Flight 23 participation summary.

 96 pilots have flown 3827 youngsters (between the years 1994 - 2023) as part of Flight 23 Young Eagles, COPA for Kids, and Discover Aviation Programs. The early years it was common to introduce 200 youngsters a year to aviation  and we held rallies almost monthly flying kids on wheels, floats and skis. Those years, our mandate was to fly kids “one on one” which makes it even more impressive.
Notable milestones
Ron Cooke (564)
Mark Wilkins (267)
Fred Culin (deceased, last flight 2012) (238)
Gerry Thomas (217)
Armand Despres (201)
Ron Miller (192)
Bob Brown (deceased, last flight 2006) (184)
NOTE: it was Bob Brown and Lloyd Richards (from Timmins) who were instrumental in Flight 23 embarking on the Young Eagle Program the year after its inception.
Submitted by: Carol Cooke


                                                              Summer of 2022 Flt 23 Flying Kids

From 1994 to 2022, we participated in Young Eagles program - flying 1600 kids. In 2003. Canada developed their own program and called it COPA for Kids. Flt 23 flew over 2000 kids in this Program. COPA now calls the Program- Discover Aviation. Reason for the name change is that it’s now permitted (and encouraged) for pilots to fly “older folks” interested in aviation. The hope being that this will generate more pilots.

We had 2 events recently: July 23 in conjunction with Mattawa Voyageur Days, and Aug 6 associated with Sunflower Festival in South River. To be cautious about lingering Covid, we decided to fly one kid per airplane, and kids would be required to wear a mask while in the plane. We also decided (partially because of the high cost of fuel) the pilots would only be making 3 flights. To limit registrations to those kids truly interested in a flight experience we decided to return to an old practise of having the kids write “why I want to fly”. In this age of kids not wanting to have to do anything, this did limit the registrations to 12 in Mattawa, and 20 in South River, AND consequently we flew kids who were really interested in going for a first flight experience.

Thanks to Pilots Grant Bailey, Bill Carswell, Ron Cooke, Stan French, Gerry Thomas who flew in Mattawa, and Terry Cooper, Ron Cooke, Stan French, Trent McCabe, Bob Whitehead who flew at South River.

Thanks also to photographers Al Rivet and John Hemingway who attended both events, and to Gary for making up individually wrapped sandwiches, and salads for the volunteers at South River. Special thanks to Jordan Gorlick for doing all the registrations and to Mary Norman and Jordan’s mom Dawn for helping out at the field

                                         -------------------------------------------------                                                                    Discover Aviation at the Mattawa airfield.







                          Discover Aviation - South River Sundridge Air Park - August 2022   












COPA FOR KIDS Year End Report – 2019

10 pilots flew a total of 78 youngsters during the summer flying season of 2019. 2 events only – Mattawa Voyageur Days (36) and South River– Sundridge Sunflower Festival (42).

Since Flight 23 started participating in Young Eagles in 1994, and then COPA for Kids, 96 pilots have flown 3745 kids – 2185 on wheels, 1438 on floats, and 122 on skis.

This year Grant Bailey, Bill Carswell, Larry Dyke, Ron Cooke flew in both events, and Terry Cooper, Stan French, Trent McCabe, Gerry Thomas, and George Vallis flew one event. Thanks to all pilots, ground crew and Mattawa and South River Airports for hosting these events.


 Sundridge - South River  Airpark COPA for Kids 2019   

We had a beautiful weather day for our annual participation in South River – Sundridge Sunflower Festival. Many years early morning fog is an issue, but this year Mother Nature brought sunshine and light winds. We had 8 pilots participate in flying 42 youngsters. As well as local kids, we had kids from Barrie, Whitby, Bradford, Whistler B.C., Crozet Virginia show up to go for a flight. Most kids were flown “one on one” allowing more interaction with the pilot.

As per all our events, it wouldn’t happen without the ground crew – Gary Blanchett did all the pre-registrations; David Lane was on the radio keeping everyone safe; Mary Norman, Carol Cooke on the registration desk; Paul Dunlop, Eric Schlessor, Mindy Morin, Gillian Dyke taking kids to aircraft; Bob Whitehead & Alison McCabe photographers; Charles and Huguette Pepin printing photos for the kids, and numerous others helping out as required. After the flying was done, Gary put on his chef's hat, and all volunteers enjoyed scrumptious lunch of burgs and sausages and Gary’s famous potato salad.

Of course all this couldn’t happen without the generous contribution of aircraft, time and fuel by the pilots – Grant Bailey (C-150), Bill Carswell (C-170), Ron Cooke (C-182),Terry Cooper (Cherokee); Larry Dyke (C-172); Tom Fraser (Citabria); Trent McCabe (C-172), George Vallis (Comanche).

Its always lots of work, but it's great to see the happy smiles on kids faces and as usual the kids and parents were very appreciative of the whole event.







       Mattawa COPA for Kids-2019

Well, year "21" of flying kids as part of Voyageur Day’s has come and gone. Mother Nature almost scuppered us, but we prevailed, and 7 pilots flew 36 youngsters in under 2 hours (which has to be some kind of record). I hate when we are rushed, but my goal was to fly as many of the kids as possible, - as this is a “big deal” to the youngsters, and it would have been so disappointing to them if we hadn’t showed up. THANK YOU to the pilots - and also the ground crew who helped pull this off. The gusty winds made the last flights less than perfect, but still memorable for the youngsters. Ron’s last flight was to have been particularly special, as Ron flew the mother as a Young Eagle 20+ years ago at an event on Lake Nosbonsing. With the grandmother living just around the corner from us, it was decided this flight would take place in a few days under more favorable conditions.

Pilots who participated; 
Gerry Thomas Cessna 180 floats (5 flights), Larry Dyke Cessna 172 (4 flights), Ron Cooke Cessna 182, Stan French Ercoupe, Grant Bailey Cessna 150, Tom Fraser Citrabria, (all had 3 flights), and Bill Carswell C170 (2 flights).
Charles Pepin took pictures, John Hemingway brought the printer and ensured all kids had a memento of this big event.
Bills daughter Becky, and Larry’s wife Gillian brought kids to those respective aircraft.
Carol Cooke allocated youngsters to aircraft. 
Wayne Brown and Jeff were an immense help at the float dock.
The Mattawa Voyageur Day’s students Mariah and McKenna did all the registrations, and checked youngsters in at registration desk. The Committee also provided muffins, coffee, water, and sandwiches for the pilots. 
Mark Wilkins had the door of his hangar opened so the majority of the people involved and the visitors could enjoy and feel the "grassroot aviation", especially the kids. 
Unfortunately the pilots didn’t have time to stay around and socialize due to the weather system approaching North Bay, but most grabbed a sandwich “for the road”.
Linda Holmes (reporter from BAY TODAY) was out and took pictures. Expect article will be online.
Once again Flight 23 had a successful event, with lots of participation  from members.



25 years of Flight 23 Flying Kids – as Young Eagles, and COPA for Kids

25 years – 95 pilots – 3667 youngsters

Quite a legacy and something Flight 23 should be proud of.

During the past 25 years we have flown 2117 kids in wheeled aircraft; 1428 on floats; and 122 in ski planes. Six years we flew over 200 kids per year. The record was 2004 when we flew 298 youngsters, and they were all flown one on one (of course avgas was less expensive then!). I think we flew organized events 9 out of the 12 months that year. Five pilots have flown over 200 kids – Ron Cooke, Fred Culin, Armand Despres, Gerry Thomas, and Mark Wilkins. (Ron Miller very close with 191). Of course we have had lots of volunteers helping out on the ground for each and every event, but haven’t kept those stats. For multiple years Flight 23 sponsored sending a local youngster to attend Aviation Camp at Oshkosh, paying all tuition – all the parent had to do was get youngster there.

All the records have been kept by Carol Cooke – little realizing in 1994 when Bob Brown called a meeting to explain about the new Young Eagle program that EAA had launched – where it would lead. That Spring Bob placed a full page colour ad in North Bay Nugget telling kids to come out June 11 and have a complimentary flight. We wondered if we would have hundreds show up. Alas, on the 24 May long weekend most folks don’t read their newspaper and we only had 65 kids show up. The next couple years we held two events per year (at the airport, and at Trout Lake for the floatplanes), and at Lake Nosbonsing also on floats. In 1997 we branched out and held two rallies on skis at Lake Nosbonsing (Feb), and Wilson Lake (March). The June rally was in North Bay and in July we made our first visit to Mattawa Voyageur Days and Oct was the first at South River. Our longest running support has been the Grade Six class at Tweedsmuir. Teacher Ken Campbell contacted us in 1995 and we have been flying those kids since. Ken has retired, but his replacement has carried on with the program. We have flown well over 500 youngsters from that school (and in fact now we are flying some kids of the original students). In 2009 we officially started flying South River / Sundridge kids as part of the Sunflower Festival.

Spread sheet is attached listing all the pilots and all the years. Check it out and reminisce how you helped out.                            /UserFiles/ContentPages/CP61.xls



2018 COPA for Kids Flown

Flight 23 and area pilots flew a total of 103 youngsters as part of COPA for Kids program in 2018. 17 pilots flew in three organized events held over the summer.

June 7 – Trout Lake Seaplane Base – floats only – Grade 6 class Tweedsmuir

July 28 – Mattawa airport wheels and floats – Mattawa Voyageur Days

Aug 11 – South River – wheels only – South River – Sundridge/Sunflower Festival


June 7 Trout Lake Seaplane Base – 17 kids (7 pilots)

Ron Cooke J3Cub – 2

Mark Wilkins PA12 – 3

Tom Fraser Citabria – 2

Don Roberts C-170 – 2

Stan French C-172 – 2

Ron Miller C-182 – 4

Claude Bourgoin Maule M6 - 2


July 28 Mattawa – 41 kids (8 pilots)

Ron Cooke J3 Cub - 2 (floats)

Tom Fraser Citabria - 3 (floats)

Gerry Thomas C-180 - 4 (floats)

Chris Whalley PA 12 - 4 (floats)

Mark Wilkins C-182 - 9

Bill Carswell C-170 - 6

Grant Bailey C 150 - 7

Stan French Ercoupe - 6


Aug 11 South River – 45 kids (8 pilots)

Ron Cooke C-182 - 2

Grant Bailey c-150 - 5

Bill Carswell C 170 - 4

Clayton Spanton Arrow - 9

Bob Whitehead C 172 - 5

Trent McCabe C-172 8

Larry Dyke C-172 7

George Vallis PA 24 3

*Mary Norman C-185 2

*kids flown after the event


                                    COPA for Kids- South Riverr

When I first saw the young boy at our annual COPA For Kids event, I wondered to myself why he was there. His shoulders were slumped, his head hung low. He looked miserable. Duties on the field soon took my mind off the young fellow but when his turn came to fly, I noticed family with him. I struck up a conversation with his grandmother and she explained that her grandson had recently move from Japan and was adjusting to life in Canada. Once again I returned to my duties on the field. As luck would have it, I was back with his grandmother when he landed. What stepped out of that plane was not the same young man that entered it. His head held high, face beaming, a smile from ear to ear. His grandmother told me that this was the first time that she had seen her grandson smile since moving to Canada.

I am Gary Blanchett, a director at flight 23 and president of South River/Sundridge Flying Club. For the past several years we have hosted an event at CPE6, in conjunction with the Sundrige Sunflower Festival. I can’t remember ever having judged a person as wrong as this young fellow. As an added bonus, our event had two pilots that were new to flying in the program. I noticed that their smiles were almost as broad as the kids they flew. What I experienced this weekend is what the program is all about. For an old fellow with with a lifetime of experiences, it is rare be rewarded with such a sense of accomplishment. I gives me great pride to be a part of such a great program.

Further to Gary’s heartfelt account of the day, Carol has some stats:

43 youngsters were flown by 8 pilots:

Based at South River -Bob Whitehead (C172)

Based at North Bay - Grant Bailey (C 150)

- Bill Carswell (C 170)

- Larry Dyke (C 172)

- Ron Cooke (C 182)

Based at Markham - Clayton Spanton (Piper Arrow) - cottage at South River

Based at Pt. Carling - Trent McCabe (C172)

Based at Pickering. - George Vallis (Piper Comanche)

Great to see 3 new pilots for COPA for Kids (Larry, Trent, George)

As well as some local youngsters, participants came from North Bay, Powassan, Guelph, Toronto, Hamilton, Field, Kearney, Gatineau, Vancouver. Looks like the Japanese youngster that Gary referred to, travelled from Parry Sound, and Larry Dyke flew him.

Gary Blanchette did all the pre registration paperwork, and Mary Norman and Gillian Dyke were on the desk Sat morning to allocate kids to aircraft and make sure all paperwork was complete.

John Hemingway and Charles Pepin took and printed photos for the youngsters to have as a keepsake. Many Flying Club members were on hand for marshaling aircraft and taking kids to and from aircraft. Thanks to Dave Lane for doing a great job on the radio, and keeping everyone safe.

After the flying, Gary cooked up some excellent burgs, paired with his homemade potato salad and coleslaw. It was great the flying club provided lunch for pilots and volunteers.Then it was a race to beat the thunder storm (that never got closer than the Manitou Islands) back to YYB for those who socialized too long.

All in all another great COPA for KIDS flying day - even though rain showers were at South River early in the morning.



                 Grant returning from a flight while 3 aircraft are holding short, ready for a local tour once again. 




Saturday July 28, 2018 - Mattawa.

This was year 20 for flying kids as part of Voyageur Day’s. For the first 10 years, the flying was at Valois dock on the River, and we quite often had 10 or 12 floatplanes. Then Chris and Mark made major improvements to the airstrip and registered it as CMA2 making it feasible to fly kids on wheels off the grass. Gerry (Thomas) and Fred (Culin) wanted to fly on floats, so for a few years they operated from the small dock at Earls Lake. Docks were installed along the shoreline a couple years ago, and this year we were able to operate 4 floatplanes flying kids from the water, and 4 on wheels off the grass, resulting in 41 happy youngsters experiencing first flights (all flights this year were one kid per aircraft).

Pilots participating: wheels - Mark Wilkins (C182), Bill Carswell (C 170), Grant Bailey (C 150), Stan French (Ercoupe), floats - Gerry Thomas (C 180), Chris Whaley (PA 12), Tom Fraser (Citabria), Ron Cooke (J3 Cub). Thanks also to Larry Dyke (who had full intentions of flying), and Jim Chappell (who was going to help out with float planes), but both arrived late due to weather.

We didn’t have a lot of ground volunteers, but Kelvin Rempel and Rick Bazzo took kids to wheel aircraft, and Mindy Morin and Jeff were dockhands for floatplanes. Al Rivet arranged for a second printer, so we had full registration set up at Seaplane base with printer. Mark had table and electrical power near the fuel tank, so photos were taken and printed by Mark Morin. Carol allocated kids to aircraft right at the waterfront. Summer students McKenna and Mariah looked after checking kids in at the airport. Al took photos and printed them at the hangar. All in all worked out very well. The runway was in great shape and even had a new wind sock on the tower at the airport!!

Once again Voyageur Days provided coffee and muffins / tim bits for the pilots, as well as delicious lunch of sandwiches and wraps. The Committee also provided caps for the pilots.

It is always a great time for socializing after the flying is done, and we appreciate that Voyageur Days does all the registering of the kids and printing of certificates.





COPA for Kids-Floats                                                                                    


Flight 23 pilots enjoyed a great evening of flying Thursday June 07 June at Trout Lake Seaplane Base. The annual flying of Grade 6 Silver Birches students had to be postponed from original Monday date, and although Thursday evening had some gusting winds, the air was smooth and the flights were enjoyed by all.

We had a variety of aircraft attend: Ron Cooke J3; Mark Wilkins PA 12; Tom Fraser Citabria; Don Roberts C-170; Stan French C-172; Ron Miller C-182; Claude Bourgoin Maule M6. Three aircraft are based at Trout Lake, the others came from Lake Nosbonsing, Mattawa, Sturgeon Falls, and Pickerel River.
Thanks to ground crew Jim Chappell, Al Leishman, Chad Miller, Duncan Hynd, Rene Bourgoin, Rick Christianson, Bob Kingsnorth, and photograph crew Al Rivet, John Hemingway, Charles Pepin. Carol Cooke and Terri Roberts were on registration desk, and Cheryl Ward filled in as required.
The 17 youngsters thoroughly enjoyed the flightslaugh, and many made a point of giving profuse thanks to the organizers. Most of the pilots made an ice cream stop at the green store before heading home in the setting sun. A good excuse to go flying on a beautiful evening. Thanks to all Flight 23 members who participated.