A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LONDON-ST.THOMAS CHAPTER OF THE RAA

The London/St. Thomas Chapter of RAA Canada began its life in 1960 with Dick Demountford acting as the first president. Early meetings were held in homes in London in the Oakridge area and the group was established as EAA Chapter 112 in 1961. Activities waned for a short period of time but the group was reactivated in the mid sixties. Dick Eaves became president in 1966 and incorporation occurred in 1969 when Jerry Trimble was president.

A few of the early meetings were held at the London Flying Club. By 1966 meetings were being held at the Alma Dining Lounge in St. Thomas which was owned by Chapter member Eric Striewski. Later meetings were held at the Sard restaurant at 1491 Dundas Street in London. Other meeting locations were the pilots lounge at the St. Thomas airport, the London Precision Building, the H.B. Beal Secondary School, and for a considerable time, the Sir John A. Macdonald School in east London. Many meetings were held at the homes of various Chapter members, often for the purpose of viewing projects. In 1971 an ammunition shack at the London airport was purchased for $1.00 and renovated with volunteer help. This building lacked a supply of water, hydro and heat, so a portable generator had to be used. After a year or two, meetings shifted to a pump house building on the airport where members were able to work on home-built projects. This facility was subject to the occasional flood, and after a couple of years, the "Rice Ranch" became the meeting location for a period of twelve to thirteen years. Following this, meetings were held in Jim Stephenson's hangar at London airport for about six years. The present meeting venue is the RCAFA Wing 427 building.

Affiliation with EAA initially proved to be beneficial. However, by the late 1980's, differences over insurance and other matters brought about a severance, prompting the formation of RAA Canada in 1989. This was a logical move because it made a great deal of sense for a Canadian, rather than an American association, to negotiate with Transport Canada and other government departments. Effective liaison with government officials is of course essential, if we are to keep general aviation red tape and expenses to a minimum, particularly as it applies to the inspection and registering of home-built aircraft.

Over the years, at least 335 people have belonged to EAA Chapter 112 and the London/St. Thomas Chapter of the RAA. Half of these members have worked on a home-built project, or projects, at one time or another, and half of the projects started have actually flown. Surprisingly, members have worked on over ninety different types of home-builts. Most of those members who have not constructed a home-built, or are not building one, are licensed pilots, and many own and fly antique or classic aeroplanes, while others fly in rented aircraft. The bottom line is that all members are keenly interested in aviation and thoroughly enjoy the great sport of recreational flying.

A major highlight for the Chapter has to have been the arrival of the EAA replica of the Spirit of St. Louis in London on July 10th 1978. President Fred Pegg was privileged to fly in this aeroplane from London to Windsor. He described the experience this way. "To experience in a small way, what Colonel Lindbergh was subjected to, is most unbelievable."

One of the most ambitious projects undertaken by the Chapter is the organization of air fairs. The first major fly-in was held at the St. Thomas airport on June 20th 1970, but these events really got started in earnest in the early 1990's with the staging of the Air Fairs in St. Thomas. Although the Air Fairs are technically managed by a separate organization, they are staffed mostly by Chapter members. These first class fly-ins and air shows have attracted many home-built, antique, and classic aircraft and have been viewed by large crowds of interested citizens. In 1998, the Air Fair will be held in conjunction with the London Air Show on the first weekend in June, rather than at St. Thomas.

A subject which appears from time to time in the minutes concerns the acquisition of a hanger for assembling home-builts, and for holding meetings. It would certainly be a distinct advantage to own such a facility, but so far it has not been possible to devise a feasible method of financing.

Mention has already been made of the necessity to be affiliated with and support RAA Canada. The executive of RAA Canada is, of course, made up of members from various Chapters, and London/St. Thomas members have been quite active in this regard. People such as Bill Rice, and Bill Weir, have given much of their time throughout the years to help further RAA Canada activities, and Ken Gamble, the current President of RAA Canada is a long time member of our Chapter. Special mention must also be made of the work done on the DABI and AIR-ABA inspection programs. Chapter member Al Mahon currently heads the AIR-ABA program and is assisted by member Wayne Stevenson. It is most important that members continue to support RAA Canada in order to ensure that we can continue to build and fly our aircraft without undue restrictions and at a reasonable cost.

Finally, we must recognize and pay tribute to the many Chapter members who have filled officer and director positions throughout the years. Their hard work and dedication has enabled the Chapter to continue supplying useful hints and information to members. A list of all the people who have served over the years would be extensive, but hopefully the following list of pioneer members who joined in the 1960's and a list of those who have acted as president will be of interest.

Pioneer Members

Bill Barber Alex Breitenbach (D) Hugh Pollock
Piet Bouthoorn * Charlie Oldham (D) Bob Buchanan *
Marvin Bulgin Mitch Powell Jack Bycraft *
Graham Canning Bill Rice * Gus Cameron *
Lyle Catt Ken Rutledge (D) Graham Canning
V. Donaghy Elmer Saunders (D) Dick Eaves
Jack Schenck * Mike Frijters * Norm Farmer (D)
Al Sinibaldi Kemp Glanville Mike Frijters *
Eric Striewski Dave Irwin * Howard Faulkner *
Ed Trudgen Gren Gough (D) Al Mahon *
Bill Gulfoyle (D) Casey Van der Loo Fred Pegg
Clair Hatt Gord Warren George Revesz
Gord Hoover George Revesz Bill Rice *
Ken Jones Bill Weir * Hans Schroeder *
Don McKenzie (D) Ken Steinback Reg Miller
Don Thomas Gerry Trimble Elgin Wells

* = Current Member
D = Deceased

It will be noted that several of the pioneer members are still active members of the Chapter.

Perhaps the greatest benifit of belonging to any RAA chapter is being able to enjoy the friendship that comes through associating with other members. There is just something very special about the kind of camaraderie that exists among aeroplane pilots. In an effort to further this spirit of camaraderie, a reunion of former Chapter members was held during our annual picnic at the Rice Ranch near Thorndale in July 1998. This reunion provided an excellent opportunity to reminisce, renew old friendships and just have a real good time.