Q&A with the President of the Ottawa Flying Club

Marc Desjardins, President of the Ottawa Flying Club

Marc Desjardins is an employee of the City of Ottawa/City Council, who has lived in Ottawa for 43 years. As the President of the Ottawa Flying Club, he leads a volunteer Board of an organization with 83 years of Ottawa aviation history.

So tell me a bit about yourself; how did you get into flying?

My father was in the Royal Canadian Air Force and as a child I remember going to Air Force Days at Rockliffe and Trenton.  For years I wanted to get into flying, but always had trouble finding either the time or the money. Finally in 2002 things all came together and I began my flight training at the Ottawa Flying Club.

I attained my private pilot license in 2004.

For anyone who has not been up in a small plane, how would you describe the experience?

The sensation of flying in a small two-seater or four-seater aircraft is very different than a passenger jet.  At first you may be a little anxious, but quickly that changes to exhilaration… and the world below you becomes a wonder and beauty.

I’m not sure a lot of people know about the Ottawa Flying Club, can you tell me a little bit about its history?

The Ottawa International MacDonald-Cartier Airport was originally known as The Hunt Club Field. It was used intermittently by aircraft, including Department of National Defence planes. Charles Lindbergh landed his Spirit of St. Louis at the Hunt Club field on July 2, 1927 on a flight from New York, and the public’s interest in aviation in this region followed.

In 1935, the facilities of the airport were operated by the Ottawa Flying Club and included a club house, an office, one hangar (35 by 40 by 14 feet), two private hangars for light aircraft, refuelling services by Imperial Oil, and a wind-sock. The Club’s first home was an old, two-storey, white clapboard house located on the east side of what is now PAPA taxiway. At the time, club members and students were flying Avro Avians, powered by the Genet engines, purchased from the Ottawa Car Company, which made street cars for the City of Ottawa.

Now, 83 years later, the Ottawa Flying Club has graduated thousands of pilots and has even trained a few of the Canadian Astronauts. Many graduates of the Ottawa Flying Club have established themselves as professional pilots in various Canadian, US and International Airlines as well as within other aviation related jobs such as Air Traffic Control.

Photo Credit: The Ottawa Flying Club

Paint me a picture of the OFC today: what services do you offer?

The commitment of the Ottawa Flying Club is to produce safe and competent pilots through comprehensive and high quality training. Membership has its benefits and Ottawa Flying Club members have access to our fleet of aircraft for rent and to the frequent seminars, movie nights and social events.

More importantly, members get to participate in our challenging cross-country trips. Club members have organized trips of with four or five aircraft to California, Bahamas, Florida, both coasts and many other destinations. These trips provide are both an adventure and an excellent way to build experience and confidence that you won’t find at other clubs.

As a social center, the Ottawa Flying Club Café & Lounge provides a comfortable place to spend the day with free WiFi. The Café (open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.) provides all day breakfasts and an excellent selection of Asian cuisine.

Who are your members?

We have about 250 members from the Ottawa area and beyond, who range in age from 17 to 84.  Many of our student pilots have gone on to become pilots with Porter, Jazz, Air Canada and airlines around the world.

I read that you offer flying tours of the city, what does that involve?

Aerial view of Ottawa's Parliament Hill

Ottawa Scenic Flights are offered seven days a week. Our staff of instructors can take up to three passengers in our Cessna 172 aircraft.  Departing from the Ottawa International Airport flights can be customized to go where you want.  Typical views include, Gatineau Park, the Ottawa River, Parliament and downtown Ottawa.

People can book by calling the Club at 613-523-2142 or visiting us at 20 Lindbergh Pvt and getting a tour of our aircraft.

What are people’s reactions, the first time they get up in the air?

I think some people are very apprehensive when getting into a small plane but after five minutes of flying and seeing what’s around them or even taking the controls, that feeling quickly becomes… “how do I learn how to fly?”

Can you tell me a bit about Fly Day with the Ottawa Rotary Home?

Fly Day is an annual charity event organized by the Ottawa Flying Club as a way of giving back to the community.  It has been doing so for 53 years now.  In past years it has helped such organizations as the March of Dimes and partners with the Rotary Club to raise funds for the Rotary Home which is respite care facility for children with disabilities.

Describe for me your perfect day in Ottawa.

I’ve lived in Ottawa for 43 of my 56 years, and my perfect day in Ottawa is a beautiful late June morning with barely a whisper of wind, getting into a Cessna 172 and flying 3,000 feet over a luscious green city, the sun glistening over the waters of  the Ottawa, Rideau and Gatineau River, with only me and a few birds soaring below me and sky and land for as far as the eye can see!!

Thanks Marc! Now…who wants to go flying?