July 15, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
The Buttonville Flying Club, which operates out of Toronto Buttonville Municipal Airport, was created to provide a strong environment for aviation in the area, with an emphasis on safety, mentorship, and having fun.
The club was founded in 1961 by the Sifton family, said member Phil Lightstone. “Michael Sifton was the original founder and family patriarch who also founded Buttonville Airport,” he said. “The club originally had 30 members. It ran for 20 years, and then went dormant until 1995.”
At that time, then the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) Chapter 44 was formed and brought the club back, said Lightstone. “At our peak, we had 225 members and 140 member-owned aircraft,” he said. “We now have 180 members and 70 member-owned aircraft.”
The club has 10 instructors and around 40 student pilots. There are three levels of membership with a one-time fee: standard, $65; family, $85; and student, $35. “We’re a not-for-profit club that is under the COPA flight charter. We have very modest fees and we use the fees to support our club functions,” said Lightstone.
Buttonville Airport has more than 300 aircraft on the field, and a 2012 Transport Canada survey found it was the seventh-busiest airport in Canada, said Lightstone. “The airport drives 150 jobs and contributes $52 million in annual revenue to the region,” he said.
The club has monthly meetings with guest speakers from groups including Transport Canada, the Weather Channel, Nav Canada, COPA, the Transportation Safety Board, mechanics, veterans, and its own members, said Lightstone. It also does fly-ins to events like Sun 'n Fun and Oshkosh, he added.
“We also do fly outs once a year, three to four weeks long, to destinations including Alaska, Newfoundland, and James Bay,” said Lightstone. The club doesn’t have a fleet, but the motto is “have a ride, need a ride,” he added.
For clubs looking to revitalize and grow, Lightstone advises beginning with a value proposition and understand it. “Ask what are you trying to accomplish? We focus on fun, education, and safety,” he said. “This may sound tried, but aviation is a series of one liners, like there are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old bold pilots. Use the wealth of knowledge from your members.”
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