Upgrade the seatbelts? Install WAAS GPS? The members of the Austin Aviators Flight Club in Texas came together around a Piper PA–28-235 Cherokee, and the beloved airplane is often the excuse to get together and talk about flying—in person or virtually.
“We have a Facebook chat, and we chat literally every day, all throughout the day,” said Katherine Harrison, co-founder of the club, based at Georgetown Municipal Airport. “It’s just constant chat about flying and what we’re doing with the plane, and what we want to do.” The club celebrated its one-year anniversary in May after incorporating as a 501(c)(7) nonprofit with help from AOPA You Can Fly Ambassador Pat Brown. In a little more than a year, it has grown to 10 members, with a waiting list of six people.
Harrison and her good friend Dave McWilliams were student pilots with only a few hours when Jimmy Cox, a pilot friend who introduces kids to aviation through the organization Rockdale Tiger Flight, recommended they go to an AOPA seminar, Harrison said. That seminar planted the seed, and “one thing led to another,” she added. Brown helped Harrison and McWilliams find an attorney, accountant, and aircraft broker, and he was there to answer questions as they set up an operations manual and bylaws. “You name it, I probably asked it,” she said. The club incorporated in May 2016.
As a You Can Fly ambassador, Brown brings AOPA resources to the pilot community in his areas, hosting educational seminars and meeting with pilots, flight schools, and clubs. He said the club was the first one he helped form from the very beginning, and he credits the founders with bringing enthusiasm to the club. “I think in almost any endeavor like this, it comes down to the right combination of people,” he said.
The Cherokee fits the club well, Harrison said, because it has a good useful load and club members wanted a low-wing airplane. Now they use it for all kinds of fun. “We love to go flying,” she said. “We like doing meetups like barbecue runs—just pure fun and passion for flying.” One member took his wife on a trip for their anniversary. Harrison, who was president for the first year, now is turning her attention back to training. “I’m just so excited that all of this is happening. It’s like a dream come true.”
“This whole organization brought us together, and otherwise that wouldn’t have happened,” she said. “We’re like a big family.”
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