Flying High: Sundays in the Sky
This has happened to me twice this month. I’m standing outside in a line that only gets longer with the passing of minutes. Smells of grease, breakfast meat, sugar, drift out the door. Those around me shift their weight whenever a strong gust wafts towards them, stomachs growling in protest. Everyone is chatting idly, but I see them glance at their watches, wondering when it will be their turn. The tables inside are full, and the overflow has left families sprawled on picnic tables, on the grass, eating off paper plates and blinking into the sun. It’s Saturday morning, and while it is typical to wait in line for breakfast in Winkler and Morden, today is different. It’s different because instead of being surrounded by cars in a parking lot, I’m surrounded by planes.
They are every colour and shape. Some are painted bright yellow, or red with green stripes. There are single and twin-engine, single-seaters to six. There are Cessnas and Cubs, World War II-era and brand new versions. There is one plane that was hand built here in Morden; its owner spent 10 years bringing it to life.
Though there are many people in line ahead of me, there are more scattered around the tarmac, peering into the colorful machines. It’s easy to pick out the owners, standing tall with shoulders back, gesturing their hands this way and that, explaining. Kids are running around, pointing enthusiastically and choosing their favorites.
These events happen twice throughout the summer: once in Winkler and once in Morden, both on Sundays after their largest festivals (Corn and Apple for Morden, Harvest for Winkler). The Flying Club hosts breakfast and invites the community. The whole thing is impressive, run strictly by volunteers who love flying and want to share with their neighbors, and the place is packed. ‘Just show up and ask,’ someone told me, talking about rides. ‘There’s always someone who says yes.’ So I did. While the event can’t charge for rides, they can volunteer them, and I was one of the many that day who ‘showed up and asked,’ and received.
After breakfast, we loaded into a four-seater, my partner, myself, the pilot, and his adorable 3-year-old daughter who, and I can’t stress this enough, loves flying. Sitting next to her in her ‘car seat,’ her giggling took over the conversation in our headsets as we taxied down the runway. As we accelerated, lifting from the ground, I could see the line-up for food, still long, and the heads turning to watch our takeoff.
We spent the next thirty minutes flying over Winkler and Morden. We saw the towns rising up between the fields, the one-mile quadrants of dirt roads that stretched out into the horizon. We flew into the depression of Pembina Valley between sections of prairies, giant trees of green shooting up without warning, the Pembina River flowing through the middle. We flew over Morden Lake, sparkling blue, and I could see paddle boarders and kayakers hugging the tree line. It’s amazing seeing a place you thought you knew from the air; how the names for things suddenly make sense, the layout, the scale. ‘Come back to Earth,’ my parents used to tell me when I’d be caught in a daydream as a child. It seemed to make sense, then, until I realized the daydreams gave me perspective. Like now, recognizing the Pembina Valley as not just a name for a place, but a bright green physical divide splitting up an otherwise flat section of Earth.
After landing, I chatted with some of the members of the Flying Club and those who volunteer their time to run the airport. While the large breakfasts are only held twice a summer, the group also hosts weekly Friday night BBQs (called Fly Day Fridays) throughout the summer at the Morden airport, and anyone is welcome to join, pilot or not. Those who own planes fly in from as far as Saskatchewan and the group of fliers attend events throughout the weekend. They insist though, anyone can come. The pilots love when families join the BBQ, grilling hot dogs and hamburgers in the summer heat, kids asking about the planes, asking what it takes to become a pilot. It may be a tight-knit community, but it is an open one, where newcomers are more than welcome.
Next summer, put the Flying Clubs events on your list. You can have breakfast at the Winkler Airport the Sunday of Harvest Festival or in Morden the Sunday of Corn and Apple. You can join in on a Friday night BBQ, and watch the planes come and go throughout the evening. If you’re interested in flying or want to take a scenic tour, contact Mountain City Aviation out of Morden, who offer 1-hour flight tours for $199. The best advice though is the bit I received, and I recommend it to you too. Just show up. There’s always someone who says yes.
To see what Mountain City Aviation offers, visit their website:
To keep up to date with Morden Flying Club Events, visit their website: