By Steve Stewart
The Abbotsford Flying Club (COPA Flight 83) was founded in 1961, and celebrated its 50th anniversary on September 24th. The event was attended by nearly 200 members, guests and dignitaries, some of whom had been invited to speak.
The club’s first president, John Spronk, and Hank Hamm, another founding member were there. The event was emceed by Bob Singleton, the well known ‘voice of the Abbotsford Airshow.’ Christy Clarke, Premier of British Columbia sent congratulations.
The Mayor of Abbotsford, George Peary, said, Abbotsford Airport has undergone radical upgrades just recently and is now the location of 2,000 jobs and increasing commercial activity, however, he assured those present that General Aviation will have an increasing presence in future years. This news was well received.
MLA John Van Dongen acknowledged the past contributions of the AFC to aviation development in Abbotsford and to the community. MLA Mike DeJong, Minister of Health, echoed these sentiments and, in an unexpected development, read out a Royal Proclamation that September 24th be known as “Abbotsford Flying Club Day” throughout the province of British Columbia.
He then presented the Proclamation to current AFC President, Steve Stewart, and it is now on display in the clubhouse.
Patricia Ross, Chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District added her congratulations, and particularly expressed her appreciation of the AFC’s ‘First Flights for Kids’ events. (This initiative grew from the former Young Eagles program, and operates similarly to COPA for Kids).
Airshow President (and AFC member) Ron Price then regaled the audience with stories from air shows past, and reaffirmed just how essential the AFC still is to the show. (The air show was started in 1962 by the then newly formed AFC and the Rotary Club. In 1964, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) took over from the Rotary Club and joined forces with AFC to continue the air show.
In 1970, the AFC was presented with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s (AOPA) highest award in recognition of the AFC’s outstanding contribution to aviation as the sponsoring body and contributor to the Abbotsford International Airshow.)
The current President, Steve Stewart, emphasized that the many achievements of the AFC were in no way inevitable. The club started from nothing, but those original members had the vision to immediately start an air show that quickly grew into, and remains, Canada’s most important national air show.
Everything the club has done over the past 50 years was because someone actually decided to make things happen. The club is needed now more than ever, because flying has become less and less accessible for ordinary people, and it is only through clubs such as the AFC that share costs, resources, expertise, and experiences, that many people are able to share the joy of flying.
This event celebrated the achievements of the past 50 years, but the vision of the AFC is for the next 50.
The club’s first President, John Spronk, was present, and his daughter, Margot, spoke on his behalf of how the club began and grew to what it is today.
The event was blessed by exceptionally good weather that lasted just for one whole day. All of the organization and arrangements were handled by an able team of members, chaired by Randy Kelley.
After toasts to the Past and to the Future, a custom-designed cake was cut by John Spronk, Hank Hamm, Steve Stewart and Millie Watson (first sponsored member, 1963). The evening entertainment was by the DC Trio, including past-president Clark Closkey.
The AFC holds a General Meeting at 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every month. Guests are welcome. New member applications are also welcome.