Category Archives: Newsletter

Outline History of the AFC – the latest instalment 

June 2004 – December 2008 

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 Gerry Visser. 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. 

Gerry Visser 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. Gerry 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 Gerry back in, but they insisted that he pay the full  initiation fee again, as though he was a first-time new member. Again, Gerry 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, Gerry 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.  Clark Stelmaschuck, 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,  Clark 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. 

Steve Stewart 

April 2021

President’s Column – May 2021

President’s May 2021 News Letter

As was mentioned in the February Newsletter, seminars designed to promote flight safety continue to be offered by Warren Le Grice.  Currently, the focus is on mountain flying, and our pilots are encouraged to sign in for these sessions.  The next one will be presented Saturday, May 8th at 10:00 am.  If you have not yet asked to join these Webex based seminars, contact Warren ( so he can add you to the list of invitees.  This is in keeping with our theme “safety through continuous learning.”  These sessions are interactive and we know you will find them to be informative in preparing for flights taking place over the rugged BC terrain.

But now, many of us are experiencing COVID fatigue.  It had been our hope that there would be more positive news in moving forward but based on the government’s latest restrictions, nothing could be further from the truth.  We are now being told that travel outside our medical region is prohibited and so you are required to follow this restriction.  As more people are being vaccinated, we can only hope that things will improve in the near future.

At the April meeting of the board, a letter of resignation was accepted from Amar Sundher.  His contribution as Membership Director was recognized and our thanks to Amar and his committee for the introduction of a long list of new members.  New members are the lifeline of the club and we are grateful for the work they have done on our behalf.

It is encouraging to see that many of our pilots are taking advantage of some good spring weather and taking to the skies, even with the tight restrictions in place.  Our thanks for your continuing cooperation in this endeavor.

Until next month, happy flying and stay safe.


Ken Funk
Abbotsford Flying Club

AFC Centennial Cairn hypostatis established

On Friday April 24 we completed the first part of the centennial monument project. Tom Grozier brought his mini-backhoe and loader to excavate the site, and to move gravel over from the hangar compound. Randy Engh happened by, after flying GMA, and did most of the manual work. Later, Lorenzo Simion inspected the work and declared it good.