A gem in Middle Tennessee

(Originally published in the November edition of AOPA Pilot magazine.)

By Armand Vilches

Tucked into the rolling hills of Middle Tennessee is a flying club that is creating excitement in the local flying community. In the course of a year, the Lebanon Flying Club has more than doubled its membership and has added a third aircraft to its fleet. There is a membership wait list, and it too is growing. The driver of the club’s recent growth and success is the combination of dynamic club leadership and three very well-maintained and -equipped aircraft.

The club’s first airplane, a 1970 Cessna 172K, was purchased in 1978 from the FBO at Lebanon Municipal Airport (M54). The airplane is still in the fleet and flying out of the same airport. Over the years, the Skyhawk has been upgraded. First, a 180-horsepower engine was added, and then glass avionics were installed. Now, the 45-year-old airframe is equipped with an Aspen EFD 1000 PFD, a Garmin GNS 430W, and an S-Tec Fifty autopilot with altitude hold.

In 1995 the club members wanted to add an additional airplane to carry them faster and farther. Staying true to the club’s mission for economical flying, a 1978 Gulfstream Aerospace AA-5B Tiger was chosen. It’s speedy, simple, and fun to fly. The Tiger also had its panel upgraded, and it now has the same avionics as those in the Cessna 172.

At each monthly dinner meeting there is a safety officer briefing followed by detailed maintenance reports. This is a welcoming club, and by tradition monthly meetings are open to any nonmember interested in attending. It is not unusual to have one or two guests at each meeting.  

The club found a limit of 12 members per aircraft is the perfect balance. Cross-country trips are encouraged, and members can take an aircraft for up to 72 hours without prior approval.

The club’s leadership dedicates the necessary time to plan for the future. Financial and debt management plans, membership recruitment, and the ability to take advantage of opportunities are always discussed openly. Recently, the club learned of a pristine 1977 Cessna 182Q that was for sale. The leadership, with member approval, acquired the aircraft.

With three aircraft, 36 members, and an active wait list, every member is busy keeping the club moving forward. Club members have a positive and enthusiastic attitude about the future of GA. Club Secretary T.O. Cragwall said of the club’s future: “The sky’s the limit.”

Armand Vilches is a commercial pilot, flight instructor, and member of the Lebanon Flying Club.