Category Archives: AFC History

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

AFC History 1967 to 1979

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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A B C D
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
A B C D
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
A B C D
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”

“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

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

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.

Origins of the Abbotsford Flying Club and Airshow

Origins of the Abbotsford Flying Club and Airshow

By Steve Stewart

We start with the post-war situation of the Abbotsford Airport, its role through the 1950s, and its relationship to Vancouver Airport.

Vancouver Airport was created in 1931 as a civilian airport serving Vancouver and the surrounding region. It is on Sea Island, which is part of the City of Richmond, but was owned by the City of Vancouver. During the war the RCAF took over, and their presence continued through the following two decades or more. However, when peace returned in 1945, Vancouver Airport soon continued on its former trajectory of providing a focus for the growth of civilian air traffic on the west coast, and internationally.

In contrast, Abbotsford Airport was built specifically as a consequence of war. It started as an Elementary Flying School, and then became an Operational Training Unit. But within weeks of the Japanese surrender in August 1945, the entire operation was closed down, and almost everyone left. For some time it was used to store surplus aircraft. It remained a DND asset, and was part of various RCAF exercises for some years, including  a major combined army and air reserve exercise in July of 1951, regular use for Air Cadet summer exercises and gliding, and was part of the Civil Defence plans. As an emergency facility, in 1948, during the Fraser River flood, its barracks and grounds housed civilians and livestock displaced from Sumas and Matsqui Prairies. They were used again during flooding in February 1951. Just after the 1948 flood, an airshow was organized by the Abbotsford Lions Club and the Chilliwack Flying Club, with a large part of the profits dedicated for the relief of flood victims.

The barracks and other buildings were used again from 1956 to 1958 to house refugees from the Soviet response to the Hungarian uprising. Also in 1956, Lady Baden Powell attended a rally of 2,000 Girl Guides and Brownies. But usually the buildings remained empty, and there was a persistent trend to sell the ones that could be moved and repurposed. In 1960 a 30 by 68 foot building was moved some miles north up Mt Lehman road to become the Veterans’ Association building (where it still is), and the Guard House was moved to become the Matsqui Police Station and Courtroom. Classified ads in the local newspapers regularly offered buildings for sale, either complete or dismantled. Some buildings were used in place, with School District 34 arranging to use them for a 22 room school during the 1951-52 school year, on the understanding that the school would have to close if an immediate DND need emerged.

Although smaller parts of its physical infrastructure were gradually being eroded, the airport was still seen as a valuable resource by the Federal Government, by the local communities, by some civilian aviators, and by motor racing enthusiasts.

At that time instrument landing systems were not so capable of guiding airline flights into Vancouver during fog, and fog is much more common at Vancouver than at Abbotsford. Moreover, at that time there was a lot of industrial air pollution and smoke from beehive burners, that combined with the fog to make it more persistent, especially at lower altitudes. So Abbotsford became the regular diversion airport for Vancouver. A terminal facility with customs and arrivals lounge was set up in Hangar 2, and bus service provided for the trip to Vancouver. The terminal facility was in frequent, though irregular, use. Moreover, the runways were kept usable.  In one five-day period of November 1956 there were 150 diversions, and all the airlines made Abbotsford their base of operations. Sometimes important flights arrived intentionally. In 1953 Field Marshall Sir John Harding, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, toured Canada, visiting army bases throughout the country. He flew in to Abbotsford from Vancouver on his way to inspect the school of military engineering in Chilliwack, then returned to board his plane for Calgary. In July of 1958 Princess Margaret flew in, as part of her tour celebrating the centennial of the formation of British Columbia in 1858.  Civilian aviators visited from other established airports and marveled at the three long, wide runways.

It was actually the airport’s lack of busy flying activity that attracted the burgeoning sport of sky-diving, and during the late 1950s sky-diving was a common sight. The round parachutes used back then did not offer much directional control, and a large target area was desirable. In 1958, as part of the British Columbia Centenary celebrations, the North American Championships and trials for the world sky-diving championships were held at Abbotsford, and it was the location for some ‘firsts’. One was the first pass in North America of a one foot long yellow and green baton from one free-falling sky-diver to another, after jumping from 12,500 feet and while falling at 240 mph.

Starting in 1951 Abbotsford Airport became the major venue for motor racing in the region. Various circuits could be laid out, using the runways, taxiways and apron. Grass fires were not uncommon.  Barely a week went by without a sports car or motorcycle event. Sometimes even ladies got to drive, but with a head-start handicap – of course. And there was drag racing as well. From 1949, Annual Auto Shows were organized by the Lions Club in Hangar One. Racing continued right through to the very last race on March 30th 1958, the day before the airport was transferred from the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Transport.

Way back in 1951, a visionary letter to the Editor of the Vancouver Sun, from F. S. Hayward in Abbotsford, described why Abbotsford Airport was so valuable. At the time its potential use in another war was still of great significance, but he also recognised it as the ideal location for an international civilian airport, citing its location on the US border which could allow joint customs; the significant absence of fog compared to Vancouver; and its solid gravel base and heavy-duty runways. ”All we need do now is build a four or six lane highway from Abbotsford to Vancouver city centre…”

But as time passed, the prospects of Abbotsford returning to full-time use, as an airport or RCAF base seemed to fade, despite rumours that the RCAF operations from Sea Island might end, and be transferred.

Vancouver was becoming ever busier. In early 1957 officials in Ottawa released a plan for Pitt Meadows to become Vancouver’s second airport, capable of handling aircraft up to the twin-engine DC-3, and with 4,000 foot grass runways. According to the plan, Abbotsford would be the third Vancouver Airport and have a runway extension to 7,000 feet.  Surveys started for the extension in May. The BC Aviation Council protested the choice of Pitt Meadows and called for Boundary Bay to be re-opened stating that it was half the distance from downtown Vancouver, had half the rainfall of Pitt Meadows, and already had hangars, runways and other facilities. Boundary Bay had not been maintained as an airfield since the end of the war, but the MoT showed some interest in the idea.  Then in October it was announced that “Abbotsford would be taken over by the Department of Transport as an alternate to Vancouver International Airport for both domestic and international flights next April”. However, there were no immediate plans for improving runways or passenger facilities.

In fact, as soon as the DoT took over in April 1958, they announced plans for a new terminal facility, including customs and air traffic control.  They also made space available in the old RCAF hangars for aircraft storage. Then, in May, as part of a federal government public works program, $750,000 was allocated for extension of the main runway to 7000 feet, together with re-surfacing.  This would make it capable of handling the biggest commercial aircraft of the time, such as the Bristol Britannia.

Tenders for the new passenger terminal (in Hangar Two) were invited in January 1959, with an estimated cost of $55,000. By the time the building permit was issued in April, the estimate had risen to $92,000

The airport facilities continued to be developed after its 1959 renovations – a control tower went into operation in 1960, and high-intensity runway and approach lighting was planned for 1961.

Aerovive, the first commercial aircraft repair and inspection facility was opened in 1959 by Bert Green, providing employment for up to 10 persons. Speaking to the local Rotary club in November, Green boosted the airport’s potential growth. In just seven weeks his company had nearly doubled the floor space it needed, and he described the presence of about 400 light aircraft in BC, most of which had previously been serviced in Vancouver, but were being squeezed out by crowded conditions. He described the potential at Abbotsford as at least the equal of Sea Island.

Vancouver continued to get busier, the terminal and facilities became more and more in need of updating or replacement, and the bridges to Sea Island were completely inadequate. There were plans to restrict flying by light-aircraft because of the dangers of them mixing with jet traffic. General aviation was being forced to move either to Langley or Abbotsford or Pitt Meadows, because Boundary Bay had been completely closed to aviation since the war. In January 1961 Grant McConachie, President of CPA, described Vancouver as “a shacktown in the international community of jet-age airports”. He predicted a shift of major airline traffic to Abbotsford, unless the Vancouver Airport was sold to Ottawa.  Vancouver ratepayers were about to vote on whether to sell their stake in the airport for $2.75 million or to raise at least $12 million to build a modern jet-age terminal. McConachie could foresee only losses if the City chose to build a new terminal itself.  The Mayor of Vancouver agreed and recommended the airport’s sale.

Fraser Valley MP Harold Hicks advocated the benefits of Abbotsford Airport unstintingly, both in his regular column in the local newspaper and in Parliament.  He considered it “time that traffic be directed to Abbotsford”. He could not see why the Dominion Government would want to buy from Vancouver when they already owned outright the airport in Abbotsford.  The fog issue was still prominent – 52 flights had been diverted in December 1960, nine of which were giant DC-8s. Hicks imagined the great things that could be done if that $2.75 million was directed to Abbotsford instead.  Bert Green, owner of Aerovive, suggested one idea – “The Air Show”. It would be a natural location, with no congestion of population, and would provide manufacturers an opportunity to display their equipment. “I’d be all for it” said Harold Luesley, the airport manager. Mr. Hicks suggested that a local service club might take up the challenge.

But, as things turned out, Vancouver voters did opt for the City to sell its stake in their airport. The DoT bought it in 1962 for $2.5 million, and then built a new terminal – completed in 1968 at a cost of $30 million, and the airport has continued to grow and develop ever since.

It would be another four decades almost, before regular airline traffic started to develop at Abbotsford.

From Aug 3rd to 22nd  of 1961 the RCAF Golden Hawks were based at Abbotsford. They practiced regularly for shows at English Bay, Kelowna, Victoria, Comox and the PNE. This was significant because it was the first time that an RCAF display team had been based at Abbotsford instead of at Sea island, and it must have made people think hard about having a show in Abbotsford.  The remarks by Hicks, Green and Luesley in January show there was clearly an appetite for an airshow in Abbotsford, and it may have been a common topic for speculation. But maybe more importantly, there was also an opportunity, because the Vancouver airshow was no longer viable. Although they are now generally forgotten, there were airshows as part of Air Force Day, based out of Sea Island every year right through the 1950s and early 1960s. In the 1950s there were a number of civilian shows as well, and they were hugely successful.

The Aero Club of BC planned a civilian airshow for June of 1950, in conjunction with Air Force Day, and it was to be the first civilian show at Vancouver for 13 years. However, it was cancelled because of difficulties with the old Marpole Bridge. The Air Force event went ahead anyway, and attracted 20,000 people. Later, when presented with a detailed traffic plan, the Airport Board relented, and a free admission, all-Canadian show was re-scheduled for September 3rd. It was a civilian show, but it included RCAF jets anyway, from 442 Reserve Squadron.

Air Force Day 1954 was in June, but flying was cancelled because of weather. For the civilian show in August, the RCAF planned a cavalcade of 15 jets (Sabres, CF-100s and T-33s) with one of the five CF-100s attempting to break the sound barrier for the first time on the west coast. A huge attendance created the biggest traffic jam yet on the Marpole bridge.

1958 was special because the airshow was a Centennial event – to celebrate the 1858 creation of British Columbia. Attendance was estimated at 100,000, with another 20,000 on the other side of the airport for the RCAF event. Undoubted star of the show was the Tupolev Tu-104  — simply because it was Russian, with real, live Russians aboard. The Russian pilot was given the chance to take the controls of the new Boeing 707, and he was tremendously impressed by its easy handling. Later the 707 pilot flew in the Tu-104, but was denied even the right seat, being told it needed two pilots at all times. He concluded that “..it may be a good airplane, but for my money it’s obsolete’. The highlight of the RCAF event was a series of slow passes by an RAF Vulcan bomber.

The last civilian airshow at Vancouver was in 1959. It celebrated 50 years of aviation in Canada. Its cost was underwritten up to $5,000 each by the City of Vancouver and by industry, and the only revenue sources were a 50c/car parking fee and program sales, with attendance being free. Aircraft expected to attend included Russia’s new Tu-114; two RAF Handley Page Victors and a Mark 4 Comet; a Boeing 707; a Douglas DC-8; several USAF B-52s, F-104 Starfighters, F-101 Voodoos, F-102 Daggers and F-89 Scorpions; RCAF CF-100s, and the RCAF Golden Hawks Sabre-jet display team. A Bomarc missile, for static display, arrived in the belly of a USAF C-124 transport. Attendance was reported at 120,000 with another 300,000 crowding the shores of English Bay for the RCAF displays.   These numbers are probably not reliable (the population of the whole Province in 1959 was only 1.567 million people, and the idea that over a quarter of the entire population was there watching the show seems a bit stretched), but what is undeniable was the catastrophic effect on road traffic. Parking for 12,000 cars was provided, and buses ran from Oakridge Centre, but it was clear that this could not go on.

The RCAF continued its Sea Island Open Day displays for years, but there would never be another airshow at Vancouver Airport.  And that is why, in January 1961, Bert Green suggested “The Air Show” for Abbotsford, not just ‘an air show’.   Vancouver Airport was no longer available, but the public demand for an airshow continued. The opportunity for Abbotsford was obvious. Circumstances had created the conditions and opportunity, and all that remained was for a suitable organization to grasp that opportunity.

Abbotsford would have to wait until 1997 for the start of regular airline services (by Westjet), but in the meantime other activity increased slowly. To facilitate development, the DoT arranged for new ‘Abbotsford Airport Zoning Regulations’ to be approved under Order in Council and the Authority of the Aeronautics Act.

Aerovive had been the first commercial operation to start up at Abbotsford, and possibly their most remembered achievement was to completely rebuild what was one of only two remaining Supermarine Stranraer flying boats. It had arrived at Abbotsford by road, very early one morning under police escort, being towed on its own beaching gear. Rebuild took seven months and $40,000. Then on June 10th 1962 it flew again, for 40 minutes to the Fraser River at Sea Island. Take-off was from a specially constructed detachable 4-wheel dolly, from which it lifted off when flying speed was reached. The dolly continued along the runway. Pilot was Slim Knights. In late 1961 Aerovive bought Hangar Number Three from Crown Assets, but at least some of the Stranraer work had been done in Hangar One.  By 1964 Hangar Three was occupied by Sumas Air Services, (was that just a name change or an actual different company?)  In 1964 the building was sold to Skyway Air Services.

Skyway Air Services had already bought Hangar One in April 1961 for use as a base for timber and crop spraying operations. Skyway was based in Langley and was a leading developer and operator of aerial spraying and water bombing capabilities, and were mostly using Grumman Avengers at that time.

Another new company in 1960 was Abbotsford Air Services; started by Herb Porter, with one Cessna 150 airplane, to provide flight instruction and charters. His business grew quickly, and by 1961 had already occupied a succession of four locations in the terminal building (Hangar Two). He was ready to hire a Chief Instructor, and he found John Spronk in Penticton. (A year later he would be ready for a whole new building – which was ready shortly before the first airshow in August 1962.)

John Spronk had come to Canada from Holland after a successful career in the Dutch Air Force. He had trained on Tiger Moths and Harvards, before moving to Spitfires and then Gloster Meteors. He had reached the rank of Captain, and further advancement would mean desk-work and much less flying, if any. His air force superiors and colleagues, and his wife, all urged him to stay with the air force, but he had decided they would move to Canada, where he could convert his qualifications, and then continue a civilian flying career. John and his wife Patricia moved to Vancouver in 1958, and after obtaining the appropriate licences and ratings, moved first to Kelowna, where John worked for Cariboo Air Charter, and then Penticton, where he was CFI at the new flying school. He joined the flying club, and became a Director in March of 1961. Forty years later John described his first visit to Abbotsford, and the subsequent formation of the Abbotsford Flying Club:

My first landing at Abbotsford airport is etched in my memory – it was February 1961. My boss and I were returning to Penticton, (where I was CFI) after completing some Flying School business in Vancouver.

 The weather forecast was not good, and the Hope-Princeton highway route would be our only chance of making it through to Penticton. When we reached Hope the weather in my opinion was not suitable to continue. My boss, however, felt we should go on because it was his birthday and he wanted to get home! After some debate, I said: “The right side of the airplane is going back, I don’t know about your side.” I won the argument and we diverted to Abbotsford.

 I could not believe my eyes as we approached. THREE big runways and all kinds of hangars and even a Tower! We were the only aircraft to land that day! The Tower was operational because Abbotsford was the Alternate Airport for Vancouver! We couldn’t get over the fact, that nobody was using it. Howie Williams, the Tower’s only Air Traffic Controller cleared us to land. (Howie later became a friend and supporter of the Flying Club).

 In April of that year, Herb Porter flew in to Penticton and offered me the job of CFI for his brand new flying school at Abbotsford. He was looking for a suitable instructor and I had been recommended to him. I accepted that offer as my family wanted to return to the Lower Mainland anyway.

 The new company was called Abbotsford Air Services, and was located on the second floor of Hangar 2. It was the first civilian flying school at Abbotsford. I started with them in July ’61, and soon after that met the local pilots: Butch Merrick, John McGowan, Hank Hamm, Chuck Dennett, Monty Shore and others. Most of them were members of the Chilliwack Flying Club. This made me wonder why there was no club at Abbotsford.

 One thing led to another and we canvassed other interested people, with the idea of forming a local Flying Club. A meeting was called on the 14th of November 1961 in the terminal facility of Hangar 2. About two dozen attended. After some discussion the group was very much in favour, and the decision was made to go ahead! The name was going to be: The Abbotsford Flying Club! An election followed and Monty Shore became Secretary/Treasurer, John McGowan and Hank Hamm, were directors at large and I had the honour of becoming the first President. ……..   In a typical gesture, Butch Merrick stood up and immediately paid his dues, making him the first paid up member of the Club!   ….

 John was clearly struck by the lack of activity at Abbotsford, but he would not have been immediately aware that it was only three years since the DoT started to rent hangar space to individuals and for commercial activity. Some of the people he met, who had recently started to store their airplanes there, and would soon help form the Abbotsford Flying Club, were already members of the Chilliwack Flying Club, which was large and active and had existed since the 1930s.    Of the other Members of that first AFC Board: Monty Shore had spent the war serving on convoy duty with the RCN and had reached the rank of Lt. Commander. He continued for many years with the naval reserve. He was an Abbotsford Electrical Inspector and General Contractor.  John McGowan had served in the RCAF and had trained on Liberators at Abbotsford and Boundary Bay. By 1961 he was a very successful Motor Dealer in Abbotsford.  Hank Hamm operated the Esso Service Station in Abbotsford and was a keen sky-diver.

Abbotsford Air Services would have provided the first focus point for general aviation activity at Abbotsford. So it was really only around the time that Spronk arrived that the necessary elements and conditions for the formation of a flying club came together. As CFI at AAS, and with his background and contacts, he was one of those key elements. Once the ingredients did come together, it did not take long for that core group of pilots and student pilots to agree on forming a club.

John Spronk arrived at Abbotsford Air Services in July, and he was there during the extended visit by the Golden Hawks in August.  Seeing them practice day after day, and going off to perform shows elsewhere, would have undoubtedly made everyone at the airport think about the idea of having a show right here in Abbotsford.

The next step in this story is about the decision to start the airshow. The Rotary Club of Abbotsford was looking for a fund-raising project, and one of their members, John Beldam, who was also a member of the new Flying Club, suggested an air show. He probably voiced the same suggestion at both the AFC and the RCA.

W.J. (Bud) Lloyd, another Rotary member, had been interested in putting on an air show for some time.  He received encouragement from Frank Bernard, who had been involved in staging the shows at Vancouver, was on the board of the BC Aviation Council, and later maintained that the Abbotsford show basically was a continuation of the Vancouver shows. Bud and his son, Jerry, met with John Spronk, and agreed to pitch the idea for the show to the Rotary Executive meeting of March 15th 1962.

At the meeting, they talked about the RCAF Golden Hawks display team, which everyone had seen practicing at Abbotsford the previous summer; the Lockheed Neptune maritime patrol aircraft; the F101 Voodoo supersonic fighter-bomber, and the Grumman Albatross Search and Rescue flying boat. With a vote of 9 ‘for’, and 1 ‘against’, the decision was made to stage a show on August 11th and 12th 1962.