May 19, 2003
Longtime residents of the Stayner area will probably remember a time when the air buzzed with the sound of RCAF aircraft from a small airfield off Hwy 26 between Stayner and the tiny hamlet of Edenvale. Early in the Second World War, the Royal Canadian Air Force entered into an ambitious project: the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, an astounding program that saw 130,000 personnel from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand graduate from 107 training schools across Canada. Dozens of airfields sprang up across the country to train Commonwealth pilots and aircrew for the War in Europe and Asia.
In 1940, the Royal Canadian Air Force built the Edenvale Aerodrome to serve as the No.1 Relief Landing Field for No. 1 Service Flying Training School at RCAF Station Camp Borden. Edenvale also housed a sub-unit school, the Advanced Training Unit, which conducted bombing training. When the war ended in 1945, some RCAF airfields became, or reverted to municipal airports, like the Oshawa Airport, the Kingston Airport and even Pearson International Airport in Toronto. Other airfields, like RCAF Detachment Edenvale, were simply abandoned.
Although the Edenvale Aerodrome briefly came back to life from 1950 - 1959 as a racetrack for motorcycles and sports cars, its crumbling tarmac has been absent of aircraft since 1945. Now, almost 60 years later, aircraft are making a return to the Edenvale Aerodrome. In 2002, Milan Kroupa, owner of the Toronto based United Cleaning Service, purchased the land from the Federal Government and has big plans for the site in 2004. The Edenvale Flying Club will be Mr. Krupa's newest business venture.
A well respected businessman, Milan is truly a Canadian business success story. He left his native Czechoslovakia in 1966, where he had served in the Czechoslovakian Army and was a semi-pro soccer player, and he eventually made his way to Canada in 1968. After quickly learning English, Milan went to work as an office cleaner. Today, United Cleaning Service, the company Milan founded in 1977, employs 850 people, including his four children.
However, there are other things in life that are important, and for Milan, aviation is one such thing. Three years ago while taking flying lessons at the Barrie-Springwater Airport, Milan would fly over the abandoned Edenvale Aerodrome, "and I would wonder how it is that such a wonderful airfield is abandoned," Milan said. Meetings with the property owner, the Department of National Defence, led to Milan purchasing the property.
The runways were cleared of the weeds and even some trees that were growing from the tarmac. A 50' x 150' x 14' steel-sided hanger was constructed this past summer to provide storage for aircraft and other equipment. This spring, two of the three runways will be resurfaced; the east-west runway and the northwest to southeast runway. Surprisingly, the east-west runway is still in fairly good condition, especially considering that it hasn't been maintained for almost 60 years.
The Edenvale Flying Club will be primarily an aircraft storage facility for sport aircraft from ultra-lights to Cessnas. The airfield will not be a commercial airfield, but simply be a facility for pilots to come and rent airplanes, mainly ultra-lights, for personal use. The club will also provide ultra-light flying instruction for novices. "90% (of the business) will be ultra-lights," Milan advises. Facilities for aircraft maintenance will also be available, and interested pilots will also be able to purchase Sport Star and Skyboy aircraft from the club.
Currently, the former Sweetbriar Lodge Nursing Home is being renovated and will serve as the headquarters for the Edenvale Flying Club. The clubhouse will also contain classrooms for flying instruction and even sleeping quarters for visiting pilots to spend the night.
Current plans call for a Summer 2004 opening for the Edenvale Flying Club. Milan Kroupa also plans to dedicate a monument to the personnel who served at the wartime flying school at RCAF Detachment Edenvale. Any veterans who served at Edenvale are invited to contact Milan at the club office (705) 428-3111 and share their memories of Edenvale.