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Air Show Cancelled But Will Site Remain?

“I’ve been told it’s 10 times as hard to fly these as a real one.”

– STEVE SOUCHUK

Another rural tradition is being lost this summer. The Asessippi Remote Control Airshow and Fun Fly, originally scheduled for the end of June, has been cancelled, after a tradition of more than 30 years. Plans were already underway to end the annual show but the event hosts, the Asessippi Flyers, had hoped to hold one last program (The Final Round Up at Asessippi). However, circumstances make it necessary to cancel this year’s event.

The location for the air show/fun fly is a field leased from the province on the edge of Asessippi Provincial Park, about 25 km north of Russell. Most years the show brought in about 150 to 200 of the radio-controlled planes from across Manitoba, as well as nearby Saskatchewan and North Dakota. Some came from as far away as Swift Current and Thunder Bay.

At last summer’s fun fly I watched with delight as the remote-controlled airplanes dipped and dived overhead. Some were quite small, others much larger. The average weight of the aircraft is from seven pounds up to 35 pounds, and the average speed about 75 to 80 m. p. h. One plane, weighing nearly 74 pounds, had a 20-foot wingspan. One tiny helicopter also hovered overhead, then landed gently nearby. It was amazing to watch the operator’s skill in guiding the aircraft through spins and loops and other manoeuvres.

The radio-controlled models are of various types, just like a scaled-down aircraft, and learning to fly them takes a lot of practice. “I’ve been told it’s 10 times as hard to fly these as a real one,” says Steve Souchuk of nearby Russell. “When you start this hobby, you can count on crashing your airplane at least three times until you master landings and takeoffs.”

It was Souchuk, a founding member of the Asessippi Flyers, who did most of the work in preparing and maintaining the field. He began in 1974, and the original field was 50×100 feet in size. Today – after considerable personal expense and thousands of hours of work by Souchuk, and by fellow flyer Harold Clement – the field measures about 1,000×1,000 feet and is considered one of the best in Western Canada. “Other people say they can’t even dream of such a good field,” says Souchuk.

The first fun fly was held in 1975 and the first air show in 1983. Since then, Souchuk, who just turned 76, has worked to keep the field functional. Now, after so many years he had decided to end his work on the site and had planned this year’s Final Round Up as a grand finale. Although the air show has been cancelled, Souchuk hopes the site will still be maintained, as he would like to continue flying his aircraft there. Many other operators will also miss the site if it’s allowed to die; several of these still plan to come this June, even though the show has been cancelled.

Souchuk has been trying to persuade the provincial park to take over maintenance, or at least cut the grass weekly, but doesn’t know whether that will happen. “I’ve heard nothing back from them,” he says. “But I’m finding it too much. The grass needs cutting each week and the buildings (a hangar and storage building) always need attention. In summer I spend maybe 20 hours a week working there.”

The Asessippi site is a prime spot for the airfield, unique in Manitoba with plenty of airspace and a central location for operators from Winnipeg, Brandon, Fargo and Minot to meet with those from Western Canada. “It would be a crime to have the place shut down,” says Souchuk. “It brings in many people to the park every year.” Some participants camp at the site or stay at the nearby bunkhouse, but those wanting facilities camp at the park.

If you have enjoyed previous shows, or if you’re an operator who likes to use this field, you might consider a call or letter to Stan Struthers, minister of conservation for Manitoba (1-800-214-6497) to support Souchuk in his quest to have the park take over maintenance of the airfield. Souchuk has sent Mr. Struthers letters of support from about 50 different clubs with hundreds of signatures.

For more pictures of past air shows, try the Internet at http://www.geocities.com/asessippi/.

– Donna Gamache writes from MacGregor, Manitoba

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