Flying club helps pilots soar away from it all
BY LARRY HLAVENKA JR.
LAKEWOOD - Ask those who can fly an airplane what it
feels like and they will wax poetic about the sense of being
free - even when the cost to do so is nowhere near the
|PHOTOS BY CHRIS KELLY staff Steve
Krapes of Middletown sprays down a plane that was
washed by members of the Monmouth Area Flying Club
during its annual "Plane Wash" on May 20. The club
is based at the Lakewood
But the Monmouth Area Flying Club (MAFC),
headquartered at Lakewood Airport, prides itself on keeping
costs down to extend the feeling of freedom to anyone,
according to Board of Trustees member Eric Doeler of
Despite living in an age in which fuel and
insurance costs have soared, the MAFC has seen "a resurgence
of people wanting to join," Doeler said.
The club owns, maintains and insures five
aircraft and has about 100 members from the region, including
members from New York City. The MAFC owns two Cessna four-seat
planes, two Piper four-seat planes and a Cessna two-seat
plane; $35 in monthly dues, a $400 initiation fee and the cost
of "fly time" gets a person airborne, according to
"[Prospective members] need a sponsor in the club, but
if someone comes in off the street, we'll hook them up with
someone. It's not for everybody, but it's for anybody that has
a desire to do it. The club is perfect for that person," he
|Stephanie Shonk of Allentown towel
dries one of the five planes owned by the Monmouth
Area Flying Club. The club, which has about 100
members, flies out of Lakewood
According to Doeler, the club was started in
the late 1950s by personnel at Fort Monmouth, Eatontown, and
had something to do with training military pilots.
In the 1960s the military intended to ground
the flying club, but a group of members rallied behind the
organization and it was allowed to continue. Eventually, the
flying group moved to Marlboro Airport and became the
nonprofit, private club it remains today.
The Marlboro Airport was closed several years
ago, sending the Monmouth club to Lakewood, Ocean
"We are a group of people that always had a
desire to fly," Doeler said. "We all share in expenses and we
basically rent the planes from ourselves. We concentrate on
After a person is admitted to what Doeler
described as a laid-back club, the student will begin his or
"We'll give them a list of instructors and let
them conduct their own interview process," he said. "You have
to pick someone that works with you. You have to go with your
gut if you like flying with them for a few hours."
Doeler, who has been charged with helping many
of the new members, said, "you fly right away in the pilot's
seat, the left seat. You're flying from the first time you get
in the plane; to what extent depends on your own
Pilots train to obtain a license, a process
which comes easier from some people and harder for
"It typically takes 50 to 90 hours [of
training] unless someone is ultra sharp with the mental and
physical [aspects] of flying," Doeler explained. "Youth
usually wins. Us old guys, when we get it, we get it pretty
One a pilot has his license the sky's the
limit. He is free to enjoy things like the $100 Atlantic City
Doeler said many pilots make trips to places
like Atlantic City just to grab a $4 snack. With the plane
rental fee, the trip ends up costing $100. Thus, the $100
hamburger was born.
A plane's hourly rental rate to a pilot
includes maintenance, insurance and fuel costs and ranges from
about $70 to about $93 per hour. This set-up does not require
a pilot to own his own plane or provide his own
Doeler said Lakewood Airport is an ideal
location for beginners.
"It's open down here, it's a great place to
fly," he said, noting that Marlboro Airport, on Route 79, was
known for difficult navigation.
The Lakewood Airport will be undergoing
improvements with a $700,000 grant from the Federal Aviation
Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation. The
state Department of Transportation has provided a $150,000
grant for the removal of stumps and brush at the end of each
runway and $200,000 to repair cracks and markings on runways
and to install Runway End Indicator Lights.
"For me and anyone who does it, it's an
absolute blast," Doeler said of his membership in the flying
club. "I always wanted to fly."
He said pilots love "the joy of flying, the
people we meet and the freedom."
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