Club History – Detail

The Guernsey Aero Club brief History

The Guernsey Aero Club founded with the main objective ‘to foster an interest in aviation’, continues to do that with great enthusiasm from its Committee and 300+ strong membership.

It is ambitious, vibrant and moves with the times to cater for the memberships needs, and continues to grow from strength to strength at its’ purpose built Clubhouse, hangar and Apron complex.

Its activities are very diverse and there is a huge variety of flying and social activities throughout the year.

Its latest ambitious project which has included a 2 story extension and balcony was completed in 2012. The Office and Training Room was enlarged as well as the 1st Floor Club room, which now has large bi-fold doors opening out onto a huge 1st Floor cantilevered balcony from where extensive views are gained of virtually the whole of the airport, its taxiways and full length of the runway.

This extension enables the Club to cater for larger and more varied functions to suite the member’s needs.

Following that it completed an enlargement of the Kitchen facilities and relocation of the beer & wine stores to further improve the catering.

Aviation history in Guernsey can be traced back to 1917 with the first visit to the island of a British Seaplane.
The first passenger flight took place on 4th October 1919 when an Avro 536 prototype seaplane G-EACC arrived at St Peter Port harbour from Southampton and Jersey with one passenger on board. Various seaplane services were operated during the 1920`s but because they were not commercially viable most were relatively short lived.
The first landing by an aircraft on Guernsey was on 26 April 1928 when a de Havilland DH 60 Cirrus Moth G-EBOU piloted by Flight Lt. F.W.Soden plus a lady passenger landed at Fort George.
On 15th September 1933 Guernsey man Mr. Cecil Noel first flew his home built Wee Mite from Vazon Bay. It was Mr Noel who was instrumental in the formation of the original Guernsey Aero Club which started advertising the sale of shares in the club in July 1934. By October of that year permission had been granted for the club to use fields at L`Eree (near the west coast) as their base. This was the Bailiwicks first aerodrome, it had three grass runways, the longest being 500 yards
Cecil Noel became the Guernsey Aero Clubs Chief Flying Instructor and in January 1935 the club purchased an Avro 594 Avian IV registration G-AACF. This aircraft was damaged in a gale at L`Eree in November 1935 and the remains were later put into storage in a garage in Upland Road where they were seized during the occupation and shipped to Germany in March 1941.
The Aero Club is thought to have remained active at L`Eree up until the opening of the new airfield at La Villiaze on 5th May 1939. However, with the onset of the war and subsequent occupation of the Islands by the Germans all activities ceased.
The current Guernsey Aero Club can be traced back to when it was re-formed in July 1966 after Mr Alan Marriette had placed an advert in the local paper inviting people who were interested in flying to meet him. About ten people responded and from this beginning, flying instructing on the island started and the Guernsey branch of the Channel Islands Aero Club was formed for training purposes.
During this period the club had the use at weekends of aircraft and instructors from Jersey including Wing Commander Pickford (Pick). Aircraft used were an Auster J/1N trainer G-ARUY, and then progressed to a Cessna 150 G-ATRN and later on further Cessna 150`s were used when private flying at Jersey was restricted because of the volume of commercial traffic.
The Guernsey Branch initially started with just three members but this soon built up to twelve and with kind permission of the Airport Commandant Mr Jim Walters the club was able to lease premises consisting of a small two roomed concrete building just to the right of the then Terminal building, at the States Airport and this was used for meetings and social activities.
In 1967 the Club President, Dereck Wilson, acquired his first aircraft, a Percival Prentice registration G-AOKO. Some members flew the Prentice but it was not generally available for Club use.
At this stage, in 1967, only four members of the Branch held pilots licenses. In those days the training costs were just £6 per hour and it would cost about £270 to obtain a license.
In 1967 Wing Commander Pickford (Pick) turned up again to help with the Auster G-ARUY.

In September 1969 mother of five Mrs. Gladys Smith became the first woman in Guernsey to fly solo. Her instructor was Wing Commander ‘Pick’ Pickford who regularly flew over from Jersey in those days to instruct the Guernsey students.
On 8 August 1970 the Aero Clubs first purpose built premises were opened by the Lieutenant Governor. Situated at the Eastern end of the Airfield behind what is now the Freight Sheds, the building has now been demolished. Although small it was well equipped, and included the traditional Aero Club Bar. To celebrate the opening there was a fly in of 22 aircraft together with an open day for the public.
Club Founder Alan Marriette immigrated to Australia on the 23rd October, 1970.

During August 1971 the club purchased a four seater tourer the Garden Horizon registration G-ATJT. Although there were still no hangar facilities, the club managed to lease space for it in the nearby Louis Martin’s hangar.
In March 1972 the Aero Club sold the Horizon and purchased a Cessna 172 G-AZKZ as a replacement.

Flying training in Guernsey was going from strength to strength and continued during 1972 with two Jersey instructors. Instruction continued with Jersey based Cessna 150’s and around middle of the year joined by a local Cessna 150 G-AWXH owned by Gordon Corlett, which was used with a Guernsey Aero Club, Club member as the instructor.

During 1972 Guernsey branch of the Channel Islands Aero Club ceased and training continued with the Guernsey Aero Club, and eventually links with the Jersey branch of the Channel Islands Aero Club ceased but it is noted that Jersey instructors were still being used in early November 1972 with Jersey based Wing Commander Pickford (Pick).

As a result of the success of the previous fly-ins the 1st Guernsey International Air Rally and Race took place from the 22nd to 24th September 1972. The event was a great success with 45 aircraft visiting including 11 race entrants.

As a result of the success of the previous fly-ins the 1st Guernsey International Air Rally and Race took place from the 22nd to 24th September 1972. The event was a great success with 45 aircraft visiting including 11 race entrants.

With the immanent construction of freight sheds in front of the existing building in 1975 the Club moved to premises twice the size on the West side of the South Grass park adjacent the Fuel Farm. After the Club moved out the premises were used for many years by Channel Aviation, and today the building remains but as a storage facility. It was from this building that membership and the Club really grew, as facilities were far better and not so cramped. There was also a reasonable sized kitchen that enabled functions to be catered for. There was, however, still the disadvantage of there being no hangar facilities.
During this period flying training was leaping forward and it was not long before the Committee considered it essential to acquire or build a permanent club house and adjacent hangar on their own land but with access to the airfield.
The annual Air Rally had retained its popularity, and numbers increased each year. The largest number of aircraft and rallyists were catered for from this building when the 10th rally was staged with 97 aircraft and about 300 rallyists. Rally arrival lunches were catered for from the kitchen, and from a secondary kitchen and wash-up in a tent, but the building could not cope with the numbers, without a marquee tent being provided.
The search for new premises was on, but there were no other suitable facilities available within the Airfield boundary for expansion. A bold decision was made to look for premises around the airfield boundary, with the hope of an access arrangement being negotiated with Board of Administration (the Airport Authorities). There were no available buildings but an old vinery was found as being a suitable site, not only for a clubhouse but also for much needed hangar facilities. This site was south of the main taxiway and west of the Fire Sheds.
After a long delay, planning approval in principle was issued by the local IDC (Island Development Committee). After a further period, agreements were reached with the Board of Administration and the insurers for an ‘access’ agreement through the airfield boundary, for the Guernsey Aero Club. This was the first and so far only granting of such an application by the airport authorities.
The decision was taken to obtain a full building permit, raise finance with club funds, bank borrowing, individual members funding, and Members Bonds, and go ahead with the building of a purpose designed and build Club premises and hangar. This was done on a very tight budget, with the building and car parks initially having to be basic but able to be developed further in the years ahead.
It took six years of club member’s time from initially searching for premises, planning, negotiating with authorities, considering funding, and then finally building the new clubhouse, to the time the new premises were officially opened in January 1981 by Air Chief Marshall Sir Peter Le Cheminant.
From these new premises the Club has developed even further.
Flying training by the Guernsey Aero Club had recommenced in 1980 with the purchase of Cessna 152 Aerobat G-BFZT. A second 152 (G-BGGP) was acquired and for PPL members a Cessna 172 G-BKEV was purchased in 1983.
Training has continued, but handled by Guernsey Flying Training Ltd., with two Cessna 152’s (for training) and a Cessna 172 (for advance training and touring). Many of the local airlines with Aurigny and Flybe (previously Jersey European Airways) in particular have pilots and crew who started their training from the club.
As membership improved further, so did finances, and this enabled further improvements to be undertaken. Grassed areas adjacent the apron were reshaped to provide additional maneuvering space on the apron. The car park changed from being muddy and full of ruts, to a nicely Bitmac surfaced car park with surface water drainage.
In 1997 alterations to the layout, and refurbishing of the Clubhouse were completed, providing even better facilities to take the club forward for the foreseeable future. The club is now described as having one of the best facilities in the country.
The Air Rallies have continued to maintain their popularity. In recent years the adjacent hangar has been transformed on rally weekends to a functions facility where the main rally Banquet, ball and presentations have been held instead of being at a local hotel. The use of the hangar has made the rally even more popular and has enabled an impressive ‘Hog-roast’ meal to be undertaken, catering for 350 rallyist and members all seated, plus a bar, band and dance area, all in a ‘heated’ hangar. (2010 being the 39th International Air Rally).
Today the Committee and members remain active and organize a very mixed and varied program of events. The social activities include dinners, sports evenings, lecture nights, films, quiz’s, Euchre card evenings, Boule/Petanque, weekly Meat draws and Members draw, annual auction, coffee morning, spot landing competitions, and many other activities.

During the summer the Club hosts many very popular Corporate Flying evenings when groups join the Club for an evening having an opportunity to fly in a light aircraft, followed by drinks and a meal in the Club.
Other clubs and organizations also use the premises, including on Monday evenings, the G.S.A.E. (Guernsey Society for Aviation Enthusiasts) whose members have always actively supported and assisted with the clubs rallies and other activities.
The club frequently provides its facilities and entertains other visiting Aero Clubs and organizations from the UK and all over Europe. These have included: – The Comanche Club, the Flying Advocates, Flying Farmers, AOPA France, Switzerland and Belgium, the American Yankee organization and many others plus individual Club fly-aways from UK Aero Clubs. The Club is also used as a venue for organizations to demonstrate new aircraft.
Flying activities for members and visitors are regularly organized and include the Annual Guernsey Air Rally, the Navigational & Spot Landing Competition in France.
Each year the club organizes a full program of Fly-aways to destinations in France and the UK generally with an overnight stay at the destination. There is usually a fly-away organized to a more distant part of Europe. In the past this has included Denmark, Holland, Germany, Spain, France including south of France, Corsica, Sardinia, Morocco, and Slovakia etc.
Organized visits to other aviation events are regularly made by members, to such places as the Paris & Farnborough air shows, EAA Sun-‘n’-fun fly-in, Oshkosh, and tours of aircraft production facilities including SOCATA TB10, TB20 & TBM700 & 850srs (at Tarbes) and the Airbus A320, A340 & A380 (at Toulouse).
In the summer of 1998 a brand new Cessna 172R registration G-BXOI was purchased and is used for advanced training and general hire. Plans were also in hand to replace the other two aircraft at presently operated, Cessna 152 G-ANSW and Cessna 172 G-BKEV but at that time no decision has been taken regarding what will be acquired.
During the spring of 1999 the Club saw the arrival of the new training fleet, two brand new Piper PA-28 Warrior III’s G-GFTA & G-GFTB, which have replaced the Cessna fleet.

Over the years many Pilots have trained through the Guernsey Aero Club and have achieved their PPL, Night, IMC & IR ratings, and many have gone on to fly as Commercial Pilots with local, European and the Worlds airlines.

In late 2007 it was recognized that the current membership were outgrowing the present Club premises and the committee proposed alterations, improvements and extensions. Following initial good feedback from the authorities more details proposals and planning commenced in more detail. Following the final designs being drawn up and approved by the various authorities, tenders were obtained and the proposals were taken forward to an AGM. In the meantime, Club founder Alan Marriette returned from Australia for a holiday, and provided the members with an evening lecture on 24th June, 2009.

At an AGM in 2009 the members voted to proceed with the ambitious development to extend the Clubroom and add a large cantilevered balcony on the 1st floor, together with enlarging the Training Room and Office on the Ground Floor. Fund raising commenced with funds being put in place before the final go ahead was given for contractors to commence the work. Work commenced in late January 2010 and Practical Completion was reach on 19th June, 2010. Members joined forces and did the internal & external decorating, carpets & curtains. The enlarged Club building with large balcony has extensive views over the whole of the airport taxiways and full length of the runway.

A Members party followed on the 19th June and a Public ‘Open Day’ on the 10th July, 2010 when in the presence of over 100 members & friends Chief Minister Lyndon Trott officially opened the extended Club. Present was by Air Chief Marshall Sir Peter Le Cheminant who had Opened the original Club building back in 1981

By early summer 2011 members had completed the extensive works on enlarging and refurbishing the kitchen, carry out improvements to the bar and reposition the beer store to the ground floor to make more space at first floor level.  All this was needed to enable members to cater for the additional business that evolved from the extension that the Club carried out during 2009/2010.

The weekend of 24th, 25th and 26th June saw the Aero Club celebrate its 40th anniversary of the Guernsey International Air Rally.  A record number of aviators and aircraft attended the event with the west grass park packed to capacity.

At the Pimms reception on the Friday evening members were pleased to welcome Guernsey’s new Lieutenant Governor, His Excellency Air Marshal Peter Walker CB, CBE

Saturday evening, 25th June saw the Aero Club hangar packed to capacity with near on 300 people seated for a Hangar Hog Roast Hoe Down with, for the very first time, Club members carrying out the catering for this very large gathering.  The whole weekend was a huge success.

In June 2012 the Aero Club organized an ambitious large fly away with 27 members, to the Airbus factory in Toulouse with members flying there mainly in light aircraft but with a few going commercially. They enjoyed an Airbus presentation and ‘on the factory floor’ tours of all the Airbus and ATR production facilities.

In 2012 the major works on the airport had commenced with the circa £81m Pavement Rehabilitation project and due much reduced apron space being available the Aero Club ran a scaled down Air Rally with aircraft parking on the ‘new bitmac surfaced East Apron’. There was a reduced size function in the Club but with it being extended with the addition of a marquee. Albeit reduce sized it made for a very friendly even which was a huge success.

However in 2013 the airport project has extended to such a scale that no apron space was available for an Air Rally, and for the first time in the Clubs history since Air Rally’s commence, it was this year that it was unfortunate that the Club could not have an Air Rally.

Through to present day the club is very active with two Piper PA-28 Warrior III’s.  and in 2013 G-GFTB was replaced with G-GOTH.

With the Airport Pavement Rehabilitation works complete and apron space was available again and the Aero Club held the 42nd Air Rally on 13, 14 & 15th June, 2015. This apron is now being used for the Annual Air Rally since.

The 45th Air Rally on 9 – 11th June, 2017 was a huge success with a sell out months before the event.

Arrangements are in place for the 46th Air Rally on 14- 16th June, 2018.

Details of the Club’s activities and an extension portfolio of photographs from member’s events can be viewed on www.guernseyaeroclub.com. together with the Club’s on-line Google.Calender http://guernseyaeroclub.com/social-events/