Montana pilots with flying club idea start their own

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“Wow—150—that’s pretty cool,” said co-founder Kevin Collom, who began flying lessons in 2018 and recently learned that his club helped the initiative reach the milestone. “I’d read about flying clubs and decided to check into our area because I’d heard there was one here years ago.”

The city has two airports—Kalispell City Airport straddles the south, and Glacier Park International Airport is to the north, “which is closer to me and where I started my flight training,” said Collom.

Future founder Mike Whitehill, based at Kalispell City Airport, volunteered during the 2018 AOPA Fly-In at Missoula International Airport and attended a “Maximum Fun—Minimum Cost” flying club seminar. He hoped to duplicate his Minnesota flying club experience after a move out West and huddled with AOPA Flying Clubs Initiative Director Steve Bateman for additional advice.

“Mike found me in Missoula, and we chatted about it,” recalled Bateman. “Lots of phone calls and encouragement” followed. “Because we work with individuals, we know others who have common aviation goals, and we’re able to put them together. That’s exactly what happened with Kevin and Mike.”

“I remember Steve asking, ‘How close are you to Lakeside, Montana?’ because he heard from another pilot who was thinking about starting a flying club at Kalispell City Airport,” said Collom. When the two finally connected, “We said, ‘Shoot, this is a no-brainer. ’ We kind of put our heads together and said, ‘Let’s move forward.’ It’s awesome. We’re pretty happy.”

“We love all of our new clubs,” said Bateman, who founded his own flying club in Maryland centered around a 1980 Cessna 152 Aerobat. “Bald Eagle went through tough times trying to find members and then they made a leap of faith,” explained Bateman. “They bought the airplane, they created the club, and as soon as other people could see that it was real, they became believers,” too.

Bald Eagle Aviation Club operates the 182 with a Horton STOL conversion for better performance at high-altitude airports. Monthly dues are $150, and members are charged a $120 wet rate per tachometer hour. The initial club membership is $2,050 and is transferable. There are currently seven members, and the group has been up and running for about four months, said Collom, who added that scheduling the aircraft among the members hasn’t been a problem despite a flurry of recent activity. “We just graduated our first student about two

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