Event Spotlight: Why I Like My Club

For most flying club members, one of the primary benefits is affordable access to aircraft. But an even greater benefit is the club community. The camaraderie and mentorship that develops among members is what distinguishes a club and truly makes it rewarding. This month’s Event Spotlight is a story submitted by Dave Berry, Vice President of the Clearview Flying Club based in Westminster, Maryland (See this month’s Club Spotlight). His tale of a flight over Thanksgiving weekend encapsulates so many aspects of being in a club – from using a club aircraft for a day trip, pre-flight decision making, an unexpected incident that became a learning opportunity, a friendly FBO, and most importantly how Dave’s fellow club members answered the call. I think it’s fair to say few pilots outside of a club can call the cavalry and receive the response Clearview provided Dave. We hope you enjoy his story as much as we did. – Club Connector staff

It was Black Friday, and a great day to escape the hustle and bustle of crowded shopping malls and traffic-packed roads and go for a day trip in one of the club airplanes.  My wife, brother-in-law and I packed into the [Clearview Flying] club’s faithful 1975 Cessna 172 and with the full tanks (courtesy of the well-intentioned last user) our climb rate out of 2W2 with a light southeasterly breeze was a little less than stellar (understatement).  It’s one of the challenges at Clearview Airpark:  deciding whether to take off uphill into a light headwind where extra weight means a slow ground roll and rotating just in time to clear the driveway at the departure end of Runway 14 or take advantage of gravity’s assistance and deal with a little tailwind when clearing the trees off the end of Runway 32.  I opted for the downhill departure and slight tailwind climb-out and was second guessing myself briefly as our climb rate reminded me of a hot summer day in the club’s Cessna 150 with another “well-nourished” passenger in the right seat. 

With the airport behind us and the ground shrinking below us, we turned on course for the Chesapeake Bay.  Our destination was Williamsburg-Jamestown airport (KJGG) for a recon trip to the Kingsmill Resort on behalf of one of my wife’s clients.  For our flight south, I opted for the more scenic trip along the Bay while avoiding the relative busyness of the Washington, DC SFRA.  After a quick nature break at St. Mary’s County Regional, we made our way over the Potomac, Rappahannock, and York rivers towards Williamsburg, Virginia.  With a lot of straight-and-level cruise, calm air and a nice mix of clouds and sun, it was a great second flight for my brother-in-law, who I think may also someday succumb to this flying bug. 

When KJGG came into site, we set up for the 45o entry to the left downwind for Runway 13.  With a couple planes in the pattern, we settled in as No. 3 to land.  The pattern work went as planned with stabilized airspeeds and descent rate around the base and final legs.  Flaring at just the right time (!), the mains touched smoothly on centerline and the nose wheel gently settled on the tarmac. 

Suddenly I found myself standing on the right pedal trying to hold the centerline of the runway.  This was a new one for me and my 160 hours of left seat time.  Despite the full strength of my right foot, we were veering left toward the grass and runway edge lights.  Yeah, my heart rate was climbing! I glanced down at the left main wheel to find the strut dancing around like a twerking turkey (Google it) and immediately realized the tire was now completely flat! 

We quickly came to a stop half-way on the runway and half-way in the grass just short of the turn-off to the FBO, fortunately without hitting anything. (I’m glad this happened on this 60-foot wide runway and not back home on 2W2’s 30-foot wide strip of asphalt!).  Knowing I did not want to be the cause of an airport closure, I throttled up the O-320.  Despite the increase in noise and vibration, we didn’t really start moving.  Full throttle and almost full right brake and we slowly limped onto the taxiway and parked our crippled plane. 

By the time we found someone at the Williamsburg Flight Center maintenance shop, the FBO manager had already called them about the 172 with a flat tire.  Did I mention it was Black Friday?  Despite the super helpful attendant working at the shop, we soon learned we were out of luck until Monday when a mechanic was scheduled to be back at the airport. 

After a quick group text back to the club president, maintenance officer, and CFI to let them know the plane was now stuck in Williamsburg, and immediately plans were being made to get the plane and us back home.  Within about an hour, a salvage crew was wheels-up with everything needed to get ol’ “501” airworthy again. 

Lucky for us, a rental car had just been returned to the FBO and we had enough time to finish the mission.  A visit to Kingsmill, a quick tour of Colonial Williamsburg and some local Food for Thought, and we were back at the FBO at the moment the Cavalry was circling for a Runway 31 arrival.  The Cavalry was that club CFI (my Private instructor and a knowledgeable mechanic) and a selfless club member with a Cherokee 235…a nice option for carrying extra wheels/tires, an air compressor, a hydraulic jack, and the necessary tools. 

Within minutes, the 172 was jacked up and a replacement wheel/tire was installed for the flight home.  With less than 10 percent of my flying experience at night, it was nice to have my familiar CFI around when filing our SFRA flight plans and heading back to 2W2.  Despite a low overcast by this point (3,000’ agl), the air was as clear and smooth as anyone could ask for and we cruised home with nary a bump.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the wonderful FBO manager on-duty at KJGG who not only helped us with the rental car, but also stayed late to literally re-open the warm FBO building (and bathrooms), offered coffee, turned on all the flood lights, and gassed up both planes before our departure.  I know there are FBOs with some issues, but this certainly wasn’t one of them! 

 Back on the ground at 2W2, planes parked and secured, and reliving our recent adventure in the cozy airport office, I couldn’t help but think how different this day may have been without the “runwayside” assistance I had just received from my fellow Clearview Flying Club mates.  I probably would’ve had a four-hour drive home, a hefty rental car bill, a tire repair bill, and another day spent retrieving the plane.  So while I still dream of owning my own plane someday, for now, I’ll continue to enjoy the camaraderie and support of my wonderful flying club.  It really is a great way to experience general aviation without many of the aches and pains of plane rental or ownership.  And I’m pretty sure that my passengers would agree!

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