Winnipeg Free Press
Love Letters to Manitoba

Manitoba...From the Air

Assiniboine River campfire with good friends - Supplied
Fall colours - Supplied
Unique wind indicator - Supplied
Abandoned WWII training airfield - Supplied
Private airstrip facilities - Supplied
Ice air - Supplied
View available only from above - Supplied
Back country airstrip - Supplied

Manitoba...From the Air

COVID-19 shut down travel options for all of us, especially for those of us that prefer air travel. The frustrating prospect of an entire summer’s flying being restricted provided the incentive to come up with a 2020 MB 150 project: exploring Manitoba by landing at all the private runways I could find and on locations not shown on any chart.

Here are some of my logbook entries:

May 29, MB 143, 1600′ grass. Hydro lines at one end and a fence at the other. Picturesque hangar with exterior 1920s décor housing a Pietenpol.

June 5, MB 189, Aircraft salvage yard with a grass strip ending at Buffalo Creek. Interesting place.

June 16, MB 222, 1100′ unmowed grass with on-runway obstacles, including a solar panel array, farm machinery, and round bales. Directional control vital. Landed, stopped, and took off without needing to backtrack. :)

June 16, MB 214, 1400′ grass beside windmill farm. Did a (slow) formation flight with another aircraft down the Pembina River valley over Swan and Rock lakes. :)

June 18, MB 127, Beautiful approach over church gold dome to a nice grass strip in the bush.

June 23, MB 148, 1000′ with bush/hydro at the end. Good approach = good landing. :) MB 116, Banana-shaped, over a bridge, rough, beside rock piles. Wow!

July 6, MB 145, Beautiful approach over riverfront recreational properties. MB 146, Approach beside grain elevator, landing beside rail line. Cool!

July 10, MB 191, Unmowed … and tall! Cleaned grass and weeds off the wing struts after landing! MB 144, Decommissioned Matheson Island strip. Tricky crosswinds here. MB 210, Hunting cabin at south end of Lake St. Martin. Beautiful Super Cub. MB 215, Freezer in tall grass at midpoint of strip. Saw it during pre-landing overhead pass … no problems. :)

July 20, MB 124, Spectacular Immaculate Conception Cooks Creek church nearby. The “MB 150” corn maze east of Winnipeg looks great from above!

July 21, MB 160, Base leg alongside train crossing a bridge, landed on a beautiful farm grass strip surrounded by bright yellow canola.

July 27, MB 258, Flew alongside a train on a 1000′ trestle! In Manitoba! Wow! Many fields in bloom en route — yellow (canola/sunflowers) and blue (flax).

Aug 14, MB 110, The Airliner! Had the 747 burger. MB 102, Followed Winnipeg River 30-plus miles from Seven Sisters to Lake Winnipeg. Very scenic — dams, boats, floatplanes, cottage country.

Sept 5, MB 243, Most scenic yet! 1500′ strip crosses Assiniboine River oxbow.

Sept 11, MB 213, Great wind indicator aircraft with rotating propeller. Landed on a field being harvested by Hutterite colony. Operators and (many) kids, very friendly and curious. Memorable for them and me!

Sept 12, MB 247, WWII CNS (Central Navigation School) No. 1. Huge hangar, runways, barracks … all abandoned. Complete town … abandoned. Amazing! Would not believe it if I hadn’t seen it.

Sept 29, MB 106, RV park with its own grass airstrip next to Lake Winnipeg. Hopped over to Hecla Island and flew over the lighthouse and golf course.

Oct 8, Sandbars! Assiniboine River sandbars. What a great afternoon with great friends! Six safe and successful landings/takeoffs. Bonfire/picnic on island bar.

Nov 18, Rock Lake. First ice landing of the season. Ice smooth, 2” snow cover.

Nov 22, Rock Lake T/O and landing on ice, great flight along local lakes and river valleys. Couple of other planes flew by, one dropped in for a landing. :)

What a great flying season! The unexpected bonus was the new perspective on what I thought I knew well … Manitoba. Sights and experiences that would have been worth a diversion when on vacation, or at least an Instagram or Facebook post, appeared over and over. The Red River Valley’s perfectly square fields of yellow canola, waving blue flax, or golden sunflowers were surrounded by rolling hills and meandering rivers. Lake Winnipeg’s 24,500 km2 size made my aircraft seem insignificant. Flying alongside a train crossing a 1,000-foot trestle was an unexpected experience in the prairies. Looking down at golden Ukrainian Orthodox church dome while on final approach to a grass strip in the bush is a moment that most will never encounter. A 1,500-foot grass strip across an oxbow in a river lined with fall colours was simply spectacular. Watching the ballet choreographed by an aerial applicator or a harvest crew is always memorable.

Very few have the privilege of watching a historic “prairie sentinel” grain elevator slide by just off the wing before touchdown beside the railway track in a prairie town. How about landing at a restaurant’s private runway and ordering a huge 747 burger, an Avro Arrow, or the Ultralight vegetarian meal? Each day brought an unexpected treat.

And then there are all the history lessons when flying into WWII-era Service Training Flying School airfields with their signature triangular runway arrangements. A few of these are now used as regular airports, but many are slowly being reabsorbed into the prairie. Stopping in and imagining the sights, sounds, and activity as several thousand young European men learned how to fly at each one of these is something that left a lasting impact. For someone with an appreciation for weathered patina and any photographic abilities, the possibilities of amazing shots are endless.

Finally, the best part of this summer was the people I had the privilege to meet. Without exception, every person I met at their airstrip this summer was accommodating, welcoming, and hospitable. They ranged from active pilots to others who kept the strip because “Grandpa gave me rides there.” There were the aerial applicators with their turbines, and pilots that had Pietenpols. I saw a perfectly restored Pawnee, and aircraft that haven’t moved in 25 years rotting away in the trees or old barns.

One person flies aerobatics in the same model of plane used in the Red Bull air races, and another has a WWII era biplane even though he has no license and has to ask a pilot friend to give him rides in it. I met airline captains and pilots who had never flown more than 20 miles from home. Some people had never seen an airplane on their airstrip until I landed, and another had six aircraft in the pattern. Some had a runway at the cottage, and others used theirs as a starting point to get to their work location. But despite all the differences, everybody was friendly and everyone had a story. I’ve often said that one of the primary reasons aviation is attractive is because it is a community with a positive attitude, and that was illustrated in spades this summer. An afternoon of Assiniboine River sandbar flying is exponentially better (and safer) when doing it with friends.

Nothing beats having a lunch beside a fire with good friends on a sandbar in the middle of a river! I acquired a new appreciation for the Keystone Province, lots of flying, navigation, and takeoff/landing practice in all sorts of conditions, and best of all, 227 new friends in the aviation world.

Look for amazing things in your own backyard with the eye of a visitor. If you can meet new friends while doing so, that’s a bonus that you can’t put a value on. When the borders open up again, invite others to come and visit the Keystone Province. After all, our license plate logo is “Friendly Manitoba”!
Check out a video of what I saw here; Air


Submitted Love Letters


MBCI Grad 10 Art Class - Rebecca

MBCI -  Grade 11-Art class - Kelly

Lovely Manitoba

Christian Heritage School Grade 3 (Post 3 of 3)

Grade 5 Riverheights School Brandon, MB (Post 2 of 2)

Christian Heritage School Grade 3 (Post 2 of 3)

Christian Heritage School Grade 3 (Post 2 of 3)

Christian Heritage School Grade 3 (Post 2 of 3)

Christian Heritage School Grade 3 (Post 1 of 3)

Grade 5 Riverheights School Brandon, MB (Post 1 of 2)

Cranberry Portage Elementary Grade 7/8 (Post 2 of 2)

Cranberry Portage Elementary: Grade: 7/8 Class (Post 1 of 2)

The love of Clear Lake

"Cher Manitoba" par Isaiah - École Saint-Lazare 9e année

MBCI Grade 7 Art - Emerson Penner

Elmwood High School

Maryland Park School

Grant Park High School Grade 7/8 SS (Post 3 of 3)

Grant Park High School Grade 7/8 SS (Post 2 of 3)

Grant Park High School - Grade 7/8 SS - Post 1 of 3

St. Paul's Collegiate (Elie, MB)


Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute Grade 8 Art - Kyla Kisil


Cher Manitoba: Une lettre amicale de la classe 5/6B de Ecole St Malo School

Birthday Cards to Manitoba

Elwick Community School Grade: 7/8 

Mrs. Smith

Ashern Early Years School Grade 4

École Sun Valley School - Need a Knee?

École Sun Valley School - Egg on Wheels

École Sun Valley School - Canadian Oil

École Sun Valley School - Start Your Engines

École Sun Valley School - The Facts About the Fax

École Sun Valley School - Garbage bag

École Sun Valley School

École Sun Valley School - Snowmobile


Tundra Buggy

Elmwood High School Grade 12

Frontenac School ART 5/6 2021

Thank you

How Do I love you.......Let me count the ways

A distant province, a longing heart

My love of country life

Manitoba's Beauty, Art, Culture, Agriculture and History

Clear Lake

Natural Beauty

Beautiful peaceful Manitoba


A Hallmark Love Story

Farming Manitoba

Wonderful Wildlife

Home Sweet Home

Manitoba's Best Kept Secret


RACHEL and Logan

Love my Manitoba

The Caves Trail

Manitoba skies


Kinosao Lake Trail memories

Love for Lake Audy

Lovely Lake Winnipeg

Lake Manitoba, Oh Manitoba!

What I love about Manitoba


My home, My heart, My Manitoba

Ode to the Manitoba Sky


Passion is a word for us

The Forks, The Exchange District and Surrounding Areas

Manitoba Farm Auction

Maple Sugar Run.


Arts + Culture Like No Other


Love My Manitoba Winter days

A love for the land, wrapped up in memories


My Love for McGillivray Falls

Oh Oak Hammock Marsh!

Beautiful Birds Hill Provincial Park

You, Me & BDE

Happy to Hike to Hunt Lake

Kings Park moments

Bear Lake, MB

The Forks

Pine Point Rapids

Astounding Aikens Lake

Amazing, inside & out!

Love The Esplanade Riel!

Gardening in Manitoba is a Love Affair

Crocuses in April

Home Away From Home

First Sign of Spring

Beautiful Manitoba

Mairzy Doats and Liddle Lamzy Divey

Manitoba Multiculturalism

King's Park my go to!

Winnipeg beach in the summer


Amazing at Twin Beaches, MB

You Make Me Feel Rich!

Allo Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain!!

Clear Lake Love

Clearwater Lao


Wonderful Whiteshell

Manitoba, You are So Special!!

Meet you at the Bell MTS Place!

You're corny & I love you!

Winnipeg Coyote

Manitoba Glass Works

You Are Immaculate!

Ahoy Manitoba!

Love you Lower Fort Garry, you National Historic Site, you!

Dam you!

U & Me ; Union Station!

Carman Golf Course

Happy Birthday Manitoba

My Bae, the Basilique-Cathedrale de Saint Boniface..

Le Musee de Saint Boniface

Dalnavert Museum

Gabrielle Roy House / La Maison Gabrielle Roy

Wanna WAG with me?

I'm spying on you!!

Upper Fort Garry Hertiage Provincial Park

Oh St.Boniface City Hall!!

Love my Manitoba Legislative Building

Beautiful weather

Peaceful province

Beautiful Manitoba

True North Adventures

Manitoba, a Great Place to Be!

Trail Blazer


Enjoying Winnipeg parks

Walking in The Park

Rolland 4-H Museum

Love for Humankind

Prairie Cathedral.


Manitoba...From the Air

The Swan Valley

My 150th Blood Donation in Manitoba's 150th year

I LOVE Hiking in Manitoba

We Love our Lakes in Manitoba!


Beyond the Beauty

Manitoba Runs on Love


Oh, Manitoba, what a treasure you are!

A love letter to Winnipeg

Manitoba is about the people

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