With eight aircraft, 175 members, and dozens of events throughout the year, Ponderosa Aero Club is very much a part of the aviation community in and around Boise, Idaho.
The club offers students a unique training environment and has been recognized by the Governor’s office for its volunteer work. Hosting a variety of events like Fly it Forward to introduce women to aviation, Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics, Back Country flying seminars, fly-outs, as well non-aviation social events, Ponderosa members are having fun, improving their skills, and sharing aviation. General Manager William Foote, staff members Greg Neu and Sharki Kontra, and board member Jennifer Christiano share the details about one of AOPA’s Pathfinder Flying Clubs.
Name: Ponderosa Aero Club
Location: Boise Air Terminal/Gowen Field (KBOI), Boise, ID
Year formed: 1974
Aircraft: 2 – Piper Archers PA28-181 ($110/hr)
Cessna 172L ($92/hr)
Cessna 172M ($94/hr)
Cessna 172N -180 hp ($110/hr)
Cessna 177RG ($141/hr)
Cessna 182 ($150/hr)
Cessna T210 ($225/hr)
Rates: Hobbs hours, wet. All eight aircraft are leased by the club
Joining fee: $175 first year, $150 annually for the next four years, no annual fee after 5 continuous years
Monthly dues: $80 per month less $25 if you fly during the month
Membership: 115 active; 60 associate (non-flying) members
The club is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year. How did it start and grow?
Boise is fortunate to have two companies that are fairly large with decent paying jobs. The original members were Morrison Knudsen employees. It’s a global construction company with a very big presence here in Boise. They just got together and got a club going. Through the years came Hewlett-Packard. A large percentage of members at one point were HP people.
The club has been well managed. It doesn’t own the aircraft, they’re lease backs typically owned by club members. That and having good instructors has been key.
How is the club structured?
The club is a volunteer organization. We’re a 501(c)7 organization and the general manager reports to the Board of Directors. The five-member board is elected annually by the membership. We have three compensated staff and everything else is done by volunteers. Its just amazing what you can achieve with this model.
What makes flying at Boise Airport unique?
Boise is Class C airspace and a lot of our new members are students and like the fact that they are talking to ATC right off the bat. That’s a big selling point.
The ATC personnel at Boise are GA friendly. They aren’t rude to the small single engine planes. They are very easy to work with, which makes the training environment very easy.
Another unique thing about our airport is the fact that we’ve got commercial traffic, plus a lot of GA traffic, heavy training, and we have a National Guard base, there’s a wing of A-10s here. In the summertime this is a really large fire attack base that can get really busy. There are several helicopter companies on the field, and we have Life Flight and other assorted operations that come and go, charters and so forth.
When a student practices here, they have to get out and mix it up with a wide variety of aircraft that they are not going to encounter elsewhere—it’s like few other places with all the different types of aircraft with unique needs, military versus commercial versus GA.
Do you have members that are instructors?
Yes, we have six on staff. Everyone who flies an aircraft here at Ponderosa is a member. We are a part 141 school and use the Jeppesen training products.
We have complex aircraft here that we try to make available to other people who just need to finish up their ratings. We created a restricted membership that makes a person a limited member to provide them access to aircraft for instruction. You pay a flat $100 a month and that provides you access to the club aircraft and instructors. You would not be able to rent an aircraft just to do a fun flight for the weekend. All of the rentals for restricted members are associated with the training program.
Tell me about Ponderosa’s role in the community.
We have elected to make ourselves very active in the general aviation community. It’s imperative for clubs to be drivers in the GA community wherever they’re set up.
We build relationships with air traffic control. We’ve got air traffic controllers who are members that actively participate in our events. We work directly with one of the air traffic controllers to do briefings and seminars on safety and air space for smaller clubs.
We’ve got a very active group of backcountry pilots, as well as training programs to safely introduce someone to backcountry flying, which is not something to be taken lightly.
Tell me about Fly it Forward
It was the brainchild of Women of Aviation Worldwide and is designed to celebrate women’s accomplishments in aviation and aerospace and to attract more girls and women into aviation as a hobby or a career choice. It is a global event and includes flying clubs, individual instructors, aviation museums, any type of organization that is connected to aviation. Each designs a celebration of its own during the Women of Aviation Worldwide week, which is March 3 – 9 every year. It coincides with International Women’s Week.
Three years ago we decided to participate with a Fly it Forward Day, which is usually held on the Saturday of that week. This year will be March 8. We offer free 30-minute flights over the city to girls and women who have never flown in a small aircraft before.
We hold the event at the Jackson Jet Center. We invite other flying schools, the T-Craft Aero Club in Nampa, CFIs and plane owners. We realized the goodwill part of the event is where we are all benefitting, which is why we invite others. One of the benefits is we get a whole lot of media coverage.
Tell me about the Governor’s Award.
One of the things that we were recognized for as a result of Fly it Forward, we recently won the Governor’s Brightest Star Award for Volunteerism for a non-for-profit organization. There is an annual award ceremony in which individuals and non-profits are recognized for their contributions to the community. It is a good way to show that we are integrated into the community and doing something the community considers important.
We get community backing, community support, community visibility. People say, ‘Ponderosa and the people with little airplanes do something for our benefit and we like them.’ Then everyone in general aviation is in a much more secure position and much more difficult to squeeze out.
Tell me about the Flight Instructor Clinics.
Another big event that we’ve taken on in the last couple years is the Flight Instructor Refresher Course (FIRC). Historically the Idaho Transportation Department Division of Aeronautics hosted the FIRC for the inter-mountain states. We’d have people here from Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and maybe even as far away as Colorado come to these events that would be put on multiple times a year.
Funding for a lot of the government agencies has been cut. I’d been getting the hard sell from the Division of Aeronautics and we elected to take it over. We do it on a not-for-profit basis. We charge just enough to cover our costs for doing the production. We do two a year—one in the spring and one in the fall.
What are some of the other events that you do?
Some of our other events are not flying related, but we always try to come up with a way to introduce flying into it.
We do bike rides, ice cream socials, BBQs, river floats. Typically someone comes up with an idea and we promote it to the members and their family and friends are invited to join us. We have a social committee that meets monthly and brainstorm ideas. It’s also responsible for the Fly it Forward and the FIRC.
We have movie nights in the hangar and we try to pick movies with aviation themes. We usually get 25 to 40 people. We arrange multiple flights. We had Christmas flight tours. We do a camping trip to an airstrip in the Idaho back country. We’ll work with the Division of Aeronautics to find out what they want done to the airstrip and we’ll go up and camp and eat, drink, and talk aviation and have a great time.
We started a buddy up program among members to hook members up to fly together. Airplanes get flown more and it reduces expenses.
Ponderosa’s not a business. It is a club and a lot of the events exist to bring the club members together and build camaraderie among club members. The club is a collection of people with a passion for something who act on it.