Kelvin Goertzen
by News from Steinbach


Often when people think of the City of Steinbach they think of vehicles. Steinbach has been very purposely associated with vehicles and no small amount of time and money has been spent in branding it the Automobile City. Many years ago, local auto dealers put aside their individual competitiveness and came together on a marketing campaign to encourage people, primarily from Winnipeg, that Steinbach was “Worth the Trip” to purchase a vehicle. And if you didn’t know it already, to remind you, when you drive into the community from Winnipeg on Highway #12 there is a giant replica of a 1931 Rolls Royce Roadster with the “Automobile City” slogan underneath.

So, why is it that a community so connected to cars seems to have almost as much traffic in the sky? Without fanfare, Steinbach has become something of a flying hub in Manitoba.

Much of this history goes back more than 50 years through Harv’s Air Service in Steinbach. Harv’s Air operates a private airport in the community (the other is a municipal airport) and has been training pilots for decades. With two runways and a strong fleet of aircraft, the airport is a busy place with air taxi and maintenance services also being offered.

In fact, international students from around the world have been coming to live and train at Harv’s Air for many years. Now in cooperation with Providence College University, certificate, diploma and degree programs are available for those training to be pilots. What this means is that at most times of the day in Steinbach, if you look up in the sky you are likely to see a plane making its maneuvers and often taking off and touching down several times as pilots get in their training.

Perhaps even more surprising to some, there are many afternoons where you can sit on your deck at your home in Steinbach and watch world class aerobatics. That’s because Steinbach is home to one of Canada’s best aerobatic pilots in Luke Penner. Luke has been competing in aerobatics for nearly a decade and has been successful in competitions across North America. He has been previously named the Canadian National Champion several times and was captain of Team Canada when they competed at the World Advanced Aerobatic Championships in Las Vegas last year. More than just competing, Luke now also trains up and coming aerobatic pilots, doing so in Iceland recently.

Through these connections Steinbach was, last year, able to play host to the 2nd Annual Central Canada Aerobatic Championships. This was a full weekend event hosted at the Steinbach Airport that brought out hundreds of spectators to watch the competitors.

Steinbach’s reputation of being a city that is reaching for the sky grew last month when it hosted their Taste of Steinbach dinner for 500 at the Steinbach Airport. The entertainment for that evening surprised many visitors as they were instructed to look up, way up, and watch the aerobatic demonstration that was about to take place several hundred feet in the sky above Steinbach. In addition to the incredible local food, it was a unique way to feature the diverse and unknown aspects of the community for many visitors.

Transportation has always factored heavily into the history of the City of Steinbach. Many residents are familiar with trucking firms such as Penner International or formerly Reimer Express Lines which helped to move goods across North America. As already mentioned, the automobile has also been closely connected to Steinbach and its retail economy as well. But as the world continues to rely more on airline transport for moving both goods and people, the need for pilots and therefore flight training continues to grow. And Steinbach has been working to fill that need as well.

The next time you are in Steinbach, don’t forget to take a look at the giant car that welcomes you when you drive in near the Clearspring Village Mall. And by all means, the Steinbach auto dealers would welcome your business if you were in the market for a vehicle. But remember to also look up in the sky because you may very well see a pilot training to be your next captain on a future commercial flight or a plane doing aerobatic maneuvers.

After all, there are many reasons that Steinbach is worth the trip.

Kelvin Goertzen is the current MLA for the constituency of Steinbach. He has served in several Cabinet roles including Manitoba Premier and Deputy Premier.