Fairmount club: Getting more students into airplanes

January 28, 2014

The Fairmount Flying Club, founded in the spring of 2011, was formed because a group of Wichita State University engineering students felt that college students should have an affordable outlet for renting aircraft and doing flight training. The club’s name is a homage to the university’s original name, Fairmount College.

There were other flying clubs in the "air capital of the world" before Fairmount, based at Newton City-County Airport, said club president James McMullin. “I can only assume they struggled in the same manner we have with building membership and resources. As we are only a student organization, our only source of funding comes from our members,” he said. “It seems like every college student has the desire for learning to fly, but are always hesitant due to the time, and most of all, the money. We keep our costs as low as possible and recently purchased our very own airplane to continue that goal.”

The Fairmount Flying Club’s membership fluctuates between 15 and 20, with a mix of ground and flying students and certificated pilots, said McMullin. “We are a nonprofit organization in order to maintain our goal of providing the lowest costs to college students.”

The club currently has a 1971 Cessna 172N with a mogas supplemental type certificate (STC). “We are excited our club was able to take this big step, as we no longer have a monthly fixed cost from leasing,” he said. “While finances may be tight now, we are looking forward to the long-term benefit of aircraft ownership and the added flexibility it provides the club.”

The current wet rate is based on Hobbs time at $90 an hour for students and alumni of Wichita State, said McMullin. “We also offer membership to a limited number of ‘community members,’ which can also be students from other local universities. They can rent for a wet rate of $100 an hour,” he said.

Dues for a flying membership is $40 a month, which includes members being covered under the club’s group insurance policy after being approved by flight instructors, said McMullin. “We also offer a $10 a month membership for those members who want to take our ground school and be included in activities.”

Flight instruction through the club requires a flying membership and paying for rental hours, said McMullin. “Our flight instructors negotiate their own rates with students, but charge on average $45 an hour. We also offer a fall and spring ground school with our chief flight instructor for $100,” he said. “When I earned my private pilot certificate with the club last year, my total cost came out to about $7,000 over the six months it took for my training. Our biggest challenge is to get interested college students past this number and toward the benefits of earning their certificate.”

The club currently has two flight instructors working with four students each. “So far, scheduling between students, instructors, and the airplane has not been an issue and we do not see it becoming one anytime soon,” said McMullin.

Members will gather for any aviation-related events in Wichita, including airshows and fly-ins, said McMullin. “We also take a tour of the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport (ICT) control tower and TRACON each year so students can see the other side of who they talk to in the air,” he said.

The club promotes itself heavily on the Wichita State campus through campus TV ads, flyers, classroom visits, and informational meetings, said McMullin. “We also offer discovery flights with a flight instructor for up to three people splitting the cost at one time." Information and an application are available on the website, he added.

The biggest struggle for the Fairmount Flying Club is growing its membership, said McMullin. “What helped get us off the ground was a number of dedicated individuals at the core of the membership, most of whom are still committed members paying dues and flying the airplane,” he said. “It is important to have an active membership for not only maintaining operations but to make each members aviation experience memorable and enjoyable.”