Students learn about Elk Flyers Club

Cutline:Photos by Becky PolaskiGroups of sixth graders from St. Marys Area Middle School toured the St. Marys Airport on Wednesday. Pictured on the left is the group from the morning tour while the afternoon group is pictured on the right. Students learn about Elk Flyers ClubBy Becky PolaskiStaff WriterSince 1984 the Elk Flyers Club has provided a number of benefits for area aviation enthusiasts. Carl Lang, one of the club's 22 members, discussed the history and benefits of the organization with sixth graders from St. Marys Area Middle School during their annual visit to the airport on Wednesday afternoon. The students had the chance to view two of the club's three airplanes, all of which are kept in a hanger at the airport that was constructed by club members a number of years ago. "We had a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation through the Airport Authority and the Elk Flyers members actually put together the hangar," Lang said. Lang explained that the initial fee and monthly dues paid by club members provide them with a number of benefits, including access to the three planes. "It also provides the individual with $1 million in liability insurance and it provides insurance at market value for all the airplanes so if they're damaged they're also repairable under the insurance policy," Lang said. "After one year in the club, a member is entitled to a share of stock in the club and it's prorated on the basis of length of membership, so as time goes on everybody has a share in the operation."Lang added that club members also occasionally participate in benefit activities, such as when club members provided airport rides for area residents on Oct. 3 in conjunction with the Bavarian Fall Fest. "We gave 58 people rides that day between the three airplanes. A lot of them were first-time flyers. Some of them had been up before and came back for another ride," Lang said. He noted that individuals often ask why the club does not hold similar events more frequently and explained that they are limited by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in what they are permitted to do. "Because most of us are not commercial pilots, we can't charge [for a plane ride]. On Aviation Awareness Days the FAA waives that rule and allows us to charge," Lang said. Additionally, Lang indicated that the funds from such an event are required to benefit an organization or cause. "Excess funds we received that day [Oct. 3] over and above our costs were given to the Crystal Fire Department, so it was for the benefit of the fire department that we put on the event," Lang said. Lang also noted that Elk Flyers Club members are willing to provide airplane rides to people any time, but on a cost-shared basis. "We can't charge you, so it's strictly whatever you feel it's worth," Lang said. Club members also arrange orientation flights for people interested in joining the Elk Flyers, and while individuals have to be at least 16 years old to hold a pilot's license, he noted that they can learn to fly at almost any age. Of the club's 22 members, Lang remarked that one is currently in training at the Air Force Academy, two are flight instructors, three are student pilots, one is a former fighter pilot, one is a former international helicopter pilot and current glider pilot and the rest are private pilots in various stages of advancement and rating.In addition to touring the Elk Flyers Club's hangar, students also visited Cloud 9 Aerosports, the airport administration building and a building utilized by Caruso's Flying Service.