Although temperatures were seasonable in Maryland and Southeastern Pennsylvania for the first Saturday of November, increasingly blustery winds and an overcast sky served as a reminder that winter is on its way in the northeast.
That is why five aircraft loaded with clothes, blankets, food, and toys left airports around Maryland and flew to Carl A. Spaatz Field in Reading, Pennsylvania. It was part of the NASA Goddard Flying Club’s annual Wings of Warmth event.
The event began in 1989 after Steve Kish saw two stories on the news. The first was about a plane crash, and he wondered how to get general aviation into the news in a positive light. The next story was about the poor at Christmas. He had his answer. Give pilots a reason to fly by helping those in need, and get some positive press in the process.
John Majane, a member of the NASA Goddard Flying Club, is embodying Steve’s vision nearly 25 years later. “If you’re in a club you have to have a purpose,” John said. “You’ve got to have not only good fellowship and cheap rates. You want to be able to do something and that’s where it came from. The club wanted to do something.”
The club is part of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Employee Welfare Association. Located just outside of Washington, DC in Greenbelt, Maryland, Goddard opened in 1959 and was NASA’s first space center. The center develops and operates unmanned scientific spacecraft, including many of NASA's Earth observation, astronomy and space physics missions.
The flying club has an interesting structure. Originally it was only open to employees and contractors working at Goddard, but over the years it opened membership to anyone. Club membership is only $20 a year. The club has about 50 members and it focuses mostly on building camaraderie and aviation education through guest speakers. It also has an FAA-certified simulator that club members can use for free.
It has a subsidiary organization called the Goddard Airplane Club (GAC), which owns a Cessna 172 based at Freeway Airport (W00). “It was formed under the auspices of a flying club and they own an airplane,” John said. There are about 25 members who each pay a buy in of $3,000. About five of the flying club members (who are not part of the airplane club) own their own aircraft, like John, who owns a Cessna 170.
For the Wings of Warmth event, Goddard employees were encouraged to donate clothes, food, and toys, which were collected during the week leading up to the flight. The pilots picked up the supplies and flew from their home airports – Gaithersburg (KGAI), Frederick (KFDK), and Tipton (KFME).
The planes—a Cessna 170, a V-tail Bonanza, a Cirrus, and a Cherokee—arrived just before noon at the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Museum ramp, where they were met by a truck from the Hope Rescue Mission.
“We got up there and they unloaded the clothes. It was a nice load,” John said. “They were all very grateful and afterwards we toured the museum and had lunch. There’s a really nice restaurant there at Reading Airport.”
Reading was chosen as the beneficiary because some of the club members had contacts at the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum and because Reading “is not in great economic shape,” John said. “There are some rich people up there, but there are a lot of poor ones. We got in touch with a charity and got involved with them.”
The Goddard Flying Club’s Wings of Warmth event is a great example of clubs reaching out beyond the airport and showing how general aviation can make a positive impact on the community. If your club is doing something to engage the community and make a positive impact, let us know so we can share it with flying clubs around the country.