Indianapolis-based Catholic Aviation Association, which recently received its 501(c)(3) status, is hoping to create a network of chapters and flying clubs to promote flying and general aviation. The association is the brainchild of Chairman and President Tom Beckenbauer, a retired naval aviator and private pilot.
The Catholic Aviation Association allows Beckenbauer to combine his love of aviation and people. “When I was an ROTC instructor, I got to help young people grow in their personal lives and help show them how they could become successful,” he said. “Through my experience, I saw that aviators tend to be successful people. It occurred to me that I could combine lessons learned in aviation with lessons to be successful in life, with a faith component to it.”
AOPA research has shown that there are many challenges in general aviation, said Beckenbauer. “They include a diminishing number of pilots, the high cost of flying, reduced or ceased flying, GA aircraft sales are down, and there’s a lack of young people learning to fly,” he said. “These are all problems we hope to address through CAA.”
Catholic Aviation Association is the main organization, said Beckenbauer. “We will also create Catholic Aviation Association chapters, similar to Women in Aviation chapters, that are for anyone involved in aviation in any capacity to help promote general aviation within the faith community,” he said.
The organization also wanted to bring more young people into flying and let older people continue to fly at lower costs, said Beckenbauer. “So we’re forming the Cupertino Aviation Clubs, flying clubs that will lower the cost of flying,” he said. St. Joseph of Cupertino is the patron saint of aviators, flying, and studying.
Catholic Aviation Association headquarters will handle functions including administration, accounting, operations, training, safety, marketing, fundraising, legal, aircraft acquisition and maintenance, and club and chapter coordination. The clubs will be formed by request to Catholic Aviation Association, and will be locally incorporated and managed. They will provide aircraft for rent, offer flight instruction and ground school, simulator training, aviation workshops and field trips, social gatherings, and work with local schools and Scout troops to promote aviation.
Catholic Aviation Association will be launching a social media campaign shortly, said Beckenbauer. “We have a newsletter that people can sign up for. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter, and we’re beginning to Pinterest and LinkedIn,” he said. “We’re starting in our local diocese by throwing a pebble in the water and watching [the] ripple effect.”
A year from now, Beckenbauer said he’d like to see five Catholic Aviation Association chapters established in Indiana. “I’d like to see at least two flying clubs with airplanes, and I’d like CAA to have its own airplane so we can fly around to promote our effort through events like the AOPA Regional Fly-Ins, Sun 'n Fun, and the Sport Aviation Expo,” he said.