The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) began intermediate test flights in Havasu last week, and the city will host its pilots until the end of the month.
Lake Havasu City Municipal Airport manager Steve Johnston received a phone call in mid-November, when RCAF officers announced that Havasu would be one of five airports to be considered for test flights in the U.S.
Pilots met secretly with members of the Convention and Visitors Bureau in December, and CVB representatives gave them a tour of the city. When the RCAF contacted Johnston two weeks later, they told him that they made their choice. Of all of the places they considered, Johnston remembers, Canadian officials said that Havasu was the most hospitable.
“In essence, it was a group effort between the airport, the CVB and the city to get them here,” Johnston said.
The Canadian pilots have been flying over Eastern Havasu since Sunday, Jan. 17, avoiding major population centers to reduce the possibility of noise pollution. They came from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and will leave Havasu to train in Phoenix at the end of January before returning to Canada.
“I suspect they’ll have their hands full in Phoenix because the airspace is so regimented,” Johnston said. “In Phoenix, pilots are handed off from section to section as they pass through different controlling agencies. Here, there’s only one controlling agency. I think this is a far better location for them.”
Johnston said that the biggest reason that Canadian pilots would choose to fly in the Havasu region is due to the weather. The hospitality is secondary, but a nice addition.
“They’ve been very happy with the community and the hospitality,” Johnston said. “They’re very salt-of-the-earth, and a very easy-to-deal-with group of nice guys.”
The airport isn’t receiving compensation for RCAF’s use of its runway, although the Canadians’ larger logistics aircraft are charged a parking fee.
“They’re staying at our hotels, eating at our restaurants and buying our products. Economically, it’s good for Havasu.”
The RCAF’s training pilots can be seen over Eastern and Central Havasu, flying dark blue single-propeller aircraft.