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Club History

A group of interested pilots met in the Max Hotel sometime in 1948 and decided to form the club. Nigel (Bill) Duff (who only died a month ago) was elected the first president with Bon Reid as the secretary. Some early committee members included Norton Crane, Dr Dalton and Jack Picone, Des Hurst, Jack and Bill Keen.

The first flying instructors were from the Royal Newcastle Aero Club and based at Tamworth (usually John Henry) followed by Ray McLean at Inverell and Roger Howley at Narrabri. These instructors were all ex RAAF pilots bringing with them on one hand strict discipline but on the other a flair for showing their skills with aerobatics. Arranging training involved coordinating students and instructors in advance and hoping the weather would be suitable on the weekend. When Royal Newcastle withdrew from the northwest, most instructors continued in their own right. In the early ‘60s Peter Brown was the CFI of the Namoi Aero Club and trained many a pilot in Moree.Pam Mooney operated a training school in the late ‘80s early ‘90s. Later Austrek Aviation set up a charter business and a training school based out of the Moree Club house. Don McAlistar, a long time Moree pilot also became involved in training for a short period.

To raise funds in 1950’s the Club ran monthly Dinner Dances in the Max Hotel – with formal dress a requirement for entry – these were very successful events with early booking necessary to obtain a table. These dances were later transferred to the hangar (albeit with rather primitive facilities with no power and water on tap) and later the new clubhouse when they were built. These events were still going strong in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

The Moree Aero Club was involved in lobbying the local councils (there were three before amalgamations in 1980) for improvements the aerodrome including:

  • 1950 telephone service
  • 1952 lobbied for assistance to build a club house – rejected – so club purchased their own
  • 1952 asked for a committee to be formed to oversee building of a large hangar – rejected –     club built their own
  • 1952 asked for a meeting of the three councils to improve airport facilities which resulted in the erection of the terminal building.

The buildings that the Aero Club erected have been used regularly since to house emergency services personnel during times of flood and subsequent relief programs such as food and medicines for stranded households and fodder drops for stranded livestock. Needless to say, the club members were eager helpers, especially if it got them a flight in a Hercules – and the ladies auxiliary of the time fed them all! These events have resulted in strong links between the club and the Air Force fraternity – and no doubt many a good story at the bar after the day’s events.

While the club had access to privately owned planes, it did not own its own until it leased a new Cessna172 (VH-DGM) in 1965. Unfortunately this attempt eventually failed, but a later attempt in 1967 with a good second hand aircraft (BEA) purchased from Ralph Bardsley had much better results despite vandalism of the motor with sand early in the ownership. This purchase was then followed by a string of new C172 – TIX, MIX, BIX and FEA plus aC182 RG which was a very popular aircraft with the club pilots for those longer trips.

Another direction changing event was a storm passing through the aerodrome in December 1982 resulting in many aircraft on the apron being damaged and demolishing half of the old clubhouse with its asbestos sheet roof. The club leaders, led by Allan Beattie, then rallied to rebuild the southern half bigger and better than before. The current building is a credit to those members who gave up their time to enable the rebuild.

The club has produced many excellent pilots over the years, some going on to full time jobs within the aviation industry – such as the recently retired Norton Gills. Our local lads used to be regular contenders in the National Championships often bringing trophies home (some of which are in the Clubhouse) and the Moree club won the Club Championship at Narrabri. Names like Allan Beattie, Cam Loder, Dr David Gosling, Peter Gall (still club patron), Rex Fenton, Rob Brabrook and .... I dare not go on.

The Moree Aero Club has also had a history of organising air shows; the first in the life of this club was in May 1950 with an “Air pageant” hosting, amongst others, three RAAF Mustangs. The club later ran several very big and successful air shows in the ’70 and ‘80s with excellent on ground static and in air displays of aircraft capabilities including the “Roulettes”, other military aircraft,  aerobatics, ag aircraft,  old and new, and one I remember was the performance of a passenger jet put on by an Ansett crew in the “Yellow Canary”.

During the early 2000 era, with a changing economy and the high cost of flying, the fortunes of the club took another down turn with the 172 and 182 doing low hours and eating into club equity with high overheads. Eventually the club took the decision to sell the 182 while investigating the possibility of moving into the Recreational Aviation area.

Two years ago two planes with six pilots flew to Bundaberg to inspect the Jabiru manufacturing plant and take delivery of our new Jabiru J170 and with the assistance of Bruce Barcham and Norm Turner we started converting GA pilots and training new student pilots plus instructors Mike Munro and Fred Nolan. Fred is our current resident instructor holding his CFI rating with RAAus after many years in agricultural and commercial aviation.

In two years our little aircraft has done 800 hours and re-invigorated our club. So much so, that in April this year 10 pilots climbed into 6 planes and headed out to Lake Eyre and surrounds on a five day fun filled flying adventure.

Our thanks go to Rod Rix and Cam Loder for their work in doing the groundwork for and facilitating this move into Recreational Aviation.

We also have a resurgence in interest from pilots wanting to go on and get their GA ratings resulting in better utilisation of our C172 again.

The club is currently investigating the probability of buying a Jabiru 230 to give our RAAus pilots another plane to hire plus two of our members have purchased their own new RAAus certified planes this year.

The management of the club looks forward to an interesting and always challenging future in meeting the needs of our current and would be aviators.

 
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