Friday, February 24, 2012

All in the Family




Vanessa LeFaivre and her father arrive in style at her wedding reception, Summer 2011 (not shown in picture: authentic grease stain on white wedding dress).

It’s a grey Thursday afternoon at the hangar. Apprentice Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME) Vanessa LeFaivre steps down from the Harvard, which sits un-cowled and undergoing its annual inspection. She gives a sigh of frustration; small pins don’t always want to go back into small holes.

Time for a break. Looks like I have come at a good time to talk to her about the other side of her aviation experience; not only does Vanessa fix airplanes, she flies them too.

Vanessa shares her love of aviation with her father. Seventeen years ago he earned his Private Pilot’s Licence, learning to fly on an Aeronca Champ. In 2001 he bought the fuselage of a Canadian Bushmaster, a homebuilt aircraft best described as a modified TriPacer.

By the fall of 2004, the Bushmaster was ready to fly, and Vanessa, then in Gr. 12, started earning her Pilot’s Licence. Soon after, she moved to North Bay to attend the AME program at Canador College. Her father would fly her home on breaks, and come visit her in the family airplane.


GZPL sits in wheel-ski configuration at a fly-in breakfast.

Vanessa says she goes flying with her Dad every chance she gets. With the different gear configurations (wheels, wheel skis, amphibious floats), they can go pretty much anywhere, but Vanessa loves winter ski flying the best.

Asked about her most memorable flight, she starts to laugh and begins the story with, “Dad always tries to scare me, because I never get scared.”

One day, with the aircraft on wheels, he flew her low along a lake. Up ahead was a narrowing, with trees on either side. Beyond that lay a big hill. Still they kept going, cutting through the narrows, and then abruptly pulling up at full power to climb over the obstacle.

And was Vanessa scared?

“No! It was an adrenaline rush.”


GZPL on amphibious floats.

Her most unique flight, perhaps also somewhat of an adrenaline rush, was her ‘bridal flight’ at her wedding this past summer.

“It was Dad’s idea to fly me into the ceremony.”

Vanessa’s wedding was held in a clearing in the forest, near two small lakes and a few fields. With the aircraft sporting Tundra tires, Vanessa’s father had practiced the approach to the small field over and over again before the big day.

Her unusual entrance, complete with grease on her white dress, was a surprise to everyone but the bridal party. Peoples reactions were “very emotional, because I’m such a Daddy’s girl,” Vanessa admitted.

If you drop by the hangar, be sure to wander back over to Maintenance and say hi to Vanessa.

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