In the spring of 2017, some people who lived in Utah were on a rock climbing and mountain biking trip in California. While hanging around the campsite, one person, who had just gotten out of the Navy, said he wanted a career where he could spend a lot of time traveling and climbing the world. Another suggested he become a pilot.
When they returned to Utah, the former sailor decided he did want to fly for a living. His brother-in-law, who made the suggestion, wasn't yet a pilot himself but wanted to be. His wife also expressed interest, so the three of them looked at flight schools but realized learning to fly would be more affordable if they owned their own airplane. Since they knew nothing about aircraft ownership, they eventually applied to join a flying club, even though it was an hour and 20 minute drive from their home.
Unfortunately, the club didn't want more student pilots and rejected their application. The sailor decided to attend a university with an aviation program while the brother-in-law wondered if it would be possible to start a club. That summer, he spent three months and hundreds of hours researching how to start a flying club. He reached out to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and reviewed the website of every club he could find in the United States. When he found a club that really impressed him, he reached out and asked for advice. One of them was the Utah club that rejected their membership but turned out to be supportive and helpful.
That fall, he placed an ad on KSL looking for potential members for the Sopwith Camel Flying Club. He chose the name because while researching clubs, he found a number named after famous airplanes. Every time, he read about their history and learned something. He thought the Sopwith Camel was a beautiful plane, and while growing up, he had always been a fan of the comic strip Peanuts. In it, Snoopy would pretend to fly a Sopwith Camel in duels against the Red Baron in World War I. He thought that with such a unique name, interested people might look it up and learn about aviation history as well.
After hearing from about a dozen people, he planned an organizational meeting at the Glendale library in Salt Lake City. The meeting took place during the LDS Conference, and only three other people showed up.
However, one person who couldn't attend, a pilot with Delta Airlines, knew about a Cessna 182 in Utah that had just gone on sale. Soon after the meeting, they flew the plane and made a deal to buy it pending a pre-buy inspection. Unfortunately, it didn't go well.
Several potential members came to see the plane at the inspection, though, and once they knew the purchase was a no-go, started searching online for another plane to buy. Their goal was to have an aircraft by the end of 2017.
They eventually found a Cessna 172 in Texas, and three of them - the Delta captain, the wanna-be pilot who got the ball rolling, and a 28-year Air Force veteran who also was not a pilot - went in together to buy it. They completed the sale two days after Christmas.
They wrote bylaws, legally established the club, and elected a board. In February, 2018, the club began with seven people - the three co-founders and four others.
The club soon had 15 members and started looking for a second plane. In June, it found a Cessna 150, which was also in Texas, and spent the next few months filling up the membership roster once again.
In November, it found its third plane, a Cessna 182, in Ogden. This time, the club publicly announced on Facebook and in a KSL ad that it was holding an open house. It expected about a dozen people to attend, but that many showed up in the first 15 minutes. Dozens came, and three days later, the club filled up yet again.
With people waiting to join, the club immediately started looking for its fourth plane. The club mechanic recommended a Grumman Tiger that belonged to a local doctor. The club bought the plane in January, 2019. The owner joined the club and became the plane's crew chief. The club had been on the waiting list for shade hanger at South Valley, and ironically, our number came up as we were negotiating the purchase. So we kept the plane there.
This time, the club didn't even hold an open house. It just announced it had more memberships available, and amazingly, the club filled up in just another three days.
That leads us to today. The club has regular social activities, a vibrant membership, and expects to buy its fifth plane in the spring or summer of 2019.
- December, 2017 - The club buys its first aircraft, a Cessna 172, two days after Christmas.
- February, 2018 - We get airborne at KSLC with seven members.
- June, 2018 - We purchase our second plane, a Cessna 150.
- June, 2018 - We hold our first picnic at a park in Salt Lake City.
- July, 2018 - The club's first monthly social / meetup takes place at the Handlebar in Salt
- October, 2018 - We have our first Aircraft Cleaning Party at South Valley Airport.
- November, 2018 - The club buys its first high-performance plane, a Cessna 182. After
holding an open house, the club runs out of 15 new memberships in three days.
- January, 2019 - A Grumman Tiger joins the family at U42. This time, the club doesn't
hold another open house but fills up in three days once again.
- January, 2019 - Because of a government shutdown, air traffic controllers haven't been
paid in nearly a month. Club members pitch in $350 to buy ATC at KSLC breakfast show
how much we appreciate them.
- February, 2019 - We host our first movie night by watching Flying the Feathered Edge at
the Civil Air Patrol headquarters at KSLC.