Well, you found me. This first post on my blog will be an introduction of sorts, of who I am and what this blog will be about. I know it's long, but feel free to join me (or not) as I ramble (I'm known to do that from time to time).
So.... please keep you hands in the cabin at all times and enjoy the ride!
I've been in love with airplanes and all things aeronautical for as long as I can remember. The root of this passion/obsession/frustration/elation is thanks to my father Jim, he too a life long airplane nut.
I could never begin to count the number of times when as a child we would go to the airport, sit and watch planes come and go, large airliners, small trainers, cargo. Airshows at the Canadian National Exhibition, Hamilton and even R/C meets were regular haunts. Dad was a draftsman by trade and I believe his interest in design and engineering played a big role in his interest in planes. He also grew up in close proximity to Malton airport (now Toronto-Pearson International) in an era of rapid advancement in aeronautic engineering (post WW2) further capturing his youthful attention. His historical knowledge is broad, his tastes varied. He never has pursued his pilot's licence however.
During the early part of my adult life, right after highschool, I worked in construction trades. Although the money was decent, I soon realized that I was in a career stream that would eventually bore me to death or kill me (I worked high steel). I needed a challenge, something to match up with what I liked to do.
After an extended layoff from construction and bouncing from odd job to odd job trying to make ends meet, I made the decision to return to school. What would be better than something in aviation?
I enrolled in the Aviation Management program at my local college and in 3 years (including co-op placements in Yellowknife NWT as a dockhand and with the federal government in Ottawa) I graduated with a diploma in Airline Management.
While at college, I used a significant amount of my student loan obtaining my private pilot's licence at the local flying club. In February of 1995, on a cold damp afternoon in central Ontario, I managed to convince the flight test examiner that I actually knew what I was doing and he signed my paperwork and shortly thereafter my newly minted licence arrived in the mail.
Beginning right after graduation in 1995, I worked as a dispatcher for a northern Ontario charter company for five years. During the next two years I continued to build hours and added a night rating to my ticket. Over time, my lack of money (actually to be completely honest, my lack of money management skills) prevented me from flying regularly enough to stay current and my hard earned licence began to gather dust and moths.
In the intervening years, I met and married my soulmate Brenda, often described by me as the "world's most tolerant woman" (more on this later).
A job change at the beginning of 2001 moved me away from aviation as my means of income. An opportunity came up with the Ontario Provincial Police as a communications operator (dispatcher) that was too good to pass up combined with no room for advancement at the charter company lead me to change jobs. We also bought our first house, started a family and aviation involvement slipped further and further on the back of the list of priorities - but never forgotten.
In 2007, the local airport near our home advertised a fly-in to celebrate the contributions of the retiring airport manager and his wfe, as seen in this article from the Almaguin News:
At the urging of my Brenda, I attended the fly-in with the hope of meeting others in the local aviation community - maybe even find a way to get back into the air. In hindsight, it was one of the best things Brenda has ever done for me.
On that day, I met a man who would eventually become my mentor on this part of my journey. That man, Captain Barry Morris, (retired test and delivery pilot of DeHavilland Canada) reignited in me that long dormant passion. As municipal councilor and chairperson of the airport committee, he was instrumental in organizing this retirement fly-in. When I looked around at all the people who came to present wishes and enjoy the company of like minded aviation people, I immediately thought this was a door to what I was seeking.
I introduced myself to Mr. Morris and we talked for quite sometime about his vision for the proper development of the airport. It had been run for years as a small grass field by the retiring managers and local flying club, never really making it into a regional asset for the five municipal partners that owned it. I offered my assistance and experience as a volunteer in any capacity to "get my feet back in that door" so to speak.
Capt. Barry (as I came to know him) and I became close friends and confidants in the following years. We combined our aviation knowledge and offered it to the airport committee as a whole as none of the other municipal representatives had any background in aviation at all.
We did everything in our power to leverage our industry contacts, market the airport through website and social media and celebrating milestones such as the airport's 75th anniversary in 2008 and the 2009 "Celebration of Flight" weekend for Canada's Centenary of Powered Flight. We met with high level provincial and federal ministers and business investors. We even obtained government infrastructure money to hire a professional international consulting firm that produced a airport development plan, including paving of one of the runways, attracting tax paying businesses and making the airport into the regional economic and employment engine it was (and still is) capable of being.
Unfortunately, despite all our hard work, a change in ownership structure by the municipalities (two dropped out and a third dropped out later on) and a municipal election that set the airport committee back a decade in experience led the airport to a stagnant once again. Capt Morris and I were treated very poorly by the new committee in the year following the Celebration of Flight and we both withdrew from committee to save ourselves or injuries from banging our heads against the wall put before us.
So the airport remains a grass strip for a few local pilots. The last two municipalities still can't get their act together and make a decision to save themselves. One is threatening to pull out of ownership and the remaining one can't confirm if they will continue to fund it, hand over operation to the local flying club or sell off the property completely.
I truly believe his vision for the airport was completely workable. We had a plan, we had investment lined up and expertise for the asking. Unfortunately the shortsightedness and infighting of certain other council/committee members doomed any plan from the beginning. So now the plan that taxpayers of the municipality paid for sits on a shelf gathering dust. What a shame.
Barry and I stayed in close touch despite our bad shared experience. He retired from council and moved to southern Ontario with his wife and actually became neighbours of my parents.
Continued in part 2....
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Husband, father and 911 dispatcher. Long time pilot with a licence that burns a hole in my pocket where my student loan money used to be. First time aircraft builder. Looking to fly my own airplane.