Aero Club offers Edwards personnel chance to fly

Chuck Olsen and Shaun Kelley taxi a Cessna to the Edwards Aero Club following a flight. The Edwards Aero Club provides recreational flying instruction and rental services to Edwards members and supports the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School students who need flight hours. The club also provides flight test engineers with the opportunity to get flight experience through the Airmanship Introduction Training Program. (Photo by Senior Airman Jason Hernandez)

Chuck Olsen and Shaun Kelley taxi a Cessna to the Edwards Aero Club following a flight. The Edwards Aero Club provides recreational flying instruction and rental services to Edwards members and supports the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School students who need flight hours. The club also provides flight test engineers with the opportunity to get flight experience through the Airmanship Introduction Training Program. (Photo by Senior Airman Jason Hernandez)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Many people experience flying from the confines of a commercial airline flight, but what would it be like to fly an aircraft yourself?

The Edwards Aero Club exists for those people who ask this question and decide to take it one step further.

"Our primary mission is to provide recreational flight training and airplane rental service to Edwards members," said Doug Botbyl, Aero Club manager. "We also support the Air Force mission by supporting the test pilot school's pilots that need to get flight hours."

The Aero Club is open to all active-duty servicemembers, civilians, dependents and contractors that work for Edwards.

"A student can begin flying at any age, but a student cannot fly solo or get their license until they are 16 years old," Mr. Botbyl said. "After 16, a pilot can get their license at any age if they can pass a flight physical."

The Aero Club's starting program is called Private Pilot. Individuals can also get Instrument Rating, Commercial Pilot License, Multi Engine and Air Transport Pilot.

The club operates four-seat, single engine aircraft such as the Cessna 172S, 182RG and Socata TB-200.

"Everything that we offer here -- once students get their license -- allows them to fly any single engine aircraft under 12,500 pounds," Mr. Botbyl said. "A type rating is required to fly anything bigger than that. Most people don't get that until they are employed by an airline."

The three levels of flying are private pilot, commercial pilot and airline transport pilot, which is the highest level, he said.

"The private pilot program is our main focus because it gets the students going," Mr. Botbyl said. "You need 35 hours minimum to get your license. Twenty hours of that is with an instructor and 15 hours is solo, which is the minimum. However, the average is around 60 hours at our club."

New students receive a ground school kit, said J.D. Moshier, Aero Club operations clerk. The ground kit contains 23 computer-based instruction CD-ROM's, a syllabus, law book and a text version of the CD-ROM. Students take the kit home and load it on their personal computer.

"Any time you want to learn about flying, it's right there," Mr. Botbyl said. "The days of getting into a classroom at a set time and day are gone."

The education office offers 100-percent tuition assistance to active-duty service members, which provides the ground school kit, Mr. Moshier said.

All Aero Club instructors are experienced pilots, Mr. Botbyl said. However, they are always looking for more flight instructors.

Another program the club provides is the Airmanship Introduction Training Program. The program is mainly for new flight test engineers here.

"The engineers are generally not pilots," said Doyl Jancen, manager Airmanship Introduction Training Program, 412th Test Wing. "The overall goal of the program is that we don't put engineers on flying status very much anymore, so our engineers don't get a chance to fly in the jets or to experience the cockpit environment.

Aero Club aircraft are used to get the engineers airborne and get familiar with the area, he said. The flying experience helps them become better flight test engineers and communicate better with the pilots.

"Not everyone that works for the Air Force can fly aircraft," Mr. Jancen said. "Providing an opportunity for pilots to rent aircraft and earn their pilot's license is important for the morale of the base."

For more information on the Edwards Aero Club, call Doug Botbyl at 275-AERO.