Soaring Since 1961!
York Soaring Association was founded in 1961 by Walter Chmela, who came to Canada from his native Austria in 1950. Operations commenced with two Doppleraab two-seat trainers and an Auster as a towplane, all purchased personally by Walter. The club operated from a number of different airfields over the next few years during which time the Doppleraabs were replaced with two Ka-7’s, and two single seaters, a Mu-13 and an LK-10 were added to the fleet, and the Auster was replaced with a 150HP Pa-12.
Walter realized that the future of York Soaring was dependent upon the club owning its own airfield and in 1969 he purchased the field from which the club still operates, a 100 acre property 8km. east of the town of Arthur. The field was graded to create a single 2000 ft. E-W runway and a 60ft. a 100ft. hanger was built A few years later, an adjoining 100 Ac. property was added so that a NW – SE runway and SW - NE runway could be built. Another, larger hanger was added for club aircraft and the original hanger left for use by private owners.
During the 1970’s the original fleet of gliders was replaced by a fleet of six - 2-33 basic trainers, two 2-32’s high performance trainers, two Blaniks, one 1-34, three 1-26.s and 2-1-23’s. During this time the towplane fleet grew to four – three Pa-18’s and a Pa-12, and a hangar for the towplanes was built.
Today, after major expenses relating to purchasing the field and buildings from Walter, we continue with the ongoing task of fleet upgrading. We have three excellent towplanes, two 235 HP Pawnees, and a 180HP Scout. The two-seat glider fleet has a SGS2-32 ; 4 SGS2-33, 3 Grob 103, an ASK21, and a DG500. The single seat fleet consists of 2 SGS1-34, a Grob CS-77 and a LS-4b.
But York Soaring is a lot more than property and aircraft. Having about 150 members with a great variety of talents, members are encouraged to volunteer to take on one or more of the many duties that need to be carried out to make the club run. With the exception of aircraft maintenance all work is done by the club members. After 45 years with Walter Chmela as President, Treasurer, and general mentor on everything, the club has transitioned to a fully elected Board of Directors who manage all club affairs.
York Soaring has an active social committee that puts on regular barbecues and fundraising dinners; has a group that specializes in mentoring badge and cross-country flying; and others that take part in excursions to other flying venues around the world such as the USA, France, and New Zealand.
York Soaring is also the home base of Youth Flight Canada and Freedom’s Wings. YFC provides bursaries to deserving young people who cannot on their own afford to fly. YFC pays 50% of their nominal membership fee and all but $5.00 of each flight. FW’s which has its own Twin Grob, is dedicated to providing flight experience and flying training to physically challenged people free of charge. In fact York Soaring is proud to have the only paraplegic gliding instructor in Canada as one of our members.
When Walter started the club his aim was to make the wonderful sport of soaring available to almost anyone who was interested and to young people in particular because that is where he saw the future of soaring. The bursaries offered by YFC, air experience flights and training for the disabled, and the annual air cadet camps are the manifestation of this goal. In fact in May 2007 Walter received national recognition for his almost 70 years of service to soaring by being inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame.
By following the vision for York Soaring that Walter had almost 50 years ago York Soaring continues to bring new members into the very special world of soaring. Whatever your age, able-bodied, or physically challenged, you are welcome at York Soaring. It’s getting better all the time.