Arctic aviation tour still trying to raise funds to keep flying

Editor’s Note: On July 21, Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour organizers said they had nothing new to report, although “many people are now advocating and we have not given up yet.”

They’ve dined on bologna sandwiches brought to the airport in Styrofoam coolers. They’ve volunteered their own time and pitched in their own money. But organizers of the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour (CAAT) can fly no further without finding significant funding.

Youth will be essential in addressing a looming shortage of aviation personnel.
Youth will be essential in addressing a looming shortage of aviation personnel in the Canadian Arctic. CAAT Photos
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As of today, July 17, they have just four days to raise $2.3 million.

That’s what the tour’s executive director, Nancy McClure, estimates it will take to finish the ambitious initiative that aims to bring airshows and aviation displays to 98 Arctic communities this summer.

Tour executive director Nancy McClure (middle, wearing blue jacket) estimates it will take $2.3 million to finish the ambitious initiative.
Tour executive director Nancy McClure (middle, wearing blue jacket) estimates it will take $2.3 million to finish the ambitious initiative.

So far, they’ve managed to get 63 shows done.

Now, it’s quite simply a race against time. The CAAT must raise the money it needs to finish its scheduled performances before the middle of August, when winter starts to set in on north Baffin Island.

Two women look up at the sky, with enthused expressions.
The tour–which includes an average of six aircraft at each tour stop–is about outreach and bringing Canadians together in our country’s 150th year. Here, two spectators take in an amazing aerial display.

The tour–which includes an average of six aircraft at each tour stop–is about outreach and bringing Canadians together in our country’s 150th year. It’s about a grassroots group which has managed to build bridges with northern communities and make connections that will last a lifetime.

Group of people sitting in a circle, including adults and children..
The CAAT also includes an outreach component that sends people into schools to speak with children about the importance of literacy, highlighted by stories about aviation history, and how young Canadians can help shape the future.

The CAAT also includes an outreach component that sends people into schools to speak with children about the importance of literacy, highlighted by stories about aviation history, and how young Canadians can help shape the future.

“Aviation is the conduit but it’s about so much more,” McClure told Skies on July 14. “It’s about building common ground between Canadians, north and south, and we built it with airplanes.”

She choked up when she talked about how the tour has made a lasting impression on everyone involved.

“We have connected and talked with kids about potential aviation careers. The chief in Old Crow, Yukon, told me we aren’t just impacting people today or next week. People there will remember this visit for a lifetime. We talked to them about how they can help shape Canada for the next 150 years.”

A group of youngsters rests on an aircraft wing.
A group of youngsters rests on an aircraft wing.

McClure said the looming shortage of aviation personnel will be keenly felt in the north, and it will be up to them to “grow their own” pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers.

She described a young 14-year-old girl from Aklavik, N.W.T., who was so obviously interested in the airplanes but was afraid to approach the airshow pilots. She had always dreamed of flying but never thought it could happen. Now, said McClure, she’s in regular contact with organizers and they’re working towards a potential scholarship.

“It’s heartbreaking to think we might not reach another girl or boy like that in Labrador or Northern Quebec,” she added.

The CAAT hopes people will come forward in the next few days to lend financial support to an aviation initiative that unites Canada from coast to coast to coast.

The CAAT had applied for Canada 150 funding but was denied because “airshows are not participatory,” noted McClure. “And the audience is limited. The north in itself doesn’t get the same attention as larger cities in the south.”

The group did receive limited funding–mostly from donations in kind–that have allowed them to cover some costs related to fuel, lodging and meals for performers and organizers.

While airshow performers are charging a small fraction of their normal rates, organizers and staff are all volunteers. But even careful budgeting has not allowed the CAAT to stretch its personal funds to Aug. 18, when the last show was scheduled for Iqaluit.

Pilot Bud Granley poses with his aircraft.
Pilot Bud Granley poses with his aircraft and an airshow fan.

McClure and the other organizers remain hopeful. At this point, they’re saying the tour has been “postponed” rather than cancelled.

Their only hope is that people will come forward in the next few days to lend financial support to an aviation initiative that unites Canada from coast to coast to coast.

“We are going to remain optimistic that something will occur in the next four days.”

Donations to the Canadian Arctic Aviation Tour can be made here. Organizers may be contacted at northernflight2017@gmail.com.

 

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