The History of The International Cessna 170 Association, Inc.
The beginnings of what became The International Cessna 170 Association started almost simultaneously, in the minds of two pilots and 170 owners, one in Texas and the other in Iowa, in 1969. San Antonio, Texas, resident John Benham, interested in finding out about other 170 owners and in organizing a fly-in, had letters posted in major aviation magazines requesting other owners to send information about themselves and their planes. Bill Wehner, from Davenport, Iowa, frustrated with the prices of replacement cowl latches for his 170A, thought an organization of 170 owners would have some purchasing leverage that could alleviate some of the cost of maintaining these older aircraft. He advertised in Trade-A-Plane for owners to join the National 170 Club for $3.50 a year. John and Bill quickly became aware of each other’s efforts. On April 15, 1969, John wrote a letter to the National 170 Club to inform Bill of the progress he had made. John had received 116 responses and had a proposal from 109 of them to have a three-day Cessna 170 fly-in in August at Cessna Field in Wichita, Kansas. Bill and John agreed to merge the two groups.
In August 1969, with the invitation of the Cessna Aircraft Company, John, Bill, and a total of 16 170 airplanes held the first national Cessna 170 fly-in in Wichita. A brand new type airplane club organization was formed. After much discussion, it was agreed to call the new organization “The International Cessna 170 Association.” The Bylaws and Constitution were worked out, intentionally designed not to be easily changed and not to be officially adopted for one year. The three stated goals of the association were:
- To encourage, aid, and engage in the preservation, improvements, and better understanding of the Cessna 170 aircraft.
- To foster, promote, and engage in aviation education.
- To provide a source of information pertaining to the maintenance and operation of the 170.
Bill Wehner was the first president, serving for two years. John Benham would later serve as president from 1980 to 1982.
The second national convention, in 1970, was held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and hosted by member John Collins. This started the tradition of volunteer convention hosts from the membership and the movement of the national fly-in to different areas of the United States and Canada each year. The ability to fly to and see the local sights all over the North American continent makes attending the annual 170 Convention an opportunity for a unique fly-in and vacation experience.
The first 230 members who had signed up at Colorado Springs were designated charter members with a C as part of their membership number. Membership is on an individual basis. However, the names of spouses are included in the membership database.
In the fall of 1970, an official logo designed by member Cleo Bickford was adopted. This symbol of a red and white Cessna 170 circling a blue globe on a round white background with the Association name in red inscribed inside a red circle. The registration number N1969W on the aircraft pictured does not reflect any actual aircraft. 1969 represents the year of the formation of the Association, and the W is for Wichita.
In 1972 the Association had grown so rapidly that an executive secretary was hired to manage the day-to-day details of membership and finance. A full board of directors was voted on by the membership, which includes a president, vice president, secretary/treasurer, historian, and past president, along with eight regular board members.
Annual conventions have continued since 1969, with the first outside of the United States convention held in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, in 1977. The 2019 convention was a celebratory return of the membership to Newton, just north of Wichita, Kansas, for the 50th anniversary year of The International Cessna 170 Association. In the years since the founding, conventions have been held across the United States and Canada in small communities and large cities. Returning to earlier convention sites has only occurred twice for Lakeland, Florida, and San Diego, California.
From a handful who met over a weekend in 1969 in Wichita, the association membership grew to a peak in 2001 of 1620 members. For the last several years, membership has stabilized at around 1100 members. Area representatives of the association organize local and regional fly-ins and other get-togethers for members and guests.
The original goal was to collect and share information about safely flying and maintaining these classic airplanes, the oldest of which were built in 1948. This is still a prime function of the association today. “To preserve and promote a truly classic aircraft.” The means for doing this starts with a vast resource of information on our forum, in our publications, and presented during sessions at conventions. But this association has become much more. This is truly a people-oriented organization enjoying fun, fellowship, and life-long friendships with others around the world. We have members who have never owned a 170, or any airplane for that matter, who have become fixtures at many of the association’s activities. Lifelong friendships have formed that would never have happened outside of this association.
Anyone is welcome to join, regardless of the type of plane you own or whether or not you even own a plane.