The Edwards Aero Club, located at Edwards Air Force Base in California, was formed on Oct. 13, 1957, and is dedicated to safe, enjoyable flying for the base and surrounding community. The base serves as the home of the Air Force Test Center, the Air Force Materiel Command center of excellence for conducting and supporting flight research, and NASA's Dryden Research Center.
The club started with three Air Force-owned Beech T-34 trainers, said club manager Connie Farmer. The club’s first aircraft, a 1943 Aeronca Model 0580B, was bought on Nov. 13, 1957, for $575. The rental rate wet was $3 per hour and instructor rate per hour was the same for the club’s 39 members, she said.
Approximately 200 members are in the club, said Farmer. The membership is comprised of civilians, military, government contractors, high school students, college students, and retirees, said Farmer.
The Edwards Aero Club is a for-profit and non-appropriated funds organization, said Farmer. “This decision was made by the Air Force. The Aero Club is owned and operated by the Air Force, but is run for profit as any [fixed-base operator] would be.”
Edwards, along with all Air Force aero clubs, operate under supervision and guidance from the Air Force with regulations and standard operating procedures written specifically for clubs, said Farmer. “We have regular scheduled inspections just as any other organization in the Air Force,” she said. “The Air Force also provides the aero clubs with operations and safety advisors whom are very helpful in maintaining a safety aviation environment.”
The club is a Cessna affiliate and currently operates seven Cessna aircraft: three 2000 Cessna 172Ss; two 2007 and 2011 Cessna 172Ss with G1000 panels; and two 1977 and 1978 Cessna 182RGs. Prices per hour for the 172S is $131 per hour; the 172S G1000 is $133 per hour; and the R182 is $145 per hour. Members pay a $30 initiation fee to join, then monthly dues of $25 a month, along with attending a mandatory monthly safety meeting.
“Members can learn to fly, get advance ratings, fly for recreation or travel, use the aircraft for [temporary duty] assignments, maintain currency, and participate in social events,” said Farmer. “Our aircraft are also used by the Test Pilot School for their Airmanship Program and government contractors to maintain instrument currency.” Flight instructors charge $45 an hour.
The Edwards Aero Club is a Part 141 operations and a private pilot certificate will cost approximately $8,000, depending on the student, said Farmer. “We currently have two full-time and five part-time instructors, with 12 private, nine instrument and three commercial students,” she said.
The club keeps busy with a regular schedule of events. “Every month I email the membership a list of local aviation events. The Antelope Valley is a very active aviation community with regularly scheduled events such as Fox Field Open Hangar Day on the second Saturday, Plane Crazy at Mojave Sky Port on the third Saturday, Open House at Agua Dulce on the last Sunday with hamburgers on the lawn, January fly in with the Antelope Valley 99s (Ninety-Nines, International Women Pilots) to Death Valley and any other flying event that come up,” said Farmer.
It also offers seminars and classes on a regular basis to keep the membership interested in aviation and help the club grow, said Farmer. Courses include IFR Refresher, Flying Companion, Practical G1000, Airmanship for Contractors, and Flying the LA Basin.
“Many members use the club aircraft to participate in volunteer activities [including] EAA Young Eagles, CAP, and Angel Flight,” said Farmer. “Some members compete in the local 99 Poker Run, two flew to Oshkosh [Wis.] last year and two members are signed up the 2014 Air Race Classic.”
Farmer said that newer clubs should do their research, know the federal aviation regulationss, and have proper documentation, which are the keys to starting a club. “Having several people share the fun and expense is easier and rewarding. And marketing is the key to growing your club,” she added.