Meet our Southern Aviators: Pat and Vic Boyce

If you’ve spent any time at Sun ’n Fun, you’ve probably run into Pat or Vic Boyce. The couple are known around the grounds as “go-to” people. You need an answer? Pat will find it for you. Need someone to run the workshops or raise money for a state-of-the art telescope? Vic’s your man.

Originally from Australia, the couple, now Lakeland, Fla., residents, have spent the past four decades immersed in aviation. More than half of that time — 25 years — has been spent volunteering.

DOWN UNDER

But their dedication to aviation began long before that. Vic Boyce, born on a farm in Australia during the Depression, was always enthralled by aviation.

“I was the only one in my family interested in aviation,” he recalls. “I remember when I was about 6, I would make pinwheels and pretend to fly.”

He had his first flight in 1949, and took his first flying lesson at 20 in a Ryan STM with a World War II bomber pilot/instructor who would later solo him after just six hours.

“I started building gliders, then got into engineering,” he says.

He soon earned the Australian equivalent of an A&P and IA. During that time, he also was an aerobatic glider pilot often doing demonstrations at airshows in his Hutter 17, a small Austrian design he painstakingly restored.

It was at the Royal Newcastle Aero Club where he met his wife, Patricia. She also had grown up on a farm in Australia. She met Vic when she was about 15, but it was several years before the couple became an item. They married in 1967, when she was 20.

Vic’s interest in aviation sparked Pat’s. “We worked together on many aircraft restorations and flew a number of aircraft,” she recalls. “I couldn’t be married to Vic and not learn.”

Soon after getting married, the couple moved to Toronto, where he eventually became chief of maintenance working on Sabreliners. A few years later, in 1975, he started his own company, Boyce-Air Aviation, but found that he was swamped with work. “I asked Pat to come over to the airport and help me,” he says. “She found an office and started to help out, but it only got worse — she attracted so many people and the jobs came pouring in and I couldn’t handle them all. So I asked a mechanic to help me, and pretty soon I had part-time mechanics from all over the airport working for me.”

In 1978, the couple closed up shop and headed to Atlanta, where Vic took on the job as chief of maintenance for the Royal Crown Cola Co. The company moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1985. In 1993, the company was sold, retiring the pilots and maintenance staff. Since then, Vic has been self-employed, conducting inspections and selling plans for the Corby Starlet, an all-wood Australian design. Pat edits a newsletter for Corby Starlet builders, while Vic works with builders. He’s particularly proud of one, Steve Stride, who came to Florida for two weeks for a crash course in building from Vic, then went on to win the Best Built Award in Europe a few years ago.

SUN ‘n FUN — AND BEYOND

Vic and Pat have been air show regulars for most of their married lives, attending their first Oshkosh in 1968 when it was still in Rockford. They’ve been to AirVenture 36 times, as attendees and volunteers. When they moved to Atlanta, they heard about another show, Sun ‘n Fun, so they started to go to that as well in the early 1980s.

“We came back every year since then,” says Pat. “I started volunteering, then became a member of the Florida Air Museum Steering Committee, then a member of the board. A few years back the fly-in board merged with the museum board and that is today’s Sun ‘n Fun Fly In, Inc.

“We moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1985 and I would drive the 530-mile round trip to board meetings and planning meetings,” she recalls.

Besides her many duties with Sun ‘n Fun — she’s in charge of the media center, as well as co-chair of High Flying Holidays, the organization’s Christmas event, which includes decorations, Santa arriving in a Stearman and activities for children of all ages — she’s also active in the community, serving on the West Central Florida Area Agency on Aging; vice president on the executive board of the Cares Foundation; a member of the Coalition on Aging Think Tank with the University of Southern Florida in Lakeland; vice president of the Rath Connections Resource Center in Bartow; a member of Polk Vision, which helps shape the future of Polk County; and a member of the advisory board at Macy’s Lakeland.

Meanwhile, Vic’s in charge of workshops at Sun ‘n Fun, a program he started in 1990 at the request of Billy Henderson, a founding father of Sun ‘n Fun.

The workshops, many of them now FAA approved for credit towards IA renewal and the A&P Awards Program, cover the gamut from welding to avionics to engines.

“We have close to 300 volunteers in the workshops now,” Vic says proudly. And attendance has grown steadily, with many of the workshops attracting standing-room-only crowds. What’s especially popular this year? Anything to do with Sport Pilot. “That shop is full all the time,” he says.

Another passion for Vic is a fundraising effort to buy a $15,000 state-of-the-art telescope, which will be used not only at Sun ‘n Fun, but travel to local schools to inspire children to look to the stars and aspire to greatness.

“I think it’s great to give kids something else to do,” he says simply. “The sheriff wants $65 million to build a jail to lock up bad kids.”

But for a fraction of that — and a few volunteers — Vic plans to reach every child in the schools in his town and make a difference

WHAT DRIVES THEM?

Why devote so much time — and not get paid — to Sun ‘n Fun and other aviation organizations?

“I guess it goes back to when I was growing up in Australia with my two brothers,” Pat muses. “Life then was somewhat slower and if we were not doing something we had to go around our neighborhood to see if our neighbors needed errands done or needed some items from the grocery store. We just took it for granted that this was what we were supposed to do. There was no payment, just a thank you.

“Having worked and volunteered in aviation for most of my life, I feel that my experience may help improve the industry for others,” she continues. “Women were not popular in all-male workshops, so I had to be really good at what I did, perhaps even better skilled than my male coworkers. It hasn’t always been easy, but I did prevail.”

For Vic, his passion for aviation — and safety — was a motivating factor. “When I looked at all the amateur built aircraft, some of them had been built by brilliant technicians and some had been built by people who hardly knew what they were doing — the law allows them to do that,” he says. “So I decided to do something about that situation.”

The workshops are a direct result of that desire, as well as his efforts to buy the telescope.

But as in all things in life, Vic has an ulterior motive: “Last but not least, there are all the parties too!” he says.

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