A Brief History of the Southern Districts Aero Club
Gore Aero Club
The S D A C was originally the Gore Flight of the Southland Aero Club and up till 1958 was based on an airfield at Knapdale. Membership was 35 active pilots. Due to the lease not being renewed the Gore Flight moved to a strip at McNab on the property of Mr. Bill Cunningham, a person who became quite a figurehead around our club.
For training we had an AUSTER Aiglet ZK-AYU and DH 82 Tiger Moth ZK-BFM as well as a locally owned DH 82 Tiger Moth ZK-BRC. Bill Cunningham and local timber merchant Les Carroll were the owners of BRC which they purchased direct from the Royal New Zealand Air Force. ( This aircraft is now owned by Mr. John Hargest of Pyramid and is one of the aircraft John learnt to fly in.)
The strip was very exposed to the weather and our aircraft had to be picketed in the open until we built a hanger and got ourselves a hut we could use for an office & meeting, social or briefing room and whatever shelter we could get out of it when the weather was not suitable for flying.
For Instructors we had the services of local topdressing pilots namely Ian Ritchie, Sean Fitzgerald and Jerry Kluck. Membership grew to 74 students and pilots.
In 1961 Southern Districts Aero Club was formed. Based at McNab with outfields at Balfour, Roxburgh and Heriot. Roy Buchanan was the President with Roy Cunningham as Club Captain. Ex Gore paper boy from a number of years before Mr. Lew Day (Ex R.A.F.) became our Chief Flying Instructor Assisted by Gore Flight trained Russell Gutschlag. Membership was up to 94.
From 1962 till 1965 saw our Instructors training students at Balfour / Mossburn, Queenstown, Roxburgh, Heriot and Balclutha as well as McNab until 1962 when Southern Districts Aero Club moved to Charlton. The membership had increased to 149 by 1965 with Roy Buchanan president, Jack Davidson Club Captain and Charlie Hayworth as Instructor. Lew Day having left to take up a flying job in the North Island.
The club by this time had changed its aircraft. It now owned a Victa 100 CDM, a Cessna 172 CCJ
and a Mooney CKF.
1966 saw Murray Pope as the CFI and Charlie Hayworth as assistant instructor, membership went up to 182 and flying instruction went to Te Anau, Queenstown, Wanaka and Roxburgh.
1967/68 the club had Murray Pope CFI assisted by Malcolm Price and Garth Stewart with Ross
Ritchie an Honorary instructor and the membership hit 201. The aircraft situation at this stage becomes vague to me John.
After this I was off the scene for a while except for PPL renewals.
Personal - Post war.
R C Buchanan, Ex RAF, Ex Spitfire Pilot. Resides in Queenstown. A Life Member of the Club.
L N Davidson, Ex RAF, Ex Lancaster Pilot,617 Squadron (Dambusters). Topdressing pilot.
R G Bush, Ex RNZAF Instructor, Topdressing Pilot.
I A Ritchie, Ex RAF, Ex Mosquito Pilot. Topdressing Pilot. Gore Flight CFI.
J T E Matheson, Ex RAF, Ex C47 (Dakota) Transport Pilot
J Crombie, Ex RAF ? WW I Pilot. Rebuilt his own DH 82 Tiger Moth ZK CCH.
J R Davidson. Ex RNZAF. Navigator. Aero Club Stalwart since the 50s. RNZ Aero Club Navigation
L J Day .Ex RNZAF. Ex RAF. Ex Sunderland Flying Boat Pilot. SDAC CFI.
Personal - Other.
Sean Fitzgerald, Topdressing Pilot. Instructor.
Jerry Kluck, Ex Royal
To invent an airplane is nothing. To build one is something. To fly is everything.
— Otto Lilientha