Thunder Bay

Dryden Flying Club still soaring after six decades

It's one of the most Canadian scenes you can think of: a small single engine float plane taking off from a remote lake in northwestern Ontario.

Club is only remaining flying club in northwestern Ontario

Members of the Dryden Flying Club stand in front of a case of aviation memorabilia in their clubhouse overlooking Wabigoon Lake. (l to r) Bob Ernewein, Barry Goodby and Bob Moore-Bunney are part of the executive. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

It's one of the most Canadian scenes you can think of: a small single engine float plane taking off from a remote lake in northwestern Ontario.

Bob Moore-Bunney, the Acting President of the Dryden Flying Club, calls this the "purity of aviation." After sixty years, the only remaining flying club in northwestern Ontario hopes to preserve that history and legacy.

"This type of flying we do here is becoming less and less prevalent in Canada, and harder and harder to do," said Moore-Bunney, who also works as a commercial pilot for a major airline.  "We need this club to survive, so individuals like myself can get out of a jet, and into a float plane, and actually enjoy myself."

The camaraderie is not just shared by pilots in the club - although flying is the focus. The clubhouse, and massive open spaces have been used for weddings and other social functions. Socialization is one of the reasons the club remains open to this day.

Walking into the building, with a beautiful view of Wabigoon Lake, the room is full of aviation memorabilia. Hand-painted wings adorn the walls, with names like, 'The Flying Icebreaker', all awarded to members who have done something, to receive recognition.

"If you'd done something significant, something stupid, good or otherwise, you qualified for an award," said Bob Ernewein, a director with the club.

"Unfortunately that member passed away, and the tradition ended. There is a story behind each of them up there. Some of us are recipients here today. There are people who are deserving, but unfortunately, it's past that time."

The Dryden Flying Club has seen many changes throughout its sixty-plus years of operation. It originally started with planes on skis and wheels, and was located where the current Dryden landfill is today.

After a couple of moves, the club finally settled down onto a piece of property overlooking Wabigoon Lake in 1984. The club now focuses on flying with floats only.

The club also owns its own floatplane, a Piper PA-12, which members are able to rent, after a proper ride check-out.

Aviation made many parts of the northwest accessible, and opened up the region for development in mining and forestry. It's that legacy that the Dryden club, one of the oldest in Canada, hopes to preserve.

"We did have the good fortune of being recognized by the city of Dryden in 2008, acknowledged as being a long-term club, not a service club, although we have provided services for lost fishermen, lost hunters," said Bob Ernewein, a director with the club.

"We're probably one of the longest surviving flying clubs in all of Canada."

"It is a jewel in Dryden for pilots to have this flying club that we have here," said More-Bunney. "It's quite an honour to be a member, and you can't just be a member, you have to be voted in here, and pass a scrutiny of some sort to be a member of the flying club."

About the Author

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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