Yellow Jackets Soar to New Heights in Flying Club

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If you’ve ever gazed longingly at a small plane flying overhead and thought, “I’d like to be up there,” there’s a group of fellow yellow jackets eager to help make your dream a reality — the Yellow Jacket Flying Club (YJFC).

Leihong Li, a research engineer in the School of Aerospace Engineering, became involved with the club a year ago because she wanted to have hands-on experience to better understand her research.

“A lot of aircraft designers and engineers never actually fly,” Li said. “It wasn’t until I started flying that I really began to understand the theories behind, for example, aerodynamics and structure. Now, I’m more effective when I explain these concepts to students.”

The YJFC was founded in 1946 by students who served as pilots in World War II. It is the nation’s oldest college-affiliated flying club, said Jud Ready, outgoing faculty advisor to YJFC and a principal research engineer at Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).

Ready became involved with the club as a student in the late 1990s and later rejoined when he accepted the job at GTRI in 2003.

“We’re here to support any member of the Tech community — students, faculty, staff and alumni — who loves flying, whether they are licensed pilots, looking to earn a license or just want to be around planes,” Ready said. “Actually, about 80 percent of new members have never flown a plane.”

The club currently has more than 150 members and owns four planes. YJFC meets Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m. in room 211 of the Instructional Center.

Each meeting kicks off with a half-hour executive committee meeting where new members are admitted and budget, program planning and maintenance issues are discussed. Then, a one- to two-hour program related to aviation follows that might feature a guest speaker or film.

Beyond the meetings, members can schedule lessons, volunteer to clean and maintain the planes or rent the planes as their schedules permit.

There are costs associated with being a member of YJFC, but Ready points out that they are significantly less than what a person would pay who was not a member.

“For example, people who want to earn a pilot’s license would usually pay about $50 an hour for an instructor, whereas we charge $25,” he said. “And the cost of using a plane is usually around $150 an hour — with fuel and oil included — whereas we charge under $100 for the same.”

Annual dues for nonstudents are $90, and nonstudent members also pay a quarterly scheduling fee of about $100, which covers fixed costs, insurance fees, aircraft parking, flight planning facilities at the club’s home airport, four headsets per place, aeronautical charts, and access to the online plane reservation system. (These costs are on a tiered system, so students pay less for dues.)

Recently, the club moved its home base from the Fulton County Airport to DeKalb Peachtree Airport (PDK). The move will likely save YJFC about $30,000 a year, primarily in fuel costs.

“We have more maintenance options at PDK, and it’s also a more convenient location, given many club members live in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, and there is a MARTA station less than a mile away,” Ready added.

Anyone interested in joining the club is invited to attend one of the Tuesday meetings.

“Don’t let your worries get in the way of giving flying a shot,” Ready said. “Flying a small plane is a liberating experience that everyone should have. Come out and join us.”

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  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Amelia Pavlik
  • Created:04/02/2012
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016