If you thought you saw a camouflage fighter/attacked aircraft in Russian markings at the Comox Airport recently, you did. A dream of mine came true when I won the draw for a 40-minute flight in an L-39ZA Albatros fighter jet owned by Ed McDonald of St. Albert, Alberta.
Back in the day, Ed was a Canadian Air Force instructor on Tutors and other aircraft at Moose Jaw, along with his friend Capt. John Low, manager of the Comox Air Force museum. Ed now flies Air Canada AB 330s and operates a company that designs stuff for airports, which use GPS to help aircraft find the runway in bad weather.
The flight was a real surprise, much smoother than expected, probably due to the excellent handling of the L-39, good weather and the professional skills of the pilot. Pulling 3-4Gs during some of the aerobatic manoeuvres was exciting!
Ed put me at ease and gave me the feel of the controls for a few minutes.
I had some experience flying a Cessna many years ago, so just after we departed Comox, Ed said, “You have control, head for the Glacier at 9 o’clock at 4,000 feet.” I said, “What!” “Just like flying the 172, but easier,” he assured me. He set the throttle at 240 knots, and I steered it around the sky for about 10 minutes.
When Ed took control again, he did a bomb run on the ski lodge at Mt. Washington - something the Albatros was built to do. Then we headed to Campbell River for a low altitude military break over the airport. Heading west, we did some loops and barrel rolls before returning to Comox, hugging the coastline along the way. Two military breaks over CFB Comox were authorized before a very smooth landing. Wow, times three! Flying above the best scenery in Canada was an added bonus.
If the aircraft wasn’t so darn smooth and Ed so proficient, it could have been scary. I have been waiting since Air Cadets in 1958 for a ride in a military fighter/trainer and it was well worth the half-century wait.
Ed pointed out, as we were heading to the ramp, that taxiing is more difficult than flying the aircraft as various wheel brakes are applied to change direction on the ground.
Ed’s flights are primarily used as fundraisers for select charities and are booked well in advance. I’ll be working with him on a fundraising event for the Comox Valley Air Force Museum Association and another to raise funds for a local high school football team to buy new equipment. The flights will take place next year and those entered will have a chance to win a ride of a lifetime.
So keep your eyes focused skyward, you may see the L-39 share the sky with a P-51 and some red and white CT-122s in April 2010. Ed plans to do next year’s charity flights out of Comox Valley Airport again for the B.C. winners.
OCTOBER 2009 SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER ISLAND
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