History of Aviation in Aruba and The Netherlands Antilles

Jerry Casius
The following History is taken from the Aruba Flying Club web site.  I contacted first the Aruba Flying Club who referred me to Gerard "Jerry" Casius.  Gerard "Jerry" Casius has given me his permission to reprint this section from his upcoming book about flying in the Caribbean. Dan Jensen


Gerard Casius This story is only for personal information and may not be publicized without prior authorization of the author. It is part of a book on the History of aviation in Netherlands Antilles / Aruba, which will be made public in the near future.

The Beginning

If you said "Aruba" in the 1930-1960 period, you also said "Lago Refinery." The two were practically synonymous, because the large ESSO Oil Company virtually controlled economic life on the small island. On Aruba there were many American and, to a smaller extent, Dutch expatriates enjoying relatively high incomes, an excellent basis for sports flying activities.
Already in 1932 a number of Lago employees took the first initiative to start recreational flying. This took place under the umbrella of the Caribbean Flying Service (CFS, official name: "Caraibische Vliegdienst Onderneming", an enterprise founded by James Massey and James Hathaway, both Lago employees, and Manuel Viana, a local car dealer of Portuguese extraction. Thirteen aspiring pilots took flying lessons from A.J. Viccellio, an American flight instructor brought down from Texas. After first using a Curtiss Robin monoplane, which was heavily damaged in one of the rare hurricanes to touch Aruba, the CFS had bought a three-seater Bird BK biplane. The fee per flight hour was 15 dollars, quite a sum in those days. The CFS closed down in 1934, after KLM had started airline services in the Antilles and the Bird biplane was handed over to two of the original group of sports pilots, James Massey and John McCord, in settlement of some moneys owed.
The fate of the Bird after that is unclear. It appears to have been active for a few more years. The last documented flight was in August 1935. In May 1936 it was offered for sale to a pilot in Venezuela, with the message that the fabric on wings and fuselage needed replacing. This indicates that it was not airworthy at that time and it appears to have been in storage in a shed at Lago. What happened after that is unknown, although there have been attempts to start up a flying club during the 1935?1940 period, but these were unsuccessful.(1)
On February 22, 1939, a new attempt to found an aeroclub was successful and the necessary license from the Dutch island government was applied for. The plan was to import a glider from the Netherlands, with an instructor, as soon as the permit was granted. Again, Bill Ewart, one of the original pupils of Viccellio, was the man who took the initiative, but, alas, the Dutch authorities did not approve the license, giving as the reason that "there are no regulations governing such activity.(2)" This somewhat vague statement probably served to cover another (real) objection, namely that in the meantime war had broken out in September and it was not acceptable to have foreign nationals fly over the islands. At least such a regulation was enforced for the Aeroclub Curacao, which had been founded in 1938.(3) Since the majority of the flying enthusiasts at Aruba were Americans, it was probably easier just to deny the permit.
The Aruba Flying Club Is Founded
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had involved the USA in the war, American military planes were stationed at Aruba's Dakota Field (now Queen Beatrix Airport) in January 1942. Obviously, there was no longer any reason to keep American sports pilots out of the skies and soon new flying club plans were being made, again with Bill Ewart as the main pusher, together with Bernard Shearon and H.F. Couzy, a Dutchman, all Lago employees. The group was strongly supported by Piet de Vuijst, harbor master of Aruba, and as a former pilot in the Dutch Navy, much in favor of the initiative. On March 23rd, 1942, the Aruba Flying Club was officially founded. Ewart wrote the club statute and bylaws, which were approved by the Government on April 1st, 1942. On the first membership meeting the twenty members present chose Roy V. Wiley as president.(4) Of the approximate number of 22-25 founding members, not everyone followed or completed pilot training, sometimes because of quite curious reasons. There was one member who resigned because he had no transportation to come to Dakota (Beatrix) airport.(5)
The first order of business was acquiring an airplane, which was not an easy matter under the war situation, when, naturally, all production facilities were taken up by military requirements. Civilian purchases were near impossible, but with the support of Piet de Vuijst, who in the meantime had been recalled for military service as a Dutch Navy officer, a request for a Piper Cub plane was made via the Netherlands Purchasing Commission (NPC) in New York. All purchases of aircraft had to be approved by the US Government and the NPC filed the requisition with the explanation that the plane was "to be used for the training of civilian pilots." Although intended for a purely non-military activity, the request for a plane was approved rather quickly. On May 6th approval was given to draw a Piper L-4B (Cub) from production for the US Army and the expeditious way in which this OK was given suggests that behind the scenes Standard Oil USA may also have pulled a few strings.
The plane intended for the AFC was Piper L-4B serial number 43-627. It was delivered from the factory on August 14, 1942, and sea-freighted to Aruba, probably on an Esso tanker. It has taken considerable time to get the plane ready to fly, because the first recorded flight only took place on December 28.(6) It was registered with the marks PJ-AFA in the Dutch Antilles civil aircraft register. The price of the plane was $2,400.
The members of the AFC each purchased a share of $150 to finance the plane.(7) The US authorities advised the club that the Piper Cub was supplied under Lend Lease to the Dutch Government and that, therefore, an invoice could be expected from the Dutch. However, no request for payment was ever received and the cost of the Piper was carried on the books as an outstanding debt. In September 1943 the plane suffered a pretty serious accident (more about that later) and the insurance paid $ 2,100 for the damage so that, in fact, the AFC had almost paid for the plane twice and still it could not settle the debt. This situation still existed in 1946.(8) The Piper was then sold to some private flyers of the Caribbean Flying Association (the "native" flying club at Aruba, more about this later). As far as is known, the AFC was never charged for its first plane and this last transaction was probably the third time that the AFC made money out of this aircraft!
On the southern side of Dakota airfield, where the extended runway cuts the original road and approximately where we now find the Bucuti Yacht Club, a small hangar was built for the AFC, which also served as the clubhouse. Flight instruction was given by the US Army and Navy pilots who were based at Aruba. This was not always a smooth experience, because these pilots were not necessarily experienced instructors and acted as they saw fit. This does not mean to say that they were not dedicated, but teaching to fly is a profession by its own and some of the lesser experienced pilots took the opportunity to pull some stunts that their sometimes boring anti-submarine patrols would not allow them to do. One of the aspiring sportspilots recalled how on his first-ever airplane flight he was treated to an extended spin right down to ground level. At some point the military squadron commander had to take action to put an end to further hair-raising tricks.(9) Later on, some of the more experienced members of the club gave instruction, including Bill Ewart who on May 15, 1943, received authorization to do so from Piet de Vuijst, who had in the meantime been appointed as the local "Ambtenaar Toezicht Luchtvaart" (ATL), the government aviation inspector, on the basis that he had accumulated over 100 hours solo flying.(10) Frank Roebuck was another AFC-member who gave instruction, but he was not everyone's favorite because he was a bit rough-handed and had the habit (if a student was getting off course) to indicate the necessary correction by pulling the pupil's right or left ear.(11)
A Porterfield With A Short Lifespan And Aeroncas from The Dutch Government
In order to cater for the strong interest in sports flying, the AFC in 1943 started to look for an additional plane. As stated before, this was not an easy task during the war years, but again the Dutch government lent a helping hand. For use by the Aeroclub Curacao, the Dutch government had already succeeded in acquiring two Piper Cubs (L-4B's) out of Lend Lease supplies and word came from the Netherlands Purchasing Commission in New York that the US authorities would act favorably on a request for a similar deal for Aruba.(12) A new Requisition was filed by the NPC on February 12, 1943 for two Piper L-4 Cubs, with the explanation: "To be used by the Air Force for patrols over Aruba." This was a considerable stretch of reality, but apparently such important sounding military justification was required to satisfy the rules of the game.
Actually, there was a little truth in these reasons for requesting the aircraft. The Dutch government had an interest in having planes available to train pilots who could be used for military duties. It had been paying a premium of 200 guilders (about $110) for each male pilot who obtained his license and was also a Dutch citizen of military age. In return, these individuals had to be prepared to perform duties for the government if called upon. In Curacao, there were quite a few Netherlands males qualifying for such military work, but, of course, in Aruba there were far fewer. We must remember that in those days of racial segregation it simply was not considered that "natives" would qualify for pilot training -- white male expatriates were the only candidates considered. In return for operating and maintaining the planes, the Dutch government allowed the flying clubs full use of the military planes for flying by all members. Instead of the requested Piper Cubs, the US authorities decided to supply two Aeronca L-3B's. These were similar to the Piper in general configuration and were powered by the same Continental 65 hp engine. The cost was $2,235 each.
The two Aeronca's (US Army Air Force serials 43-26754 and 43-26755) were ready at the factory on May 12th, 1943 and arrived at the shipping depot in Houston five days later. Apparently it took quite a while to obtain shipping space to Aruba, because they did not arrive until August 26. The planes received the Dutch military registration numbers A (for Aeronca) ?1 and 2. They were very welcome indeed, because around that time the AFC's first Piper Cub (PJ-AFA) had suffered an accident and was pretty heavily damaged.(13)
In the meantime the AFC on its own initiative had also been looking for an additional plane and by necessity this had to be a second-hand machine. Possibly this initiative was inspired by the long delay in the delivery of the two military planes (ordered in February, delivered in August), or by the accident of the AFC's own Piper. Club president Frank Roebuck contacted some friends at the West India Oil Company in Puerto Rico and asked for a list of planes which might be for sale there. On May 13th he received word that two Aeronca's were on the market (including one without an engine), also a large 4-seater Stinson SR-5A, a Curtiss-Wright Travel Air trainer and a Porterfield 35-70 "Flyabout". The Porterfield appeared suitable for the purposes of the AFC and for $1,150 it was purchased from the owner Mr. R. Hudson Fletcher.(14) It was a small two-seater airplane, pretty much like a Piper Cub, but powered by a 70 hp Le Blond radial engine instead of the popular 65 hp Continental. It must have taken the AFC a long time to get this Porterfield flyable, because it received the military registration marks A-3, which means this was issued after Aeronca's A-1 and A-2, which, as we have already seen, arrived in August. The fact that it also received a military registration indicates that the Dutch government may have (partially) paid for the Porterfield. Unfortunately, the AFC derived very little benefit from it. The engine turned out to be a serious problem. Although it had only 275 running hours, it had been overhauled in Puerto Rico and apparently re-assembled incorrectly and soon it caused many difficulties. According to members of the AFC, the piston rings had been mounted upside down, causing damage to the cylinders and it had to be grounded. Only in 1945 do we find a few logbook entries about an occasional flight with the Porterfield. It is not known what ultimately happened to it; it appears to have been lying about in one of the Aeroclub hangars for a long time.
The first flight of the Aeronca airplanes at Aruba took place around September 11.(15) Regardless of the military identity, they were flown regularly by all AFC members. As a matter of fact, the few Dutch military reserve-pilots in the AFC recall that only very rarely a military flight was made with them. That the Aeronca's were urgently needed is shown by the fact that by the end of 1943, the AFC had 39 members, of which 19 were flying solo. A year later, there already were 30 flying members, of which 22 had obtained their Antillean private pilot's license, a very remarkable performance!
The Move To De Vuijst Field
When, after Pearl Harbor, the Caribbean area became an active theatre of war, the restrictions for flying over Curacao and Aruba were expanded. On April 1, 1942, flight regulations were introduced which made the entire island a prohibited area, with the exception of Dakota airfield with a stretch of one mile wide east and west of the runway. In addition, all airplanes had to stay at least three miles outside the coastline and the maximum altitude over the airfield zone was 1500 feet. All night flying was prohibited. Obviously, this imposed a severe restriction on the AFC's activities and the club started to look for an alternative. The solution was an airstrip dedicated to the AFC's use where club flying would not interfere with the military activities at Dakota Field and this was found by building a runway on a terrain near the Lago golf course, just north of the refinery at San Nicolas. Already in February 1943, the AFC requested permission to start work there and in April and May a few test flights were made with the Piper Cub, but after some initially favorable discussions, the US military command at Aruba objected to the plan.(16)
One year later, the US Command changed its mind and construction of an airstrip was started. The runway was built by AFC members themselves, graded, leveled and asphalted, of course with the use of a lot of equipment and materials from Lago.(17) Two new hangars were also constructed; the hangar at Dakota remained in use for the time being, but was later disassembled and moved to the new strip. Already in May 1944, the first landings were made on the new AFC base(18) and on July 16 the AFC officially moved from Dakota to the new airfield.(19) A contest was held amongst the membership for a name for AFC's new home and out of gratitude for his assistance with the founding of the AFC and with establishing the new airfield, the name of Piet de Vuijst was nominated and from there on "De Vuijst Field" became a landmark in the history of the Aruba Flying Club.
A special free access flight-corridor of 1/4 mile wide was created to/from De Vuijst Field, which started at the north coast near Vader Piet and ran along the shore to Boca Grandi at which point it connected to a free corridor of 1/4 mile west, north and east of the runway. Immediately south of the runway was the Lago Oil Refinery and it was strictly forbidden to overfly this. "Aircraft flying across the restricted area may be subjected to anti-aircraft fire or attack by aircraft," read the ominous language in the Air Traffic Regulations Aruba.(20)
Plenty of Ambition To Learn To Fly
At the time of the opening of De Vuijst Field, the AFC membership had increased to forty. Apparently, the repair of the club's first Piper Cub would be delayed until 1946 and, as mentioned before, the Porterfield could not be flown. Therefore the AFC had only the two "military" Aeronca's available for flight instruction and recreational flying of the licensed members. It was impossible to obtain additional airplanes and until the end of WW-2 the AFC had to make do with only two planes. Nevertheless, the club made rapid advances, as was proven by the fact that already in 1944 flights were made to Las Piedras in Venezuela. It was only 60 miles from Aruba, but still, it was in a foreign country and the trip involved crossing a very daunting stretch of sea!! Frank Roebuck, who made such a trip on December 14, 1944, in Aeronca no. A-2, noted in his logbook: "Cross country 150 mile trip, 20 miles over water, 40 miles over land to Las Piedras, Venezuela. Return including cross-country flight over Paraguana peninsula."(21) One senses the pride he took in this achievement! Until then, members of the AFC had practically only flown around the island of Aruba.
After World War II had ended, the AFC grew tremendously. By the end of 1945 it counted 60 members, of which 31 had a pilots license, seven students were flying solo and eleven more were in training. Thus, sports flying had found a very fertile ground in Aruba. Frank Roebuck, AFC member from the very start, closed off his first pilot's logbook with the entry, "To date, all planes have performed smoothly. Have had to make no forced landings and have been fortunate in that not even a piece of fabric has been scratched. Have lots of fun? more fun than in any other sport and consider time and money that have been spent with the Aruba Flying Club well spent.(22)
Since the military had left Aruba at the end of WW-2, flight instruction was given by senior club members such as "Skippy" Culver, Bill Ewart, Frank Roebuck and Vernon Turner. From war-surplus supplies several additional planes were purchased, starting with two Fairchild PT-19's, open cockpit training aircraft of the US Army, with a 225 hp engine (PJ-AAA and PJ-AAB). This was quite a step up from the Aeronca's with their 65 hp! Still, the Fairchilds were rather ill equipped for longer cross-country, or rather: cross-sea, flights because they only had the bare minimum of flight instrumentation. In August of 1946 the AFC also purchased a brand-new Aeronca Chief trainer, the PJ-AAC. This was a bit more comfortable version of the old L-3, with side-by-side seating for two.
In 1946 the runway at De Vuijst Field was lengthened from 1600 feet to 2700 feet to give the heavy Fairchilds a bit more room. Again, this job was accomplished by the members themselves, nearly all Lago employees who were allowed to use bulldozers and material from the refinery. It was a big help that John McCord, one of the original sports-pilots of the 1930's era, was head of the Lago motor vehicle workshops. He gave a lot of support and, amongst other things, arranged that two of his mechanics, first Felipe, and later Albert Nichols (whom we will meet again later on as one of the pillars of the club) were assigned to carry out maintenance on the airplanes of the AFC.(23) It also helped a lot that Bill Ewart had an important position at Lago as superintendent of the Utilities Division and thus could render a lot of material support.(24)
The lengthened runway at De Vuijst Field attracted an unexpected visitor in the form of a Douglas DC-3 (YV-AVN) of the Venezuelan airline AVENSA, which was en route with a load of car tires. The pilot could not find Dakota airport in the darkness of night, but attracted by the lights of the Lago refinery, he continued to circle over that area. After the big DC-3 had been noticed to pass overhead a number of times, several AFC'ers decided to drive to De Vuijst Field and light up the runway with the headlights of their cars. Under great enthusiasm of the spectators, the Douglas made a perfect landing, although the landing roll ended uncomfortably close to the seaside cliffs on the eastern end of the runway.(25) This record size arrival at De Vuijst has never been surpassed.
In 1946, the AFC spread its wings even further. Flights were made to Bonaire and Curacao, including one to help celebrate the opening of a new clubhouse of the Aeroclub Curacao at Hato airfield. During this event AFC member Don Peeren won the flying contest with a Piper borrowed from the sister-club.(26) Still, these extended flights provided the occasional hiccups and lots of excitement. Don Blair remembers a flight with his wife in the PT-19, with only a magnetic compass and altimeter as navigational aids and no radio. A flightplan was communicated to the destination via the services of the Aruba police. The distance to Curacao was only 70 miles, but it soon began to feel like a considerable distance over all that water, with only one engine. They had life-vests available and a shark repellent, which later on turned out to be quite worthless. Don swore to never repeat this experience!(27) That war-surplus PT-19's could cause other surprises as well shows the experience of Lago pharmacist Tony Smits, who, flying above Aruba's rough north-coast lost part of the wooden propeller and had to make an emergency landing. This he managed well and the damage was limited, but it was a good scare nevertheless.(28)
Air-Sea Rescue Flights
After the departure of the US Navy squadrons from Aruba and Curacao at the end of WW-2, the task of searching for ships in distress or missing became an important element in the community services rendered by the AFC. The Dutch government gave a 3000 guilder subsidy to the club for this purpose.(29) In 1946, the AFC made five Air-Sea Rescue (ASR) flights for missing ships. The arrangement whereby the government subsidized the club per obtained pilot's license also remained in effect and actually, towards the end of 1946 the government requested the AFC to admit ten additional Dutch citizens as members to be trained for a pilot's license. Government support for the services to the community went even further, because in January 1947, the AFC was given a Fairchild PT-26 on loan for permanent use. The PT-26 was a WW-2 Army training-plane very similar to the PT-19, with the exception that it had a plexiglass cockpit enclosure.(30) It received the "military" registration "A-3", actually a duplication of the number of the old Porterfield, which had rarely been flown. The official reason for this donation is? as yet? unknown, but it is fair to assume that, together with the training of ten additional Dutch pilots, it involved a coordinated plan to provide air-sea rescue services. Like the Aeronca trainers of 1943, the Fairchild PT-26 could be used by all members of the AFC without restrictions.
The interest to learn to fly was such that the AFC had to impose a limit to the admission of new members. By the end of 1946, the membership had risen to around 80 and new students were only accepted if the availability of training airplanes allowed. The club had 36 members with pilot's licenses, of which five were authorized instructors, fifteen were solo-students and twelve were in the early stages of training. In total, thus 63 flying members who had six planes available. Typical for the state of female emancipation of those days is the fact that during the immediate postwar years female students were not accepted "because there were so few planes available."(31) In future years this certainly would change! Expansion of the fleet was urgent and in May 1947 a second Aeronca Chief was purchased, which in turn allowed the admission of ten more students. Not too long after that an Aeronca Champion trainer was added and twenty more members were accepted in the AFC. In addition, the activities at De Vuijst Field increased because some members of the club purchased their own aircraft. The first such privately owned airplane was also a PT-26, purchased by three members whose names have not been recorded (this became PJ-AAF).(32)
In mid-1947, another group, which included John McCord, Leon Ames, Ora Drew and Alex Shaw, purchased no less than six military-surplus Vultee BT-13 trainers (PJ-AAD through PJ-AAI). In addition, at the end of 1947, Bill Ewart, Frank Roebuck and Shoemaker jointly bought a twin-engine Cessna Bobcat, a.k.a. the famous "Bamboo Bomber." This was N59303, later registered in the Antilles as PJ-AAM.(33) The six BT-13's, which were in "pure Army surplus configuration" and cost $250 apiece, were flown to Newark, New Jersey, and disassembled for shipment to Aruba on an Esso-tanker. Sometime later, three more BT-13's were purchased, so that De Vuijst Field began to look like a busy Air Force base. These last three planes (PJ-AAS, PJ-AAT and PJ-AAU) were air-ferried to Aruba with a 50 gallon drum for extra fuel on the rear seat. The condition of some of these planes required a lot of tender loving care. Jim Riggs, the son of veteran member Forrest "Whitey" Riggs who owned one of the BT's, remembers "the frequency with which the mechanics had to replace damaged fabric on the controls. The older stuff did not hold up. It was funny watching those planes land with fabric flying like flags behind the wings and airframe."(34)
It was a real "boom" time for the Aruba Flying Club. In 1947, more overseas flights were made to Colombia and Venezuela, first individual trips to Medellin, Bogota and Maracaibo and later on followed by a group-flight to Caracas. This last trip was in response to a mass-flight of the Caracas Aeroclub, which had come to Aruba with no less than eleven airplanes. For the first time there was also a delegation from the Aeroclub Curacao which came to Aruba to participate in the airshow and spot-landing competition at De Vuijst Field which became a yearly recurring event.
Racial Segregation Creates The Caribbean Flying Association
Many members of the mainly US oil-community at Lago originated from Southern states in the USA and had brought the practice of racial segregation to Aruba. The residential areas and recreational facilities for the white foreign staff were completely separate and off-limits to "non-foreign staff" colored people, other than domestic and maintenance workers. In fact, in those days this was considered perfectly normal by most expatriates who lived in a protected area "inside the fence." One of these privileged, a child at the time who experienced this as "normal", remembered the situation later on thus: "(I now realize) what a surreal existence we lived in at Aruba: a bunch of middle-class Americans for whom everything was provided including schools, hospital, maids and gardeners, trips back and forth to the United States, even furniture!"(35)
As a logical result of this situation, the Aruba Flying Club was also the exclusive domain of white expatriates, but this did not prevent Arubans and other "locals" from being bitten by the "flying bug". These people founded their own sports-flying organization, the Caribbean Flying Association (CFA) which also operated from De Vuijst Field. On the personal level there was quite a bit of interchange between the AFC and CFA. Some members of the AFC assisted by giving flying lessons to CFA-people and in a number of cases, planes of the AFC or of AFC-members were sold to the CFA. The ambition of local people to learn to fly, or just simply become a member of the CFA had a lot to do with the fact that many of them originated from the surrounding Caribbean islands or from Surinam or Guyana. They saw the private airplane as a means of transportation to and from their home-country. A separate chapter will be devoted to the CFA.

A Professional (?) Flight Instructor and Own Mechanics for The AFC

By 1948 the number of student-pilots had increased to such a level that it was no longer sufficient to have the flight instruction given by experienced members in their spare time. A complicating factor was that the AFC had decided to set a higher standard of proficiency than was actually required for the Private Pilot license issued by the Dutch aviation authorities. The norms of US Civil Aviation Authority was adapted by the club, which required ten more hours of instruction and more navigation lessons. Therefore, after taking the Dutch Antilles license, an AFC member had to take an additional examination by the AFC, before being allowed to fly solo on the club's planes.(36)
Early in 1948, the AFC hired its own employed flight instructor, as well as a fully employed mechanic. The mechanic was a Trinidadian of Chinese origin who had obtained his Airplane and Powerplant Mechanic license in the USA. Later on he was succeeded by Albert "Nick" Nichols, who originated from St. Vincent and served the AFC faithfully for many years. Although Nick did not have an official airplane mechanics license, he developed into a first class professional who could carry out practically all necessary repairs. The flight instructor, Ted Myers, who was hired in February 1948(37), was in a different league altogether. He was an ex-military pilot as well as a licensed A&P mechanic with ample experience, but he turned out to be one of those characters "whose actions could never quite be anticipated ? or explained", as it was described later on.(38) He was an able pilot, but had a strong inclination towards the execution of daring stunts. For instance, he taught Lucien Lecluse "to stop momentarily in mid air and shout out a message to folks on the ground". He explained that he had learned to do this because he had been "an aerial observer with the artillery".(39)
Myers did not stay very long with the AFC. His departure was hastened by his desire as a former military pilot to fly with a parachute over all that water. One day, a heavy discussion of the subject of parachutes took place, amply lubricated by alcoholic beverages. Myers' drinking partner doubted if carrying a parachute made sense because you'd land in the water anyway, and this led to a bet by Myers that even from a good distance offshore it would be possible (for a parachutist) to reach dry land--and his offer to prove it. Myers' partner declined the invitation to go up with him, so the instructor went to De Vuijst Field, grabbed his parachute, ordered the Chinese Trinidadian mechanic to get in a plane with him and took off. Having reached 5000 feet, he jumped from the plane after having told the unsuspecting mechanic to fly it back. The mechanic had secretly had a few flying lessons from Myers and managed to land the plane all right. He alerted the club leadership and quickly some planes were sent out to try and find Myers. In the meantime, night was falling and after more than 12 hours the search had to be suspended. Myers' wife in Oklahoma was notified that her husband was missing. Great was everyone's astonishment when just after midnight Myers walked into the Lago Club without saying a word, water dripping off his clothes, and ordered a scotch as if nothing had happened. He had landed in the sea, and had finally managed to reach shore and after a difficult climb across the rocks in the surf he had walked back to civilization. Needless to say, the AFC Board immediately terminated his employment.(40)
Actually, during this period, several more former military pilots had joined the AFC as regular members after they had been hired by the Lago refinery. One of them was Dougald McCormick, who was a former US Navy aircraft carrier pilot. Jack Sills had been a fighter pilot and Jim Harlow was also an ex-military flyer. The experience these members brought to the club was of course very welcome and they served as instructors.

More Than 80 Members

In 1948 the restriction on the admission of new members was lifted; each inhabitant of the Lago Colony could become a member, which, of course, meant, every expatriate white person. The AFC closed out that year with 85 members, probably the highest membership ever during its existence. As already mentioned earlier, the club had bought a new Aeronca Champion, the PJ-AAL, to strengthen its fleet of training airplanes, but this machine did not enjoy a long fruitful life because it crashed a year later.(41) With so many members and especially many young (student) pilots, a few mishaps were bound to happen. One of the PT-19s had to be written off after an accident. Lago-pharmacist Tony Smits was making a joy-flight with a house-guest and encountered a broken propeller in flight, resulting in an emergency landing on Aruba's coast, northeast of De Vuijst Field, in which the plane was damaged beyond repair.(42)
It must be said that even with the occasional mishap, the AFC pilots flew with "an angel on their shoulder" because any personal injury was very rare. Certainly the thorough training and tough club rules were a major reason for this. Despite the large number of student pilots, there were no major accidents. Students who made their first solo flight were of course subject of a big celebration. Attendance at the club house was always large when someone soloed. The members would be lined up along the tarmac and cheer the solo flyer on and after his successful landing they would escort him or her to the bar where the "victim" had to purchase the first round of drinks. The soloist would be presented with a special glass beer mug with his initials engraved inside the Heineken Beer star emblem, which would be kept, for personal use only, at the clubhouse bar. After that, his money was no longer good on his special day and he was not allowed to pay for the many more rounds that would usually follow. Larry Riggs, then a youngster, whose father, Whitey Riggs, was very active in the AFC, remembers: "I doubt that anybody could keep track of the number of beers that were quaffed on those beautiful crystal clear afternoons. Those were the days before the term 'designated driver' was invented and I have sometimes wondered how some of the club members managed to 'maneuver' their cars home after one of those outings, but these 'celebrations' occurred only on those 'solo-flight' days which really were not that often".(43)
Whereas the AFC had to write off a few planes, the number of privately owned airplanes at De Vuijst was increasing. In April 1948, Alex Shaw sold his BT-13 (PJ-AAE) and in August he purchased a Beechcraft Bonanza, which was really the supreme of private flying at that time. At the same time Vernon Turner purchased a new Ercoupe and both airplanes were flown from the USA to Aruba by their proud owners. Quite soon, Turner sold the Ercoupe to another AFC member and then also bought a Bonanza. Two other members each bought a North American AT-6, a real fast, "heavy duty" military trainer(44), and two others bought two Cessna Bobcats, the famous "Bamboo Bomber" which was already mentioned before. At the end of 1948, there actually were 14 privately owned airplanes of AFC members at De Vuijst, including a fair number of BT-13's.(45) Alex Shaw and Vernon Turner, as well as later on also Whitey Riggs and Frank Roebuck, built hangars for their airplanes on the southeastern side of the runway. The material for these came from large sheets of old iron reclaimed from demolished oil tanks at the Lago refinery. With a lot of cutting and welding two hangars were constructed of this material.
Besides the privately owned airplanes of members, the Aruba Flying Club still had available some of the government-owned airplanes, the Aeronca's L-3B's (A-1 and A-2, which in the meantime had been re-registered PJ-GAA and ?PJ-GAB) and the Fairchild PT-26 (PJ-GAC, ex-A-3). At the end of 1948 these had been put on the civilian aircraft register, but were still owned by the government, on loan to the AFC in return for services to be rendered such as air-sea rescue work. In addition, the club owned one PT-19 (PJ-AAB) and two Aeronca Chiefs (PJ-AAC and PJ-AAJ), bringing the total of club-operated planes to six. During 1948, the Ercoupe PJ-AAW was also purchased by the AFC from member Vernon Turner, who had imported this plane to Aruba a few months before and had been appointed Ercoupe dealer. The Ercoupe became quite famous in those days as a modern plane which made flying extremely simple for the average private pilot, a plane which "everyone can fly". It introduced a nosewheel landing gear, quite a novelty then, which made landings a lot easier. The Ercoupe had no rudder pedals, the rudder being interconnected to the ailerons via the controlwheel. The idea was that "if you can drive a car, you can fly an Ercoupe". The Ercoupe was either loved by pilots because of its practical ease to fly, or vilified because it was an "old man's plane" on which you could not properly learn to fly because you could not slip it or do a good crosswind landing. There was no in between. There nearly always was a crosswind component at De Vuijst Field? although not strong? but the Ercoupe proved its worth and it survived at De Vuijst for many years, until 1960. Third Installment

A Royal Visitor

Early 1950 the AFC's own fleet included six airplanes. The last old Aeronca L-3 of WW-2 days (PJ-GAB) was still active, as well as the PT-26 (PJ-GAC). In addition, there were the two Aeronca Chiefs (AAC and AAJ) and the Ercoupe (AAW). But there was also a newer airplane which had been purchased mid-1949, the Monocoupe PJ-AAX. As it turned out, the club membership was not very happy with this plane; it stood relatively high on its landing gear and had a tendency to groundloop easily. Private airplanes at De Vuijst Field included a Beech Bonanza, two Cessna Bobcats, three Vultee BTS-13's and another Ercoupe.
The highlight of the year 1950 was the visit of Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands to the Aruba Flying Club on January 24th. It was well-known that the Prince was a great flying enthusiast and the AFC decided to pull out all stops and organize an extensive program for him. Two days before the visit, club members practiced a fly-by with all available airplanes, including the privately owned machines. Durinig a reception at the Esso Club no less than ten aircraft demonstrated over the lagoon for Prince Bernhard and his aide, the equally well-known Dutch pilot Major Gerben Sonderman, who was also a test pilot for the Fokker aircraft factory. Prince Bernhard forgot about the reception and went outside to the shore to get a better shot with the movie camera he usually carried.
After the lunch, accompanied by AFC president (and Lago PR-manager) Bert Teagle, the Prince went to De Vuijst and it did not require any persuasion to get him to go on a plane ride. The airplane chosen for this was Alex Shaw's Beech Bonanza, the apex of private aircraft in those days. Four of the club's planes flew escort(46) and instead of returning to De Vuijst Field, as the official program required, the whole formation proceeded to the main airfield at Dakota Field. Part of the Prince's entourage flew in the escorting planes. "I closed the formation with the Ercoupe, positioned myself immediately next to the Prince and looked straight into his camera", Lucien Lecluse proudly stated later on. The road from De Vuijst to Oranjestad was full of dressed up people with flags, hoping to see the Prince on his way back, and they were very disappointed to find that he had gone by plane. Soon after the visit of Prince Bernhard, the AFC offered him the honorary membership of the club, which he accepted with the words: "I am very pleased indeed with an honorary membership of your Club, which I am only too glad to accept. Please give my regards and best wishes to all the Club's members."(47)
In February 1950 there were two more occasions for the AFC to appear in the limelight. First, the Dutch aircraft carrier Hr. Ms. "Karel Doorman", which had actually carried Prince Bernhard to the Antilles, visited Aruba on February 4, 5 and 6. Naturally, there was much interchange with the Dutch carrier pilots who were invited to De Vuijst Field.(48) These events were repeated when officers of the visiting Dutch light cruiser Hr. Ms. "Jacob van Heemskerk" were entertained by the AFC with an airshow and sight-seeing trips over Aruba in the club's airplanes.(49)
The AFC was still regularly called upon to assist with search flights for missing vessels. A remarkable relief mission was flown on August 13, 1950, to provide aid to victims of a heavy earthquake near Tocuyo in Venezuela. The Aruba Rotary Club had collected clothing and foodstuffs for the people in the damaged area and 600 kilogram (1300 lbs) of this was flown to Maiquetia by members of the Aruba Flying Club. This mission was carried out with the AT-6 of Robert Burkholder, flown by the owner and Charley Drew, and the Ercoupe, flown by Hugh Knickerbocker.(50) In the same period extended flights were made by AFC-members to the USA and, for instance, St. Maarten. Another activity in which the AFC participated in the 1950's and 60's was the Lago Summer Recreation Program. This was an extensive program of sports and recreation for children of Lago expatriates who studied in the USA and came to their parents at Aruba for the summer vacations. As part of this program the youngsters could take flying lessons for a very attractive fee. Several of them later on joined the AFC as full-time members. In a few cases they managed to get ready for their first solo flight when they were only 16 or 17 years old, but this could not take place until they were at least 18, a very long wait indeed for a kid who wanted to fly!(51)
Despite all these positive experiences, the AFC encountered some serious setbacks in 1950. Process-controls at the Lago refinery were increasingly being automated which resulted in decreasing employment. This, in turn, caused AFC membership to drop considerably. In one year's time, membership shrank from 82 to 53 and it was already clear that more reductions in Lago employment were to follow. Indeed, in 1951 the AFC membership was further reduced to 46, so that in two years time a loss of 44% was incurred. The corresponding drop in flight revenues caused serious financial difficulties for the club. One of the inevitable consequences was a reduction in the number of club planes, from six to four. The AFC was left with the two Aeronca Chiefs (AAC and AAJ), the Ercoupe (AAW) and the old Fairchild PT-26 (GAC). Ownership of this latter machine had been turned over by the government to the AFC, but by the end of 1951 it was sold to the Aeroclub Curacao.(52) In the Spring of 1951 the rather disliked Monocoupe (AAX) had already been sold to Rudy Kappel, one of the associates of the Caribbean Flying Association, the "native" flying club.
Despite the loss of membership, or, more likely, just because of it, the AFC remained active, for instance through the organizing of a big airshow at De Vuijst Field on March 18, 1951, already for the third time since it had become a yearly feature in 1949.(53) The club also participated in community services, such as the extensive search operation on April 12 for the 18-foot schooner Stella Maris from Curacao. Four airplanes manned by AFC members searched the area around Aruba and the Paraguana peninsula and some 150 miles further west along the Colombian coast. Participating in this search operation were Alex Shaw in his Bonanza (PJ-AAV), Vernon Turner also in his Bonanza (NC620V), Charley Drew in a BT-13 (PJ-AAS) and Frank Roebuck in his Cessna Bobcat (PJ-AAM), all with other AFC members on board as observers. Unfortunately, the schooner was not found, but the resulting publicity was positive.(54)

A New Champion Training Plane

Determined to turn the tide of decline in the AFC, the membership decided to purchase a new training plane. It was the Aeronca Champion PJ-BAC, which turned out to be an excellent investment because over the years a very large number of pilots in the AFC received their training in this machine. The cost of an hour instruction in the Champion was put a $6.00 (six bucks!!). The purchase of the Champion initiated a certain renaissance in faithful members (including founding members) had to leave the club. For instance, it was time to say good-bye to instructor Vernon Turner, who had reached retirement age at Lago and departed to the USA, taking his Bonanza with him.
The addition of the new Champion meant the disposal of one of the Aeronca Chiefs (PJ-AAJ) which was sold to Harold Oduber and Henk Huthinck of the "native club" CFA in mid-1952. The second Aeronca Chief, the PJ-AAC, was sold to the Aeroclub Curacao in 1953. This left the AFC with only two aircraft in its own fleet -- not counting the privately owned airplanes. Besides the new Champ there was only the Ercoupe and with this minimal fleet the AFC had to survive a fairly long time. Also in the fleet of privately owned airplanes at De Vuijst age had taken its toll. In 1951, Frank Roebuck and partners had sold their Bobcat to members of the CFA and it crashed not long after that. Several of the old Vultee BT-13's had been written off, others sold to the CFA. A number of unairworthy BT-13's, a PT-26 and a Cessna Bobcat languished in hangars on the southwest side of De Vuijst Field and were slowly stripped of still useable parts.(55) One of the two "heavy duty" North American AT-6 trainers was borrowed by an outsider who had not been properly checked out in it. He landed with one wheelbrake locked and it cartwheeled into a hangar, ripping off a wing in the process.(56)
Some of the BT-13's were still flying, including the PJ-AAD of Bill Ewart and the PJ-AAS of Charley Drew and Paul Gordijn. The condition of these airplanes deteriorated quickly, however, as Bill Ewart experienced one day on a flight from Curacao when a hole was blown in the lower cylinder of his engine, through which the engine oil rapidly escaped. On the last drop of oil he managed top reach Aruba and for days people gathered at the airfield to view this miracle.(57) We already mentioned Vernon Turner who took his Bonanza back with him to the USA. Fortunately, the other Bonanza PJ-AAV, which after the death of owner Alex Shaw in 1953 had been purchased by Clarence Waddell for $5,000, remained very active in the hands of the new owner.(58)
Clarence Waddell had started his flying career in a most unusual way. Barely one year after starting his initial training and with no more than 30 minutes solo-flying time after getting his license, he suggested to Dougald McCormick, who took care of the Bonanza on behalf of Turner's widow, that he would purchase the Bonanza on condition that Doug would teach him to fly it and go with him on a holiday trip to the USA. McCormick agreed. In May 1954 Waddell bought the Bonanza and on July 1st, they departed to the USA. The tour took them via Jamaica to Miami and on to Pennsylvania. There, Waddell and his wife Edna left McCormick and they continued alone touring the USA and finally returning to Aruba. With a retractable landing gear, wing flaps, a variable pitch propeller and 185 hp engine, the Bonanza was definitely a big handful for a novice pilot and Clarence Waddell later on admitted that in this case he had "more guts than brains". However, life on Aruba was conducive to trying unlikely things which would be impossible somewhere else. For instance, Waddell convinced a traffic controller at Aruba to dim the runway lights at night so that he could practice making night-landings with only the help of the Bonanza's own landing lights.(59)

Low Level In The Mooney Mite

A very remarkable addition to the private planes at De Vuijst Field was the Mooney Mite, a miniscule single-seater plane, which, thanks to its size, a 65 hp engine and a retractable landing gear offered spectacular performance. The Mite is the subject of many remarkable tales amongst the veterans of the AFC. Every so often, someone forgot to lower the landing gear, despite a big warning flag on the dashboard and nearly every successive owner has made at least one gear-up landing with it. Because the Mite had a sort of skate under the belly, this usually only resulted in no more damage than broken propeller tips. The Mooney Mite (which always remained US registered, N108C) was purchased in 1951 by AFC secretary Harold C. Miller.(60) In November 1952 it was sold to Joe Hayduk, who soon made his seemingly obligatory belly landing with it. He in turn sold it to Dougald McCormick, who repaired it and after some time it was purchased by a quartet consisting of Ralph Richter, Boyd Bastian, Gordon Cole and Dick Mullen, on condition that McCormick would teach them to fly. The deal included a semi-circular brick hangar at De Vuijst and each paid a one fourth share of the purchase price of $1,400.(61) They received their first few flying lessons on the AFC's Champion, but both Richter and Bastian made their first-ever solo flight on the Mooney Mite, which of course, it being a single seater, they had not been able to fly before. Surely a unique happening and another illustration that the word "impossible" was not often heard at De Vuijst Field!!(62) Over the years, the Mite had several successive owners / shareholders, because when an owner left Aruba, his share was usually sold to a newcomer.
The most spectacular anecdote about the Mooney Mite concerns Boyd Bastian, who at the conclusion of a demonstration flight at any airshow commemorating the US Independence Day (probably in 1954) forgot to lower the wheels and thus tore up another propeller. The plane was lifted off the ground by a few strong men -- it only weighed 550 lbs anyway -- the wheeels were lowered and a quite disturbed Boyd Bastian disappeared with his Mite into the hangar. According to one of his flying partners, Boyd was a "genius / borderline psycho" and had a hard time digesting his stupidity of not lowering the gear. He tried to drown his feelings in a few rum 'n cokes, regained his courage and decided to cut off the damaged portions of the propeller blades. After having accomplished this, the astonished audience saw him push the Mite onto the tarmac, climb into it, start the engine and take off. He gave a truly breathtaking demonstration of low-flying over De Vuijst Field, with the engine accentuating this performance with an ear-shattering howl, as a result of much increased rpm's due to the cut-off propeller.
Boyd's solo-demonstration took him all over the Lago community. He did not fly over but rather in between the palm trees at the Esso Club, gave swimmers on the high diving board at Rodgers Beach a unique top-view of the airplane and flew at zero altitude towards cars on the road between Oranjestad and San Nicholas, pulling up at the last second. Players at the baseball field could only save their life by diving flat on the ground. He flew over and under all landmarks on Aruba, including the residence of the Gesaghebber (Lt. Governor) of the island and a US Navy aircraft carrier which happened to be in port. Many spectators thought that the Mooney was a special stunt plane of the US Navy. Needless to say, the Aruba police became interested and came to De Vuijst Field to arrest the pilot upon landing, but Boyd had this one figured out and at zero altitude he made the cops hit the dust, just like he had done with the baseball players. When he was running low on fuel, he finally landed at the big airport near Oranjestad. Palm tree leaves were found stuck in various parts of the plane!
In those days there was a silent understanding between the Aruban police and the Lago refinery that Lago was allowed a 24 hour grace period to deal with any expat who had outlived his welcome in Aruba, which meant that forthwith the delinquent would be put on a tanker heading for the USA and that would be the end of the affair. This is what happened to Boyd Bastian.(63) Sometime later, the co-owners of the Mite received a letter from him in the USA demanding his share in the plane. They chose not to reply.(64)

The Ladies Take UP Sports Flying

As mentioned earlier, in the 1947-49 period women were actively barred from learning to fly in the AFC, "because there (are) too few planes available". After 1950, the attitude of the male member-majority changed, possibly also because in order to survive the club was in need of more members. One of the first female flying members was Mary Spitzer, who started her pilot training at the end of 1953, and had to wait for her 18th birthday to go solo.(65) Eddie Waddell, wife of sports pilot Clarence Waddell, started flying lessons in September 1954, "in self defense", as she stated, because her husband talked with his friends about nothing else than flying and his Bonanza and thus she had no choice but to join them. In December 1955, Eddie purchased the Mooney Mite, which in the meantime had been repaired again. Her most exciting flying experience was going solo on the Mite, on which you could of course not first practice with an instructor.(66) From July 1956 she also flew the Bonanza which she co-owned with her husband.

Others followed the example of these pioneer ladies, among them Ray Collie's wife and Mrs. Johnson, who got their license around 1955. Later on, in the 1959-1961 period, they were followed by Mary Brindle, Margaret Touchstone, Jessica Wimmers and several others. Jessie Wimmers received her license in 1960 and in barely three years she made over 350 flight hours in the AFC. She went furthest of all the AFC ladies in the aviation world. After getting her first private pilot license in Aruba, she obtained one additional rating after the other, including the Air Transport Pilot endorsement. She made numerous Atlantic crossings delivering small planes to overseas destinations and in 1996, at the age of 71 and having over 11,000 hours in her logbook, she still participated in an air race. The ladies at Lago were keen to benefit from the flying hobby of Jessie Wimmers and Margaret Touchstone for their many shopping-trips to Curacao and Venezuela, mostly during the weekdays when the club's planes that had radio-navigation equipment were not busy.(67)

New Airplanes

A new airplane which came to De Vuijst Field in mid 1953 was the Globe Swift, purchased by AFC member John Sherman. It was an all-metal three-seater aircraft with a retractable landing gear, quite a novelty in the AFC. Unfortunately, this plane did not have an unblemished record at Aruba. John Sherman was not happy with the landing and stall characteristics of his Swift, which was partially to blame on the modified propeller which had a rather coarse pitch setting, causing the engine to turn too slowly in landing approaches and giving it a tendency to cut out.(68) Sherman had developed his own special landing technique to deal with this problem, which called for an approach at some 100 feet over the runway threshold, followed by a quick dive and a flare-out just above the runway surface. Special treatment, therefore, which was not everyone's cup of tea. Still, the Swift had a rather long career, about which more later on.
With a number of more experienced pilots in the AFC, it was logical that there was a growing interest in longer distance touring-flights. The AFC was no longer a flying club where the members were simply interested in getting their basic sports pilot license and flying a few circuits on the weekend. To cater for the inter-island touring flights, the AFC decided to give itself a very nice present: a 4-seater Stinson Station Wagon was purchased which arrived in December 1953. This plane, the PJ-BAG, was a true classic, capable of making long trips with the wife and the kids, plenty of baggage and still carry enough fuel. Many nice vacation trips were flown with the Stinson, to Venezuela, the Caribbean islands and even the United States. Unfortunately, for a long time the Station Wagon also suffered considerable technical problems. There were repeated and persistent engine malfunctionings, which actually were not unique to the Stinson. AFC mechanic Nick Nicholson worked very hard at cleaning sparkplugs, replacing magneto's, etc., but the difficulties continued unabated. Of course, this did not inspire much confidence in long over-water flights. The cause of the problem finally came to light after Frank Berto experienced a complete engine failure with the Stinson while taking off from Barcelona (Venequela) on November 15, 1954. Frank and his sister Carmen were on their way for an extended vacation tour of the Caribbean islands and after Frank had just barely been able to land again at Barcelona, it was clear that this was the end of that trip.
An American mechanic working at Barcelona decided to pull the cylinders off the engine and found these to be full of heavy deposits of tetra-ethyl-lead (TEL), which is a fuel additive for high-octane aviation gasoline. The fuel supply in the tanks at De Vuijst Field was investigated and it was found that the Lago refinery had made mistakes with the manufacture of the 80-octane fuel for the light planes of the AFC, supplying a mixture of 80 and 100 octane fuel which caused the heavy lead-deposits on valves and sparkplugs in the AFC planes. Correction of this mistake solved the problem and engine-reliability returned to normal levels. Another positive result of this canceled vacation trip with the Stinson was that Carmen Berto had to spend her holidays at Aruba and there she met her future husband. Thanks to a broken down airplane engine, a long and happy marriage resulted.(69)

Local Members Admitted With The "Shopping Bag Test"

The reduction of employment at the Lago refinery continued to have a negative effect on the membership numbers of the AFC. It became apparent that to assure further growth of the club and maybe even its very existence, something had to be done to get more members. A long and heated debate took place about whether or not to admit local people as members. In other words: to lift the ban on membership for non-expats. A few prominent members were strongly in favor of this and considered resigning from the AFC if the ban on locals as members was not lifted. Instructor Dougald McCormick actually did resign because of this issue.(70) Finally, around the end of 1954 the smallest possible majority of the membership meeting (17 against 16) accepted a proposal to accept "non-foreign staff" as members.(71) It was clear that the decision was taken very hesitantly. In practice, the integration of local people as members was still limited to more prominent local whites and (very) light-skin colored people. Racial discrimination was still around and manifested itself in the applying of a silent standard, which was sometimes called the "shopping bag test". A person with a skin color lighter than the common brown paper groceries bag was acceptable!(72) There was a sizable interest to join the AFC from the ranks of the Caribbean Flying Association, which was not actually a flying club which operated its own planes, but a rather loose and often struggling association of people who owned airplanes of varying, and not infrequently less than excellent, condition. Actually, several members and ionstructors of the AFC knew the pilots of the CFA quite well since they had been giving flight instruction and had otherwise helped them. Jean Richardson -- actually a member of a prominent white family from French St. Martin -- was the first local to become a member. He had been flying for a considerable time -- including his own Ercoupe -- and it was not too long before he acted as an assistant instructor in the AFC. Harold Oduber was a local Aruban who would later on found his own aviation company at Aruba; we will meet him again later on in the final phase of existence of the AFC. Ciro "Tawa" Yrausquin, later on Director of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Antilles, president of ALM airlines and still later of Air Aruba, also was a local Aruban who regularly flew AFC airplanes.
A nice acquisition of the AFC in 1955 was the Cessna 140 PJ-AAN, which entered service in August of that year. Although already almost nine years old, it was still a rather modern plane for its time, a two-seater with an all metal fuselage, although the wing was still fabric covered. It had wing flaps, blind-flying instruments, a good radio and even an Automatic Direction Finder (ADF radio compass). It was suitable as a trainer and because of its variable pitch propeller and good soundproofing it was also a good plane to take on a longer trip. Layer Paul van der Voort flew it on business trips via Trinidad to St. Maarten. The purchase of the C-140 brought the fleet of the AFC to four reasonably modern airplanes, because, besides the Cessna, there was the Stinson (PJ-BAG), the Ercoupe (PJ-AAW) which was also equipped with a radio-compass, and the Aeronca Champion trainer (PJ-BAC). In addition, there were the planes which were privately owned by AFC members. These were the Bonanza of C.C. Waddell (AAV), John Sherman's Comper Swift (BAF), Eddy Waddell's little Mooney Mite (N108C) and finally, the last old Vultee BT-13 (PJ-AAS). This last relic of WW-2 was even flown by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who visited the Antilles again with Queen Juliana in October 1955, during an air show the AFC put on for its Honorary Member. "While Queen Juliana was doing official things, Prince Bernhard was at De Vuijst Field flying the last remaining BT-13", said one of the AFC's older members.(73)