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What Happened?

By Mike Davenport, EAA 89102, Langley, British Columbia

November 2017 - I made a midfield crossover to check the active followed by a right downwind to base and final on 25, ending with a near perfect three-point landing on the manicured grass. That felt good. How come no one ever sees those landings?

This time it was because there was no one there.

It was a beautiful warm Sunday afternoon, light westerly winds, and the place was deserted. The last time I was there, it was the same, and I thought that it was an anomaly, but now it seems likely that this is the new reality.

In the past, the tiedowns held upwards of 50 aircraft and the hangars were full. The coffee shop was full with the overflow crowd spilling out onto the tables in the patio. There were aircraft arriving and departing or doing circuits, and people, singly and in groups, admired each other’s planes and supervised all things aviation. There was a lot to admire — from Volksplanes to P-51s, Pober Pixies to C-190s, and everything in between.

I remember all of this well, as I also hung out there every weekend, first as an airplane weenie, a pilot wannabe, and then finally as a student, getting a tailwheel checkout. It was there that I learned how to do fabric and paint work, to do an engine change, and even how to build a whole airplane. There were weekend work parties and barbecues, fly-ins and big red dogs, and people … lots of them. What happened?

Well, I left and purchased a hangar at another airport nearer to home and went back only occasionally. But I was only one of so many who were there each weekend. What happened to all the others? I know that I grew older and developed other interests, got a better job, remarried, made some different friends, but I still remembered the ones who taught me so much about airplanes and life.

Some have passed away, either from natural causes or aviation-related incidents. Some quit flying, but others had never started; still they came. Why not now?

On the day in question, the tiedowns held three airplanes, two of which were covered in moss and surrounded by weeds, the coffee shop was empty, no one was at the pumps, and I was the only one with a pulse on the entire field.

I later asked several people why they thought no one was there that day. They said perhaps they just lost interest or couldn’t afford to fly. Maybe they just got old and moved away. There is no one to replace them because maybe old airplanes don’t hold the same fascination that they did for a younger generation. They thought that flying had become too expensive. I don’t think that one is valid. With today’s low-interest rates, it is possible to buy a classic airplane for less than half the cost of a decent pickup truck, so it doesn’t seem likely that finances are a barrier. After all, just try to count the number of pickups on the road on any given day.

What do you think happened? Has it happened at your favourite field?

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