Back then, five dollars went quite a bit farther — the equivalent of about $41 today. Still a pretty good deal for a flight lesson, which was offered to mark the club's revival after a disaster that almost spelled its end.
The then-named Edmonton and Northern Alberta Aero Club started in August 1927 as the country's first licensed aviation club, based out of Blatchford Field, the country's first licensed airport, which was at the edge of the city at that time. A year later, the club secured its first aircraft, a De Havilland DH.60 Moth, which is now housed at the Alberta Aviation Museum.
The new flying club was a bit of a rarity, as it was not just a group for those who enjoyed being in the air, but also a flight school. Those looking for lessons in those early days could learn under one of Canada's most famous aviators: bush pilot and First World War flying ace W.R. "Wop" May. He was the club's first president and head instructor. The club grew quickly; by the end of the first year, it boasted more than a hundred members. By the early 1930s, 20 pilots had graduated from the flight school, and the organization began hosting its own airshows.
Edmonton became a vital aviation hub and training centre during the Second World War, and the club was heavily involved. In 1940, it worked with the federal government to help train pilots for the Royal Canadian Air Force. However, preparing all those pilots required a lot of space, which led to the club temporarily moving to Bowden during the war years. When it returned to the city in 1944, it was renamed the Edmonton Flying Club.
The club was nearly erased by a devastating fire in 1967. The blaze destroyed the organization's hangar, other buildings, and 14 of its aircraft. Still, the EFC refused to stay grounded. The morning after the fire, flying lessons resumed in a plane borrowed from Calgary's flying club. The club rebuilt rapidly — by 1975, it owned 42 aircraft.
The EFC continued to fly out of City Centre Airport until 2014. With the impending shutdown of the airport, the aviators moved to a new home at the Parkland Airport west of the city. After 95 years, the Edmonton Flying Club is still in the air. It is facing some struggles, however, as are many other flight schools in Alberta, dealing with high costs and a lack of trainee pilots.