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And just like that...

Illinois flying club is 200th AOPA-supported endeavor

In just six short months, an idea became a club thanks to the AOPA You Can Fly Flying Clubs initiative.

  • From left, Lake Shelbyville Flying Club members Dave Heady, Paul Canaday, Tim Bowyer, Al Gerhold, Paul Adams, and Dan Toohill celebrate their milestone status. Photo by David Tulis.
  • From left, Airport Manager Scott Jefson, an A&P mechanic with inspection authorization who located the aircraft, joins club members from left to right Paul Canaday, Al Gerhold, Tim Bowyer, Dan Toohill, Paul Adams, and Dave Heady. Photo by David Tulis.
  • The Lake Shelbyville Flying Club maintains an updated, straight-tail Cessna 172 with a digital panel, new interior, and classic paint scheme. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Interior view of the Lake Shelbyville Flying Club Cessna 172. Photo by David Tulis.
  • The Lake Shelbyville Flying Club in Shelbyville, Illinois, the 200th Flying Club supported by AOPA's You Can Fly program. From left to right are club members Al Gerhold and Paul Canaday with Airport Manager Scott Jefson, Dan Toohill, Tim Bowyer, Paul Adams, and Dave Heady. Photo by David Tulis.
  • The 200th AOPA You Can Fly flying club is recognized during the Pilot Town Hall at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh July 28. Photo by David Tulis.

The 200th flying club that AOPA helped get underway is the Lake Shelbyville Flying Club from Shelby County, Illinois.

"This is a fun, three-part story," said AOPA Flying Clubs Initiative Director Steve Bateman. "It’s a wonderful story about an airplane, an airport manager, and a group of pilots."

Shelby County Airport manager Scott Jefson said the pace of the club's growth, which now has 10 members, is in part thanks to the assistance of the AOPA You Can Fly Flying Clubs initiative. "We called Steve after our first meeting in January, by the second meeting we were rocking and rolling, and things just [fell] into place."

The club is leasing a Cessna 172, which Jefson found at an estate sale, cleaned up, and flew back to the airport. After cleaning the heavy mold from the aircraft, Jefson got the aircraft airworthy, and it took its first flight with a club member May 7.

Lake Shelbyville Flying Club member Dan Toohill preflights a refurbished straight-tail Cessna 172 club aircraft in Shelbyville, Illinois. Photo by David Tulis.Ironically (or not) Jefson is not a member of the club he initiated. As the airport manager, he says he has too much going on to join, but was—and is—the cog that brought it all together. Area pilots would come to his offices asking about rentals and always suggesting the possibility of forming a club to help with expenses and have an aircraft readily available. "I realized all these people had one thing in common—me. So, I gave them all the names of people who were asking about a club, and they all reached out to one another," he said. "I have helped them come together, but they run it on their own."

"Having the support of the airport manager is essential," said Bateman. "Most operators are delighted that a new aviation organization will be based at their airport, as it will likely generate fuel sales and support airport business—but the operator has to balance use and operations on the airport, and has the obligation of ensuring that all tenants play well together and that none are afforded special or exclusive rights."

AOPA advises all newly forming clubs to have a discussion with their airport managers early in the formation process about their plans. Establishing a good working relationship and having airport managers' support is important and, more often than not, they open up doors and provide unexpected resources. Examples of these resources are free use of airport boardrooms for club meetings, fuel/hangar/tiedown discounts, aircraft on the field available for sale or lease, and finally, potential members, who often include the airport manager themselves.

Jefson was happy that the Lake Shelbyville Flying Club came together. "We now have 10 people who were not flying who are now flying."

AOPA recognized members of the club who came to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh at a special presentation during the annual Pilot Town Hall.

Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.
Topics: EAA AirVenture, AOPA Foundation, People

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