Rockcliffe flying club nearing financial goals

By Wes Smiderle

A vintage WACO biplane operated by Ottawa Biplane Adventures flies over the Rockcliffe Flying Club this past summer. The biplanes, and other small aircraft, are a common sight during the summer for Manor Park residents. Photo: Dave Keys

Halfway to target, yet future still uncertain

The Rockcliffe Flying Club (RFC) has reached the halfway point in its GoFundMe campaign launched earlier this summer, but its financial future remains “unclear” as the winter months approach.

In August, the RFC announced that the pandemic, and other factors, have left the club in financial peril. The board of directors launched a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $50,000. As of late October, the campaign had reached $24,564.

Kathryn Buhcan, a member of the RFC board of directors and the organizer of the GoFundMe campaign, says the club’s situation has improved but in an email to the Chronicle, Kathryn says the RFC’s financial situation has improved, but “the future is still unclear.”

“Winter is a tough season, due to reduced flying and the increased costs associated with snow removal.

“With the help of members and the community at large, RFC has worked hard over the last few months to pay down many of its creditors and to reduce expenses.  Things are looking much better, but help from the community is still needed to achieve the goal of the Go Fund Me campaign.”

The RFC, a non-profit operation, is the largest flying club in Canada that operates an airport. The club itself owns and leases 11 aircraft for rental and training. (An introductory flight costs $150 for half an hour.)

The RFC is an immensely varied operation offering a wide curriculum of flight training including ground instruction for private pilot licence and commercial pilot licence with opportunities for certificates in night-flying and multi-engines.

Recently, the RFC entered a partnership with the aviation program at Algonquin College. While there are a number of full-time employees, the club sustains its activities and relatively low cost through the volunteer work of its members. The RFC receives no government funding. Kathryn hopes people continue to donate to the campaign and points out that there are other ways the public can support the venerable club.

“Support can also be provided by booking sightseeing flights and introductory flights to help increase revenue.  The RFC thanks all those who have shown their support to date and are looking forward to 60 more years of involvement with the greater community.”

Storied airport

The RFC is celebrating its 60th year in operation, while airport itself has been around even longer.

On July 27, 1931 Charles Lindbergh taxied a Lockheed Sirius, his open-cockpit, pontoon plane to the slipway which still exists by the Rockcliffe Marina. He flew into Ottawa, with his wife, Anne, as co-pilot, on his way to another record-breaking journey to Alaska, across the Bering Strait and down the Kamchatka Peninsula to China.

The last (and tragic) flight of pilot William Barker—one of Canada’s most celebrated flyers, who shot down 50 enemy aircraft during the First World War and was received the Victoria Cross—began on the Rockcliffe runway.

The area has an unbroken association with Canadian aviation since 1920 when the Ottawa Air Station was opened for aircraft engaged in military and aerial photography, mapping, and “aeronautical experimentation”.

Four years later, the newly formed Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) formally established a base at Rockcliffe. The Second World War was its most active period. Hundreds of pilots and observers were trained for service overseas and Rockcliffe soon became the second largest of all air stations in Canada.

Anyone who would like to help the RFC can donate to the GoFundMe page “Rockcliffe Flying Club Needs Your Help” or, for more information about the club, visit the airport office (via Airport-Marina Road, off the Sir George-Etienne Cartier Parkway) or call 613-746-4425.

—With files from John Graham