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Wing walking and plane talking

Squamish Airport Community Day attracts some big names in Canadian aviation

You can solo at 14 years old, get your recreational pilot's licence at 16, private licence at 17, commercial licence at 18 and airline licence at 21, Erik Yaremkewich spurts out before taking a breath.

Yaremkewich is 11. And three years seems like a very long time to wait before being allowed to get behind the controls of a plane. That's why Yaremkewich plans to sign up for Air Cadets next year, he said, noting that the cadets start training you to fly at 12.

Yaremkewich spends at least two days of the week at the Squamish Airport. And you'd be hard pressed to find anyone with more knowledge about airplanes than him.

"My favourite pilot is John Mohr," he said looking out over the Squamish Airport Community Day event. "He flies his Stearman biplane straight down until the plane's tail is only two feet from the ground."

Although Yaremkewich's hero wasn't in town this time, the event did draw some big names in Canadian aviation. Canadian fighter pilot Bud White flew in for the day. He holds the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) record for flying a Canadian CF-104 Starfighter higher than 100,000 feet. On Dec. 6, 1967, White reached an altitude of 100,110 feet.

Also on the tarmac was Canadian flying legend George Miller. In 1973, the former Golden Hawks solo flyer became the first leader for the legionary Snowbirds aerobatics team.

"I had to design the show," recalled Miller, who was with the RCAF for 35 years.

The position was amazing, he said. He flew with some of the best instructional pilots in the country. Miller quietly added that soaring with the national team allowed him to cross more than one item off his bucket list. In a trade for a ride with the Snowbirds, Miller scored the opportunity to do something he'd always wanted to try - wing walking.

"I always wanted to see if I had the guts to do it," Miller said.

Now Miller works as manager of the Langley Regional Airport and occasionally as a consultant for the municipally-owned Squamish Airport. He flew in for the event from Langley in his sparkling aluminum 1947 Navion.

"It took 60 hours to polish that plane," he said, before admitting he threw in the rag and hired someone else to buff it.

Twenty-two pilots flew their planes to the event from places such as Courtenay, Abottsford, Pemberton and Pitt Meadows, said Colette Morin, the event's organizer. The Lions Club sold more than 200 hot dogs.

"I am really excited about the turnout," she said.

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