The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) released details at last week’s AOPA Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, Calif., on a long-term initiative to facilitate the growth of flying clubs. The initiative is one of the first projects of the new Center to Advance the Pilot Community, which is working to reverse the decline in the pilot population.
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association will create a national network of flying clubs as part of a long-term initiative to facilitate flying club growth, association officials told attendees at the AOPA Aviation Summit Oct. 12. The network is part of AOPA’s efforts to grow the shrinking pilot population, according to a report at AOPA.org, noting that flying clubs offer affordability, community, quality instruction, an entry (or re-entry) point to aviation, and a viable business model. The flying club initiative, built on extensive research, also promotes flying clubs and helps new clubs get started, with a goal of increasing the number of clubs nationwide from 661 to 1,000 in five years.
Valkaria Airport (X59) lies on the eastern coast of Florida, south of the much larger Melbourne International, and north of Vero Beach Municipal, the home of Piper Aircraft. The non-towered, sleepy airport at Valkaria has no self-esteem problem, however. They’re small and casual and friendly and they like it that way.
Social and civic organizations like EAA Chapter 1288 thrive at Valkaria, and it is these grass-roots, general aviation pilots and aviation enthusiasts who keep this former World War II auxiliary field open, operating, and available to the public. Yet even with all that going for it, it wasn’t the history of the field, or the EAA, or even its ongoing battles with non-aviation friendly neighbors that drove me to visit over Memorial Day weekend. I came to see the bombs fall.