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WINGS OF FLIGHT – A TALE OF THE PQAC

Story and photos by Linda Matteson-Reynolds

Community spirit, volunteer dedication and a bunch of enthusiastic guys who love to fly makes the Parksville-Qualicum Aero Club (PQAC) a haven for local aviators.

It all started in the late ‘50s, when founding member Don McMillan and four others, headed out to a roughened airstrip pasture in north Qualicum that had been donated to the town by the local Rotary Club. They were exploring the possibility of forming a local aviation club.

Despite a shaky and turbulent history, and tense negotiations with the City of Qualicum to improve the conditions at the airport, the Club was at last incorporated in 1968. “This airport and club evolved from a great deal of diplomacy and much cajoling,” states McMillan.

As a BC registered non-profit society, the PQAC currently has over 60 active members, many who have stuck it out over the years and have played a pivotal role in the development of the Qualicum Beach Airport (CAT4) as it is today.  These ardent aviators and volunteers continue in that role to ensure the airport remains a key asset for the Parksville-Qualicum Beach community.

The newly expanded PQAC clubhouse at Unit 9 Ravensbourne Lane adjoins a spacious hangar where they keep their club-owned Cessna 172M.

Current President Fred Evoy extends a community welcome to local aviators:  “Whether you’re a seasoned pilot, a rookie pilot or someone bitten by all things aviation, PQAC is the place to be in Oceanside. We have members with varied interests and experience in aviation. All are friendly and enjoy the camaraderie of their common interest in airplanes and aviation.  Whether hanging out in the Member’s Lounge or flying off to enjoy the scenery of this fantastic Island in the Pacific, what better way to have fun,” states Evoy.  

The mission statement of the Club is to promote and encourage general aviation in the Parksville – Qualicum area. Encouraging youth in undertaking aviation as a career or as a recreational activity through education and exposure to aviation is an important part of the Club’s role.

PQAC AND THE AIR SHOW

A trick at the Qualicum Beach Airshow on July 11.
A trick at the Qualicum Beach Airshow on July 11.

After a respite of three years due to lack of funding and volunteer power, an enthusiastic crowd attended the July 11th Air Show with featured aerobatic performer “Super” Dave Matheson and his Schayden MX2 show plane.  Large donations from local business and sponsorship made this year’s event possible.

“The objective is to specifically have a great air show of course, but to also highlight the importance of the Qualicum Beach Airport (CAT4)”, said Paul Connor, a member of the Parksville Qualicum Aero Club Executive.

The Air Show runs solely on volunteer power.  Eighty to 100 well-organized men and women feed, park, control air traffic and organize special events for up to 4,000 guests with the ultimate goal of making the day run in an orderly fashion, while adhering to strict safety procedures.

PQAC’S INVOLVEMENT IN COPA FOR KIDS

Don McMillan – PQAC hanger with club-owned plane
Don McMillan – PQAC hanger with club-owned plane

COPA for Kids Aviation Program provides a free-of-charge motivational aviation experience for young people eight – 17 years of age throughout Canada.  Pilots from PQAC go one-on-one with the participants showing them what aviation is all about while allowing them to experience the science of flight right in the cockpit.

A short ground-school session precedes the flight and the pilot explains the various parts of an aircraft, provides a safety briefing and conducts an aircraft walk around all before take off.  Once in the air, the participants are able to observe all the facets of flight from startup to takeoff, to cruising and landing and finally, the taxiing and proper shutting down of the aircraft.  

The total experience time averages one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours and the wondrous panoramic views over Qualicum Beach, Parksville and Nanoose Bay, the kids won’t soon forget.  “Judging by the quick response to the flight instructor’s questions, there were budding pilots in our midst,” stated Jim Hannibal – chief instructor and director for the program, after a recent COPA for Kids day.

PQAC HIGH SCHOOL SCHOLARSHIP

Every year, PQAC awards a $500 scholarship to a student from School District 69 entering into post-secondary studies or into training that would lead towards studies in aviation.

The criteria for this scholarship are that the applicant must prove satisfactory academic achievement, good citizenship and a keen interest in aviation.  Preference for the award is given to applicants that are planning a career in aviation but those interested in aviation as a hobby are also eligible.

ANGEL FLIGHT – GIVING WINGS TO PEOPLE WITH CANCER

“Super” Dave Mathieson with a young admirer
“Super” Dave Mathieson with a young admirer

PQAC pilot Paul Conner is a member of Angel Flight of British Columbia which is a charitable, non-profit organization providing air transportation for cancer patients needing medical services at hospitals and centralized medical care facilities in Vancouver and Victoria.

This vital program utilizes a network of volunteer private pilots and aircraft owners, as well as “ground crew” support. Angel Flight works with families, doctors, hospital personnel, and social workers to arrange for flights.

Angel Flight is financially supported primarily by local pilots who fly the missions (by donating the use of their airplanes and operating expenses) and by contributions from individuals, service clubs, social and religious groups and corporations. There is never a fee of any kind to the patient and volunteer pilots such as Connor pay the total costs.

An airplane flagger at the Air Show
An airplane flagger at the Air Show

PQAC is always looking to increase their membership and you don’t have to be a pilot or hold a license to do so.  Membership is open to anyone over 16 years of age and the only requirement is that you have a love of aviation and airplanes and a yearning to share your passion with others.  President Fred Evoy expresses the club’s point of view best. “We welcome visitors and members alike, with a friendly smile and always a kind word.  Drop by and introduce yourself to any of our members.  I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.”

Information can be obtained from their website www.pqac.ca 

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