Her passion for planes was a guiding light in an otherwise difficult time for Skye Mandigo-Stoba.
Going through treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma in San Francisco, Skye had difficulty moving without help.
That’s when the 15-year-old learned she would take the trip of a lifetime – to Yellowknife – to check out the aircraft she had come to love: the DC-3.
Skye’s father, Ian Stoba, said dreaming of the trip brought her hope and calm at a time when those emotions were hard to find. The trip became a reality this week.
“It’s been a very long journey,” Skye told Cabin Radio, “to get from too sick to move on the couch to [flying] around in an airplane. It’s been really great.”
Skye travelled from California to Yellowknife to spend a few days up-close and personal with her favourite aircraft at Buffalo Airways.
Buffalo is one of the world’s best-known operators of the veteran aircraft, largely thanks to the DC-3’s starring role in the TV series Ice Pilots NWT, which followed Buffalo’s fortunes over six seasons. That’s how Skye first found out about the airline.
Her trip was organized by the Make-A-Wish Bay Area chapter, which worked with Make-A-Wish Canada to bring Mandigo-Stoba and her family north.
“I was asked … if there’s anything in the world you could do, what would you do? And I chose to come to Buffalo to see the planes,” said Skye.
Skye Mandigo-Stoba boarding her favourite aircraft, the DC-3. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio
“They are some of the last working piston-engine planes that aren’t just in a museum or flying to air shows,” she continued. “They’re still being used for their purpose.
“That was really fascinating to me, that there was a fleet of World War Two aeroplanes that could still do everything they could do in World War Two.”
Skye has been accompanied in Yellowknife by “Buffalo Joe” McBryan, the airline’s owner, who provided her with a trip over the city in a Norseman bush plane on Tuesday afternoon.
McBryan said Yellowknife is honoured to have people come as far as the family has.
He said the airline has long worked with Dreams Take Flight – a non-profit which flies children in need to a Disney theme park for a day – but this is the first time Buffalo has welcomed a Make-A-Wish participant.
To see Mandigo-Stoba’s passion for the DC-3, and aviation in general, was a treat for McBryan.
“It’s very good to see the the energy of a youth. Maybe I had it my own self one time. Maybe you did,” he joked.
At one point during the Norseman flight, McBryan handed the controls to Mandigo-Stoba. “She flew it very well, she’s very coordinated,” he said.
Skye plans to gain her pilot’s licence then begin a career in aircraft design or, alternatively, introducing renewable fuels to the industry.
Skye Mandigo-Stoba, right, with her sister Morgaine, centre, and father, Ian. Emelie Peacock/Cabin Radio
Dad Ian and older sister Morgaine came along for the trip. Ian said the family was struck by the kindness and generosity of the McBryan family and residents of the city.
“The whole time Skye was sick, we imagined this and we thought about this day and what it was going to be like,” he said. “To see it realized, an adventure that we’re having as a family today, is really, really, really special.”
For Morgaine, it was all about helping her younger sister have a good time.
“She’s been through a lot. It’s pretty cool to see her experience these things that she’s been thinking about for so long,” she said.
When asked if he can see Mandigo-Stoba in aviation one day, McBryan replied: “Your limit is just the limit of your imagination. Do what you want, go for it. Get ‘er done.”