Aviation History Newfoundland & Labrador

The Newfoundland Aero Club

by Gary Hebbard, Journalist and Aviation Enthusiast

1938 and a bored but determined young man hoped a future in the skies would lift him out of the poverty of Depression era Newfoundland. With a group of like-minded friends and sponsorship money from some local business concerns Jack Hebbard ordered a Slingsby glider from England as his chosen route to the heavens. The Newfoundland Aero Club was soon a going concern and residents of St. John’s between 1938 and 1940 were often treated to the site of the flimsy but graceful aircraft soaring over the city streets, the names of local businesses emblazoned on its fabric wings for all to see.

As luck would have it, Newfoundland and the rest of the world would soon be wrenched from the grip of economic depression by the advent of World War Two. At the cost of many millions of lives, tyranny would be defeated and relative prosperity restored on the back of the war economy. Hebbard, like his friends, saw the war as a great adventure, not to be missed and in his case perhaps the road to a flying career. Alas, the British Army, specifically the legendary Royal Artillery, claimed him and hundreds of more young Newfoundlanders. Returning from the war Hebbard sought to reclaim the glider so carefully stowed away prior to his 1940 departure for England in a small shack on the edge of Lester’s Field in the city’s east end. But the Canadian Army had claimed the land that had served Hebbard and his friends as their aerodrome and the glider was lost to history, never to be seen again.