Aero Club reaches new heights
Murmurs of quiet agreement sweep around the room as hatted heads nod in enthusiasm, the faintest tinge of boot polish mingles with a sense of palpable excitement.
It is July 4, 1928 and a public meeting is underway in Blenheim; a gathering which was to make aviation history.
The Marlborough Aero Club officially began at a public meeting organised by flying enthusiasts ‘‘to promote, encourage and develop the study, research and practice of aeronautics.’’
Ninety years on and the Omaka-based club is thriving, with members and former students flying in countries across the globe.
A special weekend-long celebration on from July 6-8 is planned to mark the milestone and organisers hope members past and present will reunite.
Club President Ben Morris learnt to fly at the age of 10. He credits the club with playing a big part in his life both then and now.
‘‘Absolutely, I’m proud to be a member.
‘‘Every person we have in this aero club has their own special story, no one is just a number here.
‘‘I love flying and that it can be your passion, your hobby and your job. Flying is always on my mind and it’s great to be part of such a close club.
‘‘I’ll be flying until my days are over and I can’t imagine doing that anywhere else,’’ he says.
From humble beginnings, a Marlborough Committee was successful in persuading the then borough bouncil to put aside 30 acres of the Marlborough Domain for an aerodrome.
This was increased to 75 acres the following year. The 350-member club was the first in the country to have its own plane.
Pilot Victoria Lewis is organising the celebrations and, she says, there is a lot to be proud of.
From the world’s first recorded topdressing flight by hot air balloon in the 1890s to New Zealand’s first air pageant in 1930 the club has also produced a world record holder.
Pilot Arthur Clouston, who learnt to fly at the Omaka airfield found fame in 1938 for flying around the world from London.
After landing at Omaka Aero- drome, he turned around the very next day and headed back to England, completing the epic trip in under 11 days.
The club continues to go from strength to strength says Lewis who joined in 1997 and is proud of the club’s special history.
‘‘Some of the descendants of the original students who got their licence here back in the day are members of the club.
‘‘It’s a very friendly club. Even if you fly big, fast aeroplanes, everyone’s the same. We also have members who are lawyers, doctors and dentists and there is always someone to call on for help and advice.
‘‘It was a great way to meet people and become so much more,’’ she says.
For club secretary Raylene Wadsworth, the aero club is a special place.
‘‘Everyone is humble, no matter what they fly they’re not out there talking about it to everyone, it’s just about aviation and it doesn’t matter what you fly.
‘‘It’s a friendly, close-knit club and one we are all really proud of,’’ she says.
For further information please call Marlborough Aero Club on 03 578 5076 or visit Marlboroughaeroclub.co.nz
Marlborough Aero Club members Ben Morris and Victoria Lewis are looking foward to celebrating the club’s 90th anniversary.