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Nanaimo, BC Fly-in, 2002
By Kevin Mackenzie

Congenial hosts, a variety of interesting aircraft, fun activities, beautiful clear blue sky, and six Skymasters on the field - the 2002 Nanaimo Fly-in had all the ingredients for a great fly-in, and a good time was had by all.

Liza and I planned to attend only the first day of the two day event, due to other commitments. If we had known what a great group this is, and all they had planned, we would have altered our schedule. Although the future of next year's Nanaimo Fly-in is a bit in doubt, we have marked off that weekend in our calendar, and very much hope to attend the whole event next year.

The fly-in activities began with a poker run to six nearby BC airports (Victoria, Boundary Bay, Qualicum, Powell River, Sechelt and Courtenay). Liza and I had planned to get up early and arrive in Nanaimo at about 10 AM so we could do the run. But like Ernest K. Gann and his wife, I think we should name our airplane the Noon Balloon, because we have such trouble actually pulling off morning departures. So we actually arrived in Nanaimo at about 12:30, where we were met by Frank Benvin (at right with friend Jason).

Frank is the former president of the Nanaimo club, and is still a very active member and contributor to the fly-in. Frank owns a beautiful 337, which has the nicest interior I have ever seen in a Skymaster. He showed us the custom slip covers he had made to put over the front seats during maintenance, so as to keep the front seats in their current pristine condition.

Frank Benvin's C337

Frank also showed us his clever rig for getting his airplane in and out of his hangar. He has a ramp constructed from planks such that when he takes the chocks out, his airplane slowly taxis itself out of the hangar with no effort at all. He also has a bridle and an electric winch that pull his airplane back up the ramp when it is time to put it back in. I wish I had not been in such a hurry when I saw this, I would have liked to have taken pictures for you. Maybe next year.

So we arrived just after noon, and Frank being the hospitable sort that he is immediately invited us to lunch at the local golf course pub. We were joined by two of Frank's friends, and we sat outside enjoying the beautiful sunshine and gabbing about airplanes. Before we knew it, over two hours had gone by, and Liza and I had not even started the poker run.

We scooted back to the airport, and Frank told us that if we would fly to just one other airport in the poker run, we could still buy a hand or two and participate. So Liza and I headed back to our airplane to make the 30 minute flight to Powell River and back.

But another delightful interruption to our plans occurred when we found Gordon Oracheski's '78 T337 parked next to ours. So we HAD to stop and look at Gordon's Skymaster, and meet his two sons. Gordon has a great looking bird, including an instrument panel full of goodies: Garmin 530, Stec autopilot, and much more. You can see some of it in the photos, although they do not do it justice.

Gord's sons Bill, Frank, and Gord himself with his '78 T337. Panel below has Garmin 530, Stec autopilot, HSI, Shadin Digiflo, engine monitoring, more...

Gord and his sons helped Liza and I push our Skymaster off the grass and into the taxiway (a duty they performed twice more that day) and we were off for a nice flight to Powell River. Powell River is a 3600' nicely paved strip on a peninsula of the west coast of mainland BC, north of Vancouver a good ways. It is a fun strip to fly into because the western border of the strip is 200'+ tall trees, and as a result you can't see the runway when on downwind or even part of base, but when you turn final there is a beautiful clear approach with a VASI. We made it to Powell River at about 3:50 PM, 10 minutes before the 4PM deadline…but we got our poker cards!

When we returned to Nanaimo, they were just beginning to call out names for the door prizes. They must have given away 30 prizes or more, to my surprise. Things like home weather stations, carry all bags (I won!) - unexpectedly nice gifts. We needed to be wheels up by 5:30, so we spent our last hour walking the ramp, and the pictures at the end of this article are the result.


Frank pointed out Ken Leyden's hangar to us. Ken is a master at cramming airplanes into a small space. Within what looked to be about a 60 x 60 hangar he had several airplanes (a 340, a King Air and a 172 I think were the "other" airplanes, see photo), but all I noticed were the beautifully painted (red) '76 P337 and the only Reims P337 in Canada (according to Ken), a '74. Both of the airplanes in the photos are for sale by the way, and you can get more information at Ken's web site, www.ventureaviation.com.


Ken Leyden's '76 P337 (left) and '74 Riems P337 (right). Both for sale, click for larger..

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