When your club has seven planes and more than 200 members, it’s fair to say you’re probably a known part of the airport community. That’s true of the Flying Particles Flying Club based at Livermore Municipal Airport (LVK) in California, but this club has a lot more to contribute to the community on and off the field.
The club participates in the airport’s annual open house, and over the years members have participated in Young Eagles events and have been active with the local Boy Scouts. Those are all activities a club of any size can participate in to be a part of both the aviation community and the local community as well.
The Flying Particles was founded in 1957 by five employees of the University of California’s Radiation Laboratory, now the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. They began with a Cub with an hourly rate of $3 wet, and soon expanded to include a Tri-Pacer. The original Livermore Airport closed and relocated to its present location in 1965, making the club the longest serving tenant at the current airport.
In the beginning the club was a university affiliate and only lab employees and relatives could be members. Over the years those requirements were lessened and eventually the club and university served ties and membership was opened to anyone.
Today the club has grown to 243 members, although only about 175 members are active. What’s interesting about the club is many members are former professional pilots and the average member has around 5,000 hours of flight time. The club offers a mixed fleet that includes a Cessna 152, 172, and 182, as well as a Piper Warrior, two Archers, and a Mooney.
Members do a lot of cross-country flying to Southern California, as well as heading north to Washington or Oregon. A local favorite is to take scenic tours of the San Francisco Bay or go for a “$500 lunch bucket flight” to the coast where there are plenty of restaurants within walking distances of an airport, Vice President of Maintenance Elliott Hutton said.
“We’re a social club that likes to fly,” Elliott said. “The idea is to keep the cost of flying to a minimum and have the availability of airplanes to do cross countries for more than one day at a time.”
On a good weekend the club’s planes are flying four or five times a day. With all that activity, and as one of the larger tenants at the airport with six hangars and a sheltered tied down, it’s no surprise “everyone on the field knows the Flying Particles.”
When considering its history, it’s a given that the club has a booth each year at the annual Livermore Airport Open House & Air Show. “We set up a booth to promote aviation, education, and promote the community aspect of flying and our social activities,” Elliott said.
The event attracts between 10,000 and 12,000 people and features food trucks, local vineyards doing wine tastings, static displays of aircraft and flight demonstrations from local warbirds and aerobatic pilots. The Flying Particles also participated when AOPA held a Regional Fly-In at Livermore Airport in 2019.
An airport open house is a good opportunity to showcase the camaraderie of aviation and flying clubs to the general public, and raise awareness of the club among the pilot community. To learn more about participating in an airport open house, see this month’s Event Spotlight.
The Flying Particles typically put two or three of their aircraft on display and have a tent and a table with information about the club and contact information. They’ll have about 10 or 12 members staff the booth throughout the day with club officers available to talk about the club with anyone who is interested.
“We would get 20 or 30 people that were actively interested in the club,” Elliott said. “They would come back and do a tour of the airplanes and go to a couple of meetings. Some of them decide to join the club and get back into flying.”
Partnering with Other Organizations
In addition to having a booth at the annual open house, club members have participated in programs or partnered with other aviation organizations to educate and inspire youth, as well as encourage participation in aviation and the club. Members have used club aircraft to fly kids as part of the local EAA Chapter’s Young Eagle events.
They also partnered with a Boy Scout Aviation Explorer Post in past years. Elliott was a scoutmaster of a local boy scout troop and when his boys were in scouting, he and a few other club members were involved in the program. They would take the scouts on tours of the control tower, show them the club airplanes and counsel the aviation merit badge.
Being involved with the local scout troop was a way for club members to share their knowledge and passion for aviation by encouraging kids to do interesting things that they might not otherwise be exposed to. It also provided an opportunity for the community to learn more about the value of general aviation. Two of the scouts in the troop went on to get their pilot’s licenses and one is now a check pilot for FedEx.
The Flying Particles also partnered with the local 99s chapter. “Their members are looking to recruit more women into flying and we’re looking to recruit more members into the club,” Elliott said. “It was a synergistic thing. One of the 99 members had a couple of her friends join the club and they are actively flying now.”
Finding opportunities to partner with other organizations, whether they are part of the aviation community or not, can prove beneficial to a club. It’s a way for members to give back and for the club to generate goodwill, and possibly gain new members.
As a member of the airport community, participating in the annual open house has been a successful way to support the airport and recruit new members. It’s a way to make people aware of the club and the opportunities for engaging in aviation at the airport and in the community.
“There is a sense that you want to show support for the airport group, the airport environment,” Elliott said. “The club is an active member. We use the facilities, we are active on the field, we have a number of airplanes and people know us. It’s always nice to be recognized at the events around the airport.”
Livermore Municipal Airport (LVK)
1981 Cessna 152 ($70/hr + $8 half day)
1977 Cessna 172N ($105/hr + $11.75 half day)
1978 Cessna 182Q ($140/hr + $16.50 half day)
1979 Piper Warrior II ($105/hr + $12.50 half day)
1977 Piper Archer II ($110/hr + $12.50 half day)
1977 Piper Archer II ($110/hr + $12.50 half day)
1977 Mooney M20J ($155/hr + $18.50 half day)
Rates are Tach time, wet
$80 per month
243 (approximately 175 active)