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Old School Flying Field on a Mission to Engage Youth

Candler Field Flying Club

Flying back to Maryland from Sun ’n Fun in my trusty old Cessna 180, I took a small detour and dropped in at Peach State Aerodrome (GA2) in Williamson, Georgia. This is surely one of the greatest little airports in the whole country with a grass strip, vintage planes, an aviation museum with an excellent restaurant attached, the cheapest avgas in the area, and even a fly-in community with hangar homes.

But of course, no airport could be described as “great” unless it has a flying club, and the one at Peach State is something quite special. I chatted over lunch with its founder Glen Marsh to find out more.

Formed in November 2009, Candler Field Flying Club is named after the original Atlanta airport of the 1930s. In many ways the club is run along familiar lines. Monthly dues are $70 and the members work hard to keep hourly rates affordable—$90 per hour wet for both a Cessna 172 and a Citabria. There have been regular social events like cookouts and trips to the Atlanta Center ATC facility.

But what makes CFFC a little unusual is that it’s what I would describe as a “mission-based” flying club. While membership is open to pilots of all ages, from Day One the club has placed a very high degree of emphasis on bringing young people into aviation. The founding mission of CFFC was to use the club as a way to pass on the legacy of flight to the next generation.

The club has some creative ideas. A program is in place that allows young people to exchange flying time in return for time they spend helping out around the airport. Much of the flight instruction for young people is donated free of charge by a cadre of retired airline pilots that want to give back to aviation.

Consequently, the club now has a very healthy proportion of members under the age of 20 and is well on the way towards building a new generation of pilots that will keep their local flying community strong for years to come. And everyone will be comfortable with the idea of flying vintage aircraft from a grass strip—the first 10 hours of instruction for all new students is accomplished in the club’s taildragger.

There’s a brilliant video on the CFFC homepage that shows the club in action, if you have 5 minutes to spare I strongly recommend you take a look.

And if you’re interested in more, Glen Marsh will be joining me on the evening of May 21 for a webinar where we’ll discuss the programs of CFFC in more detail and look at what other flying clubs are doing to attract young people. Click here to register for the webinar (after May 21 the link will take you to a recording of the session).

Topics: Flying Club, Aviation Industry, AOPA Events

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