Founded in 1928 and now the last flight school located at an international airport in Canada, the Ottawa Flying Club was a refreshing place to visit after a long journey to pick up our plane. When we had first visited the OFC a week before, we were in such a rush and grumpy about our 8 1/2 hour ride ahead of us that we did not notice what a great little spot the OFC is. As you may know, I've been to several flight schools and I have not been to a club or school quite like this. I hope if you have been to one, you would share it with me. The activity in here was refreshing and I wonder if places like this are just the boost that general aviation needs?
The first thing I noticed was how many people were heading in and out. The individuals behind the counter were very helpful and I saw at least two female pilots working there. Across from the counter next to the door heading to the ramp are a few computer work stations that were helpful in double checking the weather before we departed. The stairs near that led to the bathrooms and a large room full of tables, chairs and a large white board. It is the perfect classroom for ground school or safety seminars. Several people were in there conversing and sharing hangar stories.
On the other half of the building was the OFC Cafe and Lounge. The cafe served very flavorful Asian food and became my first international $100 hamburger. There was plenty of seating inside and many people were enjoying meals of their own. I chose to sit outside at one of the two picnic tables since I had Turbo. Bob wasn't too hungry so attended to paying the bill and talking with the mechanic. Just a heads up, the cafe is cash only, luckily they were OK taking US bills.
While I was eating I saw at least 3 or 4 training flights come in and few others head out. Many smiled or nodded my way. The whole area was super friendly and I got the impression that everyone wanted to be there and enjoyed being there. As I hooked Turbo up on a fence and started packing up the plane, a gentleman stopped me to ask me about it. We ended up talking for quite awhile and it turns out he had flown with the club to DC a time or to in the pre 9-11 days. What I noticed, was that everyone there assumed I was a pilot. They never asked or never went to Bob first to ask him a question when I was around. I'm not sure if it is something they actively work on at the OFC or if that was just the culture of the area, but it was so refreshing!
The flying club website boasts that they have trained thousands of pilots over the eight decades since being founded. In addition, the have members that have been enrolled for 65 years! They have teamed up with college programs and host many social and movie nights. If I were in the area, I would have loved to learn to fly here and I am sure I would have stayed beyond my training. This is a place where you can come and grab a bite with fellow pilots on a rainy day or meet up after a stressful training session to watch a movie with other students.
I'm very happy that a return to Ottawa was such a smooth and good experience and I would recommend the club to anyone in the area, with the disclaimer that I did not fly any of their aircraft or work with their instructors. The only negative was that to us Americans, the gas was a bit of a sticker shock! However, for such a large airport the $15/night ramp fee seemed reasonable.
Have you been involved with a flight school or flying club that gave you a similar experience?