Sunday, July 2, 2017

Crosswinds Flying Club at Central Illinois Regional Airport (KBMI), Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois

Crosswinds still flying high after 50 years

Brian Arends, right, spend time with his 11-month-old daughter Maggie during the Crosswinds Flying Club's open house at Central Illinois Regional Airport (KBMI) in Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois. Brian Arends is the secretary of the club, which is celebrating its 50th year. 

BLOOMINGTON — Celebrating the 50th anniversary of a flying club calls for something special, so Craig Cullen, chairman of the Crosswinds Flying Club, and five other pilots did just that.

On the evening before the club's celebratory open house at Central Illinois Regional Airport in June, they used three of Crosswinds' four planes to make 50 take-offs and 50 landings for the 50 years of the Bloomington-based club.

And they turned it into a fundraiser, collecting about $1,500 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Bill Wyze, a flight instructor and Ozark Airlines pilot, organized the club in 1967 with one Piper Cherokee, according to club member Mark Rayburn. Now the club has four Piper airplanes.

The 30-member club is diverse in age and backgrounds. Most are local professionals, living within 30 miles of Bloomington-Normal, said board member Brian Arends of Mahomet.

Crosswinds Flying Club treasurer Charlie Bates, left, prepares a meal to deliver to the Central Illinois Regional Airport tower operators during the Crosswinds Flying Club's open house June 17tth in the airport's EAA hangar.

Arends is a John Deere dealer in Gibson City. Cullen teaches math education at Illinois State University. The club also includes a few commercial pilots, doctors, engineers, an insurance agent and someone who drives a garbage truck. The youngest is 18 and several are in their 60s, said Arends.

What they have in common is a love of flying.

Being part of a club “makes it a lot more fun,” said Cullen. “You have friends you wouldn't have known without flying.”

Arends said getting together to swap flying stories is part of the fun.

For example, there was the time Arends flew to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to watch the football team from his alma mater, Texas A&M, play the University of Alabama. The airport is “definitely smaller” than CIRA and “nothing goes on there — except when there's a home football game,” said Arends.

He was a bit rattled when he found himself with “12 planes … lined up to go into this small airport,” he recalled.

Paul Krueger holds a plaque that the  Crosswinds Flying Club received from the Bloomington-Normal Airport Authority, commemorating the club's 50 years.  Paul Krueger is one of the club's directors.

The air traffic controller told him to come in behind the three planes directly in front of him, then quickly get off the runway and roll onto the grass.

“It was a learning experience,” he said.

Cullen likes using the club planes to visit his family in the Chicago area or his wife's family in the St. Louis area. It doesn't necessarily save time, he said, but “it makes the travel more enjoyable.”

But even travel closer to home can be enjoyable.

“Just flying into Bloomington-Normal at night and seeing all the lights in beautiful,” said Cullen. “And watching a sunset from the air, you get a new perspective.”

The shared “genuine love of flying” is part of the club's “formula for success,” said Arends. When something is needed, there is always someone to pitch in, he said.

Cullen said other reasons for the club's success is the low “buy-in” and stable dues, with the inclusion of flight time each month to encourage members to fly.

“We're open to new members,” said Cullen. “It's a great group to be part of.”

For each plane to which members want access, they pay a $500 “buy-in,” explained Cullen. Buy-in for a student pilot is $250, he said. Base level dues are $75 a month plus $90 for two hours of flight time, which can be banked up to 24 hours. Additional flight time costs $45 to $80, depending on which plane is used, plus the cost of fuel.

The inclusion of flight time in the monthly fees is designed to “encourage our members to fly,” said Cullen, noting it is a matter of safety.

“We want people in our club to be flying,” he said. “You need to fly sometime to be proficient.”

Although the club is diverse in age and professions, it has few female members. That's more a reflection of society than a lack of welcome from the club.

A 2015 article in Air & Space, a Smithsonian publication, noted that only 4.2 percent of U.S. pilots with an “other-than-student” pilot certificate were women.

As someone who teaches future math teachers, Cullen sees the same problem in in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math. But with increased efforts nationally to encourage more women in STEM, Cullen hopes there is a spillover effect.

“I look forward to a future when we have more women pilots,” he said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Poor safety practice having the child sitting so near the prop. Come on guy!