Maple Creek became an aviation hub on Saturday. Pilots from around the area, including Regina, Saskatoon, Medicine Hat, and Hazlet, flew to the community’s airport for an 8am-11am fly-in breakfast. When the News-Times arrived at 10am, around 125 people had turned up; 15 out-of-town planes had arrived, as well as eight local pilots. Blair Holmes, a Maple Creek Flying Club director, said this was the 3rd fly-in breakfast. The News-Times spoke to two pilots – Mike Reibling, from Regina, and Darrell Ackerman, from Maple Creek.
As a boy, Mike Reibling loved to fly kites. Once, he even built a 12ft kite.
Later, he enjoyed skiing, likening the sensation of zipping over snow to flying. Or at least what he imagined flying would feel like.
Almost inevitably, it seemed, Reibling would go on to learn to fly gliders, before finally piloting his own plane. It was as if he was born to fly.
“I love the freedom of flying,” he said. “It’s an amazing feeling.”
On Saturday morning, Reibling flew from his home in Regina to Maple Creek airport, in time for a fly-in breakfast of pancakes, syrup, and sausages. Accompanying him was Sarah Mitchell.
Reibling’s Seawind 3000, a seaplane with a unique design, quickly became one of the stars of the show.
Onlookers gravitated towards it, some posing for photographs next to its sleek white curves.
Reibling could understand the appeal.
“There is nothing really out there like it,” he said. “It is a Canadian design and home-built. It is the fastest single-engine sea plane.”
How fast, exactly?
“It can go 200mph and has a 1,400-mile range,” Reibling said.
Reibling has a job at a water treatment plant. Anyone visiting his home, however, could well believe he is a full-time pilot, for he has his own airstrip.
Much of his spare time is devoted to his passion, maintaining the Seawind 3000 that he has owned for 13 years, keeping it in tip-top condition.
“I’ve flown it a heck of a lot,” he said. “I’ve been to Florida, Texas, San Francisco – everywhere.”
Coming to Maple Creek was trickier than he anticipated. Yes, the weather was gloriously sunny, with the temperature soaring into the high 30s, but there was also a stiff breeze.
“There was a crazy headwind,” said Reibling. “It took us almost two hours to get here, staying low, flying at about 5,000 to 6,000 feet.”
It was Mitchell’s first flight in the Seawind 3000. What was it like?
“I was a little nervous to start with, but once we were up, the views were just incredible,” she said.
As a uranium prospector, Darrell Ackerman got used to flying … as a passenger.
He would be flown to sites up north and to Key Lake to pick up rock samples.
It gave him a taste for being the air. He liked the experience so much that when he saw a
beat-up plane in a barn he bought it.
The 1948 Cessna, one of the prototypes for the 172 and 180, cost him $5,000, even though it was far from airworthy.
“The wings were off and it was pretty ugly,” he recalled. “It took two years to rebuild it.”
Fast forward to 2021, and the plane is still in great condition, thanks to regular maintenance, and
capable of flying at 100mph.
“It was the first plane I bought,” said Ackerman, secretary of Maple Creek Flying Club.”It’s a beautiful thing to fly.”
Ackerman, a pilot since 1972 when he was living in Calgary, likens the sensation of flying to going to the opera.
“It’s like the world opening up before you,” he said.
As wonderful as it is to fly, Ackerman also derives a great deal of pleasure from rebuilding aircraft.