Members of the Vernon Flying Club. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Members of the Vernon Flying Club. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

WATCH: ‘Total freedom’: pilots fly in formation over Okanagan cities

Black Press Media got a first-hand look at what the Okanagan looks like, from above

Nothing will stop this group of North Okanagan pilots from flying.

Members of the Vernon Flying Club meet once a week to fly in formation over the city. Before the pandemic hit, the group would meet four times a week and fly to other flying clubs in neighbouring cities to have coffee with their fellow pilots from Kelowna, Penticton, Kamloops, and Salmon Arm.

But with gathering and travel restrictions, the group now meets once a week to practice and fly in formation over Vernon, landing back at the city’s regional airfield.

John Swallow is a member of the Vernon Flying Club and he also leads the flight formation. A former military pilot, Swallow typically flies over 150 hours for recreation in a year. Because of the pandemic, he only flew about 65 hours in 2020.

“(The pandemic) has really curtailed our flying. Originally, at the beginning of (2020) until March, we were going down to the various places. Now it’s primarily taking off here and landing here,” he said.

Member Chuck Ross said they wanted to keep doing what they love without putting themselves at risk.

“We don’t want to mix with a bunch of people at coffee, but we can (fly) together, we can have picnic lunches and still have separation,” he said.

“And we fly six feet apart.”

Swallow said the club also used to run an initiative where they would take children from the ages eight to 17 for a flight to encourage them to take up piloting.

“Donating our time and our aircraft has been curtailed and we didn’t get to share flying with the children last year, and we likely won’t this year either,” Swallow said.

Things may have changed and they may not be able to gather and fly wherever they please, but the club’s members still get out to tip their wings at the residents below to help brighten their days.

Besides showing people what they can do, the group continues to fly because it gives them a sense of freedom. Swallow said it’s difficult to describe unless you’ve taken flight and have seen the world from above.

Another member of the club, Franz Fox, said it’s exhilarating.

“To me, flying is total freedom,” he said.

“Once you’re up there flying, you can basically do whatever you want… it’s a totally different perspective and when you look down at what’s below, it’s just a wonderful feeling.”

READ: B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

Airport

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Although B.C. has not made masks mandatory in public indoor spaces, some business owners are requiring all customers to wear them before entering their store. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
EDITORIAL: Heightened tension over face masks

Incidents of anger and conflicts over mandated masks happening too frequently

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

A real estate sign is pictured in Vancouver, Tuesday, June, 12, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Okanagan-Shuswap real estate market continues hot start to 2021

Sales in February were up more than 100 per cent over last year, reports the Association of Interior Realtors

The restart of the program means seniors can receive affordable meals delivered five days a week. Photo by Scott Suchman for The Washington Post.
Princeton Meals on Wheels one year trial will cost $92k

Program restarts, and volunteer drivers are needed

The images are of Bald Eagles feeding.
Birds of prey

Princeton photographer captures compelling photos of a Bald Eagle breakfast

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Lisa Jilg is pictured at her store with signs requesting the donation of items for those struggling with mental health challenges, and those experiencing homelessness. (Contributed)
‘He just wanted to be accepted’: Okanagan mother opens up about son’s fatal overdose

Judgment toward those with mental health challenges needs to stop, says West Kelowna mother

A protest has been planned for March 5, 2020 over Penticton council’s decision to reject an application from BC Housing to keep an emergency winter shelter open over a year longer than originally planned. (Jesse Day - Western News)
‘Bring your tent’: Protest planned in Penticton’s Gyro Park over winter shelter closure

Protesters plan to show council ‘what the result of their decision will look like’

A recently finished $4.3-million taxiway extension at the Victoria International Airport (not pictured) is unusable because of a blind spot. (Black Press Media file photo)
Blind spot leaves Victoria airport’s new $4.3-million taxiway extension unusable

Solution has been put on hold by COVID-19 pandemic, says airport authority

John Hordyk said it isn’t fair to just look at COVID-19 deaths as many survivors are experiencing long-term impacts, himself included. (Photo by Rachel Muise)
Not getting better: Revelstoke man diagnosed with post-COVID-19 syndrome

‘I hope the damage isn’t long term, but it could be permanent’

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki responded to BC Housing minster David Eby’s remarks that the city has put themselves at risk of creating a tent city Wednesday, March 3, 2020. (Western News file photo)
Penticton mayor calls out BC Housing minister for ‘irresponsible fear-mongering’

Council recently rejected BC Housing’s request to keep a winter shelter open longer than first planned

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

Most Read