Welcome to the Club

I’m not sure where it ranks on my list of life achievements, but I finally did something I’ve thought about doing for a long time. I joined a flying club.

I took my club check ride this week with Jon Friedman, a former Navy F-4 pilot turned oral surgeon, who also serves as the club’s president. Now I'm looking forward to settling into the normal scheduling flow with the other members. As many readers already know, there are tons of reasons for joining a flying club. For me the main motivation has always been centered on affordability. There’s simply no cheaper way I can think of to retain flight currency and enjoy all the benefits general aviation has to offer than by spreading the cost among dozens of other people whose main motivation isn’t to turn a profit, but simply to turn a prop.

But cost wasn’t my sole motive for wanting to be a member of a flying club. Being part of a club also brings with it the sort of scheduling flexibility that’s a rarity when renting from busy flight schools. Not that all flying clubs have such liberal scheduling policies, but mine is incredibly lenient when it comes to signing airplanes out. Want to keep the airplane overnight? No problem. Want to fly somewhere for the weekend? Go for it! Want to stay for a whole week? Or two? Great! A few members may even beg you to come along! A convenient online and phone-in reservation system makes scheduling a breeze.

That brings me to the third reason for joining a flying club: the chance to socialize with other aviators with the same level of dedication and passion for flying. Now, admittedly this group, the 150th Aero Flying Club at Morristown Municipal Airport (KMMU) in Northern New Jersey, isn’t quite as close knit as when the club was formed back in 1960 by a cadre of pilots who worked together at nearby Bell Labs. Still, there are picnics and plane washes and, thanks to the immediacy of e-mail, messages forwarded among all 60-plus members, containing everything from maintenance status updates, to aviation news, to just plain old fun flying tidbits that are easy to miss if you’re not on the lookout for them.

There's even a club blog of sorts at the very entertaining website www.110knots.com. Created by member Mike Bennett, the site is packed full of great stories and videos of flights in club airplanes. Even if you've never heard of the 150th Aero Club, the site is well worth a visit.

Speaking of the airplanes, the club currently has three: a 172N Superhawk, a 172SP and a 182RG, all IFR-ready and equipped with some surprising gear, including an HSI in the 172SP.

What I didn’t realize before joining is that members become part owners of club airplanes. And it’s an all-volunteer group, with members encouraged to become involved in non-flying duties and activities. I also didn’t anticipate the security training required to gain access to the tiedown area where the airplanes are parked, which involved taking a 45-minute course and test before receiving a photo ID gate badge. (And that’s all I’m allowed to say about the process. Honestly. The TSA takes this stuff very seriously.)

But club members and other tie down users are happy to comply. And why not? Flying is a fantastic activity, whether it’s your hobby or vocation, and no amount of airport-related TSA scrutiny is likely to change that. Heck, we’re just happy to be in the club.


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