The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s You Can Fly program recently celebrated its 200th flying club formed since its inception.
AOPA recognized members of the Lake Shelbyville Flying Club from Shelby County, Illinois during an annual Pilot Town Hall presentation at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh.
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.
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.”