The Red Deer Regional Airport is planning to tear down the clubhouse for the Red Deer Flying Club to make way for airport improvements. The club is hoping to move the building, parts of which date to the 1930s. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)

The Red Deer Regional Airport is planning to tear down the clubhouse for the Red Deer Flying Club to make way for airport improvements. The club is hoping to move the building, parts of which date to the 1930s. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)

Historic Red Deer airport building could not be saved

Money and time too short to save 1930s-era tower

Aviation enthusiasts trying to save one of the few remaining vintage buildings at Red Deer Regional Airport have reluctantly abandoned their bid.

The building housing the Red Deer Flying Club’s clubhouse is slated for demolition this summer. The clubhouse was built around a two-storey wooden-frame tower originally built to house navigation electronic equipment in the 1930s. It is the oldest structure still standing at the Springbrook airport and pre-dated the airport’s transformation into a training base under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan during the Second World War.

However, with the cost of maintaining the aging building climbing and the site it sits on being eyed to expand an apron for planes, the authority made the decision to tear down the structure unless someone could come forward with enough money to move it.

Harvard Historical Aviation Society president Jodi Smith said the group met recently to discuss its options and decided it did not have the means to save the building, which the airport authority wants removed by July 15.

“We ended up pulling our expression of interest (in saving the building) due to the time limitations. They also wanted us to put the land back to its original state,” said Smith on Tuesday. “It was just becoming more and more expensive.”

It was hoped someone might step forward to help bankroll a preservation effort but none appeared.

The society also had no luck even getting quotes to move the building after reaching out two months ago to a pair of companies specializing in moving buildings.

“And we were supposed to have it all off and moved by July 15. We just knew, without even a quote yet, we could not work within those timelines.”

The flying club has already moved out and was given space by Red Deer car dealership owner Gord Scott in a hangar he owns nearby. Also moving to the hangar is the local branch of the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association(CSARA), which was using the clubhouse as its headquarters.

“The flying club as of last night moved out of there completely, as well as CASARA,” said club president Kirk Seaborn.

“We’ll see what comes. We’re certainly a club that has been very industrious and hard-working so I think there is still a future for the club and we’ll try to do what we can to be ambassadors for Red Deer aviation. It’s just another challenge.”

News that the building might be lost hit some in the aviation community hard, he said. “There’s been a number of people I’ve talked to in the last while who have been teary-eyed over it,” he said.

Smith said while it is sad to lose another piece of the airport’s history, preserving the building, which needed repairs, would have taken a lot of money that the society felt would be better invested in its dream project, an aviation museum.

“It would just put the plans for a bigger-scale building further into the future,” she said.

The society already has drawings for a 21,000-square-foot museum to house the historic Airspeed Oxford and de Havilland Tiger Moth training aircraft being painstakingly restored by volunteers. An agreement is in place to provide land at the airport southeast of the Red Deer County Fire Hall in an undeveloped area being used as sports fields.

Meanwhile, the society’s museum located on the same land near 34th Avenue and 22nd Street in Springbrook continues to welcome visitors. The museum and its gift shop is open 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and also hosts society gatherings on most Mondays each month from 7 to 9 p.m.

The society also hosts historic talks, including a discussion about the Airspeed Oxford this Saturday. Veterans have been invited for the following Saturday. A history of the Red Deer Air Show, which was started in the 1980s, will be discussed on June 25 beginning at 9 a.m.



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