After years without flight instruction being offered locally, Westview Flying Club is resuming lessons for Powell River area residents interested in becoming pilots. According to club president Brent McKenzie, about 20 years have passed since flying classes were last made available.
“When I joined the flying club in 1980s, the club had over 250 members,” said McKenzie. “That was when the mill had over 2,000 employees. Things declined and that's where a lot of pilots came from; they had the money to spend on flying.”
The flying club is hosting an upcoming open house as an information session for people interested in being up in the clouds. In addition to flight training, pilots can keep their certification current.
McKenzie said the opportunity to teach flying became available when Campbell River’s Sealand Aviation approached the club to provide a four-seat Cessna 172 for training.
Certified flying instructor Valerie Ferguson moved to Powell River one year ago and will teach the lessons. She has experience as a commercial pilot on fixed-wing and rotary aircraft.
“It’s an excellent training plane,” said Ferguson. “It’s very stable and very forgiving.”
Ferguson, who has been flying since she was a teenager, said it takes work to obtain a licence.
“You have to have a minimum of 45 hours of flight instruction,” she said. “You also have to take a ground school and you have to pass an aviation medical.”
Lessons have been available since the summer. Ferguson has had four students to date and one has graduated. Each student seems to share the same emotions when the lessons start, according to Ferguson.
“They're kind of half nervous and half excited,” she said.
Westview Flying Club started in 1953 as a not-for-profit to promote flying and facilitate the needs for people to be able to enjoy flying in Powell River. Interest has been spiking lately, according to McKenzie.
“We've been hearing a lot of interest and that's what it's all about,” said McKenzie. “It's getting the word out to people who have been thinking about it. A lot of people have talked about it and there has been no way to do it easily from Powell River; now they can.”
According to Ferguson, the Powell River area is excellent for flying, in part, due to the location.
“In a plane, you can get anywhere so quickly and in a ferry, not so much,” said Ferguson.
McKenzie’s plane is a replica of the first aircraft to ever fly into Powell River, he said.
“I've owned it for 31 years,” he said. “It’s a 1948 Fleet Canuck, which is a Canadian-designed aircraft. In fact, in the 1990s the Royal Canadian Mint came out with a coin that commemorated it because it is an iconic Canadian aircraft.”
Westview Flying Club’s open house takes place from 11 am-3 pm on Saturday, September 23, with the flight instruction information session starting at 12 pm. The next ground school class begins in early October.