By Steve Stewart
By the end of 2008 the engines in HXT and IUK were both approaching TBO. In 2009 all three aircraft were fitted with 406 MHz ELTs, and all three experienced radio problems at various times. There was a proposal to replace the carburetor in IUK in order to address the continuing problem with running very rich unless the mixture control was pulled back excessively. However, that idea was put on hold pending the approaching need for the engine overhaul. By November 2009 we had $44k in the engine fund. At the October AGM it was announced that our total hours for the previous 12 months on all three aircraft were only 344.9, which was the lowest hours since we first owned all three in 1989. HXT had corrosion issues, IUK needed new paint, an interior refurb, an IFR upgrade and radios. The time was right to consider how many aircraft the club should operate going into the future, and exactly what they should be. We needed a strategic plan for aircraft.
Brief consideration was given to the idea of un-insuring an aircraft during the winter to save expense. But instead, we lowered the hourly rates to just $100, specifically to encourage members to fly despite the inconvenience caused by airspace changes and restrictions during the 2010 winter Olympics. The low rate continued to the end of March 2010, and it had the desired effect. The reduced rental rate would be repeated the next year – even without the Olympics.
A Future Aircraft Committee was formed under the able chairmanship of Jimmy Spentzas, and it met for the first time in May of 2010. It worked through the rest of 2010 and 2011, and set about its task in a very well-organized manner. Any member was welcome to contribute their opinion, and to suggest what type of aircraft they would like to see in the club. Everything was discussed objectively at the committee, and options were shortlisted with all their pros and cons. The options were put to members, who voted to indicate their preferences. The Board made decisions based on those preferences. It was a very inclusive process.
In the meantime, the aircraft continued to fly, and there were not many big maintenance issues. HXT suffered wingtip damage on a trip to Revelstoke, and IUK’s propellor was scratched in Whitehorse. HXT and IUK both had problems fouling plugs, and there was continued discussion about proper leaning procedures. There were 30 hours flown in March 2010, and 100 hours in July (when ZHQ and IUK both went to the Yukon). The total annual hours announced at the 2010 AGM was 415.5. By May of 2011 HXT was within 80 hours of TBO and IUK within 90 hours.
The work of the Future Aircraft Committee came to fruition as a series of decisions. First was the decision to continue to operate three aircraft. This was an act of faith in response to the increased hours flown in 2010, and to the steady growth in the number of members who wished to fly. Then there were the decisions about what types of aircraft the three should be. The first decision was easy, and was to keep ZHQ. It was operating well, had a low-time engine and no serious maintenance issues. It also had the STC covering its 180HP engine and long-range tanks, which gave it a useful load of 1080 pounds. A number of types were considered for aircraft number two. They included another 172, a Piper Archer, a Cirrus, a Maule and a Socata. In the meantime, pending the upcoming decisions, in January 2012 the maintenance on HXT and IUK was cut back to only scheduled maintenance, and any work required to maintain airworthiness.
In the end, a Piper Archer was selected as our number two aircraft. Stephen Head was now aircraft maintenance director, and he took on the task of reviewing the options of refurbishing IUK or of replacing it with an already refurbished airplane. The recommendation was to refurbish IUK, and a total estimated cost of $81k was approved by the board in February 2012. This would cover the engine, a new carburetor, repainting, a new interior and instrumentation upgrades.
The Future Aircraft Committee was now ready to present the options for the number three aircraft. Everyone had agreed that it should be ‘an interesting two-seater’, and the options were a Diamond DA 20, a Pipistrel Virus, and an Aerotrek A240. Gerry Crapo suggested that we also include the option of keeping HXT, and in April, keeping HXT is exactly what the members chose.
The work on IUK started in March 2012, under the direction of Stephen Head, and managed by Maxcraft. In recognition that IUK was our primary aircraft for IFR flight, the budget was expanded in order to provide a Garmin GTN750, integrated radios, and a new panel layout. At the June GM, Bob Fatkin introduced everyone to the GTN750, what it can do, and how to use it. A ‘welcome back’ barbeque was held in July, with IUK parked behind the clubhouse as guest of honour. It looked amazing. Over the next few months, members got used to flying IUK again, while the paint cured and various things continued to need adjustments. We also learned the bad news that the empty airplane had got 50 pounds heavier.
While IUK was undergoing its transformation, Stephen Head and his team were already studying what work would be required on HXT. One question was whether to upgrade the engine to 180HP. This would mean that the usable load might be increased to match that of ZHQ. It already had long-range tanks. For this upgrade, corrosion repairs, new radios etc., and various other things, and considering our experience of the IUK project, the necessary budget was estimated at up to $115k. First, the aircraft funds needed to be replenished, and that would take time.
In September 2012, metal was found in the oil from ZHQ. Repair was estimated at a minimum of $8k and this was an engine that had been overhauled three times already – quite recently. By this time, we had a total of $90k in the bank. The decision was made put the HXT project on hold, and to get a factory-rebuilt engine for ZHQ. The job was done without delay, and it cost $32,145. HXT’s engine continued ‘on condition’, and the results of a corrosion inspection started to cause concern.
In calendar year 2012, the three aircraft had flown a total of 505.9 hours, despite IUK being unavailable for most of that time.
During this period there was a possibility that the club might also acquire ownership of, or access to an aerobatic airplane. Don Richardson gave a presentation on aerobatics at the April 2009 GM. In July 2009, Peter and Brandon Dryer presented on competition aerobatics, and another presentation was given by Peter Hertzig in April 2010. In July 2010 the Aerobatic Club of BC was invited to one of our TGIF events, and they brought with them an Extra 300, in which Peter Dreyer flew a short routine to round off the evening. There was a suggestion that the two clubs might merge, thus giving AFC members access to aerobatic possibilities, while Aerobatic Club members would gain access to the AFC aircraft. Joint discussions happened, but in May of 2011 the Aerobatic Club decided that they did not want to go ahead with the merger. Even so, Peter Dryer bought a Citabria himself, and offered to lease to the AFC, as well as making it available to members of the Aerobatic Club. But, in the end, this did not happen.
Since the Airport’s aggressive take-over of the Club’s buildings in June 2007, the operation of the hangars had changed completely. The club now rented the hangar building footprint from the airport and all the occupants were subtenants of the club. The hangar building and the clubhouse were both subject to 90-day cancellation clauses, and continued pressure from the airport reminded us of the need to look for alternative accommodations. In early 2009 the Bell Canada bond was sold, and that enabled the club to pay off all of the former hangar investors. The hangar building was now a source of steady income.
We formed a Buildings Committee and looked at the feasibility of a development at the north end of runway 01/19, which was the only area offered. New buildings would be prohibitively expensive, and it was impractical to move the existing buildings. In 2009 we did secure a two-year rental agreement, and the pressure to relocate was easing. The context was a rethink of the airport’s overall plan. They were considering spending around $30 million on an expansion of the apron, new taxiways, and an extension of runway 01/19. In the meantime, the taxiways in the GA compound were starting to break up, and ‘our’ hangar had a leaking roof. The clubhouse roof also needed repair, again. But Harry Froese, who still operates three hangar buildings in the compound, had secured a ruling on appropriate rental rates, which had a great spin-off benefit for the club of reducing our rent by $2,500. In July 2010 Chris Conrad identified an anomaly in our property tax billing whereby we were paying for water and sewage services at the hangar building which did not have those services. His efforts resulted in a three year refund for the overbilling. The rental agreement renewal now had a 180-day termination clause instead of 90 days, and we continued to look at what the clubhouse options were if that clause were activated. Gerry Visser offered the land behind Godspeed aviation for a double-wide building. Another possibility would have been to meet at the Air Cadets building.
By October 2010 the airport’s previous master plan was no more. They were now developing a 10-year capital developments plan. Steve Stewart and Tom Grozier met with airport management in October to discuss the future of the ex-Friesen hangars (the XF buildings). These two hangars had been built in about 1980, and when the airport took over buildings in 2007, their long-time owner, Jake Friesen, did not agree to rent them back. This left the airport with the task of dealing with every occupant individually as individual tenants. In early 2011 the airport asked the club to take over the buildings. At the time, the Abbotsford Fire Department had inspected them and were insisting on a whole list of upgrades, which the airport did not want to undertake. If we did not take them on, their alternative plan involved a bulldozer, and this would have left over 40 tenants without hangars. The fire department’s main demand was to remove all the ad hoc internal walls and associated paraphernalia that had been developed over the years, and to add fire exits at the ends of the buildings. They refused to consider the main sliding doors as being exits in the context of a fire. A meeting was held at the clubhouse, with the airport, the fire department and most of the tenants to consider options. One idea was to add man-doors into the sliding doors. Eventually, some time later, they agreed that the sliding doors could simply be left partially open whenever people were in the hangar, and they agreed to let the existing internal walls and partitions stay, so long as no new ones were erected. The club agreed to take on the buildings from January 1st 2012, and the airport agreed to do some necessary repairs and upgrades before then. In 2012 the airport authority did a lot of crack sealing in the taxiways, installed additional drains, replaced the vehicle gate with an electrically operated gate, replaced the north fence, and added gravel parking groundside along the whole length of the north fence. The fence was also moved a few feet away from the buildings for added security, and our 40-foot-wide Wings and Wheels gate was installed.
So, from January 2012 the club was renting three hangar buildings (including the XF buildings) with over 60 subtenants. The additional income from the XF buildings was expected to more than double the club’s hangar revenue. The XF building rents were kept the same as the airport had charged in 2011, and the AFC hangar rents continued unchanged from the levels that had been fixed in 2008. Club members received a discount of $300 annually, and this now applied to the XF building subtenants. A number of subtenants applied to join the club.
Under the expert guidance of Keith Sim, the clubhouse roof had been replaced in 2011, despite the uncertainty as to its future. A new furnace was installed, and insulation added above the meeting room. Keith also bought a whole new set of plastic folding tables from Costco to replace the old, heavy and splintered wooden tables, which were then sold off to all comers. In July the building was used a set in a Hallmark Christmas film, ‘Trading Christmas’, starring Gabrielle Miller of ‘Corner Gas’ fame. Our clubhouse played the part of a Washington bus station. Later in 2011, the old fireplace was replaced with the efficient unit which is still there now. We had acquired a new pool table in 2009; in 2011 we got a large TV and high speed internet; and in 2012 Tom Grozier donated the piano.
By this time, the airport was indicating that the existing arrangements might continue for up to five years, which was a huge improvement from the 90-day termination clause they had imposed in 2007.
In 2012 the airport asked us to take on all the tie down spaces in the compound. At the time there were a total of 24, comprising 14 on grass plus the 10 to the west of the AFC hangar building. We had given up these 10 in 2007 because their rental would cost more than any potential income. The same logic still applied, and we did not take on the tie downs. We also refused the offer of the airshow’s ‘Hangar 13’ washrooms, which were located groundside of the north fence, and only used during the airshow. They were not an attractive prospect. Instead, a portable unit was placed just inside the vehicle gate.
By 2009, the Club’s response to the Airport’s take-over of the buildings had already transformed the hangar operation into a major contributor to the club’s finances. When the XF buildings were added to the operation in 2012, the net revenue flow into the club from the hangars more than doubled, and the hangars became, by far, the biggest revenue source for the club. This is what paid for refurbishing IUK and replacing ZHQ’s engine. And it set the club up for its future aircraft strategy. The revenues from membership dues and the airshow campground continued at their established levels. The aircraft continued to be a significant cost item – even without considering the capital expenditures on IUK and ZHQ. The clubhouse continued as the biggest single focus of regular expense. By the end of this period, the club had emerged from the turmoil of potential insolvency and felt some relief from the immediate threat of being turned out of our buildings. The finances were well organized and relatively stable. In 2009, the financial year end was changed to July 31st, so that completed statements could be prepared well before the AGM in October.
The club had not been involved with Young Eagles’ flights for some years, and they had actually ceased in Canada. But in 2009 the club decided to start up our own program of flights for kids. The plan was linked to the centenary of flight in Canada. To celebrate 100 years since that first flight, we would aim to give 100 kids their first flights. Our program was called ‘100 First Flights for Kids’, and plans were put in place for June, with all arrangements managed by Mark Thibault and Ron Becker. Partway through the process, COPA announced their own equivalent program, called ‘COPA for kids’. We talked to COPA about a joint event, but they insisted that only COPA members would be eligible to be involved, which would shut out any AFC members who were not COPA members. Even so, we explored all the possibilities for a joint event. There were suggestions that all AFC members ‘should’ be members of COPA. And there were generous offers to pay the COPA dues for any AFC members that needed help that way. A motion was created and it went to a dedicated EGM in May. That meeting decided that the AFC would not force its members to join COPA in order to be eligible to participate in the AFC kids’ flights. The event went ahead without COPA involvement, and was a huge success. The on-line registration had to be shut down well before the event, and there were well over 100 registrations. In the end, because of no-shows, we flew 106 kids. Everyone was presented with their own certificate of achievement, signed by their pilot. The pilots had all contributed their time and the aircraft costs. Many other volunteers helped with administration, registration, ground school, food, and marshalling. Every kid was photographed by photographer extraordinaire, Jimmy Wong. The Air Cadets ushered kids safely across the tarmac to their waiting planes, and back after their flights. Involvement with the kids’ flights has helped maintain our relationship with the Air Cadets. Since 2009 we have also provided an annual award for one cadet, to be presented at their annual parade in May.
Newsletter, Socials, Safety, Meetings
In October 2008 Ken Buchholz had agreed to take over the job of Newsletter Editor from Peter Graystone. One of his expectations was that I would write a regular President’s Column for every edition. I did this for the entire time I was President, and in general I tried to give the column some substance. My efforts were only one contribution to the Newsletter, and Ken did a great job soliciting other contributions.
Rick Duerksen started to write a regular ‘BS Guy’ column, where BS stood for Bar and Socials. Rick was very active at developing the TGIF from quite small beginnings into what it became. And there were never ending reasons to hold BBQs or other special events, such as to welcome back IUK; or to welcome the arrival of Keith and Susan Wood each year; the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June 2012; the annual Airshow Volunteer party; a YXX tenant BBQ in June 2010; a welcome back from Whitehorse BBQ in July 2010; and many more. The 2012 Airshow Volunteer BBQ was memorable for its extreme weather – a sudden and very heavy storm burst that moved in from the south faster than I could taxi in ZHQ. Fortunately, I was on the ground, having decided to refuel before the next volunteer flight. Marty Lehner was in the air and managed to land in time. Bob Fatkin diverted to Boundary Bay. All these events, and many more, were well reported in the Newsletter.
Another regular contributor was Bob Fatkin, writing on safety topics. Bob was also giving regular, short presentations on aircraft safety at every GM, and he created the currency quiz each year, as well as starting joint study sessions at the clubhouse on Saturday mornings for members to work through the quiz in a supportive, learning environment. Ken edited the newsletter until January 2012, and every issue was good. Then Dirk Sieber took over, and continued the same way.
In 2009 the General Meeting presenters included Glen Friesen from the TSB talking about the PA-34 crash in Richmond; new member Ed Boon on flying in his native New Zealand; and Washington resident Joe Moser on his experiences flying in WW2. In 2010, Adrian Renkers presented on the Reno Air Races; and Eric Scott told us about flying for Conair. 2011 included a number of updates on the airport developments and new procedures; a slide show by Randy Kelley about the Royal International Air Tattoo; and Greg Hattan on the Mission Aviation Fellowship. In 2012, we had a presentation on the TV program Arctic Air; and Kevin Robarts told us all about his operational experiences in Kandahar.
Of course, the biggest landmark event in this period was the club’s 50th anniversary celebration. The club had actually been created in November 1961, but we celebrated the anniversary in September 2011, and the weather was splendid. The whole event was masterminded by Randy Kelley, who had worked on arrangements for months, with the help of a capable team of other members. Great efforts were made to contact former members and invite them to attend. All the usual politicians and VIPs were there, and of course there were speeches – one of them unplanned and unrequested. MLA Mike DeJong had arranged for a Royal Proclamation, declaring September 24th 2011 as ‘Abbotsford Flying Club Day’ in the Province of British Columbia. There was food, drink, and cake. 175 people signed the attendance book, and there were many more who didn’t. Overall, it was a very successful day.
The club did some great flyouts and motorcycle rides. In 2009 Peter Graystone had participated in the Wings Over Canada Centennial flight, taking ZHQ cross country to do so. Then, in 2010 the same group organized a fly-in to Whitehorse. Gerry Crapo and I flew there in ZHQ; Adrian Renkers, Clark Closkey and Wayne Maure flew in IUK, Bob and Valerie LeRoux flew in Bob’s Turbo Arrow, and Peter Graystone flew his Challenger ultralight, followed by Jill as ground support driving their new Ford F150. Gerry and I went direct from Prince George to McKenzie and along the Rocky Mountain Trench to Watson Lake, then Whitehorse, completing the whole trip in a day. The IUK group did an overnight stop in Dawson Lake, then followed the Alaska Highway. While we were there, Peter Graystone and I flew ZHQ to Dawson City, with Jill and Pat Ulicki as passengers, and we stayed about 1 ½ hours. That same day Clark had gone fishing, caught trout, gone shopping, and then cooked in the kitchen of the suite that Gerry and I had rented. There was quite a big group for dinner, including Erissa Yong. This was when I officially dubbed Gerry as ‘Fly-outs Chair’. Another side trip was to drive Peter’s F150 to Atlin, where we tried to make contact with club Life Member Jim Logan, but he was off on a fishing trip. And, of course, we also travelled to Skagway on the White Pass railway. That whole rail trip was through low cloud, and we arrived at the same time as two cruise ships, so the place was packed. We flew back from Whitehorse via Dease Lake, Smithers and Williams Lake. It was a memorable trip.
Gerry did an excellent job with fly outs. Alert Bay was a popular destination, with sizable groups going in both 2011 and 2012, and again in 2013. There were also organized fly-outs to Merritt, Kamloops, Kelowna, Princeton, Pemberton, Port Alberni, and Victoria. In 2010 there was a fly out to Boeing Field, which for some members was the culmination of all the excellent eAPIS training that Bob Fatkin had organized. The motorcycle group visited Merritt more than once, coming back the long way through Spences Bridge and Lytton, and there were trips to Kelowna, Mt Baker, and Harrison, and to Concrete for their hangar open day.
Wings and Wheels
The club’s original series of Wings and Wheels events had been discontinued because the airport replaced the compound fence, thus removing our ability to bring aircraft through onto the grass behind the clubhouse. So, when in 2012, we decided that the club should have a fly-in event in May, that is what it was billed as – a fly-in. It wasn’t actually a wings and wheels event. The new aircraft gate was only installed later, it really has been a Wings and Wheels event only since then.
At that time there was still a large acreage of grass tie-down space in the GA compound, and this is where visiting aircraft parked. Their pilots and passengers then walked through to the clubhouse. It had been nice to see so many old friends at the club’s 50th anniversary event in the previous September, and the aim of the event was simply to get pilots from elsewhere to start visiting our club again. There were no participation fees, and breakfast was free. Attendance was high. Breakfast was more than ample. Twenty aircraft flew in to visit. And everyone had a great time.
At the start of 2009 the club had only 88 members (including Associate Members and Life Members), but this grew steadily because of the benefits of membership, and in response to the easing of barriers to membership. The benefits included vibrant efforts regarding safety, fly-outs, social programs, general meeting speakers, and the positive future aircraft strategy. An initiation fee had been normal for the club since deep in the mists of time, but it had become a significant barrier to new members, because it was equal to a full year’s dues. Lowering it to $100 for 2009 was another way that the club celebrated 100 years of aviation in Canada. It was kept at this level for 2010 to celebrate 100 years of aviation in British Columbia. And it has stayed there ever since. Having more members increased the hours flown on club aircraft, thus helping share the fixed costs, helping to keep the hourly rate low, and validating the decision to keep three aircraft in operation. By the end of 2012, membership had reached 106, and 44 members were flying club aircraft.
In the meantime, we had inevitably lost some old friends: Monty Shore, Ed Zaleski and Doris Matthews in 2009; Dr Steve Kulczycky and Bill Murray in 2010; Paul Peregrym and Dean Sorkin in 2011; and Boyd Chalmers, Jim Webb and Ed Heaps in 2012. Steve Kulczycky and Jim Webb had each been made Life Members not long before they died. At the end of 2012, long-time member Shirley Hubbard was made an Honorary Member.
In October of 2012, we revived the ‘President’s Awards’. They were presented to Brodie Templeton for his many years of work for the airshow; Ed Boon for his promotion of fly-ins to the airshow; Stephen Head for managing the refurbishment of IUK; and Mark Thibault and Ron Becker for developing the Kid’s First Flights.
During the course of these four years, the club had developed reliable revenue and solid financial systems. The club had saved the XF buildings from demolition and added them to the hangar operation. There were strong social programs and developing events, the newsletter was great, and a safety culture had emerged. The aircraft were being refurbished. Flying hours increased, and organized fly-outs thrived, and membership grew. In December, Rachel Stewart sang at the Christmas TGIF.
Thus ended 2012.