2005 Columbia Canard Fly-In
  Summary of the 1st Annual Western Spring Gathering of Canards held at Columbia California.

Dawn Friday morning May 13th '05:

I awoke and quickly checked the weather. The forecasters had been calling for good weather all weekend but they had done this all winter and into the spring without much success. A persistent series of storms continued to pound all of California baffling everyone. Now it seemed we had a glimmer of hope. The lush green valleys below the Sierras were finally drying out and winter storms were showing signs of weakness. Spring, at least for a few days had finally come and the early morning forecast for the weekend was confirming it....yippee!!

Columbia airport is very hard to spot if you arrive 4 or 5 miles out at pattern altitude (3100 msl). The paved runway 35/17 is plenty long but it hides behind a hilly ridgeline and you find yourself nearly on top of it before it comes into view. Flying down from Truckee I arrived about noon and as I called 10 miles out I quickly heard my flying mate and good friend Paul "Mallard" Werner entering the 45 for right downwind to 17. After landing just behind Paul we found Don "SilverEagle" Denhard waiting for us. Don is based at Columbia and is our onsite point man and a major part of making this happen. After securing our gear at the campsite we headed into Columbia for lunch.

What a charming town Columbia, California is. It's a totally restored and or rebuilt authentic piece of California's gold rush fever era history which lasted from the time gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in 1849 to well into the early 1900's. Columbia is a California state park and no cars or trucks are permitted to enter the streets. Horse drawn buggies, stagecoach's and wagons are the norm. We just happened to have our event fall on the opening of the seasons "docent" program. Docents are volunteers who walk the streets, work the shops, serve the food, shoe the horses, etc. They wear period dress for this gritty gold rush time of California's past and stay in character when talking to visitors, which lends a feeling of what it was like back 150 plus years ago.

After lunch at the "Lick Skillet Cafe" we found ourselves back at the ramp greeting early arrivals. David "Beagle" Orr had emailed me earlier in the morning to let me know his ETA was 1500 and he was right on time. He had brought a LongEz builder along with him in his Defiant. Beagle's always giving "spirit" rides which is something we all should be doing whenever possible. Don immediately started taking names and handing out name tags.

One of the things I wished I had taken to Rough River last year was my name tag. It really wouldn't have helped much since I guess everyone seemed to have forgotten too. I'll never know how many people I probably didn't meet because of this while I was there. With a name tag on it breaks down that awkward moment of who's going to reach out and ask..."so what's your name" with the hope it might be somebody you know from the forums. So I spoke to Don about this and he quickly created a unique "Columbia Canard Fly-In" nametag for everyone that attended.

Soon it was 1700 and we already had nearly a dozen EZ's sitting on the transient ramp and at the campground parking. By 1930 we were all getting hungry so 10 of us headed back into town with flashlight in tow for the trip back on the nature trail. There we had another good meal, returned to the campgrounds sat around and shot the bull until late into the night.

Saturday May 14:

This is a great campground. Hot showers, clean toilets, manicured lawns, soft ground for tent sights under shady black oak trees with picnic benches and BBQ's. Beautiful is the word necessary to describe this place. Clear skies and crisp temps set the tone in the early morning hours. By 0930 EZ's were arriving every few minutes and by 1300 we counted 25 not to mention the drive-in and spam can fly-in builders.

Around 1430 Dave Ronnaberg arrived in his new Berkut. We now counted 32 EZ's on the ramp and the campgrounds. The place was packed with smiling people from all over the world. The winner of the longest distance traveled was Allan Aaron from Australia...can you believe that...he flew commercial all the way from Australia just to visit the 1st Annual Columbia Spring Gathering of Canards. Allan's building a Cozy MKIV and had never been around so many at one place.

At one point I found Dave Ronnaberg strapping James Jorgensen (a VEZE driver) into his back seat. Off they went roaring down the runway and climbing like a scared cat up a tree. Around the pattern he went coming down final for a low high speed pass. As he approached the runway the big IO540 was roaring with a loud growl. He reached us at the halfway point of the runway and pulled up 80 degrees and did a couple barrel rolls.....pretty impressive airplane. After returning the crowds continued to build around him and his plane where he graciously answered everyone's questions like they were old friends...come to think of it many of the people there were his old friends.

Soon after Craig Catto showed up and the gang surrounded him with questions about prop's which if you don't know, is his forte. I've known Craig a number of years now and I still fly his three blade fire breather. Smooth is another word for his masterpieces. Craig Catto's shop is just a few miles away up off Rt 49 near Jackson.

By now is was 1500 and there's Dave and the Berkut screaming back into the skies with yet another lucky GIB about to get a great ride. What a nice gift by Ronnaberg to people he had never met before. The camaraderie just gets better and better within our little Canard family.

Earlier in the day Don, David and myself had organized a Tri-Tip Streak dinner night at the campgrounds. We had figured on 13 to 20 people so we went out and picked up the necessary supplies to prepare for the nights feast. We had leased the Tuolumne County Airmen's Association's meeting house which is also located within the campgrounds...I told you this place was great...It had a full kitchen and eating room just in case we encountered rain which we didn't!

By 1830 24+ of the EZ gang began showing up at the campgrounds for snacks, and refreshments. We had plenty of food to cover the extra people and those extra people for dinner balanced our budget so it was a "win win" for everyone! Refreshments and snacks were soon followed by the steak dinner and more good camaraderie. We ate, drank and stayed merry well into the night once again.

Sunday Morning May 15:

I once again awoke early relaxed and refreshed. I took a hot shower, shaved and began packing up my stuff. As the sun rose higher in the yet another clear blue morning sky people began stirring. Z-Man gave Flight Service a call to check on the days weather for the return flight home to Tahoe. The weather forecast did not look good. Afternoon isolated T-storms, high winds over the ridges (9000 feet) snow level 7500 feet. This did not sound good. We quickly packed our EZ's and headed up to the lake. Z-Man's based at South Lake Tahoe so after crossing back bone of the Sierra's over Echo summit we split off and I headed north across the lake to Truckee. There I found the AWOS was calling winds 200 at 19 gusting to 24. No problemo, been here and done that many times in the past. Landed runway 19 and put my little EZ back in it's nest.

Many pictures were taken of this event and I'll try and gather more from the people I know who were also taking pictures and post them at a later date. Personally I tried to take a picture of each EZ with it's driver but I know I missed quite a few. In all I counted 35 EZ's, 2 RV's, and 1 Piper Arrow as part of the Columbia Canard Fly-In which truly makes this Gathering a success. I know now we have a winner much like Rough River and the plan is to continue this tradition into the future.

I want to thank Don Denhard for all the time and great energy he put into helping David Orr and myself make this first Columbia Spring Gathering of Canards Fly-In a success. We worked as a team on this one and we it came of without a glitch. Also thanks to all the people in their own little way who helped to make this event such a success...you know who you are.

Lastly, Gai Caldwell who is now well into his 80's and who flew him and his buddy up from LA in his Cozy III pulled me aside and showed me old photographs of the first "fly-in" or Canard gathering outside of Mojave which was also held at Columbia. The date was in the summer of 1979 and all the flying EZ's at that time were VariEze's since the LongEz had just been designed by Burt. I took a picture of one of the photo's which you will see in the link provided below. When Don gets back from his trip to New Zealand he will scan them and we will post them to the group.

That's all Folks and many thanks to all of you who attended.

For a picture show of what I've got so far go to my link and at http://tim-lodolce.magix.net Then click on the Columbia Fly-In. Above the picture you can view in slide show if you'd like.


Tim LoDolce
VEZE N26FM (Race 62) Truckee Tahoe (TRK)
Co-Host Annual Spring Gathering of Canards
EAA TechCounslr/FltAdvsr

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