Hollister, CA. – Airmen’s Association Reaches 60

Still Flying After 60 Years
Dec 1, 2006
By Anthony Ha
Hollister Free Lance

Hollister – The founding of the Hollister Airmen’s Association 60 years ago might seem like the distant past to some. But 83-year-old resident John Weatherly was there at the very beginning. “I don’t know that the group has changed all that much,” Weatherly said. “Well, everyone who’s been there for a while has gotten older, like me.” Weatherly still makes it out to the airport almost every day. During his career, he ran one company that built agricultural airplanes, and another that produced a fan for the planes’ spray systems.

The association allows pilots and aviation enthusiasts to share their passion for planes. According to Weatherly, one thread connecting the group’s past with its present is a dedication to the airport.

“Back in 1957, the City Council wanted to cut the airport in half,” he said. “We took the fight to the (Federal Aviation Administration), and it took quite a while, but we put a stop to it.”

Husband and wife Bill and Harriet Brin, who joined in 1978, said they’ve had good times with the association. Harriet Brin, the group’s 78-year-old secretary, recalled flying to different airports for dinner and hopping from airport to airport on “poker runs,” picking up a different card at each location. She also did most of the writing for association’s book about the airport’s history, which was released in 2000 and is scheduled for reprinting in 2007.

“It seems like history keeps repeating itself at the airport,” she said.

Bill Brin, 82, is a former association president, and he noted that Hollister’s weather is great for flying.

“I flew in for 25 years, and only twice I couldn’t land here because of the clouds,” he said.

Current president Ruth Erickson, 61, told the Free Lance that she first became involved some 10 years ago, when she helped start an aviation group in her son’s Boy Scout troop. She started doing more and more administrative work for the airmen, and they eventually asked her to be their president.

“I said, ‘But I’m not a pilot!'” Erickson recalled. But the group kept asking, and she eventually told them, “Oh, all right.”

The association still needs a home, Erickson said. A fire in 2002 destroyed the airport building that housed the group’s offices for more than 20 years; Erickson said the possessions she salvaged remain scattered in different hangars.

But office or not, the association remains very involved in the community. Once a year, they work with the Experimental Aircraft Association to take members of the Royal Rangers – a Christian boys group – as well as people from the community up in planes. They have also hosted aviation-related talks, sponsored scholarships with Gavilan College’s aviation program and held four air fairs at the airport. The last fair was in 2003, and Erickson said they’re unlikely to resume due to insurance problems.

Erickson emphasized that many of the group’s members aren’t actually pilots – they’re just really excited about aviation.

“Something gets them,” she said.

Editor’s Note: The Hollister Airmen’s Association is a Chapter of the California Pilots Association.

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