Updated: Mar 31
✦ The Hastings District Flying Club (HDFC) Port Macquarie has been bringing aviators, their family and friends together to share their flying dreams for 64 years.
History of the Hastings District Flying Club
Formed on September 8, 1958 the club provided professional flying training out of Port Macquarie Airport with a hangar and club house on site.
The inaugural President and CFI was Joe Lee who finished his aviation career with QANTAS training CLIPS-commercial intake pilots on DC3s. Charlie Collins was installed as President while Joe remained as CFI to focus on preparing and implementing flying training programs.
Foundation members of HDFC included Barry Cunning, Greta Yabsley, Joe Lee, Frederick Higgins, George Hartley, Mervyn McCudden, John Kirby, Dal O’Grady, Col Bailey and Peter Taylor.
Here's a summary of HDFC history in video, made at that time to celebrate HDFC's 60th Birthday
Prior to the formation of the club a few things did have to happen first
Clearing of the land started in 1947-8 with extensive weekend working bees (tea was made in a 4 gallon kerosene tin so numbers of participants were significant).
There were two small tractors with a chain between them pulling over the smaller trees, and a D4 bulldozer, equipped with a winch, handled the larger trees. Gelignite was used as well to assist.
With the site cleared, operations may have been suspended awaiting further authorisation or funding or the 1949-50 floods may have left the site waterlogged for a number of years; reasons vary, but there was a delay in time until the Port Macquarie Airport was opened in 1955.
HDFC thrived under strong leadership
Back in 1960, Chief Flying Instructor Barrie Abbott vigorously promoted the club and the beautiful district of Port Macquarie, through many social events, including air pageants.
Club members were encouraging older people to learn to fly, though the emphasis was particularly on younger people keen to progress to commercial aviation. Flying students ranging from 15 to 94 years of age were welcomed.
Everyone was welcome, you just needed a love of aviation. To this day, the intent remains the same.
Many firsts, milestones met and dreams come true
The first flying scholarship was advertised in the Port Macquarie News on 27 July 1961, with the first flying scholarship from HDFC being awarded to 17-year-old Jimmie Higgins on Monday, 14 October 1961. It was recorded that he had "outstanding promise and an above average approach to flying know-how". Jim later became a pilot with Bush Pilots Ltd.
To-date, HDFC may have awarded a total of 36 flying scholarships.
Another first was when the mother of six children, Kaye Hutchinson from Wauchope, learnt to fly and went solo in February 1963!
In January 1964, night flying resumed after complaints were sorted out. It was so popular that advance bookings were necessary.
A milestone of sorts was reached in 1966 when HDFC bought a new Cessna 172, VH-PMD for $15,760. Within a month, there were 30 students enrolled to fly in the Cessna. It clocked an average of 130 flying hours a month. To date, HDFC owns two Slings with a third aircraft on order.
1968 was a momentous year which saw the Club sponsor a pageant of national significance in conjunction with the Port Macquarie sesqui-centenary celebrations.
In February that year, "The first Big Round Australia Flight" was advertised, attempting to set new long distance flights records. And in October, the club had a "Monster Air Show" that attracted 6,000 visitors.
The year 1971 saw HDFC reaching 130 members. The flying Membership fee was only $5 per year while the social membership fee just $2 per year. Also the Port Macquarie Air Pageant took place on April 1. Flying memberships are now $100 per year.
The Hastings District Aero Club organised this display and it followed the usual pattern with aerobatics, crop-dusting, gliding and skydiving. Highlight of the afternoon was the aerobatic and gliding demonstration by Alex Oliver in his vintage Klemm Swallow VH-UUR.
Now every Saturday morning, we get to enjoy Bobcat Formation.
Club house extensions were carried out in 1973 due to "growing pains" to incorporate a further 10 feet, including a room for ground briefing. It was officially opened in 1974 with the club hosting a Hawaiian night complete with a piping hot roast pig.
Flight instruction classes increased by 500% over the next 12 months and it was rumoured that the credit went to the very good looks of Trudy White, a part time female flying instructor who encouraged more women to fly. At that time, HDFC charged $27 an hour for flight instruction.