South Carolina’s Clemson University Flying Club, established in 1927, claims to be the oldest continuously operating club in the United States. The claim is supported by the original Clemson airplane, built by the original club members in 1928 and hanging on display in the South Carolina State Museum.
The club, which files out of Oconee County Regional Airport, currently has 50 dues-paying members, according to doctoral student and member Kimberly Kanapeckas. As a nonprofit, the club can keep costs down for student members.
Members have access to three aircraft: a Cessna 172N, 172B, and 152. “There are no restrictions on joining. It is an undergraduate-led organization, but we have many staff and faculty who are active members,” said Kanapeckas.
Dues are $50 per semester. “The cost of obtaining a private pilot’s license through the Clemson University Flying Club is between $5,000 and $6,000, dependent upon natural ability and a minimum of 40 hours,” said Kanapeckas.
The Cessna 152 costs $80 per hour; the 172B costs $80 an hour; and the 172N costs $100 an hour wet, using Hobbs time. The club has one full-time instructor, and several part-time instructors who charge $50 an hour, said Kanapeckas.
The club is very social, hosting monthly meetings with dinner provided, said Kanapeckas. “We also plan educational fieldtrips to local aviation sights, go to fly-ins and SC Breakfast Club meetings, host cookouts and offer free discovery flights for those interested, flown by qualified pilots at Clemson,” she said. “We have fly-ins to raise money for local and regional animal shelters.”
Kanapeckas’s advice for others wanting to start a college/university club? “Make sure your students in the club are connected to CFIs who are outstanding mentors—his or her teaching style, tricks of the trade, and even mannerisms will continue to influence you well beyond flight school,” she said. “Take inspiration from the history of our flying club—established by a handful of students with a passion, and above all, curiosity for flight.”