A place where dreams take flight

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LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 05/12/2012
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MURRAY WILSON/FAIRFAX NZ
ADDICTED TO ADVENTURE: Manawatu Districts Aero Club flying director David Cameron at Taonui Aerodrome, Feilding, stands by a Tecnam Sierra plane.

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According to the Manawatu Districts Aero Club's flying director, there is no better feeling than being thousands of feet up in the air soaring above the birds and flipping through the clouds.

And, after flying for nearly 40 years, recreational pilot and the club's flying director David Cameron would know.

He first hopped into a cockpit in 1974 and knew instantly he was hooked.

"I love it. I was in the air training corps, a kid at school and won a scholarship to learn to fly and I'm absolutely addicted."

He says being part of the club goes beyond talking shop, it's about building friendships.

"Aviation attracts a certain kind of person and we're a hugely convivial bunch."

But, Mr Cameron wants to share his airborne adventures and is encouraging others to join the Manawatu Districts Aero Club.

"If you can drive a car, you can fly an aeroplane.

"It really is for anyone, from road sweepers to lawyers, there's a huge range of people that fly."

The misapprehensions about becoming a pilot should be laid bare, because it's no longer what the club is about.

"There are three common misconceptions about learning how to fly - one, that it's dangerous, two, that it's expensive and, three, that it's difficult to do."

But that's no longer the case.

He says the only thing you need to do to join the club is be brave enough to head along for an in-the-air jaunt.

The MDAC, which is one of the oldest clubs in New Zealand, formed in the 1930s between the two world wars as a vehicle to promote, foster and advance aviation practices by bringing them to the masses.

Traditionally, aero clubs were glitzy, glamorous affairs sparked through barnstorming, a Roaring 20s fad where flying exhibition teams would woo crowds with their aeronautical displays.

"Post-war there was a whole lot of pilots with nothing better to do, so they flew all round the world and did demonstrations. It was weird and wonderful stuff, like aerobatics, tricks and stunts, and was a huge attraction for people back in the day."

But the club's attraction waned with the emergence of flight training schools and membership numbers dwindled from a few hundred when Mr Cameron first joined, to about 30 current members.

However, Mr Cameron says the club has been "reborn" and as well as finding a new lease of land, it has found a new lease of life. MDAC was uprooted from its historic clubrooms at the Palmerston North Airport last year and now calls the Feilding Taonui Aerodrome home.

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And, to christen the change, the club welcomed a new set of wings in October - a second-hand all-aluminium 2006 Tecnam Sierra or microlight aircraft nicknamed PAJ, short for Papa Alpha Juliet.

"‘We've re-established ourselves in Feilding and we have a new light, modern, sophisticated aircraft to show for it."

From here, the club is keen to continue promoting flying in Manawatu as an experience for everyone to enjoy and is hoping for an influx of interested aviators.

"Those people who are passionate about their flying have hung in there, and we're still doing it as and when we can, but we would love others to join in.

"We're really looking forward to getting back into the large membership numbers we had years ago."

The club's catchphrase "where dreams take flight" resonates now more than ever for Mr Cameron and he says he hopes the MDAC continues for years to come.

GRAB YOUR AVIATORS

Any pilot licence requires practical experience and an examination process. More than 50 hours of flying time is desirable, including 25 hours under dual instruction with a qualified flying instructor, 25 hours solo flying and five hours of instrument flying, where you go "under the hood" and wear a facemask which allows you to see the dashboard but not the outside. For more information call 06 357 9288, or email aeroclub@aeroclub.co.nz.

* If you would like your club, group or organisation considered for a profile, email editor@msl.co.nz with ‘Join The Club' in the subject line.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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