The International Air Rally will be celebrating Canada 150th anniversary by visiting a number of communities and municipalities across the country in search of authentic experiences meeting Canadians along the way, sharing great moments while enjoying the majestic beauty of the land!
Gimli is located on the west side of Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba. This community is known for being established by Icelandic settlers as part of the New Iceland settlement in Manitoba!
All participants meet at the Lakeview Resort for registration and workshop: Pre-departure Air Rally briefing on safety, navigation, air transport regulations and flight planning. The Canada Air Rally aims at: increasing awareness, familiarizing pilots with flying procedures while being exposed to continuously changing flying conditions and regulations.
Official start of the Canada Authentic Air Rally! The group of adventurers is excited to fly to Churchill. Most of them have never flown this far North, and oh what an experience it is!
This first day of flight brings a little bit of weather which makes us deviate to the East of our route for a little while. As explained during the briefing, faster aircraft relay weather updates through the Air Rally radio frequency for the slower aircraft. This allowed the group to clear the weather conditions safely. A clear sky was waiting for us ahead!
As we make our way to Thompson, the landscape below changes rapidly: from thick forest and rivers to the earth splitting itself into many many lakes, trees making themselves rare as we progress to the North. Cities are no longer in sight, and we are left with absolute nature. Hard to explain this feeling of complete freedom coming over us as we fly over the Canadian wilderness.
We get very excited as we approach Churchill, world Capital of the polar bear!! We can’t help ourselves and keep an eye out for polar bears and belugas… Most of our group did spot a few polar bears! Such an exciting flight!!
Today in Churchill, over 50 kids, parents and teachers came to meet us and visit the planes. The aviation bug starts somewhere: Each and everyone of us pilots have a unique story of how they got the “sting”. And we all have a role to play in the initiation of youth. Connecting with the local community and doing our part is important to us!
A full day of activities ahead! Up bright and early for a wonderful breakfast at Gypsy’s Bakery, all pilots make their way to the airport for refuelling. Yes, we have fuel in Churchill! Though, 100LL is usually not provided at this airport, International Air Rally had organized the transport of barrels of fuel for all aircraft.
And then off we go to the Churchill Northern Science Center! We were lucky to have a good pair of eyes onboard the bus: Catherine Tobenas spotted a polar bear on the coast! We stopped to take a few pictures, while keeping a good distance from the bear.
We had a nice lunch and a tour of the Churchill Northern Science Centre: Founded in 1976, the Churchill Northern Studies Centre is an independent, non-profit research and education facility which provides accommodations, meals, equipment rentals, and logistical support to scientific researchers working on a diverse range of topics of interest to northern science.
The Centre is ideally situated along the Hudson Bay seacoast at the meeting of three major biomes: marine, northern boreal forest, and tundra. To the east lies Wapusk National Park which protects the inland denning area of the polar bear. Farther to the southeast lies the Hudson Bay Lowland, the largest peatland in North America. Because of this complex of biomes, one can see a tremendous diversity of plants, birds, mammals and human cultures.
The day ended on a beautiful boat tour with Sea North Tours to see the belugas!
This flight takes us along the coast of Hudson Bay. All the way we kept our eyes wide open and cameras ready for polar bears and other animals. We were not disappointed, seeing a total of 15 polar bears and lots of belugas! Simply breathtaking.
Flight formation was also part of the fun on the way to Rankin Inlet. Canada is definitely a pilot’s paradise!
We could have gone on forever, but the people of Rankin Inlet were eager to meet us and the kids were also very excited to see the planes. All 16 kids and their parents took flight with volunteer pilots.
Thanks to our local guide, Noel Kaludjak, we visited the Iqalugaarjuup Nunanga Territorial Park. He explained the ruins from a historical site of the Thule Period, ancestors of the modern Inuit, the first inhabitants of the North. Their presence in Canada goes back a thousand years! Noel also brought us fishing for Arctic char. Which we ate for breakfast, dinner and lunch!
Noel had a surprise lunch for us at the National Park: Maktaaq (Beluga fat), Pipsi (Dried Arctic char) and Miku (Dried Caribou meat). Everything was very good! An experience we were definitely lucky and grateful to live.
Our stay at Bakers Narrow Lodge was the perfect end to this wonderful adventure!