Durban Wings Club - History

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"There can be few Flying Schools in South Africa that boast the idyllic setting of the Durban Wings
Club sited at Virginia Airport, Durban....right alongside the rolling, thundering surf of the Indian
Ocean. There can few flying schools in South Africa that boast the long and proud tradition of the
Durban Wings Club; indeed there are many who believe it is the premier flying club in the country."

So wrote "Comair News" in their in-house magazine dated January 1977.

Oh, for the heady days of that era. The lowest cost in operating an aircraft was the price of fuel
and the Rand was about equal to the Dollar. The DWC owned outright no less than three Cessna
150's (two were under one year old and the other was just three years old) and had a fleet of "fly away"
machines available to members. They later purchased a Cessna 172 and a Piper four seater. It became
Club policy not to major 150's at the end of their first life, but to trade them in to Comair for a new
machine at a cost of around R13 000.

The Chairman in those days was Les Millar, a prominent local pharmacist and well known flying instructor
who had taken over from Mike Hartley in that role and he was supported by Peter (Chalky) White who was
the full time Manager of the school

Les Millar recalled that the Durban Wings Club had its origins well back before the Second World War
of 1939-45. After hostilities the old Durban Light Plane Club was reformed in 1946 at the old Stamford
Hill aerodrome as the Durban Wings Club. The move to Virginia took place in 1959, but the Club - as it
had been since the war - was purely a social venue (as, indeed, it is today). Aircraft and training were
bought by the Club from commercial companies.

Eventually it was decided to undertake flying training and a Tiger Moth was bought, but it was not long
before the Club purchased its first 150 and it never looked back from that time. Using part-time instructors,
the first pupils were Chalkey White and his wife Ann who both went on to become instructors in the Club.
Using air shows and pageants to help raise funds, Miller had within 18 months built the training up to 450
hours per month. A feature of the Club was the monthly Club Day Competitions which used to draw up to
70 competitors for competitions designed to improve pilot performance by acting as check-outs by
the Instructors.

In 1976 the Club had over 600 members, of whom almost 200 actively flew.
There were 80 students in training and during 1976 31 graduated with Private Pilot Licences.

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