Life membership gong
A Manjimup man is flying high after last month being named as the newest Manjimup Aero Club life member.
Bruce Ward was just17 when he started learning how to fly and the whole venture was a family affair.
“My sister decided she’d start learning to fly, and at that stage there were no airports in Manjimup, so she’d have to drive to Bunbury and fly with the Bunbury Aero Club,” he said.
“We got involved from her doing that and we’d go along and watch her do her lessons.
“My dad, my brother and myself started off when the Manjimup Aero Club was formed in 1969.
“My first flight was pretty much the day I left school.”
Back in those days, the only airstrip was out in Wilgarrup, and had been put in by the then-named Forest Department for its aerial burning program.
The Manjimup Aero Club was formed in August, 1969, and the first flights started that November.
With a Perth-based company flying down once a fortnight to hold lessons, it took Bruce just over a year to get his restricted pilot licence.
“Back in those days you had to fly 55 hours, but when you get a flight once a fortnight, it can take quite a while,” he said.
It took about three years for Bruce to get his full private licence and he later decided to get his commercial pilot licence in the late 1980s.
“Most of the training is about when things go wrong and how to cope with that,” he said.
Despite the effort, Bruce said he loved flying because it was exhilarating.
“No flight’s the same, everything you do is interesting, the places you can see and go to,” he said.
“I’ve been across Australia a couple of times and around Australia once.”
Not that he planned it that way, but Bruce’s around-Australia trip coincided nearly 50 years to the day someone flew around Australia for the first time, in 1927.
One of his more unusual flights involved the time he tracked a python from his aircraft in Perth.
A 2m long carpet python had been stolen, but it had eaten another animal that had a tracking collar.
“We guided people on the ground to within 60m of it,” Bruce said.
“We tracked it to a house about 4km from where it was stolen.”
As the club’s newest life member and its current president, Bruce said he was surprised about the recognition and the award.
“The Aero Club is a bunch of people enjoying doing the same thing,” he said. “It was an unexpected honour and surprise to receive a life membership.”
Even though the club has been celebrating its past, it is also looking to the future.
The future for club members includes an upgraded or new facility at the Manjimup Airport, something they are working towards with the Manjimup Shire Council.
“This structure was only meant to be temporary and we’ve had it about 15 years or more,” Bruce said.
The potential for expansion includes a co-location with the St John Ambulance facility and the airport terminal.
One of the reasons the club wants to upgrade is because it has outgrown the facility and now has 23 members.
Bruce encouraged anyone who wanted to join the Manjimup Aero Club to do so. He said potential members did not have to have a licence or an aircraft to be a member, just an interest in anything that flies.
“This is a magic part of the world to fly around in,” he said.
Visit the Manjimup Aero Club website for more information.
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