Armidale Aero Club Inc

CLUB HISTORY

The 1940's

The exact date of the Club's inception is difficult to determine as records have been lost through the ravages of time but records available indicate the 21st November 1945. Mr.Donald Shand was a foundation member of the club who some eighteen months later became the founding chairman of East-West Airlines Ltd. on the 23rd June 1947.   
The club remained active through to 1961 operating at that time along side the Armidale Souring Club from a hangar that was located on the site now occupied by Fleet Helicopters. Without a club aircraft for flight training in those early days the Newcastle Aero Club visited many country centres including Armidale for flight training. 

                              

                           DH82 Tiger Moth                                          DHC-1 Chipmunk   

A DH82 Tiger Moth and occasionally a DHC-1 Chipmunk with instructor visited Armidale every Saturday from Tamworth to provide instruction. 

   

   Pictured at Armidale on 7th June 1946 is de Havilland DH-82 registered VH-AOB with club members Don Shand and Len Rixon (right) after qualifying for his pilot's certificate. Len was the first Armidale Aero Club member to obtain a pilot's licence.

                 From 1961 a period of nine years passed where the Aero Club was inactive.

A New Start

A group of local aviation enthusiasts came together in early 1970 with the view of restarting the Aero Club. A meeting was convened in the office of local aviation company New England Air Taxis.(NEAT)

The ten interested aviators present were: John Baker, Mike Brown, Bob Dunn, Peter Elliott, Tony Ferris, David Goldsmith, Peter Hanson, Errol Steinhardt, Geoff Swilks and Barry Wirrick. After lengthly discussions sufficient interest warranted reforming the club and the meeting proceeded with electing office bearers.

The main office bearers elected that day were;  

President: David Goldsmith

Secretary: Errol Steinhardt

Treasurer: Peter Hanson

During the early months an enormous amount of effort was required by the newly elected executive and members to get the club moving once again. One of the first tasks was to secure a place on the aerodrome to conduct regular meetings; the club was given access to the hangar and offices used by New England Air Taxis located in the original Superair Hangar until moving to the present day clubhouse.

At subsequent meetings new members joined and further committee members were duly elected. Annual membership subscriptions were set at; Flying Member $5.00 and Social Membership $1.00 Within the first year of operations interest from local residents increased and membership had grown to in excess of thirty.

The initiative of the group at that first meeting to reform the aero club in 1970 has certainly proven to be a correct one as the club has continued to operate successfully for the past forty-five years.

Pilot Training

New England Air Taxis (1964-1975) provided pilot training for club members under the tutelage of Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) Richard Mclean, Instructors David Goldsmith, Peter Elliott and Robert Cumming.

                                               

"First presentation after the club was reformed. Judge Peter Elliott(R) congratulates       the winner Tony Ferris while Club President and Instructor David Goldsmith(L) looks on with TAS student Rod Brown (2nd left) placed 3rd and Errol Steinhardt (middle) placed 2nd"

Aircraft used during this period were Cessna C172Es VH-DFG, VH-RFY, Cessna C182E VH-CDV, Piper PA24-250 VH-PAW and Piper PA28-235 VH-PAV. Training was exceptionally busy in the formative years with twenty-seven students preparing for their license in 1972.

Students and licensed pilots competed each month in various sequences for best in competition. Members participated in air races and air safaris over the years and also planned two very successful air pageants in April 1972 and April 1973. 

When New England Air Taxis ceased operations, flying training for club members was passed to New England Flight Training and Charter. 

Club Aircraft

The committee realised that club members needed to have access to an aircraft for social flying. This was agreed to and the first aircraft purchased since reforming the club was a Thorpe T111 Skyscooter  VH-EQF. Arriving on 20th July 1973 this aircraft proved to be unsuitable and was sold a little over twelve months later in August 1974.

          

      Thorpe T111 VH-EQF at Bankstown 1970               VH-EQF  Arrives Armidale July 1973


Robert Cumming Memorial Shield

On Wednesday 13th March 1974 tragedy struck the aviation communities of Armidale and Kempsey when local instructor Robert Cumming, then CFI with New England Air Taxis perished in a mid air collision near Bankstown airport. Robert was born at Frederickton, near Kempsey NSW and was living in Armidale at the time of this tragic accident.

                                                

                 Kempsey President Graeme Smith (L)                             The late

                 presents the Shield to Errol Steinhardt                      Robert Cumming


In his honour the Armidale Aero Club and the Kempsey Flying Club decided that as a tribute to Robert an inter-club competition would be held annually with pilots competing for the 'Robert Cumming Memorial Shield'. Four decades on the clubs are still competing for the shield.

New Club House

Some three years after reforming with a growing membership, it was evident that there was a need for a more permanent and larger clubhouse. The present building was planned and council approval given, with work commencing in October 1975. Materials were donated by various Armidale businesses and members donated their time and skills to the building process. The new club was used for some time before finally being completed in July 1978 and officially opened by the Member for New England Rt. Hon Ian Sinclair MHR on the 19th August 1978.

            


2nd Club Aircraft

Having disposed of the Thorpe T111 a second aircraft, Grumman AA1B registered VH-MDA was purchased. This aircraft proved unsuitable for club needs in general and was sold in October 1982.

                                                                       

                                                       Grumman AA1B VH-MDA                        

3rd Club Aircraft

Members decided that an aircraft with four seats would better suit club activities and sourced a Cessna C172M registered VH-WYZ from Kingaroy. This aircraft was purchased on 15th July 1983 and is retained by the club today.

                    

            VH-WYZ Arrives Armidale July 1983                                  VH-WYZ Feb 2015


Club Hangar

With the need for a hangar to house VH-WYZ plans were drawn and submitted to council in July 1992. Council approval was granted for a hangar adjacent to the clubhouse. Many Armidale and Tamworth businesses donated or generously discounted the materials required and members donated their time and expertise in the construction phase. The hangar was completed in March 1995 and officially opened by then President John Nicholls on Sunday 27th August 1995 in the presence of members and guests.

                       

                                 

The Club in 2020

Members are continuing the vision of the ten pilots who reformed the club some forty-five years before. Club membership increased to around eighty in the mid to late 1990s, there has been a gradual decrease in membership with current numbers at sixty-five. Fifteen members operate their own aircraft, which is a promising sign for the club. Activities include monthly pilot proficiency days, social evenings, annual safaris and inter club flying with Kempsey Flying Club.