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From Sept. 4 to 6, 2020, the 8th annual Casey Aero Camping fly-in took place near Casey, Que., on a cold-war era abandoned airstrip located in Haute-Mauricie. Each year, general aviation enthusiasts, pilots, aircraft owners and nature lovers gather at the isolated, abandoned airstrip during the Labour Day weekend to celebrate aviation and the freedom to fly.
This year, even though the weather was not in our favour (rain, hail, cold and strong winds), over 100 aircraft flew in for the event from all over Quebec and Ontario. And although Casey is extremely remote, hundreds of people also make the journey to Casey by road every year. By car, it is located roughly five-and-a-half hours from Montreal, with the last 150 kilometres (90 miles) on well-maintained gravel roads.
In 2019, the event started to see visitors from the United States as well, but since the U.S.-Canada border is closed due to COVID-19, U.S. visitors could not fly in for this year’s event.
The Casey abandoned airstrip is a hidden gem surrounded by Quebec’s wilderness, best accessed by air. Built in the ’50s, it was a collaboration between the Canadian and U.S. militaries as a line of defence against the USSR. It was one of the radar defence lines known as the “Pine-tree Line” just south of the 48th parallel. Some 60 years later, the airstrip infrastructure is still usable.
The tarmac and taxiways are in perfect condition. The runway is 8,200 feet (2,500 metres) long, and is also in great condition considering its abandonment. This airstrip, which is three ft (one m) thick, is made of concrete as it was supposed to host fully loaded B-52 bombers. Sadly, the airstrip was never used by the military and decommissioned in 1964.
Year after year, the Casey Aero Camping fly-in continues to grow in size and importance; had the weather been in our favour this year, we were expecting between 150 to 175 aircraft.
What’s even more impressive is the organization of this event. It’s hard to believe, but up until this year the event had no formal organization behind it. It was 100 per cent organized by volunteers, each taking on the task they could best fill — from our Unicom station offering ground and weather information, registration to keep track of visitors, ground security for aircraft movements and more.
Given the growth of the event, starting in 2021, Montreal-based Stratos Aero will officially take over the organization of the Casey Aero Camping fly-in. Stratos Aero will guarantee the perennity and growth of the fly-in, but more importantly attract a younger aviation community to continue inspiring the next generation of aviation enthusiast and professionals.
The average age of visitors and campers has dropped drastically since the inaugural event; entire families are flying in and driving up, with our youngest visitor not even one year old. As the word continues to spread, more and more visitors are coming from outside the province and from south of the border. An entire community of spotters is expected for the 2021 fly-in, as aviation spotters trekked up to Casey for this year’s event, making their peers extremely jealous!
The 2020 Casey Aero Camping fly-in was a true success in every sense. Stratos Aero is already hard at work planning the 2021 edition of the fly-in, with many changes and improvements. From the diversity of activities on the ground, to lodging options (tents, yurts and cabins) and transportation, Stratos Aero will make the Casey Aero Camping fly-in a must on your list of annual aviation events to attend.