After several years of virtual hibernation, the Rodney Aero Club, based at Kaipara Flats, has once again taken flight.
The club now flies a Robin R 2160 for general aviation training and a Pipistrel Alpha (Pipi) for microlight training.
The Pipistrel was bought by club president Brien O’Brien last October and the first training flights were carried out in December, with Rusty Russell as instructor. Russell, from Whangarei, volunteered to help get the club up and running. Since then, around a dozen pilots have been rated to fly the club’s aircraft and O’Brien and Bruce Stevenson have qualified as instructors.
Pipi is an advanced microlight training aircraft that was developed from modern glider technology and is mostly made from carbon fibre. It is fitted with a ballistic recovery parachute that can be fired if the aircraft is in trouble, and it will parachute the aircraft safely to the ground.
Club member Keith Morris says this modern technology is a feature of many of today’s microlight aircraft.
“Their performance can be just as good or better than the normal small aeroplanes that most people think of, but with much less cost than general aviation aircraft,” he says.
Most recently, the club hosted a family day with flights for a lucky few.
The Rodney Aero Club formed in April 1963 and its first club aeroplane was a Piper Cherokee. This was around the time of the aerial topdressing boom and several topdressing aircraft were based on the field, which provided a good income for the club.
In July 1977, a Cessna 172 was purchased, and this flew with the club for nearly 42 years until being sold to ex-chief flying officer Rod Miller in early 2019.
Over the years, the club has carried out flight training and held a license to fly passengers to Great
Barrier Island, but membership waned until, in 2019, there were only a handful of members left.
With the resurgence of interest in flying, there are now 18 aircraft hangared on the field, as well as a gyrocopter. The airfield is also being developed for hangar housing with eight large lots being subdivided beside the runway, with only one left for sale so the future for the airfield is looking bright.
“The club has around 70 members and enthusiasm is high,” Morris says.
A major working bee was held to clear out and paint the hangar and plans have been drawn up to carry out overdue repairs to the clubrooms.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the club can contact O’Brien on 021 414 710.