“Tower, this is Charlie, Golf, Hotel, Xray, Tango….” How easily it rolls off the tongue after nearly 30 years of saying it. I first flew C-GHXT way back on February 10, 1989. Although I joined the Club in March 1986, HXT had become a member back in
1981.During those years of the early and mid ‘80s, she was flown nearly every Sunday by Adrian Renkers, Hart Long and Bob Watson, who often had her booked 6 weeks in advance!
On March 2, 1989, legendary instructor John Spronk began my instruction on a night endorsement in HXT. I was a green, 121 hours pilot back then and GHXT was a marvelous, gentle plane to fly and learn on and we all became very attached. On March 1 of the following year, 1990, I was taxiing out with two fellow work members on board when a mini-mustang attacked my left wing with its prop and left that wing one foot shorter!
His insurance paid for the repairs and the Club was only inconvenienced for a short time. But I’ll never forget the noise of the grinding metal as the ‘stang’s prop tore up that precious Cessna wing tip. To my amazement, one of my passengers, Ron, obviously disappointed that his chance for a flight was lost, turned to me and asked why we couldn’t take one of the other Club planes that were just sitting there in the hangar! He obviously didn’t understand my state of shock over the incident that had just taken place. (That encounter, by the way, was memorialized by Gary
Chapple in poem titled, “The Legend of Ciller Closkey” which is framed and hanging in the Club.)
After the repairs, I continued to fly HXT for the next 25 years with my friends, family and fellow Abbotsford Flying Club members, both during the day and at night. I flew my children and grand children for their first-ever flights in HXT and had innumerable enjoyable experiences with them and their friends. I flew the kids who came out for the COPA Flight 83 sponsored Young Eagles flights. My photo folder is filled with photos of smiling faces in front of that airplane. GHXT along with GZHQ and GIUK became OUR airplanes. We didn’t rent them—
we owned them. There was and is a bond there that can’t be easily explained but I think all pilots feel it and know what I’m talking about. The result of this is what past President Randy Kelley called, a ‘Culture of Care and Concern’ for our aircraft, and our pilots.
It is that emotional, intangible connection with airplanes that has allowed our Abbotsford Flying Club to survive and grow for more than 50 years. We couldn’t have lasted this long if we were simply being run as a business, only concerned with the bottom line and economically viable decisions, we would have disappeared years ago. The heart and soul of our Club is the people who feel this connection to airplanes and volunteer their time and energy, free of charge, to allow us to thrive year after year. If we had to pay all the people who work countless hours for the AFC’s various activities, (some worth hundreds of dollars an hour!), we would be broke in a year and our precious planes would all be lost. It is this ‘Pride of Ownership’ that keeps us going, year after year.
When it comes to logic verses emotion where airplanes are concerned, emotion wins out every time. Our decisions as a Club must address and satisfy this emotional attachment we have with our planes. The point is, they are not simply assets but rather ‘highly regarded possessions’. When one of our aircraft’s life is deemed to be coming to an end, there must be closure for the members who have grown attached to that aircraft over the years and decades. Let’s face it, unless something catastrophic happens, we only replace a plane once every 30 years or more. All members must be part of the decision making process to decide the fate of the aircraft to provide that closure necessary to accept and move on. We are not a business. We are a Club that mostly decides with our hearts and have strong feelings about our planes.
– Clark Closkey