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Aviation NewsQCAC Folds Its WingsText and Photography by John LaingCommunication in the 21st century has revolutionized the way we stay in touch and network with friends and associates. Facebook groups and other social media venues let us interact easily with one another. It wasn’t always that simple. Bill Windrum, a pilot who flew for Canadian Airways at bases across Canada and was later a member of management at Canadian Pacific Airlines in Vancouver, wanted to create a venue where people from all areas of aviation could meet as friends to share their experiences without interference from the constraints of competition that were common in the fledgling industry. The club's board photographed in 2018: John Laing, Director; Maureen Otway, Secretary; Harold Thomas, Treasurer and Co-Chair; Bob Rorison, Membership; Dave Stafford, Director; Janet Sinclair, Director; Peter Van Hee, Past Chair; Ed Scott, Co-Chair. (Not in photograph: Bruce Bell, Director) Together with cohorts such as Donald R McLaren, a decorated WW1 ace, they founded “The Quarter Century in Aviation Club” in 1952. Twenty-two founding members attended the inaugural dinner meeting which was held at the Alcazar Hotel in downtown Vancouver. Dinner was $3.00 and the drinks were three for a dollar. Dues were $5.00 per year. The Club archives do not reveal how the founding members settled on “A Quarter Century” as the threshold for membership. Considering that the Wright brothers had made their maiden flight only 49 years earlier, individuals with 25 years in the industry in 1952 would have formed a very exclusive group.
Membership was not restricted solely to pilots. Any 25-year affiliation in the industry was acceptable. Over the 68-year history of the club, maintenance and flight engineers, ticket agents, flight attendants, avionics techs, Transport Canada examiners, COPA members and others connected to the industry were able to join in fellowship and camaraderie. The club at one time boasted over 300 members. While most members lived in the lower mainland area of BC, members lived throughout the Province and other parts of Canada as well as in Yukon, Alaska, California, Nevada, and Washington.
Meetings provided members with the opportunity to share a social evening and meal with fellow aviation buffs. The normal protocol was a social hour at 5:00 pm with buffet dinner at 6:00 PM, followed by a brief business meeting concluding with a guest speaker. A wide range of topics were covered by the speakers. Books written by members and other authors were introduced, aviation milestones were marked, war time flight experiences were recounted as well as stories of “passenger interactions” were shared. Industry experts made presentations on new aviation policies, aerial fire suppression, expansion of the Vancouver Airport and Harbour development, drones, lasers and other topics of interest. Gather a group of aviation associates together and there will never be a lack of stimulating conversation. For a period of years, members’ sweethearts were invited to join their partners for a gala dinner and dance each Valentine’s Day. There continued to be a “ladies’” night once a year throughout the lifetime of the club. Field trips were organized to visit such sites as the Hovercraft Rescue Centre at the Vancouver Airport, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, the Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle, Conair’s facilities in Abbotsford, and other sites of interest.
The club archives show several industry notables among the membership. However, rank was checked at the door of each meeting. There was always a feeling of just a group of people enjoying their passion for the industry. Discussion of politics and in particular, industry rivalry, was verboten. Members included Rolie Moore, the second woman in Canada to hold an Airline Transport License, and Margaret (Fane) Rutledge, the second woman east of Toronto to obtain a Commercial License. Both were members in 1936 of the little-known group “The Flying Seven”, women in Candian aviation. Margaret’s husband, Keith Rutledge (also a member), was a helicopter flight engineer and was with Okanagan Helicopters on the first trans-Atlantic ferry of a Sikorsky 61N (cf-oky), piloted by Tom Scheer and Ross Lennox in May of 1965. Another member was a well-known centenarian and west coast aviator Capt. Bill Marr, an Air Force Cross winner who retired off the DC-8 with 28,500 hours logged. Aviation writer and historian Wayne Ralph was also among our members. The Randall Family who at one time had seven family members as pilots with CP Air were also long-time members. Several members of the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame were club alumni: Grant McConachie, Don Watson, Frank E.W. Smith, Al Michaud, Archie Van Hee and another centenarian, Rex Terpening amongst others. An illustrious bunch to say the least. However, the vast majority of members were everyday people drawn together by their connection to flying.
With the ravages wrought by Covid and an ever-declining membership, sadly the Club has faded into history with the last meetings regretfully held in early Spring and the final wrap-up in late September 2020.
All is not lost; there continues to be a robust accounting of the club in the form of a large scrapbook including many pictures and other memorabilia that has been donated to the Canadian Aviation Museum of Flight at Langley Airport, BC. We thank them sincerely for their help in preserving this slice of BC aviation history. Do visit them when you are in the area.