The Early Days
The Darling Downs Sport Aircraft Association Inc was formed in Toowoomba in 1976 as a social general aviation and vintage aircraft orientated club.
For years the Club struggled with membership hovering around 20 members and with only a handful of aircraft in the group. After the flying school was commenced in 2002, the membership numbers soon climbed to over 150 members with some 70 odd aircraft, including 25 various models of Jabiru, being owned by members.
In 1982 the first Fly-In was held at Clifton to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the first glider flight by one of our Club members in his Zoegling primary glider on his Clifton airfield.
Following this successful event, further Fly-Ins were held intermittently and then became a regular feature of the aviation calendar in 1992.
The Primary Glider
This 1992 Fly In event commemorated the Diamond Jubilee flight of the 1932 Zoegling primary glider.
On this day, three generations of the Bange family flew the same primary glider. John Bange, then 85, was the original builder and pilot. Trevor. his son, was a gliding instructor and power pilot and Trevor's son James was also a glider pilot. Both Trevor and James commented on the heavy controls of the primary glider and its lack of response compared to the modern sleek gliders that they were both used to flying. Another unique bit of history this day was that the primary glider was towed by the original 1925 Chevrolet car that was used in 1932.
With an ever increasing number of members building and owning recreational aircraft the club "adopted" the Clifton (Bange’s) airfield, as its prime operating site. As Club Life Member Trevor Bange (with his wife Janet) had retired to the airfield to "rest, recuperate and do some flying".
Lone Eagle Flying School
The Lone Eagle Flying School was opened on 14th December 2002 by Club patron Lynette Zuccoli with Chief Flying Instructor Trevor Bange. The name Lone Eagle was adopted as it was the name John Bange gave to his 1936 vintage Porterfield.
The Club offered tri-axis recreational accredited flying training with one Drifter aircraft. This first Club aircraft was a Boonah manufactured wire braced Drifter.
The school commenced with Stewart Cook as the Flying School's first Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) with Trevor as Senior Instructor, until Trevor took over the role of CFI in early 2003. Trevor remained the only instructor but was soon joined by Murray Knight, a fellow gliding instructor, followed by Jim Benn from Greenmount who had done his training with Trevor. Murray went on to become a CFI of his own flying school based out of Brisbane and Jim Benn departed to live on King Island (lucky soul). Daniel King took on the role as second instructor at the school. Daniel had also completed his flying training at Clifton. In latter years, both Neil Colson and Dave Donald, both fellow gliding CFIs, have assisted with instruction duties.
During the following years a number of members, Trevor Bange, Ron Muir, Clive Nielsen, Mark Tyler, Aaron Handford, Mick Jahnke, Craig Bainbridge and Karl Schultz were upskilled in aircraft maintenance to RAAus L2 qualifications to maintain the ever increasing Club fleet. Various other members also offer their services as assistant engineers, gaining valuable experience to aid in maintaining their own aircraft.
Grants, Scholarships and Aircraft
It soon became evident that recreational aviation training was an exploding part of the aviation scene and the Club purchased its second Drifter in May 2004, to be followed later in 2007 with its first fibreglass Jabiru J160-C on cross hire from Bill Wall. This was followed soon after with the cross hire of a Jabiru J230-C from John Bridger. In 2014 the club purchased its second Jabiru J160-C from fellow club instructor Daniel King. In 2019, the Club purchased John Bridger’s Jabiru J230-C.
In 2005 the flying school commenced the annual junior flying scholarship to pilot certificate standard at no cost to the student, with the view of introducing youth into aviation. The RAAus GYFTS programme was evolved from this scholarship.
In 2004 the Darling Downs Sport Aircraft Assn. received a grant from ERGON Energy to purchase a demountable office block for use a training room. The Club later purchased its current hangar in 2007 from member Tony Perrett, upgrading the workshop area in 2014 with a cement floor. In 2011 saw the erection of a demountable toilet block at the hangars offering disabled facilities. A major upgrade was conducted early in 2018 with a cement floor, ceiling insulation and internal wall cladding in the main hangar area and an expansion of the outdoor BBQ area.
With a fleet comprising two Drifters (tailwheel endorsements) and three Jabiru, the flying school offers the opportunity for members to have safe, affordable aviation for all, usually with minimal waiting times.