A group of local businessmen and aviation enthusiasts have banded together to help Jersey Aero Club lift off again after the 70-year-old flying hub entered administration.
The group is made up of past and current members of the club, who believe that their mix of financial backing and professional know-how will be able to revive the struggling institution.
The St. Peter-based club was founded in 1950, going on to provide light aircraft hire, flight training courses and social opportunities for local aviation enthusiasts.
Members were told of the decision to enter administration at a meeting on Tuesday, with Ports of Jersey’s Chief Commercial Officer Jonathan Crick confirming the move shortly after.
Pictured: News of the Jersey Aero Club entering administration was met with shock and disappointment. (Danrok/Wiki)
Former Aero Club Chair and Working Group member Alun Griffiths told Express that the news came as a “shock” to many.
However, determined not to let it be the end of their beloved club, a group of members past and present instantly began messaging over Facebook about how they might rescue it.
By Wednesday night, around 20 individuals – a number Mr Griffiths said is growing all the time – from different professional backgrounds had come together to figure out a way forward for what is one of the oldest flying clubs in the British Isles.
While the group don’t know the depth of the funding challenge facing them, as the Committee have not released the financial records to them, they are confident that they should have the collective means to plug any gaps and the business expertise to resolve any corporate governance or management issues.
Pictured: The Working Group came together online just 24 hours after news of the Aero Club entering administration.
A proposal has now been put forward to the Jersey Aero Club Committee, its administrators, and Ports of Jersey, which owns land used by the club.
Expressing optimism about the rescue bid, group member Brian Heath MBE (pictured top) described the team effort to bring “long-term financial stability” to the club as “a striking example of what a true partnership can achieve in building a sustainable aviation-centred club for the long-term benefit for all stakeholders within the aviation community in Jersey”.
The rescue bid will be welcome news for hundreds of islanders, who this week expressed their upset at hearing of the club’s difficulties and shared memories of its heyday.
One Facebooker commented: “So very sad, an iconic club that is no doubt steeped in history. Let’s hope some sort of rescue package can be found, even if it means government loans.”
Pictured: The group thinks it has the collective means to help the club with any financial difficulties.
Rich Chapman, whose father, Frank, was a founding member, was among those to express regret.
“I didn’t actually fly myself, but my father lived for flying. I went up with him many times,” he told Express.
“Frank was born in St Aubin. In the evening after his paper round, he would go to West Park and then get a lift on one of the aircraft when it was flown to Quennevais race course where they stored the planes for the night, then run down the hill to home!”
While Mr Chapman said he wasn’t a flyer, he did enjoy the Aero Club’s social scene, explaining: “The first clubhouse I remember was where the fuel tankers are now, the next one was on the airport road - they used to have brilliant discos on Friday and Sunday nights.”
It’s an aspect Ruth Smith (née Nicholson), who moved to Jersey in the 70s as a youth worker aged 23, also fondly recalls.
Pictured: Many islanders fondly recall Jersey Aero Club's discos.
Working five nights a week until 22:00, she struggled to meet people her own age – until her bank manager suggested one Friday that she try the Aero Club, signing her up that very evening.
“This turned out to be the best thing ever for my social life!” she recalled. “In those days, Jersey had a law against dancing on a Sunday, but you could sit with a drink and jig around in your chair which made a change from dancing around your hand bag!
“When my sister arrived in the island, of course that was where we headed to boogie the night away. We would try to guess who were the single males as opposed to the married ones, who seemed to be out in force every Friday night! We didn’t actually meet our partners there, but it was such fun while it lasted!” she joked.
While there may no longer be regular discos, Mr Griffiths said that the Working Group is keen to see the social element of the club maintained.
Stressing that it is “early days”, he said that nothing had been decided about what other elements might have to stay or go, but said the group would ensure there is a “strategic” approach to ensure the longevity of the club.
Anyone interested in joining the bid to rescue the Jersey Aero Club can email email@example.com.
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