Whitehorse Daily Star

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AIRPORT MEMORIES – The Whitehorse Airport is seen in 1961 with two 1940’s-vintage Fleet Canucks of Lloyd Romfo’s Yukon Flying School, parked in front of his office in ‘A’ Hangar, says pilot and aviation historian Bob Cameron. He remembers many Yukon pilots, including himself, learning to fly on the Fleet Canucks at that time. Photo courtesy AVIATION REUNION WHITEHORSE

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AN AVIATION LEGEND – The late flying legend Moe Grant is seen next to the Yukon Queen plane. Grant passed away in 2007 and had spent half a century flying in the territory in addition to his career at the Whitehorse Ford dealership and performing as a musician.

Aviation reunion provides a chance to catch up

Close to 100 aviators who have been part of the North’s aviation scene

By Stephanie Waddell on July 14, 2017

Close to 100 aviators who have been part of the North’s aviation scene are set to gather in Whitehorse next week for a reunion that’s believed to be a first for the territory.

Donna Clayson is one of the lead organizers of the Aviation Reunion Whitehorse event with about 90 retired and working pilots and others in the industry from both Outside and inside the territory already registered for the two days of events.

As Clayson said in an interview last week, the idea for the reunion actually came out of a trip she took to Yellowknife last year. While she was there she took a tour of the Buffalo Airways facilities and got talking to the airline’s president Joe McBryan - aka Buffalo Joe - after she noticed a picture featuring Great Northern Airways planes.

As it turned out, McBryan had flown for Great Northern Airways, based out of Whitehorse in the 1960s and early 1970s.

As they talked, McBryan mentioned an aviators reunion he had been to down south recently and argued it would be great if something similar happened with those in the North. McBryan is on the list of those planning to attend the reunion.

After thinking about the discussion, Clayson got to work looking at whether there was interest and started organizing things. That work came to a halt when her husband Bryan died last Fall.

In recent months though, interest in the reunion continued to be expressed and Clayson had others such as retired pilot Danny Bereza come on board to help with the organizing of the event, which is now just a week away.

“I’m getting phone calls all the time,” Clayson said of the interest, noting she’s pleased to have a number of aviators who have flown in the North as far back as the 1950s returning to Whitehorse for the event.

“Aviation is huge in the Yukon,” she said, adding that for many planning to attend it’s a chance to catch up after many years and reminisce of their years flying in the North.

“We do recognize these people love their work,” she said.

There will be plenty of opportunities for those attending the reunion to both catch up with one another and take in some of the current aviation facilities in the territory.

A meet and greet will kick things off July 21 at the Yukon Transportation Museum, giving attendees a chance to catch up with one another.

That will be followed on July 22 with opportunities to take in a variety of activities, including a morning tour of Yukon Wildland Fire Management’s bomber base (though there is a possibility that there won’t be aircraft at the base if they are required to fight fires) and an afternoon tour of Air North’s facility. Area tours will also be available through Klondike Travel at a discounted price.

The day will conclude with a buffet dinner at the Westmark Hotel at 6 p.m.

Both Clayson and local pilot and aviation historian Bob Cameron said to their knowledge this type of aviation reunion will be a first for Whitehorse.

It’s something Cameron said he’s looking forward to, giving him a chance to see many in the aviation field he hasn’t seen for years.

Cameron last attended an aviation reunion in 2013 when he gathered with a large group of pilots who had been part of a 2003 flight of antique aircraft marking the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers flight.

While that reunion was largely focused on the aircrafts that were flown, he noted the Whitehorse event seems to be more focused on the aviators themselves.

With a “pretty hefty mix” of older and younger aviators, Cameron said it will be a chance not only for those who flew in the territory to catch up, but also for younger pilots to meet aviators they may have heard of but haven’t met.

Information on the reunion is available at www.aviationreunionwhite horse.myevent.com

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