Pender Island Fly-In

Wow, what a day.  So much took place that I’ll break today into two postings, see my next one about sharing the joy for the rest…

The folks who maintain Hastings Field on Pender Island have an annual Fly-in where they invite everyone locally to come in for a hot dog and corn roast!


Catherine and I jumped at the chance to visit yet another local airport.  There are various warnings about this field as its what is referred to as a one-way strip.  The reason for that in this case is that it is in the bottom of a valley right up against rapidly rising terrain.  Basically, if you mess up the approach, an overshoot isn’t recommended as you can find yourself in either the trees or worse granite.

As we need to pass through Victoria’s control zone (and they need you to phone for a code prior to engine start), we got our code from Kamloops FSS.  Nobody had told them that there was a fly-in happening, and they were scrambling to find codes for everyone.  We got ours quickly enough, so we finished pre-flighting the plane and took off.  The fight through Victoria’s control zone was fine, they were talking to about a half dozen other folks on their way, so we just hopped in line and enjoyed the flight over Salt Spring Island enjoying the scenery and keeping an eye out for other traffic.

Approaching Pender Island, the controllers were more than happy to hand us all off in a descent one by one.  I headed for the appropriate point on the northern tip of the island, then descended following the Eastern coastline.  Abeam the strip, I turned to cross midfield only to hear another plane call out that they were doing the same thing 🙁  I picked them up on our left and a little lower, reported them in sight and set myself up in trail.

We finally got our first look at the strip as we crossed midfield, it didn’t look too tough, but I know from past experience that looks can be deceiving.  We joined downwind for the field (still following the guy ahead) and made our call.  A friendly soul on the ground was giving basic wind and field conditions and as we turned final they reported that the plane ahead of us had cleared the runway.

I had been told what to expect, but until you face it yourself it’s hard to fully prepare.  I came in a little high and about 10 knots fast which really got my gut in knots.  I landed about 200 ft further down than I wanted,and being worried about the strip, I (needlessly) jumped on the brakes.  Being a taildragger on a grass strip, she started slowing quickly enough on her own.  The rise in the middle of the runway is a bit unnerving in a taildragger as all you can see is sky ahead of you during the roll out.

I went left of centerline which can be deadly on this strip, but I got it back under control as we rolled to a stop by a marshal waving brightly coloured wands (paper plates on badmitten raquets).  We turned everything off then quickly hopped out to push the plane out of the way for the next arrival.

One of my former students was on the ground and videoed our arrival and landing.  Certainly came in hotter than planned.


The day itself was great, we enjoyed spending time with other pilots from the area and the food was terrific.  There was one airplane prang, thankfully not during their landing, but while taxiing to a parking spot afterwards, they drove right into a ditch.


After a few hours it was time to leave as we had another flight still planned for the day.  We watched a few others leave and I kept my eyes on any issues during their departures.  Some got off in very short distances, whereas others used up pretty much the entire field.

We decided it was our time, so we fired up, and taxiied as far back on the strip as we could to get extra takeoff room.  I did a full static run-up and when everything looked good, released the brakes and started out.  I’m still a bit heavy on the rudders, so I probably looked funny roaring down the runway with bystanders only about a dozen feet on either side.  Once the tail came up, I was happy to see how much room was left, and the departure itself was uneventful.  After climbing out through 500 feet, we turned our nose northward towards Nanaimo for our second adventure of the day!

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