Bill Lehr and Gary Reeves flew in to the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo in Lakeland, Florida, from Bruce Campbell Field in Madison, Mississippi, to take in the first large airshow event of the year. The 4.6-hour flight in the Wesley Flyers Inc. flying club’s Cessna 182RG gave them a chance to ride in style (well equipped with a Garmin G5 and a new paint job) and share the cost.
The best perk of being a member of the Wesley Flyers club is “sharing a lot of expensive stuff,” Reeves said April 7 at AOPA's Flying Club Network social. “Like a flight to Sun ‘n Fun!” Lehr responded.
Members can just buy into the Cessna 172, and use that aircraft to learn how to fly before stepping up to the Cessna 182s. Reeves finished his flight training in the club’s Skyhawk.
The flying club also gave Lehr a way back into aviation. He had owned his own aircraft but sold it when he moved and stopped flying for a while. He joined the flying club to get back into flying. In addition to the club’s monthly meetings, Lehr enjoys the access to the airplanes—just schedule them online—and a low level of effort to maintain them. Whenever a squawk comes up for an aircraft, members just send an email requesting maintenance, “and they’ll take care of it.”
Lehr and Reeves were just two of 60 attendees at the Flying Club Network social during which AOPA Senior Director of Pilot Community Development Les Smith shared that AOPA had started 35 new flying clubs in 2015 and 2016, and has already started 11 so far this year. Most of the clubs, he said, average 18 members and two airplanes.
More than 800 clubs are part of AOPA’s Flying Club Network, and the association has plans to continue to expand the network as part of its You Can Fly initiative. AOPA’s Flying Club Network is free to join and offers a premium listing in the AOPA Flying Club Finder, a resource library, exclusive insurance rates, access to networking events, and more.
AOPA President Mark Baker, who has been a member of flying clubs, reiterated AOPA’s commitment to flying clubs: “I think we can invite more aviators to sustain themselves in aviation” through flying clubs. “We’ve put a lot of effort behind this…there’s a lot of opportunity ahead.”