By Steve Stewart
This instalment of the club’s history covers the period from mid-2004 to the end of 2008. The reason for starting in June 2004 is simply that it marks the start of our continuous electronic record of minutes from board meetings, general meetings and annual general meetings. The minutes and newsletters are all still available on the club website, which has developed a lot over the years, but which was originally created by Mark Thibault in 2004, and which he has maintained ever since. Mark provided a large pdf file of all those minutes from June 2004 through to December 2020. There are 2,721 pages in total, covering 16 ½ years. This instalment is for 4 ½ of those years. It is the first to deal with relatively recent events, which can be both a help and a hindrance to someone seeking to write a relatively short, yet complete and unbiased account. The amount of material available is vastly increased from previous instalments, and many of us remember details and nuances. What to include and what leave out, and how to avoid personal bias are questions that have no absolute answers. This is only an outline history; for detail you will have consult the sources directly. You might also choose to add you own account of certain episodes or issues. Pictures too, can be added later, by someone else.
Two issues characterize this period. The first was the expulsion and eventual return of a member. The second was the club’s relationship with the airport over it master plan, lease rates, and take-over of the hangars. These two issues played out against a background of the regular activities of flyouts, socials, aircraft, committee work etc, and also with an underlying problem of month-to-month financial practice, without assurance of adequate income.
A member had been expelled from the club in 2003, over accusations of removing or consuming beer from the bar without paying for it. He denied this, and there was widespread discontent with the way the board expelled him without giving members any details of their reasons. Monty Shore led the group that considered his expulsion unconstitutional. There were many in camera discussions at the board and at the general meetings. He maintained that he had been targeted because of personality conflicts with Bob Robertson, who was President at the time of the expulsion. The debate was often heated. Throughout 2004 and into 2005, the board(s) would not relent, and his applications to rejoin were repeatedly rejected. Eventually, the board allowed the member back in, but they insisted that he pay the full initiation fee again, as though he was a first-time new member. Again, he objected. President Bob Fatkin, who had not been around at the time of the expulsion, and was universally considered unbiased, put in a lot of work behind the scenes, and finally, the member agreed to pay the full initiation fee, but under protest, and the whole affair was declared finished in mid-2006. It had raised a number of issues regarding the powers of the board, disciplinary procedures, the need for a code of conduct, and the need to review the bylaws.
Work on these issues had started long before the affair was over. Daffydd Hermann was tasked with drafting a disciplinary process in 2005, and Heather Hicks worked on creating a Code of Conduct through 2004. Neither came to fruition, despite the sterling work contributed by Daffydd, Heather and others; falling victim to the immediate concerns of the ongoing situation. The bylaws were studied intensively by a series of Presidents and others, and in January 2008 Vice President Steve Stewart launched a full review as chair of a committee that welcomed participation from all members. After many constructive meetings, a completely revised set of bylaws was agreed by the committee and then went for legal review by Brian Loughlin. They were adopted unanimously at an extraordinary general meeting in January 2009, and then filed with Victoria.
Among other things, the new bylaws modified the membership grades. There were no changes for regular members and associate members. The existing Honorary Life Members (except Prince Philip) were renamed as Life Members, in recognition that they had earned their status. A new grade of Honorary Member was created. This title had been used previously for airshow volunteers, and in a moment of inspiration during the 40th anniversary celebrations in 2001, President Steve Kulczycky had bestowed it on the Finance Minister Gary Collins. It appears that Collins had once applied to join the club, but was refused. At that time, he was a flight instructor. His new honorary title avoided embarrassment all around. It was an entirely honorary title without any rights. The bylaws enable the board to create Honorary Members for entirely ad hoc or pragmatic reasons, and for whatever term it decides. At this time Prince Philip’s status was changed from Honorary Life Member to Honorary Member for life. He had been unaware of his membership in the club, but happily accepted his new status.
Although not part of the bylaws, a process was drafted by Bob Robertson and developed by the committee, for how to appoint Life Members in future. The intention was to avoid the type of embarrassment that had happened in 2007 when Tom Zurowski was nominated for HLM by Monty Shore from the floor at the February general meeting. Tom was present at the time. The motion was quite properly tabled, pending proper process. Some time later, when there were two HLM vacancies, Larry Runnalls and Tom Zurowski were nominated, with the intention that members would vote on the motion at the AGM. Again, the motion was tabled.
In this period the club had lost four of its Honorary Life Members: Herb Hough in 2005; Frank Hubbard in 2006; and Bob Velvarsky and Franz Stigler in 2008. We also lost long-time member Hart Long in 2004, Past-President Sam Stephens in 2006, and long-time former member Wally Horne in 2008. All were from natural causes except the loss of Herb Hough. In August 2005 Herb and a passenger, in his Wagabond, went missing on a flight from Vavenby (north of Kamloops) to Abbotsford, without having filed a flight plan. The search covered a wide area and was finally called off in September without a result. Many members had been involved. Eventually, in early October the aircraft was found in the North Thompson River where it had crashed just after take off. Both Herb and his passenger had been killed.
Before that, another flying incident had happened in July 2005, but fortunately without a tragic ending. A member, flying ZHQ with passengers, had got stuck above cloud with fuel running low. He eventually found a gap and descended, but with his engine about to stop at any moment, he landed in a small field and finally stopped when he reached a wire fence. Deciding that any damage was superficial, He obtained fuel from somewhere, and after some further complications, flew back to CYXX. His decisions were called into question, and were the subject of a disciplinary enquiry. He paid for the damage that wasn’t covered by insurance, and undertook to no longer fly club aircraft. Because the engine and propellor had already stopped before reaching the fence, there was no need to tear down the engine. This had not been the case some months earlier, in May, when a member had landed on Pender Island and taxied through long grass – long enough to drag on the propellor and slow the engine. This was considered a prop strike by Lycoming, and the engine had to be torn down and the crankshaft inspected. It seemed that ZHQ was forever undergoing expensive engine work. In 2008 it developed a crack in the crankcase, which put it off-line for quite some time. And at the same time three cracked cylinders had to be replaced in HXT.
Other, more predictable aircraft issues included the approaching need to rebuild IUK’s engine, the need for 406 MHz ELTs, a desire to install GPS in IUK, and the need to paint IUK. As well, IUK had a fuel burn rate problem unless the mixture control was pulled most of the way back. The problem was that at take off, landing, in climb, and at low altitudes, normal practice is to run full-rich, and at full-rich IUK was burning up to 14 gph. Its fuel burn only came down to a reasonable level with significant use of the mixture control. This didn’t make it run lean. It just stopped it running excessively rich. The problem was not solved until IUK was completely refurbished in 2012.
The club aircraft were the source of two other interrelated concerns. One was their declining hours of use each year, and the other was the hourly rental rates. The cost of flying has always been high, and members were simply flying less than previously. But this meant the fixed costs were spread over less flying hours, and the result was a need to increase hourly rates. As the rates increased, the hours flown decreased further. The club needed more members, to increase the hours flown, and thus hold down the hourly rates. But not all members were happy with the prospect of increased member numbers, who would compete for aircraft bookings, and possibly join the club just because they wanted to fly!
The airport had been owned by the City of Abbotsford since 1997, and they were keen to create a master plan for how it should develop as a revenue source for the City. They had purchased it for just $10. Their plan had huge impact on the club and other tenants. It called for a new terminal building in the infield and re-designation of the appropriate land use in most parts of the airport. The whole GA compound, containing our hangar building, the two Jake Friessen buildings, and the three Harry Froese buildings, plus our clubhouse, were in the wrong place. That whole area was needed for some unspecified high-value development that would emerge in time. This made leases impossible to renew. The previous Transport Canada practice was to renew leases almost automatically, on 10 year terms, but now the airport was only granting extensions, one year at a time. The crunch came in 2007. Someone at the City had spotted an opportunity to terminate low paying leases and to turn them into a direct rental operation – they had realized that the existing leases included vesting clauses on expiry. This meant they could acquire buildings from former leaseholders at no cost; by not renewing leases they kept the land available for those imagined dream developments; and in the meantime they could make much more money from renting. When the club’s leases expired in May 2007, they simply took over ownership of the buildings, and then offered to rent them back to us at massively increased cost, on a month by month basis, and with the expectation that GA would have to move somewhere else at just 90 days notice.
This put the club in a horrible situation. Finances were already weak and there was no ability to pay the rents demanded. There was no security of tenure, and the club was faced with the prospect of being moved out on very short notice. There was no money to undertake new development elsewhere on the airport. It also meant that the club needed to buy out the members who had invested in the hangars’ construction. Jonathon Dugdale and Steve Stewart met with the airport numerous times, seeking for a solution. The eventual agreement between the club and the airport saw a much lower $/sqft rental rate than had been asked for originally, and an absolute minimization of how many square feet were rented. For the hangar building — it meant we only rented the building itself, with the airport retaining all responsibility for the taxiways and tie-downs. For the clubhouse, we rented its actual footprint plus a one metre strip around the perimeter and from the front door to the road. Then there were the hangar investors to deal with. They had each put in $12,000 towards initial construction cost, and this gave them a hangar, which they ‘owned’. Over time, if they moved away or no longer needed their hangar, the club found funds to acquire the hangar for the initial contribution plus a CPI adjustment. The club had quite recently paid out for three hangars in 2005 and one in 2006. And there were still nine hangar investors remaining to be paid, for a total cost of around $135k. In principle there were funds to cover these costs, but they were tied up in two bonds; one with the Royal Bank for $48k would mature in 2008, and the other was a Bell Canada bond for about $140k maturing in 2010. The smaller bond would provide a welcome injection of cash but was not enough to pay off the investors. The Bell Canada bond had to be sold, but complications meant that this could not happen until July of 2009. Then the investors were paid off. Their patience had helped prevent insolvency. The club had already changed their status from ‘owners’ to ‘renters’ effective from May 2007. Some were not happy with the new arrangement, but all eventually accepted the changes. Tom Grozier had taken over as Treasurer by this time, and he put huge time and effort into the new arrangements, and managing cash flow.
All the hangar rents were increased in January 2008 to a level closer to market rates. However, club members received a discount. The 90 day cancellation clause remained, and efforts were made to find a way to relocate the hangars and clubhouse when necessary. In the meantime, although we no longer owned them, the hangars were now a dependable revenue stream, so long as the 90 day notice held off.
One effect of the uncertainty pre 2007 and the 90 day clause afterwards, was a reluctance to invest money into building repairs and maintenance. Even so, the Butch Merrick store room was completely renovated in 2005, the flight room was significantly improved, the clubhouse exterior was painted by Dean Lundstrom in 2007 and the clubhouse roof was redone in 2006. Paying for the roof required a special assessment of $30 per member. It is not clear why the storeroom had come to be considered the Butch Merrick room. In 1978, soon after he died, the meeting room had been named in his honour. Perhaps that had been forgotten in the intervening years, because, as well as putting Butch’s name on a new name plate on the storeroom door, it was decided to also name the meeting room for Gordon Cockereil, the flight room for John McGowan, and another room for Lloyd Weeks. Or maybe there is another explanation.
The club’s finances had been a concern for some time. Since the year-of-no-airshow (1998) the club’s revenue from the show was much reduced, and much less certain. It came from the campground, from film sales and from the Broken Prop. During the year, various other activities such as an annual auction and garage sale also brought in revenue, as did some social events such as Wings and Wheels. And, of course, there were the membership dues, initiation fees, bar income, aircraft rental income, and some income from hangars. Airshow film sales had previously been very profitable, with the club netting thousands of dollars from each airshow, but digital cameras killed that business. In 2004 film sales revenue to the club was only $500 and they were discontinued from 2005. The Broken Prop was hugely popular, but it consumed vast amounts of volunteer effort. And it had come to depend on the able leadership of Kathryn Carpenter. After she left the club there was change of direction for 2007. Volunteers who had previously worked at the Broken Prop were re-deployed to other airshow areas for which the club was responsible – fly-in aircraft, static display, and campground; and a contractor was brought in to run the Broken Prop. The service to campers and volunteers was preserved, but the income to the club all but disappeared.
Before 1998, there had been three major income streams: aircraft rentals, membership dues, and airshow income. But aircraft rental income was lower than operating costs (as it always has been), and airshow income was now reduced and uncertain. The membership dues continued pay for the clubhouse and its associated expenses (as has been the case from 1968 to the present day). The other sources of income were not as reliable as the airshow income had been previously — even though they could generate significant revenue, such as the 2004 auction which raised $8,679. Most other events only raised amounts of hundreds of dollars, and they might sometimes lose money. The club needed more revenue: to make up the shortfall from aircraft operations, to pay increasing lease rates, and to periodically buy out hangar investors as their hangars became available. The need for a strategic plan was clear, and the first plan had been put together in early 2004. It contained a wealth of good objectives, but it could not adequately address the financial issues, and it could not foresee the future actions of the City with regard to the club’s leases. There were periodic increases in both annual membership dues and aircraft hourly rates. Another strategic plan was developed in 2007, by which time the intentions of the City were clear. The new plan recognized the need to review the constitution and bylaws, the uncertainty regarding the hangars and the clubhouse, the need for more reliable revenue, and the need to review and improve all financial practices. In 2008 the hangars had already started to contribute more significantly to club revenues, and Tom Grozier undertook a complete update of financial practices. He had inherited a system that relied on diligent application by the Treasurer and a group of other members, but which was no longer adequate. Annual reports and tax returns had not been filed, some members’ accounts had been in arrears for a long time, a number of accounts were disputed, and some accounts were obviously no longer collectable. He brought in a professional bookkeeper to keep track of everything, and for the first two years he paid her bills from his own pocket.
During this period there were flyouts, socials, parties, Young Eagles flights, Wing and Wheels, and all the usual activities of the club. The auctions and garage sales had been a great source of revenue, but they did not continue after Carol Griffith stepped down from organizing them. By 2004 the club’s Young Eagles flights had flown over 500 kids, but 2005 was the final year of AFC participation. In September 2006 the club flew 24 boy scouts, and their leaders, instead.
The major social event of 2006 was the 60th anniversary of John Spronk’s first solo flight. It had been in a Tiger Moth, and in recognition of this, the Museum of Flight in Langley flew him to the event in their Tiger Moth. Franz Stigler’s 92nd birthday was celebrated in 2007; followed by Bill Gibson’s 80th birthday and Monty Shore’s 90th birthday in 2008. In 2005 the club hosted a very successful reunion for former members of 5OTU, who had been based at RCAF Abbotsford during the war. Also, there were corn-roasts and turkey dinners and a pork roast at the club. In the early part of this period Dean Lundstrom organized many popular dinners for members at various local restaurants, and in later years Rick Duerkson began to steadily build the TGIFs into a well attended, regular event. Many flyouts were planned, and many were cancelled for weather. But some major flyouts did happen, involving multiple planes and large groups of members, to places like Alert Bay, Victoria, Nanaimo, and Sproat Lake. Some members went as far as Oshkosh and Reno. Many went to Chilliwack for breakfast and pie.
Wings and Wheels started in 1998, as something to do instead of an airshow. It was very popular, attracting dozens of aircraft and scores of cars. It usually made money, if the weather complied, and the auction and garage sale could be held on the same day. It relied on bringing aircraft through the airside perimeter fence, and the club had modified the fence so that it could be laid flat on the ground, thus allowing aircraft to taxy over it. But this left the fence ‘floppy’, because the posts were cut at ground level and only the tensioned wire held it up. After taking over the hangar compound, the airport did some improvements to drainage, the gates, and the fence. They moved the north fence about 10 feet away from the ex-Friessen buildings as a security measure – and while doing so they restored its structural integrity, so that it could no longer lie flat. This ended Wings and Wheels, until, under new airport administration some years later, when they installed the present 40 foot wide gate.
A whole list of other organisations continued to use the clubhouse. CASARA and the RAA had their own keys and held regular meetings, as did the Lions from 2008. The Abbotsford Police held ad hoc briefings there. Westjet, the police and others had Christmas parties. The Aerobatics club was welcomed each year at the time of their competitions. The Vintage Car Club held reunions. A new flight school, 3 Lines Aviation, ran a ground school in the meeting room in 2006, and its CFI, Justin Miller became a member. Many members also booked the clubhouse for their own private functions.
Throughout, the regular meetings (and some irregular) continued. In 2004 Ron Shore talked about his trip on Concorde. In 2005 Frank Hubbard gave a fascinating talk about his professional experiences as an Aeronautical Engineer. In 2005 Keith Wade spoke about flying in Papua New Guinea. In 2005 Michael Desmazes talked about the wartime history of the airport. In 2006 Clark Closkey described events from his year in Australia. In 2008 Kaitlyn Herbst of Global TV told us about her experiences in the Global traffic helicopter. Also in 2008, we heard about the Mosquito restoration happening at YVR, Adrian Cooper visited to talk about the Reno air races, George Miller talked about his career, and Taylor Morrison told us about his trip to Oshkosh as a new pilot in ZHQ.
They were interesting times.
Click here for an interesting account of the RAF’s Vulcan bombers at Red Flag in Nevada back in the day…
An older story but still an interesting read:
It was a rough and noisy plane by today’s standards, but at the time who would know the difference as that was the best they had. They sure stood up well. We members of the over-the-hill lot can still well remember when the gooney-bird was considered to be high tech…
Now the DC3 has been grounded by EU health and safety rules.
‘It groaned, it protested, it rattled, it ran hot, it ran cold, it ran rough, it staggered along on hot days and scared you half to death. Its wings flexed and twisted in a horrifying manner, it sank back to earth with a great sigh of relief. But it flew and it flew and it flew.’
This is the memorable description by Captain Len Morgan, a former pilot with Braniff Airways, of the unique challenge of flying a Douglas DC-3.
It’s carried more passengers than any plane in history, but – Now the DC-3 has been grounded by EU health and safety rules.
The DC-3 served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, and was a favourite among pilots!
For more than 70 years, the aircraft known through a variety of nicknames — the Doug, the Dizzy, Old Methuselah, the Gooney Bird, the Grand Old Lady — but which to most of us is simply the Dakota — has been the workhorse of the skies.
With its distinctive nose-up profile when on the ground and extraordinary capabilities in the air, it transformed passenger travel and served in just about every military conflict from World War II onwards.
Now the Douglas DC-3 — the most successful plane ever made, which first took to the skies just over 30 years after the Wright Brothers’ historic first flight — is to carry passengers in Britain for the last time.
Romeo Alpha and Papa Yankee, the last two passenger-carrying Dakotas in the UK, are being forced into retirement because of — yes, you’ve guessed it — health & safety rules.
Their owner, Coventry-based Air Atlantique, has reluctantly decided it would be too expensive to fit the required emergency- escape slides and weather-radar systems required by new European rules for their 65-year-old planes, which served with the RAF during the war.
Mike Collett, the company’s chairman, says: “We’re very saddened.” The end of the passenger-carrying British Dakotas is a sad chapter in the story of the most remarkable aircraft ever built, surpassing all others in the length of service, dependability, and achievement.
It has been a luxury airliner, transport plane, bomber, fighter, and flying hospital, and introduced millions of people to the concept of air travel.
It has flown more miles, broken more records, carried more passengers and cargo, accumulated more flying time, and performed more ‘impossible’ feats than any other plane in history, even in these days of super-jumbos that can circle the world non-stop.
Indeed, at one point, 90 percent of the world’s air traffic was operated by DC-3s. More than 10,500 DC-3s have been built since the prototype was rolled out to astonished onlookers at Douglas’s Santa Monica factory in 1935.
With its eagle beak, large square windows, and sleek metal fuselage, it was luxurious beyond belief, in contrast to the wood-and-canvas bone shakers of the day, where passengers had to huddle under blankets against the cold.
Even in the 1930s, the early Dakotas had many of the comforts we take for granted today, like on-board loos and a galley that could prepare hot food. Early menus included wild-rice pancakes with blueberry syrup, served on bone china with silver service.
For the first time, passengers were able to stand- up and walk- around while the plane was airborne.
But the design had one vital feature, ordered by pioneering aviator Charles Lindbergh, who was a director of TWA, which placed the first order for the plane. The DC-3 should always, Lindbergh directed, be able to fly on one- engine.
Pilots have always loved it, not just because of its rugged reliability but because, with no computers on board, it is the epitome of ‘flying by the seat- of- the- pants’. One aviator memorably described the Dakota as a ‘collection of parts flying in loose formation’, and most reckon they can land it pretty well on a postage stamp.
Captain Len Morgan says: ‘The Dakota could lift virtually any load strapped to its back and carry it anywhere and in any weather safely.’
It is the very human scale of the plane that has so endeared it to successive generations. With no pressurization in the cabin, it flies low and slow. And unlike modern jets, it’s still possible to see the world go by from the cabin of a Dakota. (The name, incidentally, is an acronym for Douglas Aircraft Company Transport Aircraft.)
As a former Pan Am stewardess puts it: “From the windows, you seldom look upon a flat, hazy, distant surface to the world. “Instead, you see the features of the earth — curves of mountains, colours of lakes, cars moving on roads, ocean waves crashing on shores, and cloud formations as a sea of popcorn and powder puffs.
But it is for heroic feats in military service that the legendary plane is most distinguished. It played a major role in the invasion of Sicily, the D-Day landings, the Berlin Airlift, and the Korean & Vietnam wars, performing astonishing feats along the way.
When General Eisenhower was asked what he believed were the foundation stones for America’s success in World War II, he named the bulldozer, the jeep, the half-ton truck, and the Dakota.
When the Burma Road was captured by the Japanese, and the only way to send supplies into China was over the mountains at 19,000 ft, the Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek said: ‘Give me 50 DC-3s, and the Japs can have the Burma Road ..’
In 1945, a Dakota broke the world record for a flight with an engine out of action, traveling for 1,100 miles from Pearl Harbor to San Diego, with just one propeller working.
Another in RNZAF service lost a wing after colliding mid-air with a Lockheed bomber. Defying all the rules of aerodynamics, and with only a stub remaining, the plane landed, literally, on a wing and a prayer at Whenuapai Airbase.
Once, a Dakota pilot carrying paratroops across the Channel to France heard an enormous bang. He went aft to find that half the plane had been blown away, including part of the rudder. With engines still turning, he managed to skim the wave-tops before finally making it to safety.
Another wartime Dakota was rammed by a Japanese fighter that fell to earth, while the American crew returned home in their severely damaged — but still airborne —plane, and were given the distinction of ‘downing an enemy aircraft’.
Another DC-3 was peppered with 3,000 bullets in the wings and fuselage by Japanese fighters. It made it back to base, was repaired with canvas patches and glue, and then sent back into the air.
During the evacuation of Saigon in 1975, a Dakota crew managed to cram aboard 98 Vietnamese orphans, although the plane was supposed to carry no more than 30 passengers.
In addition to its rugged military service, it was the DC-3 that transformed commercial -passenger flying in the post-war years.
Easily converted to a passenger plane, it introduced the idea of affordable air travel to a world that had previously seen it as exclusively for the rich.
Flights across America could be completed in about 15 hours (with three stops for refueling), compared with the previous reliance on short hops in commuter aircraft during the day and train- travel overnight.
It made the world a smaller place, gave people the opportunity for the first time to see previously inaccessible destinations, and became a romantic symbol of travel.
The DC-3’s record has not always been perfect. After the war, military-surplus Dakotas were cheap, often poorly maintained, and pushed to the limit by their owners. Accidents were frequent. One of the most tragic happened in 1962, when Zulu Bravo, a Channel Airways flight from Jersey, slammed into a hillside on the Isle of Wight in thick fog. All three crew and nine of the 14 passengers died, but the accident changed the course of aviation history.
The local radar, incredibly, had been switched off because it was a Sunday. The national air safety rules were changed to ensure it never happened again.
‘The DC-3 was, and is, unique,’ wrote the novelist and aviation writer Ernest Gann, ‘since no other flying machine has cruised every sky known to mankind, been so admired, cherished, glamorized, known the touch of so many pilots and sparked so many tributes.
“It was without question the most successful aircraft ever built, and even in this jet-age, it seems likely that the surviving DC-3s may fly about their business forever..”
This may be no exaggeration. Next month, Romeo Alpha and Papa Yankee begin a farewell tour of Britain’s airports before carrying their final passengers at the International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford on July 16.
But after their retirement, there will still be Dakotas flying in the farthest corners of the world, kept going with love, dedication, and sheer ingenuity. Nearly three-quarters of a century after they first entered service, it’s still possible to get a Dakota ride somewhere in the world.
I recently took a DC-3 into the heart of the Venezuelan jungle — to the “Lost World” made famous in the novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is one of the most remote regions on the planet — where the venerable old planes have long been used because they can be maneuvered like birds in the wild terrain.
It’s a scary experience being strapped into a torn canvas chair, raked back at an alarming angle (walking along the aisle of a stationary Dakota is like climbing a steep hill) as you wait for take-off.
The engines spew smoke and oil as they shudder into life with what DC-3 fans describe as ‘music’, but to me sounded like the hammering of a thousand pneumatic-drills. But soon you are skimming the legendary flat-topped mountains protruding from the jungle below, purring over wild rivers and the Angel Falls , the world’s highest rapids. Suddenly the ancient plane drops like a stone to a tiny landing strip just visible in the trees.
The pilot dodges bits of dismantled DC-3 engines scattered on the ground and avoids a stray dog as he touches down with scarcely a bump. How did he do it without air traffic control and the minimum of navigational aids? ”C’est facile — it’s easy,” he shrugged.
Today, many DC-3s live-on throughout the world as crop-sprayers, surveillance patrols, air freighters in forgotten African states, and even luxury executive transports. One, owned by a Houston lumber company, had mink-covered door- knobs, while another belonging to a Texas rancher had sofas and reclining chairs upholstered with the skins of unborn calves..
In Jaipur, India, a Dakota is licensed for flying wedding ceremonies.
Even when they have ended their aerial lives, old Dakotas have become mobile homes, hamburger stands and hen houses. One even serves as a football team changing room.
Clark Gable’s private DC-3, which once ferried chums such as John and Bobby Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Ronald Reagan, is in a theme park in San Marino. But don’t assume it won’t run again. Some of the oldest hulks have been put back in the skies.
The ancient piston-engines are replaced by modern turboprops, and many a pilot of a modern jet has been astonished to find a Dakota alongside him on the climb away from the runway.
So what is the enduring secret of the DC-3? David Egerton, professor of the history of science and technology at Imperial College, London, says we should rid our minds of the idea that the most recent inventions are always the best.
‘The very fact that the DC-3 is still around and performing a useful role in the world is a powerful reminder that the latest and most expensive technology is not always the one that changes history,’ he says.
It’s long been an aviation axiom that ‘the only replacement for the DC-3 is another DC-3’. So it’s fortunate that at least one seems likely to be around for a very long time to come.
In 1946, a DC-3 on a flight from Vienna to Pisa crashed into the top of the Rosenlaui Glacier in the Swiss Alps. The aircraft was not damaged and all the passengers were rescued, but it quickly began to disappear as a blinding snowstorm raged.
Swiss engineers have calculated that it will take 600 years for it to slide- down inside the glacier and emerge at the bottom.
The most asinine ruling ever dreamed up by a nightmare bureaucracy!!!
I especially appreciate the part requiring “escape slides”. On it’s belly, you can step down from the aircraft floor to the ground.
ONE OF THE SAFEST PLANES EVER BUILD, FOR OUR USE,
WITHOUT ALL THE NEW GADGETS,
IS BEING GROUNDED.
IT SURE BROUGHT US WHERE EVER AND WHENEVER WE WANTED
AND TOOK US BACK SAFELY.
Thanks a million ‘Old Bird’, DC3, C47 or ‘DAKOTA’.
You’ll be missed a lot, for carrying us to safety, when we needed you to.
Club member Ken Bucholz made a “Flight into Yesterday”I was going through some old magazines of his fathers.
The articles and ads are from the December 1955 issue of Canadian
Cessna Aircraft is now producing a tricycle undercarriage version of
the 170, known as the 172, with a tail similar to the 180.
It has a “land-o-matic” gear you can drive!
The story is about a BC aviator, Albert Mah from Prince Rupert.
AFC History 1967 to 1979
By Steve Stewart
We pick up the story of the AFC in 1967. By far the most significant event of that year was the Centennial Air Show, which was an unmitigated success in every respect. It has been fully described in our Airshow History, and it is also AFC history. The only slightly negative thing we can find in the records concerning that show, emerged later, when EAA Ch85 asked to be part of the 1968 show. They specifically stated that they did not want to be responsible for car parking, so we can surmise that this had been one of their responsibilities in 1967, and that they were not happy with it. But, other than that minor quibble, we can only restate that the 1967 airshow was a fantastic show in every respect. It was the biggest public event of the Centennial year; it was a fully national and international event; it attracted hundreds of thousands of guests; it injected significant money into the region’s economy; and it put Abbotsford firmly on the world map of international airshows. Both the AFC and EAA took just over $6,000 from the net revenue for their own club purposes, and each re-invested $17,500 back into the airshow organization. These were huge amounts compared to the funds they previously had available. Just over a year later the EAA would pull out of further involvement, and demand repayment of its investment. That money is what, in part, enabled creation of the EAA Northwest Fly-In, which became the Arlington Fly-in. So, although the split was acrimonious at the time, there was an ultimate good and positive result.
The airshow would continue to go from one success to another, although there were some years not as successful as others. And the continuing flow of revenue from the show was what enabled and fueled some of the developments we will look at in the AFC. But first we should consider their developing relationship.
Back then, there was universal recognition that the airshow was the creature of the AFC. It was the AFC that was recognized by COPA, by AOPA, and by the federal government in 1970, as having created and developed the airshow. The legal status of the airshow was as a not-for-profit society, with its own board of directors. Those Directors were also the only Members of the society. Four things tied the AIASS to the AFC.
- The AFC directly appointed 14 of the 28 AIASS Directors, and at times the AFC sought to instruct those Directors on what line they should take.
- Since the departure of the EAA, the AFC was the only investor in the AIASS, and thus had a claim on all its assets.
- The AFC was identified as the Sponsor of the AIAS. This term carried strong proprietary implications at that time. It did not mean the type of sponsor that simply provides funds in return for recognition or naming rights etc.
- The AFC took on the entire task of producing the airshow, and was paid an agreed fee each year in return. This was termed the ‘Production Grant’.
However, the legal relationship was not really as clear as we might have hoped. In particular, the term Sponsor was not defined. A general consensus of opinion believed that the AIASS constitution and Bylaws could not be changed without express agreement from the AFC, although this not appear anywhere in the bylaws themselves. And there was a belief, backed up by a legal opinion obtained in 1979, that the AFC would be liable for AIASS debts. There was also concern in the AFC about who were the other 14 Directors of the AIASS, and how they were being chosen. But for the most part these concerns were just hovering in the background, the AIASS operated as a separate entity, and issues were worked through, rather than being clinically analysed and resolved. The only mention of the airshow in the AFC bylaws was introduced in 1969, and it required that the AFC President be one of the airshow directors appointed by the club.
There was general consensus that the success of the airshow itself was a good thing for both the AIASS and the AFC. Right from the early days of the club there had been two reasons for wanting to put on an airshow. One reason was that it could raise funds. But the other was that everyone just wanted a show. The financial aspects are nice, and are necessary for success, but the second reason is what really builds interest, brings out volunteers, brings in the public, and gets the local community to support the event. This is as important now as it ever was. Having an airshow is one of the defining characteristics of the AFC, of CYXX and of Abbotsford.
The mechanism by which the AFC benefitted financially was an agreement whereby the club was paid a Production Grant each year in return for all the volunteer hours put in to producing the show. After the unpleasant wrangling associated with the departure of the EAA at the end of 1968, it was soon agreed to settle the amount of the grant early in the year, rather than making it a function of the show’s financial performance. That said, there were years when the show actually lost money, and the agreed production grant was a financial burden. In 1976, the AFC paid back $1,500 temporarily, to help with cash flow. From 1970 to 1974 the Production Grant was $7,000. It was raised to $10,000 for 1975, to $12,000 for 1980, and to $17,000 in 1981, staying at that sum through 1985. After paying the Production Grant to the AFC, the AIASS Financial Statements indicate net losses for 1971, 1976, 1977, 1981, 1984 and 1985. But in between there were some very positive years, and by 1981 the AIASS cash equity had grown to over $250k, after having started at $35k in 1968. The AFC never asked for a return on its initial investment.
Unlike the airshow annual net revenues, the AFC income stream from the Production Grant did not fluctuate. It was this reliable Production Grant that enabled the AFC to budget each year for what it would spend on aircraft, buildings, flying incentives, socials and community outreach. But the money did have to be earned, and every member was expected to help earn it, by volunteering their time both before and during the show.
Each year, an overall summary of how many members put in how much time, and which listed all the areas of activity and responsibility, was provided by the AFC to the AIASS, in order to support the agreed value of the Production Grant. It could be backed up by detailed records of who had volunteered for how long, exactly when, and what they did. This detail was used by the AFC internally, to determine eligibility for club programs such as the flying incentive.
Treasurer Sandy Bazen described the financial success of the 1967 show to the AFC members in December. Almost immediately, at the January 1968 meeting, a ballot was taken regarding the purchase of an aircraft; which passed by 24 votes in favour and 11 votes against. The budget for 1968 showed an allocation of $3,500 for the purpose. Glenn Matthews chaired the acquisition committee, and eventually, once the purchase was made, the whole process was written up well in a newspaper report. The first aircraft considered, in February, was an 85HP Champ, which would require hand swinging of the propeller. An offer was made, but did not work out. In June, Matthews went to look at a 90HP Champ, and John Spronk went to see a J3 Cub in Vernon. There is an unfortunate gap in the Minutes for six months, so we have no further details other than the newspaper report, but we know the eventual upshot was the purchase of FNSC, a 1961 Cessna 150B, from Abbotsford Air Services. This was an aircraft that many members had already flown and were familiar with. It had taken almost a year to settle on this aircraft, and it entered service with the club in January 1969. However, as President Joe McWhinney commented, it was only one aircraft, and the club’s 70 members expected to continue relying on AAS and SAS rentals for most of their flying. Aircraft ownership has been part of the AFC operation ever since the purchase of NSC.
One of the issues to be resolved was how much to charge for flying time. The solution adopted did not undercut either SAS or AAS, and it also provided cheap flying to members. Members could fly either the club’s own aircraft or rent from AAS or SAS. The club’s hourly rates were lower than either rental operator, but if a rental C150 was flown, the club paid the difference in rates, so the final price to a member was the same for all options. Quite reasonably, members were expected to take NSC, if it was available, instead of a rental C150. This applied to all members who qualified to fly NSC. Qualification required a ride with a check pilot. In fact, there were five different rates, with the lowest rate (E) being for members who had joined before 1966, and the highest rate (A) for the newest qualifying members. We still have the roster of who was approved to fly NSC, and at what rate, in 1969. It shows 19 pilots, 8 of whom joined before 1966 and who paid the lowest hourly rate. The rates were posted in the clubhouse, but were not recorded in the surviving paperwork.
The Flying Incentive also continued in operation, and this paid members to fly. The amounts of incentive available, how quickly it was being used, and what flights qualified, were all under constant review. Student pilots had to have completed their first solo to be included. It also included aircraft owners – in October 1967 it was decided that owners could claim up to 2.5 hours value back-dated to March. This was one of the first things agreed as soon as the financial success of the 1967 airshow started to become apparent. (Other decisions at that same time were to take St.John’s Ambulance people for plane rides at the club’s expense and to sponsor the Air Cadets.) In 1967 the incentive had cost the club a total of $1,394.31 and was almost half of the total budget. For 1968 the incentive was settled at $6 per hour for up to 20 hours, and $2,150 was budgeted, from a total budget (not including the aircraft purchase) of $3,780. Every monthly meeting included a report on how fast the incentive funds were being used up. The incentive was very generous. In 1967 a C150 could be rented for $10/hour from AAS or $10.50 from SAS, and the club incentive reduced these numbers by $2.50. In 1968 the C150 rental rates increased to $13 and $12, but the club incentive was increased to $6. It is not surprising that the monthly reports often showed the incentive value being used up faster than was planned.
We don’t have a record of what the hourly rates were for NSC, but in August 1969 the Executive noted that it was not flying as much as expected. The reason was put down to the low rates available from AAS, which were made even more affordable by the AFC flying incentive. Their response was to lower the NSC rate. They also lowered the cost of a check ride in order to encourage more members to qualify.
Unfortunately, we have no surviving minutes from Jan to Oct 1970, but at some point the club decided to buy another aircraft, and this time chose a Cessna 172. This was FVBU, a 1966 Cessna 172H, and its purchase price was $8,750. In December the rental rates, for new members, were noted as $15/hour for the C172 and $10 for the C150. For more established members the rates were $13.50 and $8.50. The five rate levels had been reduced to just two. It was also noted that the C172 cost $14/hour to operate, and that NSC was not paying its way. From Nov 1970 to Oct 1971, NSC flew a total of just 100 hours, whereas VBU flew 200 hours, and as a result the decision was made to sell NSC.
During 1972 and into 1973 the club discussed purchase of another C172 and there was a motion to purchase a 1960 Cherokee 180 for $10,500, but this would have required a loan of $2,000 at 9%, and the motion was defeated. In Jan 1973 the club was looking at another Cherokee, available for $11,123. It came to visit in March, and by April the club had bought it. This was FCBO, a 1964 PA-28-180.
The aircraft were parked outside at AAS, and in 1974 this cost $100/year for each plane. Intake plugs were not always used, and birds built nests around engines. And CBO was leaking. There was discussion about moving the aircraft indoors, and about building a four-place hangar, but nothing came of it. A similar proposal had been discussed in 1970-71, and it came up again in 1975.
Aircraft repairs and maintenance had become a significant item in the budget ($5,991 in 1975). The aircraft cost significantly more to operate than was collected in rental receipts (shortfall of $2,840 in 1975). This probably contributed to the scaling back of the total value of the flying incentive. However, the club had more than enough money coming in from the airshow. In 1975 the production grant was $10,000 and the club also netted $1,653 from film sales; membership dues only contributed $2,376 to the club’s total income. Aircraft maintenance, radio equipment, and the flying incentive were the large expenses in the budget, with clubhouse, lease and other costs being much lower.
One aircraft ownership opportunity, that the club declined, was an offer from Conair in 1976 to sell a Cessna 337 Bird Dog to the club for $30k and then lease it back for two months in summer for $6k.
In January 1977 a discussion was held regarding the idea of buying a third aircraft, but members agreed that they preferred that the money be spent to provide more subsidy to two aircraft.
Later in 1977 there was renewed discussion on upgrading the aircraft, and in September, $10k per aircraft was voted for this purpose. But in fact VBU was replaced instead of being upgraded. It was sold to club member Lucky Hooieveid. VBU’s replacement was GHXT, a 1975 Cessna 172M, which the club would keep until December 2015. It was purchased for $10,750 plus taxes.
Early in 1978, CBO was also replaced, by GIEV, a 1976 Piper PA-28-151. And in May the executive voted a flat rate of $20/hour for aircraft rentals (HXT and IEV), regardless of membership term.
The flying incentive had changed every year, and its continuation was always subject to a definite decision at the start of each year. In the early years it was often targeted at specific fly-outs, and qualifying pilots were expected to take other members with them as passengers. As time went by, it became a more general way to simply subsidise members’ flying. At one point it applied to rentals from any source, but was usually limited to just AAS and SAS. SAS closed its training operation at Abbotsford in 1969, so only AAS was involved for some years, but applicability was extended to Coastal Pacific Aviation when they started as a flight training centre. While it existed, the funds budgeted each year were significant, but they did fluctuate. There is no mention of the flying incentive in the minutes or financial statements from 1976, or from later years. The executive had discussed its discontinuation back in May of 1975, and made the decision in October, but do we do not have an explanation for why it was discontinued. We might surmise that the club had decided to focus its flying subsidies onto the club’s own aircraft rather than facilitating members to fly rental aircraft. However, one thing that did continue as club policy for many years, did still facilitate rentals from AAS and CPA. When the club’s own aircraft were already in use, members could rent equivalent aircraft, and the club would pay the difference between the rental hourly rate and the club’s hourly rate.
All the aircraft accounting was not a trivial task, and from 1974 it came with the compensation of one hour per month free flying. There was a suggestion that other jobs might attract similar compensation. An interesting aside is that until 1968 the President had received an honorarium of $50 each year, but this was discontinued from 1969 on.
The club’s aircraft were not always used responsibly. In 1970 a member was disciplined for flying NSC with a passenger in the right seat, plus two kids somehow standing in the back. In 1973 it was noted that some members were using VBU for hire, and that this was illegal. This concern was minuted again in 1979. Also in 1973, a member was expelled after a long executive discussion regarding his use of club aircraft.
Another major development in 1968 was that the club acquired the building which would become its permanent home, so far. This was the old firehall, the first building completed when RCAF Abbotsford was built during the war. It had not been used as the firehall for some years. The big doors in the east wall were boarded over and a lean-to extension had been added along that wall. But the garage space was still used as a garage, with access for smaller vehicles via doors in the north wall. SAS was interested in the building, but in March, the airport manager, Harold Luesley, gave first refusal to the AFC. The club moved in some time after the 1968 airshow. Meetings were held in what is now the bar and lounge, and the garage continued by that name.
The winter of 1968-1969 was particularly cold, and the building needed a new furnace, which would cost $950. The clubroom needed curtains, and the floors need to be waxed. Chairs were all to be labelled as belonging to AFC, but this did not actually happen until 1970, when they were given out on loan to the municipality. In early 1969 the Air Rangers were given permission to use the building for their meetings. And a janitor was hired at a cost of $12/month.
Up to 1970, the clubhouse was used by the Matsqui Police as a communications centre during the airshows, and from 1971 it became the base for handling airshow cash. Before that, a workbee had been organized to clean up the garage, and it was estimated that $400 would pay for it to be remodelled.
Airport buildings did not originally have electricity meters installed, but naturally, they became required as buildings were leased. The club took until 1971 to have a meter installed.
The original 1968 rationale was that the building would cost about $1,050/year, and the membership dues were fixed at $15 on the basis that with 70 members they would pay the cost of the building. In fact the total costs, including the lease, property tax, janitor, insurance, utilities and renovations turned out much higher – $2,041 in 1969, and rising to $3,856 in 1979 . A discussion in Jan 1978 re-affirmed the concept that annual dues should cover the costs of the clubhouse, and the 1979 financial statement does show 100 members each paying dues of $30, plus 15 new members who each paid $60 initiation, for a total dues revenue of $3,900.
The renovations and new facilities included a shuffle-board and a cigarette machine for the lounge in 1971. The exterior was painted in 1972. The fireplace was built in 1975 In 1973 the garage renovation was still just a plan, and its estimate was now $1,000. The kitchen was renovated in 1976, and new chairs purchased. A patio door was installed in 1977, a patio was built, and a horseshow pit created. 1978 saw new curtains, and new carpets in the washrooms, and necessary renovations were estimated at $7k to $8k with the roof as a priority. A new sign was installed outside in 1979, the exterior was painted again, and 12 cedar trees were planted around the patio. In November the meeting room (formerly the garage) was renamed in honour of Butch Merrick.
The club’s affluence and acquisition of assets (aircraft, cash and clubhouse), its steady income from the airshow, and its hugely subsidized flying and social possibilities, were enviable things. They were generally perceived as having been built up over the years by the dedication and work of members who had developed the airshow from nothing to its recognized international status. Membership was valuable, and from 1968 on, this spawned a number of developments and trends.
Previously, anyone wishing to join the club simply had to complete the application and pay the dues. From 1968, applicants were first required to attend an interview with the entire executive, who then decided on the merits their application. They were then required to pay an initiation fee, in addition to their annual dues. The initiation fee was considered a buy-in to the assets that had already been accumulated by the members. For 1968 the annual dues were $10 and the initiation fee was $15. By 1976 they were $20 and $30, and in 1979 they were $30 and $60 respectively. It also took time and effort for a new member to work into the full privileges of membership. The effort was the volunteer work required to help produce the airshow – without enough volunteer hours a member could not qualify for the next year’s flying incentive. The time element was reflected in the hourly rates for club aircraft being higher for newer members, and also in that new members could not qualify for the flying incentive until they had been a member in good standing for one year. Good standing also required attendance at general meetings, with only a limited number allowed to be missed. In 1973 six of the meetings could be missed, and this was reduced to three for 1974. In time a bylaw amendment fixed the attendance requirement at two thirds of the general meetings. Even so, meeting attendance was often very low. Sign-in sheets were introduced in 1972, and again in 1973. From 1974 a roll was called at every general meeting, and members would be fined 25c for lateness or not wearing their name badge. The roll call and fines were started again in 1977.
There was a sense in which the existing members did not want to offer membership too easily to new applicants, and also a sense that membership should not be shared with too many people. This gave rise to the first suggestions of limiting the membership numbers — that 75 might be a good place to stop. The membership roll had been fairly stable around 70 to 80 members for some years, but it started to grow, and in 1976 a decision was made to limit the roll to 100. This prompted the need to examine exactly who was on the roll, who had paid their dues, and who was in good standing. The result showed a total list of 120, but some members were considered as not being active in the club. However, it took until late 1977 to settle on a list of names to be struck from the roll. In the meantime, new members were admitted quite regularly anyway, despite the agreed cap of 100. In fact, there was a motion in Nov 1976 to raise the cap to 125, but it was defeated. At the same time, the new policy naturally created the need for a waiting list. Applicants could be interviewed and approved, but they could not become a member until a place opened up. They also had to pay a $40 application fee, which would be credited to their account when they were admitted. It should be noted that the membership cap never achieved the status of being a bylaw – it was simply an agreed policy. However, it was taken seriously in subsequent years, and it wagged a bylaw into existence, which greatly affected the dynamics of membership.
In particular, it created the need for a new grade of member – Associate Members, and a bylaw was approved in Oct 1977. The new membership grade was intended to accommodate airshow volunteers, and those on the waiting list to become full members. At that time, the membership roll had been pared down to 102 names, and there was a significant waiting list (already 19 names in Feb). The first step transferred 7 names from full membership to associate membership. These were members who were no longer flying or active (or not very much), and were deemed to no longer need the benefits of full membership – or who the club no longer needed as full members. This opened up seven places for those on the waiting list. The executive took active control from here on, regularly dropping members, specifically choosing who to admit from those on the waiting list, and rejecting some applicants when interviewed. In Feb 1978 eight more members were dropped from the roll, eight replacements were chosen from those on the waiting list, and two new applicants were rejected. The expectation of associate members was that they should be active in the club, while waiting patiently for a full membership slot to open. In 1979 they were given name badges.
In May of 1979 the executive looked at whether the membership cap could be removed, and there was a proposal to raise the cap to 115, but this did not happen. In spite of the cap remaining in place, in 1979, a total of 37 new members were admitted and 16 new associate members. The cap had brought some rigour to the task of maintaining the membership roll; but it had created a need for significant administrative effort; it must have caused the loss of many members; and it had created two classes of member – those with all the privileges, and those without.
While considering membership classes, we should also mention Life Members. The first was John Spronk. When Skyway Air Services closed their flight training operation at Abbotsford in early 1969, John’s position as CFI ended. He was soon offered a position with Pacific Western Airlines, and this required a move to Edmonton. His contributions had been central to the development and success of both the flying club and the airshow, and in recognition of this, he was made a Life Member of the club. Perhaps the expectation was that his would be a permanent departure, but after two years in Edmonton acquiring all the necessary ratings and seniority, he was able to move back to Abbotsford and to the club. In 1973 there was some discussion regarding his right to vote as a Life member, but his status and privileges were, of course, confirmed.
The second Life Member was Butch Merrick, and this decision happened in May of 1976. He was presented with a plaque in November. Butch was a founding member of the club, holding Membership Card Number One, and had made huge contributions of volunteer effort to both the club and the airshow. Unfortunately, he died suddenly in January 1979, and later that year the club’s meeting room was named in his honour.
Throughout this whole period, the fly-outs, fly-ins, socials, banquets, dances, general meetings, work bees, committee meetings, and airshow activities, etc etc continued unabated. And the club supported a number of worthy community causes.
The club had organized the airshow preview event in June of 1968. It was a good month for a fly-in, and in time, Father’s Day fly-ins would become a regular event, with pancake breakfasts and spot landing and flour bombing contests. Butch Merrick was always on hand to organize the food. In early 1974, John Spronk was planning for the fly-ins to include an annual air race, but that particular idea was abandoned by April.
Fly-out participation was high; encouraged by the flying incentive and low hourly rates. Crossing the US border was less inconvenient than it is now. A total of 108 people planned to make the trip to Renton in April 1968; using four aircraft, a number of cars, and a bus. US flyouts also included Roche Harbor, Blakely Island, and Olympia. More frequent trips were made to destinations in BC. In addition to the organized fly-outs, Sunday mornings became the time to show up at 8.30am, and then launch on spontaneous fly-outs to wherever seemed like a good destination at the time. In May of 1973 there was even a motion that the club aircraft be specially reserved for this every Sunday morning, but it was defeated. Perhaps they didn’t really need to fly-out anyway – at one point in 1974 Butch Merrick was cooking breakfast regularly every Sunday, for whoever was there at the club.
Not every social, banquet or dance was well attended, and sometimes they were a net cost to the club. The issue of beer in the clubhouse appears in the minutes a number of times. In 1969 it was decided that the club needed a liquor licence for its Saturday night events. At one time it was decided that the bar would only be open on meeting nights. At another, it was decided that there would be no alcohol allowed in the meetings and that the bar would be closed during meetings. The bar was always an honour system, and more than once there was a shortfall from the funds that should have been there, which in 1974 resulted in a decision that beer should be discontinued.
The club maintained its community relations by sponsoring organisations such as the Air Cadets, and events like Miss Abbotsford. The Miss Abbotsford competition was a longstanding annual commitment. Various local organisations, the club included, sponsored a girl to enter, paying for her expenses. The club entries always visited the club to meet members. The eventual competition winners were treated as celebrities at the airshow every year. Numerous deserving groups were taken for airplane rides at the clubs expense, these included the St John’s Ambulance members, a Junior Hockey team, Job’s Daughters, airshow volunteers, and trainees from the Wildwood Training Centre. In 1968, members had to be reminded to not make commitments on behalf of the club, such as free rides. The club also provided bursaries for students at Selkirk College, BC Vocational Institute, and Trinity Western.
|1||How many terms as President did John Spronk serve?||1||1||2||3||4|
|2||What year were the trees (the hedge) planted behind the club?||2||1968||1942||1979||1991|
|3||How many trees were there originally?||3||32||24||12||6|
|4||How many trees are there now?||4||32||24||12||6|
|5||What year did John Spronk become the club’s first Life Member?||5||1961||1967||1969||1979|
|6||Who was the second Life Member?||6||King Hussien||Don Nikkel||Butch Merrick||Gordy Cockriell|
|7||To whom was the club’s first Cessna 172 (VBU) eventually sold?||7||Bob McFarland||Lucky Hooieveid||Wayne Cave||Dick Heke|
|8||Who was the first Manager hired to run the airshow administration?||8||Doris Matthews||Ron Thornber||Ian Smith||Harold Luesley|
|9||Who was Treasurer for 1966-67 ?||9||Doris Mathews||Sid Collins||Sandy Bazen||John Mor|
|10||By 1979, how many aircraft had the club purchased?||10||3||4||5||6|
|11||How many aircraft did the club still own in December 1979?||11||1||2||3||4|
|12||What was the membership cap number agreed in 1976?||12||75||100||125||150|
|13||What year was the grade of Associate Member introduced?||13||1962||1968||1976||1979|
|14||From 1968, how many airshow directors were appointed by the AFC?||14||7||14||21||28|
|15||What was the name of the annual payment made by the airshow to the club?||15||Campground Payment||Sponsor Dividend||Production Grant||Investor’s Payback|
|16||Which club members were not expected to volunteer with the airshow?||16||Directors||Women||None||Members in good standing|
|17||What was the name of the payment made to members who flew rented aircraft?||17||Flying Incentive||Flying Subsidy||Renter’s Subsudy||Pilot’s Payback|
|18||What type was the first aircraft considered for purchase by the club in 1968?||18||Cessna 150||J3 Cub||Cessna 172||Champion|
|19||In 1969, how many different aircraft hourly rates were charged to members on the basis of seniority?||19||2||3||4||5|
|20||What was the name of the first civilian flight training unit at Abbotsford?||20||Skyway Air Services||Sumas Air Service||Abbotsford Air Services||Coastal Pacific Aviation|
|21||What year was the Short Stranraer flying boat rebuild finished at Aerovive?||21||1970||1962||1967||1975|
|22||What year did the Golden Centennaires perform at the airshow?||22||1958||1967||1971||1978|
|23||What year did the Golden Hawks come to Abbotsford?||23||1958||1961||1967||1973|
|24||When was the fireplace completed in the clubhouse lounge?||24||1969||1963||1973||1978|
|25||What was the original purpose of the building we use as a clubhouse?||25||Mess Hall||Fire Hall||Guard House||Officers’ Club|
|26||How many original wartime buildings are still standing at the airport?||26||3||4||5||6|
|27||In which building was the original Terminal, which came into operations after the airport was transferred to civilian use?||27||Building 1||Building 2||Building 3||Building 33|
|28||In what year did Lady Baden Powell hold a Girl Guide Rally at the airport?||28||1948||1956||1966||1972|
|29||In 1979, what were the club’s annual dues, and what was the initiation fee?||29||$10 and $20||$20 and $60||$30 and $30||$15 and $25|
|30||Who was Miss Abbotsford in 1967?||30||Gloria Swanson||Carol Sim||Linda Swanson||Lana Turner|
|31||Who flew Miss America at the airshow in 1970?||31||Bob Hoover||Captain America||Bud Granley||Dib Dibnah|
|32||Who opened the airshow in 1974?||32||Richard Nixon||Pierre Trudeau||Hussein bin Talal||Ayatollah Khomeni|
|33||What year in the 1960’s was there no RCAF presence at the airshow?||33||1998||1964||1967||1969|
|34||Who is best credited with inventing the now common term City of Abbotsford?||34||George Ferguson||Henry Braun||Chuck Dennet||Matthew Begbie|
|35||Where were the first airshows in what is now the City of Abbotsford?||35||RCAF Abbotsford||Parajump centre||Lundstrom Farm||Mill Lake Park|
|36||How many Founding Members were there?||36||10||17||25||40|
|37||Who is currently the second most senior member of the club?||37||Millie Watson||Murray Webb||John Pawlovich||Don Richardson|
|38||In what year was Conair formed?||38||1969||1971||1973||1975|
|39||Who was the first DoT Airport Manager at Abbotsford||39||Phil Gaglardi||Harold Luesley||George Miller||Harold Porter|
|40||What was registration of the aircraft bought by the club in 1977||40||VBU||CBO||HXT||IEV|
|41||Where was the inaugural meeting of the AFC?||41||Building 2||Armouries||Abbotsford Air Services||Fire Hall|
|42||What year did the RAF send two Belfasts to transport the Short Stranraer back to UK?||42||1962||1970||1975||1986|
|43||What was the name of Art Scholl’s dog?||43||Elevator||Snoopy||Aileron||Deadweight|
|44||How was the airshow billed in 1965?||44||Abbotsford Air Show||Rotary Air Show||Centennial Air Show||Abbotsford International Air Show|
|45||How many days was the 1964 airshow?||45||1||2||3||4|
|46||What was the club’s purchase price for HXT? before tax||46||$8,500||$10,750||$11,250||$16,800|
|47||From what year was the AFC President required to be an airshow director?||47||1962||1967||1969||1975|
|48||What year was the first extention to what was then runway 06-24?||48||1945||1958||1970||1981|
|49||What was the last year that John Spronk performed in the airshow?||49||1966||1969||1974||1979|
|50||Which club member was part of the Canadian skydiving team for the 1964 world championships?||50||Hank Hamm||Doris Giles||Dave Giles||Doris Matthews|
“Welcome to Matsqui, Home of the World Famous Abbotsford International Airshow”
By Steve Stewart
It is common knowledge that until Abbotsford and Matsqui merged in 1995, Abbotsford Airport was not in Abbotsford. It was always in Matsqui. And that means the Abbotsford Flying Club was in Matsqui and the Abbotsford International Airshow was in Matsqui. This always seemed like an odd twist to reality, and it gave rise to signage on Highway One for traffic approaching the Mt Lehman road exit, which proclaimed the welcome used as a title for this piece. We are left wondering why the airport was not simply called Matsqui Airport when it was first built.
The explanation we have heard is that the Village of Abbotsford was simply the closest built up area to the airport, so the Air Force named their new station Abbotsford, without bothering to check where it actually was. It is true that the Village of Abbotsford is closer than the Village of Matsqui, and maybe the Air Force was distracted and busy with other concerns at the time, but it does seem unlikely that they would be so sloppy. They must have known full well that they were building in the District of Matsqui, and that the Village of Abbotsford was not involved.
The reason that the new RCAF station was not called Matsqui may have been because there was already a Matsqui Airport, and it had existed for over ten years. It was located on the Lundstrom farm in Gifford, on the south side of Harris road, one and a quarter miles west of Matsqui Village. Two of the Lundstrom brothers had been inspired by Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight to build their own aeroplane. First they built a large barn to use as a hangar and base for aircraft construction. Then they built the aircraft. And they also built a runway – grass, as was normal at that time. Then they held airshows. There had probably been earlier barnstorming visits by aviators to the area, but these airshows were the first organized airshows in what is now Abbotsford. And they were very successful.
The Lundstroms’ achievements were quite remarkable given the era in which they were working. Soon after they started towards their vision, there came the Wall street crash. Then there were the hungry thirties. Unemployment in the Fraser Valley was huge. Labour camps were set up. There were marches. Then, in 1935 the Matsqui dykes gave way and the prairie was flooded. But somehow the Lundstroms’ airfield remained in use, and in February 1939 a Flying Club was formed, based at what was called Matsqui Airport.
We can find no further mention of the flying club or the airport after June 1939. No doubt they disappeared during WW2. But when work started on RCAF Station Abbotsford, the existence of Matsqui Airport would have been well known.
Jumping forward to 1961, the year the Abbotsford Flying Club was formed – the new club’s name was a natural choice, given its location at Abbotsford Airport. Then our airshows started, and although the 1962 airshow was called the Rotary Air Show, for 1963 it became the Abbotsford Air Show.
1965 was the next important year in this story. An airshow episode was prophetic of what would happen thirty years later. At that time Abbotsford was still a village, just about one square mile, and centred around Essendene Avenue. It had just one traffic light. It was dwarfed by the District of Matsqui to its north and west, and the District of Sumas to its south and east. Both districts had been formed long before the creation of Abbotsford.
The star of the 1965 show was undoubtedly the brand new USAF Lockheed C-141 Starlifter. It was making only its second public appearance, having been at the Paris show two months earlier. It was so popular that the name ‘City of Abbotsford, BC’ was painted on the side by Chuck Dennet, sign-painter and a founding member of AFC. Sid Collins had urged him on. Chuck was also responsible for Advertising, and this direct action approach was brilliantly successful. Later, a press release by the USAF and Lockheed confirmed that the name was ‘expected to remain on the aircraft as it travelled the world airlifting men and supplies for MATS’ (the Military Air Transport Service).
This was the first ever use of the name ‘City of Abbotsford’. It publicised the City of Abbotsford (which would not exist until 1995) around the world. Was it a statement of faith, or just a publicity stunt? The answer does not matter, because we have the press release, and we have a photograph of Chuck still only part way through the painting. The City of Abbotsford is proud of its brand, but do they own it? Is it really the property of the AFC?
Fast forward again, to 1994. Years earlier the District of Sumas and the Village of Abbotsford had merged to form the Municipality of Abbotsford. The next merger would be of Abbotsford and Matsqui. But what would be the name of the new city? Matsqui was much bigger, and senior in years. There was strong support for Matsqui, and it was clear the merger would shut down the Abbotsford administration buildings, with the new city administration based in the City Hall recently built by Matsqui on South Fraser Way in Clearbrook. Matsqui is a Sto:Lo word meaning a stretch of higher ground. What could be more natural than to continue with the well-established and unique name? A vote was held and Abbotsford won, by a wide margin. The newspapers already knew the reasons for the choice, and the explanation was both simple and clear. The name Abbotsford was associated with the Airshow, and the Airshow was the single biggest factor in defining the community identity. Unfortunately, many people associated the name Matsqui with the prisons just south of the freeway. It was no contest.
So the Airshow had defined the community, and given the name Abbotsford to the new City of Abbotsford. And it had presented an image of that vison thirty years earlier, back in 1965. Now, the name is second nature, the debate of 1994 is mostly forgotten, and the debt owed to the airshow unacknowledged. But if Matsqui had not already had an airport back in the 1930s, our story may have been different.
Early years of the AFC
by Steve Stewart
The inaugural meeting of the new club had been on November 14th 1961. There were over 24 people in attendance; a President, Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer, and directors were elected; and the next meeting was set for December. For the first few months, the meetings would continue to be held in the waiting room of the Terminal Building (Hangar 2). On December 12th the meeting ‘was attended by about 35 members which was a very good turnout considering the ‘white weather’ of that day, the business went off very well and afterwards a really interesting film was shown on high speed flight and plane designs. All in all it was a very good meeting.’ Films on aviation subjects were a regular feature of meetings. Everyone was keen to learn. Although there were a number of experienced pilots in the new club, a lot of the founding members were still working on licences, and their progress was reported regularly. The January 1962 Newsletter reported that five members had soloed since the previous meeting,; Bill Shandley had also passed his written test for PPL, and Ted Koppen was ‘the proud possessor of a spanking new private licence.’. There were also seven new members. Monty Shore was not a new pilot, but his news, early in 1962, was that he had become one of the few people ever to fly the AeroCar.
It didn’t take long for the idea of an air show to come up. How it happened is described elsewhere. But suffice to say, by March, the decision had been made. The AFC, with some funding and help from the Rotary Club, would launch an event that would become world famous, and grow in ways that no-one could have anticipated at the time. From March through to August the joint committee of the AFC and RCA met repeatedly to hammer out details, send invitations, arrange insurance, fencing, food, etc etc. and as the date approached, more and more members became directly involved. It would be an all-out effort for the club – everyone did something to help ensure success.
In the meantime, winter had ended, the weather had improved and members were ready for fly-outs. The first ever fly-out, in May, was to Hudson Island. This appears to be a privately owned island, 2,500 feet long with a 1,900 foot gravel airstrip. It is just south of Thetis Island. The next trip was to the Penticton Air Show in June. An entire package deal was arranged – a single payment of $16 covered air transport, accommodation, food and the show. It was less than a year since John and Patricia Spronk had moved from Penticton, and the visiting club was well received by their hosts. In our archives, we still have three minutes of video from the trip and the show.
June was also notable for the departure flight of the Supermarine Stranraer from Abbotsford, of which we again have some video. Glenn Matthews, and possibly other members, had worked on the aircraft while employed at Aerovive.
By May, the club meetings were being held in the Armouries building. This was the old Officers Club from RCAF days. It became the Skyline Club, and would become the venue for many memorable evenings during future airshows. In May the club held a dance. And they would have another in November.
The story of the first airshow is told elsewhere. It was a great success, and that paved the way to have another in 1963. It also brought a net sum of $255.43 into the club. This was a significant amount at the time. Right from the start the airshow was international, and attracted as much participation from Washington aviators as from those in British Columbia. The stars had included Mark and Grace Hoskins, both flying Ryan monoplane trainers. Jack Brown, publisher of the Northwest Aviator, was also a major supporter. In November a flight of three Cessna 172s took members to Seattle on a mission to thank the Hoskins’ and Jack Brown.
The club’s visibility and activities had attracted a continuous stream of new members throughout the year. The membership roll in December amounted to 70. At the AGM John Spronk passed the chair to newly-elected President Bill Shandley.
After its initial surge, the membership roll stayed at something less than a hundred throughout the 1960s. But of course not everyone attended meetings regularly – only 25 out of 70 had showed up for the 1962 AGM in December. And membership dues could be paid any time to the end of March. The target for 1963 was 100, but by May the paid-up number was 68, and it rose to 83 in June. A similar situation prevailed early in 1964, with only 29 people at the March meeting, a newsletter membership circulation of 100, and only 53 paid-up. By June the paid-up number rose to 75, but meeting attendance was still low, and there were newsletter appeals to support club activities.
For the first few years membership was open to anyone who applied, but by 1968 applicants had to get through an interview first. Some years later there were moves to set a maximum limit on the number of members, and to only admit pilots. This would eventually lead to the idea of Associate Members.
It’s understandable that not all members attended all the meetings or supported all the activities – because there were so many. In 1963, in addition to the monthly meetings and everything that had to be done for the airshow: there was a fly-out in March to Seattle again, involving seven aircraft; Chuck Dennett and Bernie Bennion flew to Mexico and back; members attended fly-ins in Comox, Twin Harbors, Ancortes, and others; There was a navigation contest and breakfast fly-in organized for June, but the weather was awful and only the breakfast happened (attendance 160); a corn-roast in August; a dance in December; three members bought aircraft; members continued to gain qualifications; and in September, J. Beshuisen departed in Cessna 150 NSC to Florida and possibly Bahamas. Hurricane Flora changed his plans. The newsletter reported him in Texas and heading home, and described his trip as great example of inexperienced pilot in light aircraft being able to undertake long trips. Flora was one of deadliest hurricanes in recorded history, so he had made a good decision. However, June had already seen the first fatality of a member. Robert Ford had joined September 1962. His death was described as ‘very unfortunate accident’ in the newsletter. The DoT report card is very brief, and appears critical of his decision to fly into weather over Allison pass – stall during attempted 180 degree steep turn, three fatalities, aircraft destroyed. On a more positive note, 1963 was also the year of the green club jackets. They cost $13.91 including taxes, and could be picked up at Bennion’s Pharmacy.
The 1964 newsletters indicate a similarly packed schedule of fly-outs, visits, a spot landing contest , the Pendleton air races, Halloween party, etc etc and the newsletter started to cite the one-time popular radio show ‘Let George do it’ (it was a private-eye drama that ran from 1946 to 1954.) Members were asked not to just ‘let George do it’. There was lots to do, partly because by April the club had secured its own room in the terminal building above the reception lounge. It needed decorating, furniture and signage. Then for August there was a more permanent move to a room provided by Sumas Air Services for a rental of $30 per month. This was great location, with direct access to ramp, and a view across to Mount Baker. The single key was held at the Tower. It would be the club’s home until the move to the old fire-hall in 1968.
The fly-out for breakfast to Victoria in September was the first ever subsidized flight – it introduced what became known as the ‘flying incentive’. Pilots could be reimbursed 25% of their cost.
Some other 1964 events of note included: Doris Giles was selected as one of four women and five men for the Canadian team at the world parachuting championships in West Germany; Millie Watson completed her private pilot training under the scholarship provided by the club; there was a new airstrip built on Savary Island; the BCAC started to offer its aviation map of BC at a price of $5; the fully aerobatic Citabria was available at a Canadian price $5,250 inc fed sales tax; the federal government planned to increase duties again on all aircraft not manufactured in Canada; the Rotary Club pulled out of further airshow involvement, but their place was quickly filled by the EAA Chapter 85, which became equal partner with the AFC.
The club was clearly forging ahead on all fronts, and we can surmise that the collective vision was expansive. Nothing has survived of discussions around the vision for the club. However, we know from newspaper reports, that the vision for the airshow was being boosted continuously. Moreover, the airshow was an operation of the flying club, with the same people being involved in both. So it is safe to assume a similar expansive approach. This is supported by the range and quantity of new activities the club took on, and it is indicated explicitly in the Constitution that was approved by Victoria in June of 1963. The club’s new Constitution went much further than what the club was already doing. The ‘objects of the Society’ included everything from owning, leasing and operating aircraft, facilities, airports, hangars, depots, etc to promoting aviation in general, raising money in every possible way, and providing training. Everything listed was to be for the mutual benefit of all members. The only constraint mentioned in the ‘objects’ was that training would not include ab initio training. This constraint was significant, because the club had already become a member of the Royal Canadian Flying Clubs Association. It signified that the club would not be like many other flying clubs, where their main purpose was specifically to train new pilots. To have included such an object would have put the club into competition with existing flight schools at the airport. Abbotsford Air Services had been extremely supportive to the club’s formation and to the airshow. John Spronk was their CFI until the end of 1963, when he moved to Skyway Air Services. Herb Porter, the owner of AAS was one of the club’s founding members. Barry Marsden of SAS demonstrated water bombing regularly at the airshow. In fact, the club maintained excellent relations with both AAS and SAS, with members using their rental aircraft for the majority of club flying – even after the club bought its first Cessna 150 in 1968.
For the first few years the club’s finances were quite modest, and despite the aspirations to own and operate fleets of aircraft, airport facilities etc, the income streams were limited to annual dues, airshow revenues, and incidental revenues from other events such as pancake breakfasts. But the only fixed expense commitment (from August 1964) was the $30 per month rent on the club meeting room, and as required by the Constitution, the financial resources that were available, were spent to the benefit of members and to promote aviation in general. In 1963 the club earned a net revenue from the airshow of $900, and immediately spent most of it to support a glider being built by Air Cadets, and to provide an Air Ranger pilot training scholarship. In the years prior to the 1967 Centennial airshow, the club’s revenue from the show never rose above a thousand dollars. For 1966 airshow revenue was $471.46, and at the end of the year the club’s total equity was $4,690.93, all as cash in various forms.
In 1964 the club had started to subsidise the cost of members’ flying. The idea was to encourage pilots to participate in club fly-outs, and to take other members with them. The Board would announce that a certain fly-out would qualify for a particular level of subsidy, and afterwards the pilot could submit their receipts in order to receive a partial re-imbursement. The qualifying criteria could also include attendance at a preceding general meeting. In March 1967 the program became more general and was dubbed the ‘flying incentive’. The discussion on this had started a year earlier. For 1967 each qualifying member was covered up to 20 flying hours, and the incentive value ranged from $2.50 to $3.50 per hour. This was a significant contribution to the normal cost. Aircraft could be rented from either Abbotsford Air Services or from Skyway Air Services, and it appears that Skyway also gave its own discount of 10% to club members. The net result was that a Cessna 150 could be flown for as little as $7.50 per hour. Members had to apply to qualify for the incentive at the start of each year. To qualify, they had to be signed off as having passed a test flight, and they were expected to have supported club activities and attended meetings (missed no more than three in previous year). The cost of the subsidy was billed directly by the provider to the club. The dollar amounts and hours would change each subsequent year as necessary.
The club and its finances were changed forever by the 1967 centennial airshow. Its annual airshow net income jumped from hundreds to thousands. The $6,103.35 received at the end of 1967, enabled purchase of the club’s first aircraft, at the end of 1968. Also in 1968 the club moved into the old fire-hall. And the previously happy airshow partnership with the EAA would break down in acrimony.
Times were changing. Acquisition of a significant annual income, aircraft, and other assets, would lead to developments and issues that simply didn’t exist previously.
The Cairn and the Time Capsule
by Steve Stewart
A practical approach to physical history by Steve Stewart and Lorenzo Simeon
The story that has come down to us from 1970 was summarised in our(with Millie Watson) recent book:
The presence of Prime Minister Trudeau and six members of his cabinet in 1969 was already adequate indication that the federal government recognised the importance of Abbotsford to Canada’s aviation and aerospace aspirations. In his opening speech, he had explicitly described the show as being Canada’s showcase to the aviation world. The phrase was repeated in a letter received from Don Jamieson in December. He went on to say ‘I would therefore suggest that you name your air show next year as ‘Canada’s 1970 National Air Show’’. With this endorsement, the show officially became the country’s national air show. Minister Jamieson said ‘I would endorse this exhibition as being an excellent occasion for any Canadian or foreign company to display its aviation products and services’. To mark the development, Glenn Matthews designed a new airshow insignia, a limited edition airshow coin was minted (original price $2), and a souvenir postcard produced (10c). As well, at Don Jamieson’s suggestion, a project was started to erect a stone cairn. Rocks were flown in from every Canadian province and ‘every quarter of the globe, including the USSR’, pieces of the old London Bridge and rocks from the Matterhorn. A copper time capsule buried in the cairn contained messages from Prime Minister Trudeau, opposition leader Robert Stanfield, other Ministers, and President Richard Nixon. Dedication would be at 1pm on August 7th, the first day of show, by Jamieson and Fraser Valley East MP Jerry Pringle. The cairn and time capsule were scheduled to be opened after 50 years, on August 7th 2020.
The cairn was originally located just outside the airside entrance to the customs office of the terminal, which in 1970 was located in Hangar Number Two. Since then, over the past 50 years, as terminals have been built, moved, redeveloped and relocated, the cairn has been moved at least three times, and it no longer stands on its original base. The language used to describe the time capsule’s location was not precise. Was it in the cairn itself, or buried beneath it? Had they parted company at some point? Back in February, we invited Justin Trudeau to officially open the cairn and the time capsule – which seemed fitting, given his father’s role in their creation. He has not replied yet. However, we needed to be certain that we can open the time capsule on cue on August 7th.
In December we removed the plaque from the front of the cairn, removed cement and concrete from behind it, and failed to find the time capsule. The plan was to come back in March, but that was foiled by external forces. Lorenzo Simeon and I returned to continue removing concrete in early May. We removed rocks from the back, and drilled and jack-hammered from front and back. But our holes joined up, after finding only concrete and steel in between.
The situation was not promising, and August is fast approaching. We arranged to use ground penetrating radar. We contacted a local stone mason in case he could provide insight. We asked Chilliwack airport about how their cairn was constructed. We asked Langley concrete about the pre-cast concrete core, around which the rocks are built. We contacted the Freemasons about the marks associated with the rock from the Old London Bridge. We asked the national archives in Ottawa to look for records, because the airport was a federal facility and the cairn was built on the instructions of the Minister. And Millie Watson stepped up her campaign to contact AFC Members from long ago. We were prepared to hollow out the entire monument one chip at a time, while leaving its façade intact. And we were prepared to excavate at the cairn’s previous locations.
But before launching the wholesale jack-hammering campaign, we tried some logic. During the 1970 ceremony, one convenient way to have placed the time capsule (other than directly behind the plaque) would have been to almost complete the cairn, then pop in the time capsule, and finish it off with a concrete cap. So we drilled and jack hammered up under the cap, but we got right past the centre without finding anything. Bear in mind that we only knew the capsule was made of copper, without knowing its size or shape. There was not much remaining unexplored volume. Our last logical option was to pop off the whole cap and hope for something to emerge. It did. The cap came off with a copper cylinder still embedded in the cement. It is 10 inches long and 3 inches diameter. The damage from our drilling revealed printed papers inside, but the papers are undamaged. Who knows what those papers will reveal?
Before August we will reassemble the cairn, with the time capsule inside, so that it can be easily cracked open on the given day.
Later, the time capsule will be replaced in the rebuilt cairn, along with a new time capsule from 2020. They will not be opened until August 7th 2070.
After the opening, we will publish a fuller story of the cairn, along with the contents of the time capsule. And there will be pictures.