More than a decade after it closed downtown, Contrails Aviation has touched down again — this time in the heart of it all on the fringes of the runways at the Victoria International Airport.
Paul Smith, a life-long airplane enthusiast, opened the all-things-airplane store last month in the lobby of the Victoria Flying Club, where he’s got a steady stream of pilots, pilots-in-training, airplane mechanics and aviation nuts walking by his wares.
The shop carries all the training manuals and workbooks needed for a pilot’s licence as well as headphones, flight computers, plotters and route maps. He also stocks model airplanes, kid’s toys and books on aviation, historic books, aviation signage and clocks that look like airplane instruments for rec rooms and offices. There are also racks of shirts and hats with iconic brands such Cessna and the deHaviland Beaver.
Smith is also the only authorized dealer of Boeing merchandise in Canada, carrying a line of clothing, stickers, badges, toys, models, posters and other souvenirs from the plane manufacturer.
It’s the only bricks-and-mortar aviation store of its kind on the Island — and so far it’s proving to be a popular place.
The England-born Smith, who moved here as a child, is not a pilot himself. He worked in the home improvement business for years, took time out to raise two young children and has now decided to follow a dream of running an aviator’s shop. The pilot’s licence is still a bucket-list item for Smith, 30.
“I used to hang out at Contrails down in Bastion Square as a kid when I first moved here and thought ‘if I ever get the chance, this is what I want to have,’ ” said Smith. “It was just such a cool store and I’m trying to make this the same.”
He hopes to open a store downtown again once the Victoria Flying Club location takes root because he sees a strong market with tourists as well as locals who may not venture out to the airport lands.
Smith was helping stage a career fair in the industry at the nearby B.C. Aviation Museum when he heard the Victoria Flying Club was interested in leasing out its lobby space, where it had been selling flight manuals.
Smith was selling aviation materials online at the time and knew this would be his opportunity to give new life to Contrails.
Staff at the Victoria Flying Club had been stretched to run the retail operation. The club, which has been providing professional pilot training for 60 years, is one of the busiest in the province with more than 550 members and 11 aircraft for its training programs.
Smith took the space over with the idea to make it more than just flight books. He believes most people have a fascination with aircraft and the industry’s rich history — whether it be recreational flight, big commercial planes or military jets.
He hopes to contribute to the pilot community by contributing to a training scholarship and assist the flying club with raffles for flights.
You can find Contrails at the Victoria Flying Club, 1852 Canso Rd., in North Saanich or call Smith at 778-351-3525. A web site is in the works.