December 27, 2012
By Benét J. Wilson
First Concord Flying Club airplane
California’s Concord Flying Club, organized in 1939 and incorporated in 1941, claims to be the oldest continuously operating flying club west of the Mississippi River.
Club records show that it became formally incorporated in February 1941, though the club formation preceded that for some time, said President Kevin Hanrahan. “The club was heavily involved in the opening of the previous Concord airport (Sherman Field) in that year,” he said. “After the Pearl Harbor attack, the local sheriff came to the field and either locked or removed the propeller on the club's airplane, due to emergency restrictions.”
The club found a way to move its operations to the Sierra foothills outside the restricted zone and continue operating by carpooling on weekends, said Hanrahan. “For this reason, we believe we are the oldest continually operating club in the west - there are older clubs out here that suspended operations during the wartime period,” he said. The Concord Flying Club is thriving and has an enthusiastic membership, with quite a few multi-decade members, said Hanrahan. “We have a 92-year-old World War II veteran and 40-year member who still flies, an airline pilot, a corporate pilot, two ex-Navy and one ex-Air Force fighter pilots and a former 747 captain among our current membership,” he said, with 35 members on flying status.
The club is run as a not-for-profit. “We strive to make the airplanes available at the best estimate of actual operating cost,” said Hanrahan.
The club’s current fleet is an A36 Bonanza, an RV-7A, and a Cessna 182. “We have found this to be a great mix; with a two seater, four seater, and six seater a wide variety of missions can be covered,” said Hanrahan. Members pay an equity buy-in, and monthly dues are $100 a month. “The equity buy-in is refunded in full when the member leaves the club and there are no initiation fees,” said Hanrahan. “We have no social memberships, but members who stop flying can remain in the club as emeritus members at a reduced rate.” Although the club has eight CFIs, it does not offer primary instruction, said Hanrahan. “Our airplanes are not good trainers, and we wish to avoid the insurance and wear-and-tear issues that go along with that,” he said. “Per our insurance, all airplanes need [pilots with] at least 100 hours PIC (more for the Bonanza) for solo operation. Club members have used the club to get IFR, commercial, and CFI certificates.” The club is very much a social organization, said Hanrahan. “The club meets every Thursday, where dinner is provided by a member on a rotating basis. Several times a year, these are family-oriented potluck parties,” he said. “In addition, the club has several events per year, including a crab feed, a landing contest, and a formal dinner to install new officers. We always have a plane going to Oshkosh every year.” Hanrahan advised those wanting to start a club to consider acquiring different aircraft than the usual Cessna 172/Piper Cherokee type planes that most clubs and FBOs tend to go with. “These are great training airplanes, but pilots wanting to move to more capable or faster airplanes generally have few options. CFC has over the years had several Bonanzas and several Mooneys, which have been very popular trip airplanes,” he said. “Members have used these planes to go as far as the Bahamas and Cabo, Mexico, which are not very attractive trips in a 172.”
The club's acquisition of the RV has been a major boost, attracting prospective members and logging record hours for club airplanes, said Hanrahan. “The RV is fast, economical, and incredibly fun to fly.”
The National Aeronautic Association has awarded the Collier Trophy for “the first unmanned, autonomous air system operating from an aircraft carrier.”
The memory of a passenger who perished in an April 1945 airline accident continues to drive an effort to recognize notable achievements in aviation safety.
Santa Monica will appeal a court decision dismissing a lawsuit seeking to release the city from its obligation to keep SMO open and operating.
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