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A visit to AOPA's birthplace at the revitalized Philadelphia Aviation Country ClubA visit to AOPA's birthplace at the revitalized Philadelphia Aviation Country Club

A visit to AOPA’s birthplace at the revitalized Philadelphia Aviation Country Club

Phil Boyer and Mike Chiodo
Mike Chiodo, president of the Philadelphia Aviation Country Club (PACC), greets AOPA President Phil Boyer Saturday, September 11, at the 10th Annual Vintage Aircraft Day at historic Wings Field outside Philadelphia. AOPA was founded there in May 1939. Now, with AOPA’s help, PACC’s AOPA Founders’ Room has been renovated as part of substantial upgrades to the club. Any AOPA member is welcome to drop in for a look at the club during regular hours. PACC is also accepting new memberships.

Wings Field was established in 1929 by J. Story Smith, one of five Philadelphia aviators who in 1939 would found the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association—AOPA.

Smith’s company built the original 37-hp engines for the Taylor (later Piper) Cub. After his purchase of the 217-acre former Twin Springs Farm, Wings Field progressed from an open flying field to three grass runways, then to a paved runway currently 2,600 feet in length.

During the 1930s, aviation clubs emerged in major cities as social and flying centers. Following founding of the Aviation Country Club in Hicksville, New York, the Philadelphia Aviation Country Club was established in March 1931. Others followed in cities such as Cleveland and Los Angeles.

AOPA was founded on the club’s second floor on May 15, 1939, by Smith; lawyer Alfred L. (Abby) Wolf; Ludington Airlines President C. Townsend Ludington, and Philadelphia businessmen Philip and Laurence Sharples. They had been working on the concept since 1938 with Joseph B. (Doc) Hartranft, who would later be AOPA’s first full-time president.

After World War II, the club was renovated and expanded for aviation’s boom times of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. It is again being upgraded to accommodate today’s upturn in flying—and is open to new memberships.

AOPA will fete the Philadelphia Aviation Country Club and other Philadelphia-area aviation history as part of its sixtieth anniversary celebration at AOPA Expo ’99, October 21-23 in nearby Atlantic City, New Jersey.

September 13, 1999

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