As was repeated by many, this particular event is the very best opportunity for Challenger enthusiasts to gather information and acquire or renew friendships.

Challenger owners present ranged from those who had never flown at all before acquiring their Challengers to many who have thousands of hours logged in everything from light aircraft to airliners and even supersonic fighters. These owners mingled freely with the many non-owners who were there to discover.

When a Challenger owner said that there were only two kinds of people, Challenger owners and Challenger wannabes, a non-owner observed that there were actually three kinds: owners, wannabes and gonnabes. At some point dreamers have to become doers to turn their visions of flight into reality!

Following the superb meal, Bryan Quickmire and Ian Coristine, co-owners of National Ultralight, presented an overview of the business side of the Challenger. To date 2,756 Challengers have been manufactured! In Canada alone 74 new Challengers were sold in the last two years, bringing the Canadian ownership base to over 400 and clearly making the design the most popular by far in this country. In spite of September 11th, sales are so strong now that the factory backlog is 14 weeks! National Ultralight also took the opportunity to introduce two new full service dealers: High Flight Ultralights in Ottawa and Aviation Récréative du Québec in Montreal.

The Awards ceremony started with recognition of those Challenger owners who flew in to the event. (Webmaster's Note: The ever modest Claude Roy did not mention it in his report but at this point in the cermonies he received a lengthy standing ovation from the crowd not just for flying in but also for his many years of dedicated service to the Canadian Challenger community.)

Then there was the customary presentation of ICOA trophies to convey accolades to two worthy owners from their peers. The 'Farthest Flown' Award was presented to Bob McDonald who flew his Challenger II C-IMCD from Cobden, Ontario knowing full well he would be 'stranded' by snow at Montebello. The 'Best Show Plane' Award went by popular vote to Madeleine and Philippe Guénette from Hawkesbury, Ontario for their cute-as-a-button yellow Challenger II C-IBUG, appropriately nicknamed 'Lady Bug'.

ICOA Canada's most prestigious Award is the 'Maurice Vinet Memorial Award'. This Award honours a Challenger pilot who exemplifies the passion for flight of the late Maurice Vinet whose company Puddlejumper Floats opened up new realms of pleasure for Challenger owners worldwide. Patrick and André Vinet, Maurice's two sons and now co-owners of Puddlejumper Floats Inc., were on hand to present the Award to Gord Ekstrom from Woodlawn, Ontario.

Gord's story is one of boundless energy, going from nothing but a dream to building his own Challenger along with a hangar and runway in his own backyard, PLUS flying 200 Challenger hours in a span of one single year. Gord is also an enthusiastic source of help and encouragement to numerous other new Challenger owners.

Gord's immense enthusiasm was further demonstrated as he was one of three Challenger flyers who participated in the ICOA 2001 Float Flying Adventure. Gord in formation with Conrad Watters and Claude Roy traveled from the Ottawa area to the Great Lakes, overflying Georgian Bay, Lake Huron and Lake Erie. Gord carried on alone to visit Niagara Falls from the air and went south around Lake Ontario to explore each one of New York State's Finger Lakes before returning to the Ottawa area.

Together, the three flyers - Gord, Conrad and Claude - gave a spellbinding slide presentation of their trip. It was evident that the float adventure would stay in their hearts and minds forever as one of their life's most special experiences.

The banquet attendees were left inspired to have such adventures themselves! Opportunities will arise this coming summer on the Challenger float tour to Canada's east coast as well as in February 2003 at the Winter Rendez-Vous and in July 2003 on the float tour to Kill Devil Hill in North Carolina.

How can we best sum up this 12th edition of the Winter Weekend Rendez-Vous? It is fair to say this event is growing fast, is filling a need and has a momentum of its own. Truly, the ICOA Winter Rendez-Vous represents the best occasion for winter flyers to congregate and mutually show their love for flying. The high quality of the presentations and the relaxed atmosphere go hand-in-hand with the quality of the site and the rugged beauty of this Canadian phenomena we call Winter.

Since there are large numbers of Challengers all across our country it is hoped that this success in Central Canada will be the template for similar gatherings in Western Canada and the Atlantic Provinces.

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