Category Archives: Blog

President’s Column July 2020

Dear Members, I hope that the month of July brings you fair winds, clear skies as well as health and sunshine! The last month has been a rainy and cloudy one, but July is coming in with the promise of some sunshine at last. I see that a lot of you have gotten out there to fly and I am glad for it. Some of our kind-hearted members have even gone so far as to clean up our aircraft and for that I thank you.AFC President Seal

I have to admit that I’ve been remiss at column writing this month. July brings many pleasant
distractions, including upcoming vacation time and sunny days. I much prefer to soak up the fusion based photons than absorb those that are emitted from diodes. (Translation: I’d rather sit in the sunshine than work away on my computer).

There are a few good reasons to write, however, and I encourage you all to put down a few words if you can. First off, Bob Leroux has started up a website where people can tell their flying stories. He has a section where you can write in about some of your favourite family flying. It’s a charming idea and I hope to see some of your contributions to his page. Our favourite family spot to fly is to the Qualicum airport because it allows us to visit with the grandparents. Secondly, Steve Stewart and Millie Watson are assembling a history of the club. To quote one of my favourite authors, Thomas King, “The truth about stories is, that’s all we are.” Write your stories down. Send them to Millie or send them to Steve. Your stories will become the history of the Abbotsford Flying Club.

I’m writing a letter to put into the time capsule. As you may or may not know, there is a time capsule in the base of the pedestal outside the airport building. It was put there 50 years ago by a previous Trudeau Prime Minister. And now, it will be opened again while his son is Prime Minister. It’s quite a coincidence when you think about it – almost like a note being passed from father to son. Right now I’m drafting up words that will be read fifty years from now. When the capsule is opened next, if I’m still on this side of the grass, I’ll be five years older than my father is now. My son will be sixty three and my daughter will be sixty one. That’s just simple math, the hard part is imagining what could happen in the future. When you look back at how things were in 1970 and how things have changed in the last fifty years, it’s simply amazing.

In 1970 humankind was still optimistic from having landed on the moon just the year before. They couldn’t have known of the growth in technology, the tragedic accidents that were to come or the inspiring reprise of the space program that we’re seeing now, but in the hands of private industry. Back then, computers were terribly impractical, but now we carry computers around with us – ostensibly calling them phones – and because of their processing speeds the computers of today are able to fly aircraft, land rockets on barges in the ocean, and predict stock market movements.

In 1970, general aviation was in it’s heyday! Could they have foreseen the spate of accidents leading to lawsuits that would crush the industry in the 80’s? Did they know that experimental aircraft builders who at the time were a rare breed of hardcore tinkerers – would launch a popular grassroots movement where eventually thousands of people were assembling kits manufactured in “kit plane” facilities?

Would Trudeau have known that his son would be Prime Minister when the capsule opened fifty years from the time he buried it? Would Richard Nixon have predicted that the Presidency would soon be the domain of movie actors, like Ronald Reagan or Reality TV stars like Donald Trump? It has been an amazing journey. The changes have been astounding and intriguing. I truly believe that some things will remain constant. Our passion for flight is one such constant; another is the inspiration we get from the aviators of the past who dared to dream.

Safe flights and stay healthy,
George Aung Thin,
President, Abbotsford Flying Club

New aviation photography website: https://navpathimaging.com

Many of us know Bob Leroux as an experienced aviator, teacher, mentor who runs NavPath Aviation.  What people may not know is that he is also an avid shutterbug.  Bob has set up a nifty website with various photos and stories on it.  His primary purpose is to share photographs of aviation, but there are some other delightful features on there such as a blog, his personal history of cameras and a heartwarming section where people can talk about their family flying experiences.  You can find it at: https://navpathimaging.com/

The website was launched on June 21 which happened to be Father’s Day. There have been some changes since the launch and some pages on the site are still under development regarding their structure and photo galleries to be added. Also, you will find a Facebook page “NavPath Imaging” complimenting the website.

So why launch on Father’s Day? There is a bit of a “hook” on the ABOUT page. If you find it let me know by leaving a comment on the CONTACT page.

Enjoy the website and happy flying.

“Welcome to Matsqui, Home of the World Famous Abbotsford International Airshow”

“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.

This is a soil survey aerial photograph. The RCAF conducted huge amounts of aerial survey work in the 1920s and 1930s. The north-south road on the right is now Gladwin road. Harris road runs across the middle of the picture. The airstrip is north-south in the lower left quadrant. Matsqui Village is off to the right. (from The Reach archives)

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 airstrip is north-south as indicated. Matsqui Village and Gladwin Road is off to the right. (Google Maps)

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.

No photo description available.

Joseph and Robert Lundstrom intend to fly in the near future in the airplane, pictured above, which they built as a spare-time job on their father’s farm on Harris Road, Matsqui. Construction weas carried out under strict government supervision and took two years. They built the hangar with a solid concrete floor three years ago, then started on the ‘plane. When the photograph was taken this week by A., Bafton-Canning of Abbotsford the youths were preparing to put the finishing touches on the airplane. They are sons of Mr. and Mrs Daniel Lundstrom and were both born at Matsqui. From the Vancouver Sun, 12 July 1932

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).

Chuck Dennet at work on the Starlifter

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

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.

New winch installed in IUK’s hangar

Today is a historic day. I flew IUK & put it away by myself, well with the help of that winch.  This was G-R-E-A-T!
 Randy you started this by building the support for the winch after we had talked about this at the flying show two years ago. Luciano you dragged it across the finish line after  hearing my concerns and need.
I am so grateful to you both for really caring about making it easier for all of us to safely get the aircraft back into the hanger. I don’t know who else uses the winches but today I was so happy being independent to fly the Archer then safely getting it back in the hanger,  NO help required, lol.
Thanks again guys, I really appreciate it.
Warmly~Lise~

 

Francis Kendall graduation

For those who have been around the club over the years are sure to know Francis Kendall.

Francis has graduated with his Dogwood Diploma. He also earned the North Otter PAC scholarship and the Langley School District Inspiration Award. This is awarded to students who Inspire and exudes the school district’s core values of Excellence, Integrity, Community, and Courage.

Well done Francis!

Aircraft wash station supplies

Thanks to Ryan Grendus of the AFC Hangar Committee for putting together our new aircraft wash station. Please do not use the brushes for the underside (Belly) of the aircraft as the oil and contaminants will damage the brushes and they will be unusable after that. Please only use the brushes for the main surfaces.

The club will do some research into proper degreasing chemicals or solutions to clean the underbelly of the aircraft. If anyone has ideas, please let us know.

We are proud of the aircraft we have and appreciate that we have members helping us keep them clean and in good shape.

The third place pool trophy

The third place pool trophy

One day, some years ago, I was at the Chilliwack river with my dog Suzy. That river is forever changing. Only its character remains the same. In fact we had once arrived, to find the river gone. We walked across the dry bed to what had been the opposite bank. It was a strange feeling to stand where, not long before, deep and powerful currents had flowed. As the frozen wind howled along the empty river bed, we wondered where the river had gone. Had it somehow dammed itself upstream? How long might that dam last? Could it suddenly let go, and send torrents of icy water and driftwood hurtling towards us, scouring and energizing the loose rocks and boulders from its now empty course? We continued across, and found the river half a mile further on. That bed is still dry, and now overgrown. The river has not returned to its former course.

The day this story started was not so strange. The river is different every time you go. It slowly moves its massive load of rounded rocks downstream. In spate it moves them faster, and excavates its banks on its curves. Underneath the swift water, the rocks also flow, just slower. They pile up in new formations. Things long-buried are left exposed. I saw something that looked different, like rusty steel, and getting closer realized that it was indeed a manufactured object, cylindrical and round. Dislodging the still half-buried prize revealed something the size and shape of those insulated coffee mugs that have a narrow base to fit your car’s cup holders. But it was heavy, steel and aluminium, corroded, encrusted

The third place trophy

and rusty. I rinsed it in the river, and took it home.

Earlier this year Millie Watson and I reached the semi-final of the AFC pool tournament. We lost that game, and vowed to try again next year. In jest I also vowed to make our own trophy – for

Some weeks later, the long-forgotten chalice spoke. A silent voice issued from the mouth of the cup: “I am the Third Place Trophy”. In obedience to its urging, I cleaned the cup in acid, fixed it on a base, and made a plaque. It celebrates those of us that didn’t win, whose pictures were not published, those for whom the victors’ laurels remain ever elusive — but yet without our numbers there would be no victors.  It is a trophy to participation.

Of course another team had also reached their own semi-final, and they too had lost. They too were Third. Their names should also be on this trophy. But who they are I do not know. And somehow, that is the point of this story. All of us who strive towards the prize, are part of it.