The Liberty Gazette
December 4, 2012Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: When I started flying I rented airplanes from a small local flight school. Like most kids my age, I couldn’t afford to buy an airplane. Even if I could have, with limited exposure to the field of aviation at that time I wouldn’t have known what would be the best machine for me. Renting offered an opportunity to learn to fly more within my budget and experiment with a few different airplanes. Scheduling was sometimes a challenge, and there were always checkout requirements – proving to an instructor you could fly a certain model airplane before you’d be allowed to rent it – which added to the cost.
Like most flight schools, the one I patronized relied on the airplanes they rented to be available for student training, so once I earned my private pilot certificate it was more difficult to use their airplanes for pleasure trips. Charging by the hour, most flight schools will establish a daily minimum if an airplane is taken for the whole day; it’s a means of bridging the gap of what they need in rental revenue and the desires of their licensed customers.
I learned to fly before I bought my first car so I guess you could say it was my passion for flight that forced my first auto purchase. My local airport had no flying club, so ground transportation became necessary. The motivation was always flight.
Air South Flying Club at Fullerton Municipal Airport had a wide range of airplanes and while not all flying clubs are for the same purpose, here members had access to all the airplanes owned and operated by the club at a discount price and without daily minimums. This included larger faster airplanes with six seats, and even twin engine airplanes. Even today it is nearly impossible to find an airplane with more than four seats for rent outside of a flying club.
Clubs come in all different sizes and are created for different purposes. They might have just one airplane or many. Some are commercial ventures, others a social center. I interspersed my advanced flight training with the club’s instructors with aerial adventures to Santa Catalina Island and snow ski trips to Idaho. Club events such as photo-flight contests and dinner fly-outs encouraged members’ mutual support.
In the 1970’s Beech Aircraft Corporation sponsored flying clubs across the country called Beech Aero Centers. They even had a custom designed modular club house. The idea was members could check out in a particular model airplane at one Aero Center and that check-out was good at any Aero Center, saving them any further check-out expense if they wanted to fly an airplane in another part of the country. That practice faded over time, but now it’s making a comeback.
Presently there are around 600 flying clubs in the United States. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has set a goal to grow that to 2,000. With the return of universal check-outs making flying more affordable more people will be able to participate in this wonderful activity, and expand their horizons. We think a flying club could work well here in Liberty.