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  • Rogue Valley Flying Club hopes for smooth takeoff and enough support to stay airborne

    Club's kickoff event is planned for June 1
  • The first step for local pilots and flight enthusiasts who want to have a nonprofit flying club in the Rogue Valley could be showing up.
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  • The first step for local pilots and flight enthusiasts who want to have a nonprofit flying club in the Rogue Valley could be showing up.
    The new Rogue Valley Flying Club will hold a kickoff event for prospective members on Saturday, June 1. The group will serve pilots, flight students and other aircraft enthusiasts with workshops, seminars and social events, and provide affordable access to aircraft, said Don Karpen, flight instructor and president of the organization.
    The organization plans to lease a Piper Warrior airplane and rent it out to members for $90 an hour, which would include fuel, insurance and other expenses.
    Karpen says other options are scarce and start at $110 an hour."It's a significant discount," said Karpen.
    "We've got a nice airport here, but we have a very small selection of aircraft available to us," organization spokesman Don Hickman said. "I can only think of two that are available for instruction."
    Karpen admits he has a challenge on his hands, because it'll take more than pilots attending the group's kickoff event to get the club off the ground. Pilots and student pilots who want access to the organization's plane would need to pay a one-time fee of $750, along with membership dues of $50 a month. "It's one thing to say you're interested, but it's another thing to plop out 750 bucks," Karpen said.
    With documents ready to file with the Federal Aviation Administration and the IRS for nonprofit status, the next step for Karpen and about 15 other individuals who have been working on the idea for the past couple months is gauging interest from possible members.
    "This is a more cost-effective alternative to owning an aircraft," Hickman said, adding it would cost about $30,000 to purchase an airplane, plus insurance, fuel and maintenance costs.
    "For a reasonable buy-in, all that stuff is covered," Hickman said. "What you're paying for is the hourly fee on the aircraft. That's pretty reasonable."
    Karpen said the organization has all the "parts and pieces" to make a successful program, including dedicated volunteers, articles of incorporation, bylaws and a scheduling program. An airplane mechanic would be the only paid position.
    "Everything is pretty much in place," he said. "It's a big deal because we're very close."
    Office and hangar space would be at Million Air in Medford.
    "We have office space, we have a group meeting room, and they have hangar space for the aircraft," he said. "They fit with us as far as our standards go."
    The club also will offer a membership tier for local pilots and flight enthusiasts who aren't interested in access to the plane.
    "That associate membership is going to cost 15 bucks a month," he said. "We think that's pretty reasonable for all ages and income levels."
    At that level, members — who wouldn't be required to have a pilot's license or their own aircraft — would be able to attend workshops on topics such as GPS basics and using an iPad in aviation, hear from guest speakers, participate in flyout events, and enjoy the camaraderie of other pilots.
    "It's also for people who are thinking about becoming a pilot," Hickman said.
    He suggested that newcomers could pair up with a peer pilot or get information from one of the instructors within the organization.
    "This is a big deal for folks in this valley who otherwise couldn't afford to fly," Karpen said.
    The Rogue Valley Flying Club kickoff event is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Hangar 2080, west of Million Air, 2040 Milligan Way, Medford. Hamburgers and hot dogs will be served, and pilots will be available to answer questions about flight and the flying club.
    "We're just looking for some enthusiastic folks who are interested in aviation to come and share that experience," Hickman said. "They can get all the nuts and bolts of how the flying club works."
    For more information about the club, call Hickman at 541-944-2292.
    Reach newsroom assistant Nick Morgan at nmorgan@mailtribune.com.
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