2018 Aircraft and Crew
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The Crew



 Dave McElroy  Russ Airey  Harold Fast

More About the Pilots

The Aircraft

planes in formationDave and Russ each fly their own Vans RV aircraft. RV’s are high performance “Experimental” or “Homebuilt” aircraft. Vans Aircraft was founded 45 years ago near Portland, OR. Since that time the company has designed and manufactured no fewer than ten models – from the RV1 to the RV 14 – each of which is an extraordinary aircraft. The company builds and sells the aircraft in kits, with final assembly being done by the owner. Russ built his RV9A, C-GTDP, while Dave purchased his RV6, C-FYQS, on returning to Canada in 2015. Both aircraft and both pilots are equipped for instrument flight.

The superb design and flight characteristics of the RV series have resulted in Vans being the most successful homebuilt aircraft in history. There are now 10,000 RV’s flying in all parts of the world; this number comprises more than half of the world’s entire homebuilt fleet.

Why this extraordinary success? Very simply – because of the beautiful Vans design which is fast, fuel efficient and versatile. RV’s are equally adept at long distance, formation and aerobatics flying. Cruise speeds exceed 175 mph. The RV series of aircraft are extraordinary in the fact that their maximum speed (Vne) is equal to - or more than - four times their minimum (stalling) speed. Both Russ and Dave are accomplished formation flyers, and Dave is an enthusiastic aerobatic pilot who also flew as a race competitor in Royal Aero Club Air Racing heats when he lived in the United Kingdom.

Dave McElroy

davemDave learned to fly in Cranbrook in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. His flying instructor told him at the time: “One can experience any climactic condition on earth within ten minutes of the Cranbrook Airport.” This early exposure to mountain flying proved to be a solid foundation for the ensuing decades, during which Dave has flown more than 3300 hours in 29 different aircraft types. He is rated for both multi-engine and IFR (instrument flight rules).

In 2014 Dave flew a Piper Comanche around the world, a singular achievement which raised more than $150,000 for two charities: SickKids Foundation of Toronto and Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance of Perth, Scotland. In 2015 he was awarded the Norton Griffiths Challenge Trophy by the Royal Aero Club in London. This award is granted only occasionally for “outstanding feats of courage, tenacity and imagination.” He is writing a book about his round the World experience, Low Earth Orbit​. This will be published in early 2019​ after wrapping up the Give Hope Wings project in June 2018. The size & scope of the South American expedition has badly delayed completion of the book's manuscript.

Dave was raised in Nelson, BC. He spent the first part of his life in various parts of British Columbia including Vancouver before moving to Toronto in 1983, then on to the United Kingdom in 2000. Most of his working career was spent as a senior executive in the Wood Products Industry in both Canada and Europe; he recently retired as Deputy Managing Director of Norbord Europe. Dave and his partner Debbie lived in Stirling, Scotland, from 2000 to 2015.

Dave has acted as a Director and Chair of four non-profit Societies over the past three decades in both Canada and the United Kingdom. Three of these, in British Columbia and Ontario, delivered social services to the community. The fourth was The Scottish Aero Club - the largest such British organisation north of Manchester, England.

Dave and Debbie moved back to BC in 2015, settling in the Okanagan Valley. He has two sons and four grandchildren. Dave was recently elected President of The Kelowna & District Flying Club.

Russ Airey

russ aireyLike most aviators, Russ had a keen interest in aviation from his early school days. He built models, engaged in research and made Theory of Flight presentations to his classmates. Russ completed his private pilot license with the Windsor Flying Club at age 40 in less than six months, at which time he bought his first aircraft - a Cessna 177. He was then able to quickly build his flying time and complete several other pilot ratings, including IFR and Floatplane endorsements.

Keen to further advance his knowledge of the aircraft he flew and aviation in general, he embarked upon a four year project to build his own airplane, a Vans RV9A. As with most homebuilt projects the four years stretched to seven - but he made his maiden flight in C-GTDP in 2012. Since then, Russ has logged over 800 flying hours in this beautiful, high performance aircraft. Together they have flown to every corner of North America at least once - including a tour of Alaska and the Yukon in June 2016, where he and Dave first met.

Some of Russ’s most memorable flying moments have been while “paying it forward" and "paying it back." He has participated in several flights for young people, where pilots give their time and aircraft to fly kids who are disadvantaged or would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience the wonder of flight in a small aircraft. Not surprisingly, some of these children are inspired by these flights to later become pilots themselves. As well, Russ was recently a member of a team delivering donated food and supplies to a northern Ontario First Nations village, served only by air and in dire need of supplies to begin the school year.

Russ is a Director of the Windsor Flying Club, an active member of The Canadian Historical Aircraft Association (CH2A), and a supporter of other aviation associations including COPA, AOPA and EAA. He recently retired from a lengthy career with the Chrysler Group. Over the past twenty years he commuted from his home in Windsor ON to Auburn Hills, Michigan where he was a senior manager in Purchasing and Program Management. This comprehensive logistics experience is proving very helpful in the complex planning required to safely and successfully execute Give Hope Wings.

Harold Fast

harold fastHarold is another major donor to Give Hope Wings. A seasoned pilot with over 3200 hours, he will act as co-pilot on Russ’s RV9A.

Harold grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan and has spent most of his life dedicated to food production. A graduate of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, he moved back to his original home, the family farm at Spiritwood, in 1982 where he and his wife Marjie started a family-owned business known as Fast Genetics.

Through the use of cutting edge technology this venture has become an internationally recognized high health swine genetics company. The company’s genetics are incorporated into sow herds throughout Canada, the US, Mexico and China. Harold’s legacy is a thriving world-class swine genetics company that is a major global player as well as a progressive employer in the Spiritwood region. He was named to Saskatchewan’s Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2015.

Harold has been flying for more than 20 years, has several ratings, including IFR, and operates off his private farm strip, CHM2. While most of his flying has been on the Canadian prairies, and to a private Fishing Lodge in the Northwest Territories, other excursions have included forays to Central Canada, Alaska, Mexico, Chile and even a safari in Eastern Australia.

The Fast farm has hosted many international students, all of whom have been treated to flights over the parkland area of Canada. Some of the students were on high school exchanges, while others were completing their University practicums. Harold and Marjie have also supported several high school travel scholarships, with preference to non-English speaking countries. They have two sons and two grandsons.

Like many pilots, Harold regularly uses his aircraft to generate funds for good causes, especially MS and Cancer research. He is excited about the upcoming Give Hope Wings flight around South America, which will afford him with the opportunity to step up his planning and navigation skills, while raising significant funds for Hope Air.