An Aero Club Tiger Moth over the Fraser River.

Aero Club celebrating centennial

Storied club moved from Vancouver to Pitt airport.

Pitt Meadows civilian pilots will be celebrating a historic anniversary at the end of the month, as the Aero Club of B.C. turns 100.

“We’ve got quite an amazing history,” said club president Tom Heise.

The oldest registered flying club in the British Commonwealth, it was founded in 1915 by a group of aviation enthusiasts in Vancouver.

At that time, aviation was still in its infancy. The first airplane flight in Canada had only taken place in 1909 in Nova Scotia, and Silver Dart went less than a kilometer.

A 1913 trial flight, to take newspapers from Montreal to Ottawa, crashed.

But progress was rapid, and the First World War, from 1914 to 1918, manufactured aircraft and trained pilots.

The club was soon populated with many veterans of the Royal Air Force and Royal Flying Corps, including Donald McClaren, a First World War ace who shot down 54 aircraft.

In 1927, the club received a pair of De Havilland moths from the department of national defence, and acquired two fleet biplanes in 1930.

In 1929, the city of Vancouver decided to spend $300,000 to build an airport, after a lobby by the Aero Club. City council members were no doubt spurred on by famed aviator Charles Lindbergh’s criticism that Vancouver “had no fit field to land on,” so his Spirit of St. Louis did not visit the city.

The club thrived at the new airport, offering civilian flight training and promoting aviation.

The airport was a training centre throughout the Second World War, and the club played a prominent role in the British Commonwealth Air Training Program for pilots.

But the growth of aviation soon had civilian pilots under foot at the busy Vancouver airport.

Members of the Aero Club were instrumental in getting the Department of Transport to build Pitt Meadows airport, to serve as a satellite to Vancouver international airport.

When the Pitt Meadows airport opened in the summer of 1963, the Aero Club was among the first tenants to arrive there, and has been there since.

Aero Club president Tom Heise has been a member for more than 30 years.

The club used to offer pilot training, owned its own aircraft, and even ran a restaurant at Vancouver airport.

But pilot training is a business, not a hobby, and the function of the club has changed over the years.

Today the club will organize Transport Canada safety seminars, offer free flights to children to introduce them to aviation, and host social fly-in and fly-out events.

The club also offers scholarship money to air cadets, and shares its clubhouse with other non-profit groups. It has a membership of about 125.

“The function of the club today is still to support and promote aviation,” Heise said. “The future of the club is going to be in our ability to attract young people to the club, and have them take it over.”

 

Just Posted

OUTLOOK: Golden Ears Way – easing the congestion

Mayor wants TransLink to four-lane Golden Ears Way up to 203rd Street.

Maple Ridge second lowest for number of ODs

Coroner’s stats in for third quarter of the year

Flames lose at home, win in Mission

Host Kodiaks on Friday night

Weavers and spinners to kick off holiday shopping

The Whonnock Weavers and Spinners’ 38th annual exhibit and sale takes place Nov. 25

Strong support for Pitt Meadows transportation projects

Overpass/underpass projects get majority support

UPDATE: IHIT confirms identity of Hells Angels homicide victim

Chad John Wilson was one of four men arrested in Spain in 2013 on allegations of smuggling cocaine.

$90,000 pen from space created by B.C man

The Space pen is made from a meteorite

B.C. woman fined $2,300 for clocking 215 km/hr in Alberta

It’s the highest fine Alberta police have issued

Police renew call to ID suspect who pushed Surrey man into traffic near PNE

VPD haven’t received enough tips in the months since

5 to start your day

Police try to thwart retaliation after Hells Angels member killed, criminal investigation at B.C. legislature and more

Watchdog calls for probe into police board spending on former Victoria police chief

Police Complaint Commissioner says accountable and transparent review is in public interest

South Korean named Interpol president in blow to Russia

South Korea’s Kim Jong Yang was elected as Interpol’s president edging out a longtime veteran of Russia’s security services.

E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce sickens 18 people in Ontario, Quebec

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it’s working with U.S. authorities to determine the source of the romaine lettuce those who got ill were exposed to.

Trump defies calls to punish crown prince for writer’s death

The U.S. earlier sanctioned 17 Saudi officials suspected of being responsible for or complicit in the Oct. 2 killing, but members of Congress have called for harsher actions, including cancelling arms sales.

Most Read