LLT Scholarship Winner, Revisited

In 2018, member Summer Papple from Ontario, Canada, won a LLT Scholarship to earn a tailwheel endorsement. She was fortunate to have received the instruction from Debby Rihn-Harvey. Debby’s achievements include a 27 year long career as an airline pilot, the longest-standing U.S. Aerobatic Team member, male or female, having participated in 15 World Aerobatic Championships, more than any other pilot.

Debby Rihn-Harvey instructed Summer for her tailwheel endorsement

I caught up with Summer – it’s not an easy thing to do:) – a couple of weeks ago to see what she’s been up to in the past year. Check out my interview with her and just try and catch your breath!

You live on a farm – please tell us about it.

My husband, Tyler, and I live on a farm north of London with our son, Oliver, and daughter, Lacey, along with a few house cats and a Great Dane cross dog!  We used to grow a lot of field vegetables and strawberries and also had greenhouses for bedding plants and rented an orchard before we switched to strictly field crops.  We now grow corn, soybeans, and cover crops and we dry all our corn with a wood-fired furnace that my husband built.  We also have an assortment of laying hens and ducks that our kids hatched and our son has some veal calves.  Our kids grow and sell sweet corn at local farmers’ markets. 

Summer with Khalee, the family’s Great Dane mix.

You certainly haven’t been flying for long and you’ve come a very long way in a short time. How did you get interested in getting your pilot’s licence?

Our son, Oliver, got interested in flying 7 years ago when he was 12.  He had money saved from working on the farm and he started flight training.  My first flight in a small plane didn’t come until a few years later when one of the local pilots from our son’s COPA flight offered to take Tyler and I along on a flight he had invited Oliver on with him.  It was a short flight from Centralia/CYCE to Stratford/CYSA for a fly-in breakfast.  That short flight was all it took – I was hooked!  Together, Tyler and I started PPL groundschool and began discussing how we could justify the expense in the long-term.  We settled on the idea of offering sightseeing, and set about looking for a suitable plane that we could use for training and for our future business.  With the help of local AME friends we found the perfect plane – a beautiful 1969 Cessna 172K with a 180 hp conversion and a Garmin 430.

Getting tailwheel time in a Fleet Canuck

What ratings have you acquired in this short period of time?

My first flight lesson was 4 years ago – June 29th, 2015.  I earned my PPL in Feb. 2016, CPL in March 2017, single-engine instrument in April 2018, tailwheel endorsement (through a Ladies Love Taildraggers scholarship) in July 2018, multi-engine rating in Nov. 2018, and multi-engine instrument in March 2019.  I now also hold a King Air 200 Type Rating!

You’ve also done all the paperwork to receive your Air Operator’s Certificate from Transport Canada. What is Papple Aviation doing with that?

Applying for an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from Transport Canada, with minimal aviation background, was challenging and a lot of work!  I started the application before I had earned my CPL and it was 15 months before I was issued the certificate.  I now hold a 702/703 Air Operator Certificate and offer sightseeing, air taxi, aerial photography, and related services.  My husband, Tyler, earned his CPL last summer so now he does the flights when I’m not available.  We’re close to 4 local airports so we offer flights from any of those airports and also from our farm strip when the wind and passenger weights are suitable.  In addition to our regular services, we also fly two of the local conservation authorities for aerial monitoring of watersheds, bank erosion along Lake Huron, and flooding concerns.  Some of our more unique flights included a flight to locate a missing cow and a flight for family members to spread a loved one’s ashes.  

Tell us about your airplane, new home strip, and hangar.

C-FPAP, our Cessna 172K is 50 years old this year!  It has a beautiful red and black velour interior that has a Vegas showroom feel!  We keep it on our farm strip 30 nm north of London/CYXU.  Our strip is 2700′ long x 60′ wide but we have just extended it about 500′ to give us a larger safety margin.  With the 180 hp engine our plane performs very well and we can safely and easily take full fuel and 4 adults.  Last fall we built a hangar with boards from our sawmill. We still have the doors to complete this summer but it’s nice to have the plane under cover in the meantime.  We have a door on each end so that we start up inside, taxi out, turn around, and drive back through the hangar to line up on the runway.  I love having the plane at home, it’s so close and convenient.  When we first got our licences our kids were still in Air Cadets in a neighbouring town and we had an extra old car that we left at that airport.  We would fly them to Air Cadets, drive into town for groceries, then stuff the groceries in the luggage compartment and fly home!  

The Papple family’s beautiful 1969 Cessna 172K

Your latest venture is flying a King Air as a Medevac First Officer with Missinippi Airways. Where have you flown and what have been the highlights of this new experience?

I was hired by Missinippi Airways in April 2019 and went to The Pas, Manitoba for training on their King Air 200s.  The planes felt like a big jump in size compared to what I was used to but the training was such a positive experience.  I fly Medevac in Manitoba and Nunavut on 13 day rotations and I rotate between our 3 northern bases each rotation:  The Pas, Norway House, and Thompson.  It’s now mid-June and I’m half way through my second rotation and really enjoying the flying and interesting places we go to. 

One of Summer’s 13 day rotations

The highlight of my first rotation was a trip to Baker Lake, Nunavut, which was like stepping back into the middle of winter (in May!) though -12 degrees Celcius probably felt balmy to residents of the community!  We also had a trip to Arviat, Nunavut with a fuel stop in Churchill that rotation.  

This rotation we’ve had a lot of trips to reservations and small communities in Manitoba, many that don’t have road access.  One community we went to twice this rotation involves going part way by boat to pick up the patient because the airport and community are on different sides of a lake.  On most trips I get to go along with our nurse to the nursing station or clinic to pick up the patient. It’s so interesting getting a glimpse of these communities that I wouldn’t otherwise have had an opportunity to see. 

A highlight for me this rotation was meeting up with my wonderful single-engine instructor and friend, Dave, who flies a BirdDog for fire detection in Ontario but happened to be sent to Manitoba during my rotation.  After hearing each other on the radio a few times we both ended up in Thompson at the same time.  We got together to catch up and show each other our planes. My crew left first in the morning, while Dave was sitting in his plane ready to go, and he watched me take off (the captain and I take turns flying the plane and that leg was my turn). At the end of the day my crew had to return to Thompson with another patient and I was standing on the apron when Dave landed!

Summer, looking fantastic in her new stripes, with her SEL instructor Dave.

Many of the runways we land on are gravel or crushed rock, so it’s a good mix of experience operating at small uncontrolled airports and Winnipeg airport with SIDs and busy airspace.  I’m learning so much and really enjoying the experience and people!  

You won a LLT scholarship to earn a tailwheel rating with Debby Rihn-Harvey. Do you see any tail dragging in your future?

I would love to do more tailwheel flying. Training with Debby was an incredible opportunity!  At this point I don’t have concrete long-term aviation plans, I’m just enjoying where I am in my aviation path at the moment and the mix of flying my 172 when I’m home and the King Air when I’m on rotation. 

Summer’s view – somewhere between Winnipeg and The Pas, Manitoba
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