Unique event in North Amer­ica -

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vis­to­ria Vanier Lake Mem­phrem­a­gog

About thirty small air­craft, half fly­ing in from Canada and the other half from the United States, con­verged on Lake Mem­phrem­a­gog’s Prov­i­dence Is­land, last Sun­day, for the 4th An­nual Mem­phrem­a­gog In­ter­na­tional Ski Fly Meet, or­ga­nized by Ge­orge Weller of Stanstead East. To be more ac­cu­rate, the planes ac­tu­ally landed on the thick ice near the shore of the is­land, then pi­lots and pas­sen­gers met each other on the shore of the is­land for a pic­nic lunch and get to­gether. “We had two trikes which are three-wheeled planes, lots of home-built planes, and even a tur­bo­prop from the Riche­lieu River area. That plane can back up to fit into a park­ing space,” said the or­ga­nizer and plane en­thu­si­ast who flew there in his own plane, an Aeronca, which he re­built.

The planes flew in from Mon­treal, Ot­tawa, Que­bec City, Sher­brooke, Bromont, Ver­mont, New Hamp­shire, Maine and as far away as the Philadel­phia area. “It was a spe­cial year be­cause we don’t have much snow on the lake so planes with wheels could land. The whole lake is like an air­port,” com­mented Mr. Weller. “The event was set up to take place be­tween noon and 1:00 pm, but when I got there at 11:30 there were al­ready ten planes there!” he added.

The planes landed on their re­spec­tive sides of the bor­der which was easy to spot from above be­cause of the cut tree line.

“This event is unique in North Amer­ica. Nowhere else can peo­ple freely cross the bor­der, to eat or look at each other’s planes, and go back,” ex­plained Mr. Weller. At the first In­ter­na­tional Fly Meet, par­tic­i­pants had to re­main on their side of the bor­der but were al­lowed to shake hands across the line. Since then the In­ter­na­tional Bor­der En­force­ment Team (IBET) has al­lowed par­tic­i­pants to move freely back and forth across the bor­der to min­gle, see each other’s planes and have lunch to­gether, as long as no goods are ex­changed and no one stays on the other side with­out re­port­ing.

Two mem­bers of the RCMP along with two US Bor­der Pa­trol of­fi­cers, all mem­bers of IBET, were on hand to watch over the event, which was for­tu­nate for some of the vis­i­tors. Two of the vis­it­ing planes landed in the wrong area of the lake, where the ice wasn’t thick enough, and

ended up in the water where the lake was, thank­fully, quite shal­low. “With a cou­ple of ATV’S and winches a very co­op­er­a­tive ef­fort was launched be­tween the RCMP and the US Bor­der Pa­trol to free the planes from the water and pull them up onto the ice. They were both able to fly out again,” men­tioned Mr. Weller.

One rea­son that Mr. Weller or­ga­nizes the fly meet, be­sides to give small air­craft pi­lots who are of­ten not al­lowed to cross the bor­der the chance to meet and see each other’s air­craft, is his in­ter­est in a more open bor­der. “I’m very in­ter­ested in in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions be­tween the United States and Canada and I’ve been work­ing on the to open the bor­der up to le­gal trav­el­ers such as in the Schen­gen area of Europe. Now there are twenty-five Euro­pean coun­tries in that area with a perime­ter around them and peo­ple pass freely from one coun­try to an­other. It’s about time that Canada and the United States wake up to what they’re do­ing in Europe. We’re sup­posed to be the two friendli­est coun­tries on the planet with the most com­merce be­tween them,” com­mented Mr. Weller who has dual cit­i­zen­ship.

US Bor­der Pa­trol of­fi­cers and RCMP of­fi­cers hooked their all-ter­rain ve­hi­cles to­gether to res­cue this air­plane from the water.

Or­ga­nizer Ge­orge Weller (far right) wel­comes vice-pres­i­dent of Op­er­a­tions for COPA (Cana­dian Own­ers and Pi­lots As­so­ci­a­tion) Pa­trick Gil­li­gan (2nd from r.). Also seen in the photo are a cou­ple who just flew in and John Weller (mid­dle).

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