If you want to hold a successful club event, look no further than southern Ohio and the Flying Neutrons for some guidance. On March 24, the club held an open house to inaugurate its new hangar and clubhouse at Warren County Airport (I68) in Lebanon, Ohio.
More than 100 people attended and got the opportunity to learn about the club and its aircraft, check out the new facilities, and hear club members share how the club has helped them launch a career in aviation, while others spoke about how they serve the community by using club aircraft for public benefit flying, including flying for Angel Flight, Pilots for Christ, Pilots ‘n’ Paws, and the Civil Air Patrol.
The Flying Neutrons Flying Club was founded in 1952 by engineers from the nearby GE engine plant in Evendale, Ohio, which is now one of the world's largest jet engine facilities. The club has 127 members and operates a fleet of six aircraft – three Cessna 172s, a 1978 Piper Arrow, a 2001 Cessna 182T and a 1999 Cessna 206H. All have IFR certified Garmin avionics with WAAS. The club also has an Elite IFR PCATD simulator, free of charge for club members.
Membership is capped at 120 senior members. For a $1,250 initiation fee, pilots can fly the C-172s, or for $2,500 a member can fly any of the six aircraft, with the appropriate check flight from a club-approved instructor. If a member wants to change levels, all they need to do is pay the difference.
Dues are $60 a month and hourly rates are tach time, wet starting at $105 an hour for one of the C-172s, up to $175 an hour for the C-206.
Getting a new home
For 60 years, the Flying Neutrons were based at Cincinnati-Blue Ash Airport (ISZ), but in 2012 the airport closed and the club had to relocate. It chose Lebanon-Warren County Airport (I68), about 20 miles to the north, as its new home.
Warren County Airport welcomed the Neutrons. “They worked with us to give us nice hangars,” past president Jack Debrunner said. “It was the first time we were able to keep all of our planes in hangars, plus they made a nice little clubroom for us.”
Unfortunately, membership dropped from 120 to 76 because many of the members came from northern Kentucky and what had been a 30-minute drive became an hour. “The airport worked with us to keep the rent down,” Jack said. “They gave us a great deal so the club was able to stay viable. We owe a lot to them.”
The county owns the airport, but the property on the west side of the airport where the hangars are is privately owned by Warren County Airport Ltd. As the club built its membership back up to 120 and added aircraft, the owners approached the club asking if they would like better facilities.
“They built a brand new hangar consisting of eight T-Hangars and they offered that up to us,” Jack said. The owners worked with the club on the specifications and converted one of the T-hangars into a clubroom, which is actually the size of a T-hangar and a half – 60 feet by 30 feet. It provides enough space for the club to do everything they want.
There are five different areas. There is social space with couches, a large meeting space, and an area for flight planning with six computers. There also is a training area with a cubicle and computer that is more private where instructors can work one-on-one with a student, and a kitchenette and bathroom.
The single building has space for seven aircraft and is open inside, with no walls dividing the individual T-hangars. It is heated and insulated. “Everything is under one roof, one hangar,” Jack said. “It’s just excellent. It’s really a first class facility. I can’t say enough about the owners of the property, they really have worked with us.”
Good community, good public relations
The club used the new facility as an opportunity to reach out to the public. They moved in last October and took some time to settle in before having their first guests.
“The purpose of the event was to get in touch with other pilots, letting them know that we were there, that we existed,” Jack said. “We took the opportunity with the airport authority board president and the county commissioners and others to help them understand what was going on around the airport, that it was alive and well and that we’re a good community.”
The club also used the open house for public relations. “We wanted to let people know we’re not just pilots who fly in and out, we actually do things for the community,” Jack said. “We aren’t there just for ourselves.”
The club sent a press release out to newspapers and TV stations, posted on Facebook, and sent notices to about 10 or 15 airports within 25 miles of Warren County Airport. The event was standing room only with more than 100 people enjoying light hor d’oeuvres, cookies, coffee, tea, and soft drinks. About 70 were not club members who learned about the club, its aircraft, and how it serves the community.
The program included six speakers, including several club members. One member spoke about the club history, while another shared his experience of being in the club and how it launched his career with Delta Air Lines. The airport authority board president spoke about the airport’s history and a county commissioner talked about the importance of the airport to the county.
Mallory, a 16-year-old club member who is learning to fly and plans on a career in aviation, spoke about what she has gotten out of being in the club, including the friendships and mentoring with adults. After the program she showed the club aircraft to three young ladies who attended the open house and are also interested in pursuing aviation careers.
The final speaker talked about how many members use club aircraft for charitable flights. About 10 members are part of the Civil Air Patrol, several members participate in Angel Flight and Pilots for Christ – two organizations that fly patients for free to get needed medical treatment, and others fly rescue dogs with Pilots ‘n’ Paws from kill shelters to shelters that can get them adopted. For more on the Flying Neutrons public benefit flying, see this month’s Club Spotlight.
The open house proved to be a successful way to promote the club and the airport to the public. It provided the Flying Neutrons an opportunity to strengthen existing relationships with the airport authority and elected county officials, while highlighting how the club serves the community.
One of the benefits was recruitment. Jack mentioned six people talked to him about joining the club afterwards. They’ll have to wait for now, but it helps ensure there are new members ready to join when spots open up. “It was an exciting event,” Jack said. “It really was.”