Bluenose Soaring Club - a brief history
What Happened to Bluenose Soaring Club (BSC)?
From 1976 to 2004, BSC flew out of Stanley airport in Hants County, Nova Scotia. The club started with the purchase of a Schliecher Ka7 glider (C-FOZA) by George Graham and Debra Burleson. These two were the first instructors and worked two training sessions a year to get licences for enthusiasic would-be pilots. The club quickly grew and added new gliders on the field. Initially, a hired towplone launched the gliders but when that arrangement became unreliable, a winch was built and it was used exclusively to get gliders into the air. From that time on, the club was a 'winch-launch' club. At various times a rented Blanik (L-13) and a Schweizer 2-22 were part of the club fleet. After a few years the fleet settled into an all Schleicher fleet, with two Ka7's and two Ka8's.
Private gliders joined the fleet in the 1980's with an Austria, a Skylark, a Ka6e and a couple of Open Cirrus'. This was the fleet by the early 1990's. Briefly, in 1982 the Club financied the purchase of a new Grob Astir but it was soon damaged and lost. The club had 30-40 members and a robust training regime consisting of about 10 instructors. Another winch powered by a diesel engine was built in the late 1980's to help launch all these sailplanes. In the best years over 2000 flights were logged.
Building the Club:
The training of new pilots was unique in Canadian gliding because a week was set aside in the late spring to devote only to training and flying. This was traditionally called 'fly week' and usually scheduled to use the long weekend at the end of May. Members and students took time off of work to volunteer to teach, winch, crew, and learn. In some years there were as many as a dozen ab initio pilots. Usually, only a fraction of those students went solo during 'fly-week' and had to be trained on weekends for the rest of the summer. But by the end of the season most students were pilots. Unfortunately, the fraction of those students that stayed with the club was small.
[Example: In the class of 1992, we had 12 beginning students, who had taken the ground school the previous winter, and been admitted to the flight training. Two these quit during fly-week, and only eight went on to get licences. Five years later, there were only three of those pilots as members of the club.]
More members purchased gliders and at various times there had been a couple of HP-18's, a Ventus, and another Austria on the field.
There were many enthusiastic soaring pilots in the Club but most restricted their flying to Stanley plus a few adventures in Cape Breton or the Annapolis Valley where ridge soaring is available as well as the usual thermal soaring. A few explored the soaring conditions at distant sights such as Bay Ste. Paul in Quebec, Ridge-Soaring in Pennsylvania, Sugarbush in Vermont and Cowley in Alberta. Some of these same pilots showed that it was possible to do 300 km flights in Nova Scotia for gold badges, and to find wave lift up to 12,000 ft.
The club had a full slate of operational heads such as Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) and Safety Officer as well as members responsible for important aspects of the operations such as launching equipment, aircraft maintenance, motor vehicle maintenance, building and grounds, and social activities. The Club initially occupied empty buildings at Stanley Airport, an old WWII training airbase north of Halifax between Windsor and Truro. A couple of open ended hangers were built to house the club gliders, and other equipment were housed in a large garage. Another building was used for a workshop when repairs were needed. The annual income from of the operations in the 1990's was around $24,000 providing a surplus in good years when there were no major repairs needed.
The club house was moved and expanded in 1992 and that took excess funds. The loss of OZA in an accident shortly after that strained the budget. In an attempt to get ahead, members had made loans to the club and the indebtness of the club was about $12,000 in the mid-1990's. The K gliders are 1960's gliders and the members desired better flying equipment but were unable to finance that from the annual budget. Additional fees were added to membership to pay off the indebtedness and build funds for a higher performance glider. Meanwhile the old buildings that housed the equipment were not being repaired. About the same time, there was discussion of how much time should be spent on training since so few pilots stayed with the club and it required a lot of effort from a decreasing membership. (down to below 30 members). Recruitment of new students was slowed.
Through out the years there were accidents that damaged gliders but no fatalites until 2000 when George Graham, club founder and CFI, crashed during launch. This was a major blow to the Club but it continued and did a lot of soul-searching and examination of safety procedures. The very next year there was a landing accident that damaged a wing of a Ka7 so badly that the glider was totaled. That same year the club decided to buy into an Open Cirrus. Things were looking good, with a new Ka7 from insurance and the Open Cirrus, new members could be attracted. However, in 2002, a pilot (the same one that totaled OZA) landed in a field in one of the single seat gliders and damaged it badly enough for it to be totaled. The very next day the same pilot that had the wing accident in the Ka7, lost control of the Open Cirrus and crashed off launch. A life and two club gliders were lost in a very short time.
The Club members still had hope and there were three students to train. Two of those students dropped out and a couple of hard working members retired from soaring. There were younger members taking over the responsible positions in the Club but membership was still decreasing, creating more of a burden on a few. Finally, in 2004 there was another accident and in 2005, both Ka7 gliders failed their inspections. One of the few remaining members had to retire and sell his sailplane while another transfered out of province. With no means to check out and train pilots, and not enough members to operate the club, it had to cease operations. The remaining Ka8 glider was sold in 2006 with two Ka7 gliders, two winches and a retrieve to be sold. Unfortunately, the garage in which they reside, has a roof that is getting worse and worse. Note: This was written by a pilot who learned to fly a BSC in 1992 and only knows some of the history from the conversations with the pioneers of the Club.
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Created on ... July 04, 2007