This year, we decided to fly to the COPA Fly-In at Saint-Jean which took place from June 23rd-25th, 2022. The event had been cancelled the past two years so this year due to COVID-19 and we were looking forward to making the trip to Saint-Jean/Montreal area this time. The plan was to depart Burlington on the 23rd, take a small break for fuel and food in Kingston and then to our final destination. As is often the case with these trips, we always have to plan for a change of plans.
Although the weather was great on our departure date at Burlington, the Montreal area was calling for rain and low ceilings so we had to postpone our departure by a day. The next day was still calling for low ceilings in Montreal, but expected to clear by the afternoon so we planned to depart Burlington in the morning of the 24th expecting the weather to clear by the time we arrive.
After getting weather NOTAMs, and filing a flight plan, we set off for a morning departure, planning to more or less follow the shoreline to Kington. We knew the Montreal airspace was operating with reduced capacity thus flight following and access to Montreal Terminal/Center would not be possible. Much to our in-flight surprise however, we were promptly denied access to class C (Terminal) airspace in Toronto. It seems Toronto terminal and likely City Center airport were not allowing all traffic to come through. We changed our plans in-flight and decided to fly around the north end of the GTA, below Toronto Terminal airspace and around to the east side of Toronto and then continue back on our original intended path.
We were able to pick up flight following with Toronto Center over Stoufville as we left the Terminal airspace. We continued our flight towards the shoreline and were handed off to Trenton Terminal. Flight through Trenton zone was without incident. We took the southern path through the zone and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Our next handoff was to Kingston Radio. As we were getting closer to Kingston, there was a patch of fog siting over the lake which at the time, looked fairly stationary.
Shortly after we landed, the wind shifted in just the right (or rather wrong) way and the fog started moving over the airport in less time that it would take to fly a circuit! Goes to show how quickly the weather can flip. Had we arrived 10 minutes later, we would not have been able to see the airport.
Since it seemed we were going to be there a while, we decided to have lunch outside the Kingston Flying Club. The folks at the club are very friendly and we left a small donation in exchange for some drinks. Before departure, one of our planes developed a brake fluid leak. After spending some time fixing it, it was time to head out as the fog had lifted by then. Always bring extra fluids and supplies on long trips!
The 2nd leg was fairly uneventful but scenic along the St Lawrence River. Shortly after departure from Kingston, we tried getting flight following from Montreal Center. However, as expected, we were denied but had to try. As we got closer to Montreal, we switched to the Montreal CFA frequencies. Montreal CFA airspace seems relatively new. Closer to St Jean, we contacted the tower. Communication with the Tower was easy and friendly, and turns out we didn’t really need our sequence or timeslot. We arrived much later than our intended time due to delays on the route so the arrivals were fairly quiet.
After landing, we were marshalled by the COPA volunteers to our parking spot where we tied down for the night. The shuttle service was over, but we were given vouchers for free taxi ride to the hotel, sponsored by the city from what we were told. A nice touch. After freshening up at our hotel, we took an Uber to Old Montreal for dinner and walk around the area.
The next morning, we headed back to the airport and walked around the grounds. The number of exhibitors is limited, but it was nice to see the VL3 Ultralight aircraft on display. A nice, well-organized lunch was also provided. After lunch we packed up the planes late afternoon and returned back to Burlington. The flight back was nice, smooth and easy. This time, we were able to get enter Toronto’s Class C airspace and transition through City Center so no deviations were needed!
The COPA fly-in was a good excuse for a cross-country trip and to visit Montreal and we hope to do it again next year!