This isn’t your father’s flying club. In fact, if you’re part of the typical pilot age demographic, it’s more likely a place where your son or daughter — or maybe even grandchild — would fit right in.
Millennial Wings, an organization for aviation enthusiasts around ages 18 to 29 with chapters in Florida and Georgia, is one of the small groups nationwide trying to build a community from the ground up to network specifically among young adults interested in flying.
“There’s no real [outside] push to change that [older pilot] demographic and start focusing on young adults. When everyone talks about the one main issue in aviation it’s ‘How do we get the youth involved, how do we get young adults involved and support them?’” says Millennial Wings founder and president Timothy Fonseca. “The real way to do it is to support small organizations that want to grow and are run by young adults.”
This weekend, the group will host a fly-in event at Westgate River Ranch near Lake Wales, Florida, a secluded resort area with an airstrip organizers say will be perfect for a couple days’ worth of flying and fun. Attendees can fly in and stay from December 16-18.
Besides flying, the event will have bonfires, camping, trap and skeet shooting, and a spot-landing contest for a prize.
Fonseca, a Florida Atlantic University student and pilot who has loved planes and aviation since he was a small child, founded Millennial Wings about two years ago. Now 22 years old, the soon-to-be college graduate says he has about 750 hours flying and plans to pursue a career as an airline pilot.
Through social media and through small fly-in events, which the group puts together just about once a month, Fonseca says, Millennial Wings is trying to foster a younger culture around flying. The foundation of the group really took off through the photo-sharing app Instagram, he says.
Most of all, Fonseca says, Millennial Wings’ fly-ins are about hanging out, having fun and building connections with people their own age who share an interest in aviation.
Fonseca says the organization continues to grow, with prospective chapters coming together in Texas, Arizona and California. Currently there are about 60 members total.
The fly-in events are open to anyone, but Millennial Wings members get benefits such as free food. Members pay dues of $25 per year, which goes back toward organizing meetups like the one at River Ranch.