A Glassair, left, and Citabria aircraft are parked beside the taxiway at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. (WARWICK PATTERSON/ Special to the News)

New ‘fly-out’ series attracts general aviation pilots to Port Alberni’s airport

Event is designed to introduce recreational pilots to B.C.-based airports

The Alberni Valley Regional Airport was a busy place on Sunday, Aug. 16, as pilots with the B.C. General Aviation Association visited the airport as part of a province-wide “Brown Bag Fly-Out.”

“The goal behind the Brown Bag Fly-Out was to give people a reason to fly, and bring them to some airports they may not have gone to before,” said Warwick Patterson, who organized the event. Patterson is president of the Squamish Flying Club and a new member of the Alberni Flying Club. He produces a podcast and video series called Flying BC, and is a director with the B.C. General Aviation Association.

Patterson purchased property in the Alberni Valley recently and is promoting general aviation to the area.

“Alberni Valley Regional Airport (AVRA) is an excellent facility, but not many people fly there,” he said. “I am also in the process of designing and building a house in Port Alberni so I wanted an excuse to meet some of the local club members.”

Port Alberni was the first stop in the series, which will see pilots visit various airports in B.C., bringing their own picnic lunch and following COVID-19 restrictions. Pilots are encouraged to support the local airport by purchasing fuel, and Patterson also provided the number for the Vancouver Island Soaring Centre in case anyone wanted to go for a glider flight while they were at the airport.

The event drew 25 small planes from around Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland in a three-hour period. One Vancouver-based pilot flew from Airdrie, Alta., where he had spent the weekend, and came specifically to Port Alberni—an airport he has flown to on several other occasions over the past couple of years.

The next Brown Bag Fly-Out event is planned for Sunday, Aug. 30 in Merritt, B.C. More information is available online at bcaviation.ca/brownbagflyout.

The Alberni Flying Club has a clubhouse and hangar that they lease near the west end of the runway, between Coulson Aviation’s hangar and the Port Alberni Thunderbirds’ firefighting compound. The club has one Cessna 172 single-engine four-seater plane that members may rent; other members own their own planes and lease hangar space.

“It’s been fairly busy,” ACRD airport superintendent Mark Fortune said of the airport. The Vancouver Island Soaring Centre has generated a lot of glider traffic this summer, and general aviation or private aircraft are using the facility as well.

“We’ve had a big run on lease lots at the airfield,” Fortune noted. “At the last board meeting we had three lease lots that were rented out and two more (people) looking at them.”

The regional district has had some interest from a business wanting to relocate a fixed base operation from Alberta as well as hangars. “We don’t even have a fixed base operator (FBO) in Tofino.”

He said he has also chatted with someone about what it would take to open a flight school at the airport.

The facility has been utilized by the air cadet gliding program out of Nanaimo in the past, and a number of years ago an air cadet power program used the runway as one of their training areas for a summer.


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General aviation aircraft park beside the taxiway in front of the Alberni Flying Club, with Coulson Aviation’s 727 and jet in the background, on Aug. 16, 2020. (WARWICK PATTERSON/ Special to the News)

A small group of pilots gather outside the Alberni Flying Club at the Alberni Valley Regional Airport during a ‘brown bag’ flying event on Aug. 16, 2020. (WARWICK PATTERSON/ Special to the News)

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