With controversy at its tail, the Brandon Flying Centre is ready to take off, according to its president.
Less than one year ago, the Brandon Flying Club was in turmoil. Conflicts between members, staff and the board of directors in the organization led to the resignation of the entire leadership group.
With the board of directors gone, an entirely new group of members stepped up to fill the void.
At the forefront was Kara Burrell, who has been the president of the board since last August.
"I saw some things that frustrated me and if you’re not willing to do something about it, then you can’t complain about it," Burrell said.
It was a major shakeup at the club that has had mostly good days since incorporating in 1937.
"With a big change like that, it can be scary — frightening for people that have been there for a long time and for people who are new to their roles," Burrell said. "We had to work as a team because we were thrown into it at the same time."
Heading into its first annual general meeting, Burrell said the board of directors took a very serious and thoughtful approach to where the club has come from and where it was going.
"We wanted people to see and understand what the future of the club would be," Burrell said.
At times, accusations of too many pilots in the cockpit led to confusion between staff and members.
Burrell said it was important that the staff at the club be guided by one voice.
After taking a corporate governance course, Burrell said boundaries were needed between the moving parts of the organization.
While the general manager, who is now Frederick Fenton, would report and be responsible to the board and its vision for the club, he was also given latitude to make the operational decisions to make the club successful.
A recent name change, from the Brandon Flying Club to the Brandon Flying Centre, is a good example.
The club, which has more than 260 members, is still a vital part of the centre; however, the board and management felt it was important from a marketing perspective to make the change.
"Sometimes people weren’t clear about all of the services and things we can do and there is a lot of opportunity at the club right now," Burrell said, before correcting herself. "Sorry, I should be calling it the Brandon Flying Centre. That will take some getting used to."
The move seems to be paying dividends too.
Greg Harasymchuk, the flight school’s director, said morale at the centre has never been higher.
From his perspective, the name change will help recruit and market the school to a new wave of student pilots.
From a competitive standpoint, Harasymchuk said Brandon is far more flexible than many larger clubs, and from start to finish, it’s cheaper to get your licence here than many other places.
Harasymchuk has been flying for more than 25 years, and he said it’s something that he will never tire of.
"This never gets old — you can quote me on that. It never gets old," he said, his hands firmly on the controls of a Cessna 172 about 1,000 metres above Brandon.
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed