Aero Club reaches new heights

Marlborough Midweek - - FRONT PAGE - PAULA HULBURT

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

PHOTO: SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF

Marl­bor­ough Aero Club mem­bers Ben Mor­ris and Victoria Lewis are look­ing foward to cel­e­brat­ing the club’s 90th an­niver­sary.

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