History of the Fort Meade Flying Activity1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s
The Fort Meade Flying Club (FMFC) was established in the summer of 1957 to provide affordable flight training and aircraft rentals for active duty and retired military and Department of Defense civilian personnel. The five airplanes which comprised the Club's initial fleet were donated by the U.S. Army, but had to be converted at Club expense from military certification to certification for private use. They included two Piper L-21 Super Cubs, which initially rented for $4 per hour, and three Ryan L-17 Navions, which cost $8 per hour. These charges included the cost of fuel and oil. The Club began with about 125 members, who paid an initiation fee of $30 and monthly dues of $3.1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s Home
Facilities and Operations
For the first four years of its existence, the FMFC operated from a macadam airstrip located roughly in the middle of Fort Meade. A trailer served as Club headquarters and aircraft were refueled from a tanker truck. The runway was aligned along a northeast-southwest axis and was intersected near its northern end by MacArthur Boulevard and near its southern end by Mapes Road. Before planes could take off or land, gates similar to those used at railroad crossings had to be lowered across both roads to stop vehicular traffic. On occasion, it was necessary for incoming aircraft to fly by the tower, engine revving and wings wagging, to alert a preoccupied controller that cars were still crossing the runway.
A Board of Governors was elected to direct the operations of the Club. The Board had the authority to set rates and to purchase aircraft; one of its members, the Custodian, authorized expenditures. It was not long, however, before the new Board learned some hard lessons in economics. For one thing, Club members were initially allowed to charge their aircraft rentals, dues, and instructor's fees. As a result, within two years the Club was owed more than $5,000, much of which could not be collected because debtor members had been discharged or reassigned. Moreover, the Board learned that, at $8 an hour, the Navions were losing $4 for every hour they flew, and the Super Cubs, at $4 an hour, were hardly breaking even. There was no monetary reserve for repairs and replacements.
The Club's depressed financial state nearly led to a declaration of insolvency by the Post Inspector General. Faced with dissolution, the Board of Governors took immediate action: Initiation fees were raised to $50; monthly dues were increased to $10; and rentals were put on a "pay as you go" basis. The three high-maintenance Navions were given to other Army flying clubs to further reduce the deficit. These drastic measures resulted in an immediate drop in membership of about forty percent, but the core of sixty persons who remained were truly dedicated to flying and willing to shoulder the burden of increased costs. When the financial situation improved, the Club purchased a used J-3 Cub for $900 and a new four-place Piper Tri-Pacer for $8,000.
Instructors and Training
The vast majority of the initial membership consisted of student pilots who required basic flight training. The first Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) used by the Club in 1957 was one H.V. Klipa, who later joined the FAA General Aviation District Office at BWI Airport. Other CFIs in these early years included Rudy Rogers, Sgt. Jack Myers, John Bouder, and Helen Duffy. Miss Duffy was an acquaintance of the famous aviatrix, Amelia Earhart, and served as a ferry pilot during WWII. She had more flying hours to her credit than any of the Army pilots at Fort Meade, including the airfield commander. One of these CFIs was quite a large person (nearly 300 pounds, reportedly) and the Club's little J-3 Cub, with its 65-horsepower Continental engine, was hard-pressed to lift instructor and student. For the services they rendered to the fledgling airmen, CFIs received payment of $3.00 an hour.
During this period, FMFC members were able to use a Link Trainer belonging to the Army. It was housed just off Mapes Road in a small building which also served as a Club classroom and meeting place. The Link, a simulator used in WWII to train cadets in instrument flying procedures, was in the shape of a stubby little monoplane mounted on a pedestal. The student sat closed inside it while an air bellows and mechanical actuators jerked the craft around. On one memorable occasion, an FMFC student in the trainer unexpectedly entered a simulated spin. Completely unnerved and disoriented by the experience, he made a frantic leap to escape from the Link, breaking his leg in the process.Back to Top
Facilities and Operations
In 1961 the FMFC moved to the just-completed Tipton Army Airfield (AAF) in the southern part of Fort Meade. The Club's trailer was repositioned near the control tower at the western end of the airfield. This tower directed traffic during daylight hours, five days a week. In addition to a tower radio frequency (127.0 MHz), a ground control frequency was used sporadically. Some Club aircraft, however, were not equipped with radios, and their pilots relied exclusively on light signals from the tower for permission to taxi, take off, and land. The concrete runway at Tipton was 3000 feet long and 75 feet wide, and provided plenty of room for novices to practice touch-and-goes. Military operations at Tipton had precedence over all others, and on occasion Club flights would be prohibited because of intensive helicopter training.
The Club entered the 1960s with a fleet of four aircraft: three Piper Cubs (two L-21 Super Cubs and one J-3), which were used for primary students, and one Piper Tri-Pacer used principally for cross-country trips by licensed pilots. Over the next ten years, the inventory expanded to include a Piper Colt, a Piper Cherokee, a Beech Musketeer, a Taylorcraft, two more Piper J-3 Cubs, and several Cessna 150s. Some of these airplanes had no electrical systems and had to be started by the always exciting process of hand-propping. Those that lacked an electrical system also lacked communications and navigation radios. A few planes in the fleet had a navigational aid consisting of a low frequency receiver which picked up "A" (dit-dah) and "N" (dah-dit) Morse code signals transmitted from ground beacons. If a pilot heard an "A" or an "N", he was either to the right or left of his selected course. When the signals merged to a steady tone, he was right "on the beam". Most members shed few tears when this equipment was replaced by very high frequency omnidirectional range (VOR) receivers as the decade wore on.
Before the 1960s ended, all the Piper Cubs were lost: One of the Super Cubs was demolished at Suburban Airport in a collision with a steamroller that had backed onto the runway. The unhappy pilot in that incident, an instructor, broke both legs and subsequently gave up his flying profession. The second Super Cub experienced engine failure on takeoff and crashed off Runway 28 at Tipton. A Piper J-3 became an insurance write-off when it stalled on the departure climb, and another J-3, which had been improperly tied down, cartwheeled down a Fort Meade street during a fierce windstorm to end up as a pile of debris.
Instructors and Training
Joe Susi joined the instructor force in 1966. This was to be the start of more than 30 years of association with the Club, much of that time (23 years) as the Chief Flight Instructor. Mr. Susi, who earned his private pilot license, commercial pilot license, and instructor rating after completing a three-year tour of duty in a P-61 Black Widow unit in WWII, brought an encyclopedic knowledge of aviation and years of flying experience to the job. In his career he logged thousands of hours of flight time in more than forty different types of aircraft.
During the 1960s (and well into the 1970s) primary flight training centered on aircraft handling. In addition to basic maneuvers, students were taught how to recover from two or three full spins. Some even learned to do this while wearing an IFR hood. In these years, before land development had gobbled up most of the farmers' fields in the local flying area, students simulating emergency landings could descend to a few feet above an open field before being told to apply power and climb out. Instructors insisted that students be able to fly cross-country legs by "dead reckoning" i.e. navigating with only chart, compass, and clock. Headsets and intercomms were non-existent. Communications inside the cockpit consisted of shouting and gesticulating. A novice taildragger pilot might receive a sharp tap on the shoulder (or head) as a signal that the instructor in the rear wanted to take over the controls - -immediately. One of the most popular routes which instructors assigned for the required 300 mile cross-country solo flight was from Tipton AAF to Ocean City Airport, New Jersey, to Accomack County Airport, Virginia, and back to Tipton. This route gave students a chance to have their logbooks endorsed at Accomack County by an elderly gentleman named Orville Wright. He was not the same man who, with his brother Wilbur, ushered in the era of powered flight, but pilots nevertheless liked to collect his signature as a conversation piece.Back to Top Beginning 1950s 1960s 1980s 1990s 2000s
Facilities and Operations
The Club moved twice in this decade. The first time was in 1970 when construction of Hangar 90 required relocation of the trailer and aircraft from the western end of Tipton to a site near the easternmost end of the runway. Operations continued there for five years. This site contained fuel pumps and tie-downs for Club aircraft, as well as those belonging to private owners.
The second move occurred in 1975 and was necessitated by construction of yet another hangar. The new location was back toward the western end of the airfield, on Airport Road. Initially, a trailer was rented for $125 a month, but soon after the move, the Civil Air Patrol loaned one of its trailers to the FMFC at no cost. This facility, while providing a place to set up desks and store some files and equipment, still lacked amenities such as running water, toilet, and fully functioning heat and air conditioning. At the time of the move, Club membership had reached 265 persons and the fleet had grown to fourteen aircraft.
Following the second relocation, the airfield commander authorized the use of fourteen of the fifteen helipads located along Tipton's taxiway for use as tiedown areas for Club aircraft. (Members having private airplanes at Tipton were compelled to move to other fields until a taxiway and ramp were constructed near the Clubhouse.) The helipads were located at some distance from the Clubhouse and most of them could be reached only by traversing a deep drainage ditch. In rainy weather the ditch flooded, and only the most athletic could consistently leap across the muck. Enterprising Club members attacked the problem with a rickety arrangement of boards and cinder blocks laid across the width of the ditch. Its builders whimsically dubbed it the "Bridge Over the River Kwai".
The FMFC lost its fueling facilities when it moved from the eastern end of Tipton. Until new ones could be obtained, members had to top off their tanks at Montgomery County, Bay Bridge, Suburban, or Freeway Airports, where the Club maintained credit cards. This situation lasted from 1975 to 1978, at which time installation of new underground fuel tanks was completed, at a cost to the membership of more than $40,000. At about the same time, construction of a taxiway, ramp, and tiedowns was carried out, for an additional $22,000.
Prior to every flight, pilots had to go to the operations building to get a face-to-face weather briefing and to file a flight plan with the sergeant in charge. Operations personnel, not the pilot, opened and closed the flight plan with the Leesburg Flight Service Station.
The traffic at Tipton was a busy mix of military helicopters and fixed wing aircraft of local Army, Navy, and Air Force flying clubs. Five aircraft in the landing pattern were not uncommon. Twin-rotored Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters hovered for long periods over the runway while Army pilots practiced lifting heavy loads or disgorging troops who rappelled down ropes. Club pilots on short final learned to expect a "go-around" command from the tower as part of the normal routine.
During this decade it was Club policy to purchase airplanes new from the factory. When the engine reached its overhaul date, it was replaced with a new one. And when the replacement engine was halfway to its mandatory overhaul time, the airplane would be sold.
Under this policy a variety of factory-fresh aircraft were brought into the inventory. The Club purchased additional Cessna 150s (including an Aerobat), Cessna 152s, Cessna 172s, and Bellanca Citabrias. In addition, the U.S. Army donated two used Cessna T-41Bs and two Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs. The T-41Bs were four-place aircraft with constant speed propellers; the O-1s were two-place tailwheel aircraft. The military planes, especially the Bird Dogs, were worn and weary and proved to be an expensive maintenance headache. Parachutes were available to members for part of this time, and many Club pilots got their introduction to the thrills and skills of aerobatics in the Aerobat and Citabrias. In the early 1970s members could rent a Cessna 150 for $7.50 an hour and a Bellanca Citabria for $6.00 an hour. By the end of the decade the Cessna 150 cost $14 an hour and the Citabria cost $16.
Four airplanes were lost to accidents during the 1970s: One of the Citabrias was severely damaged during a landing at Tipton when its wing struck an anemometer (a device for measuring wind velocity) near the runway edge. The anemometer was subsequently moved to a more remote location in the grass center strip. A second Citabria was destroyed on a Christmas Day when its pilot made a forced landing in a snowstorm near the Solberg VOR in New Jersey. In a strange coincidence, two Cessna 172s were wrecked in one year under nearly identical circumstances: pilots in both cases ran into deteriorating weather and put down in farmers' fields; both incidents occurred in Ohio; and both pilots were accompanied on the flight by their wife and child.Back to Top Beginning 1950s 1960s 1970s 1990s 2000s Home
Facilities and Operations
Having outgrown the trailer, the Club in 1981 purchased a WWII-era "temporary" structure located in the old hospital area on Fort Meade for $10,000. The entire frame building (designated "T-90" in the Army inventory) was trucked in two halves to its new site opposite the trailer and reassembled by U.S. Army engineers. For the first time, members and their guests enjoyed a Club facility with the luxuries of indoor plumbing, air conditioning, and heat. In addition to an office for the Club manager and secretary, there was space for a flight simulator and a pilot lounge area. Members volunteered their time, labor and resources to paint the interior, lay carpeting, and install drapes and other niceties. Later improvements included the FMFC's first computers, a DUATS (Direct User Access Terminal System) hookup, and electronic door locks for security. The abandoned trailer reverted to the Civil Air Patrol.
The FMFC was joined at its new Clubhouse by the Navy Annapolis Flying Club (NAFC), which had moved all its aircraft from BWI Airport to Tipton AAF in the summer of 1980. In addition to sharing facilities, agreements were made whereby members of either club could fly the other's aircraft.
In the mid-1980s, in accordance with a new Army policy, the garrison commander directed that all non-appropriated fund activities at Fort Meade be merged into an Installation Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Fund (IMWRF). Any private activity with an inventory of $50,000 or more was obligated either to join IMWRF or depart Fort Meade. At this time, the FMFC was one of a total of sixteen U.S. Army flying clubs operating as non-appropriated fund activities.
Thus, in July 1987 the Fort Meade Flying 'Club' became the Fort Meade Flying 'Activity' (FMFA), and its $212,000 inventory was absorbed by IMWRF. The first consequence of this change was that the FMFA was required to pay $163,000 as a depreciation cost for its aircraft, even though all of them were completely paid for before the establishment of IMWRF.
Under IMWRF, upgrades to Club facilities were made during the period 1989-1991 with the installation of an above-ground 10,000 gallon fuel tank, two pumps, and their associated security system ($72,000), construction of three additional aircraft parking pads ($5,400), and the addition of crushed stone to a vehicle parking area in front of the Clubhouse ($2,500).
IMWRF required that day-to-day administration of the FMFA be carried out by a paid Manager, rather than a volunteer Board of Governors. The Board of Governors became an Advisory Council which passed its recommendations to the Manager. From 1987 to 1992 three persons were hired as Managers, each serving for a relatively short time. The FMFA experienced a noticeable decline during this period, with fewer hours of flying, a drop in morale, and a decrease in membership to 136 persons. Turnaround occurred in 1992 with the hiring of Charlie Kirsch as FMFA Manager. Mr. Kirsch worked diligently with the maintenance officer to upgrade equipment and reduce the time that aircraft were grounded for repairs. He instituted incentives to encourage more flying, increase profitability, attract new members, and restore esprit de corps. In a relatively short time, membership once again exceeded 200.
The tower at Tipton, which had been a fixture to hundreds of fliers, was shut down permanently by the U.S. Army in 1989 and members were required to adopt the "see and avoid" survival tactics prevailing at any uncontrolled airfield.
By the early 1980s, all the Club's Cessna 150s were replaced with Cessna 152s. The 152s came with flaps having a maximum deflection of 30 degrees, versus a 40 degree maximum for the 150s. A mechanical flap setting indicator which was located on the left windscreen post in the 150 was eliminated in the 152 and replaced by a three-stop lever setting on the instrument panel. Also, the air speed indicator in the 152 was calibrated in knots, rather than miles per hour. Prices on the Cessna 152s purchased during this time ranged from $18,500 to $36,400. The cost to fly one of them in 1982 was $19 an hour. During this decade, Cessna, Piper, and Beech stopped manufacturing relatively affordable two-place aircraft, and the prices on their four-place aircraft shot up astronomically. The last airplane that the Club bought new from the factory was a Cessna 152, N95415, acquired in 1984.
In 1986 the Club purchased a used four-place Piper Arrow from a seller in California. Equipped with constant-speed propeller, retractable landing gear, and IFR instrumentation, the Arrow was the airplane in which many Club pilots would earn their instrument ratings and commercial pilot certificates.
Responding to a trend (see Instructors and Training, below), the FMFA began to equip more of its aircraft with dual radios, advanced avionics, and intercomms.
Instructors and Training
Training took a noticeably different tack in the 1980s. Many members who had earned their private pilot certificate in the 60s and 70s now wanted to begin work on an instrument rating, commercial pilot certificate, or flight instructor certificate. Thus, a growing percentage of instruction was directed toward IFR flight and maneuvers in complex, high-performance aircraft (primarily the Piper Arrow). Headsets and intercomms had become commonplace and communication between instructor and student was a less hectic endeavor. Actual spin training was replaced by "spin awareness" demonstrations. A large cadre of instructors was available to the FMFA during this time, many of whom went on to become airline transport pilots and military jet pilots.
Events of Note
An aperiodic newsletter, the "Fly Paper" was instituted in 1982. The first editions were largely the work of member Pete Johnson, who used an early model personal computer to publish and illustrate lively articles on aviation history, club events, personal flight experiences, and safety. Under a succession of editors and contributors, the "Fly Paper" continued to inform members for the next ten years.
Film Crew Visit
A movie crew invaded Tipton AAF in the summer of 1987 to film a scene for the epic television series "War and Remembrance". Club pilots who found themselves grounded for the day's shooting wandered to the eastern end of the airfield to gawk at Hollywood legend Robert Mitchum as he spoke his lines in front of a North American B-25 Mitchell bomber, a Douglas C-47 transport, and Tipton's Hangar 84. The scene, which took most of the day to film, occupied about eighty seconds of the finished production.
Base Realignment and Closure
In 1988 the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission decided to close Tipton AAF and transfer ownership of the airstrip and some surrounding land to Anne Arundel County government. County officials announced their plans to reopen the field as a general aviation airport. This BRAC action would lead to, among other things, the expulsion of the FMFA from Fort Meade in 1995.Back to Top Beginning 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 2000s
Facilities and Operations
Before Tipton AAF could be transferred to county government under Public Law 100-526 (better known as the Base Realignment and Closure Act), environmental cleanup of the area had to be completed. This entailed removal of all unexploded ordnance from the land adjoining the airstrip, which was once part of an artillery range. A contractor was hired to begin munitions removal after the Department of the Army decommissioned and closed Tipton AAF on September 30, 1995. By that date the FMFA had to vacate the airfield, so, to continue flying, the general membership voted to relocate to Lee Airport at Edgewater, Maryland. As the deadline loomed, members used a convoy of trucks and automobiles to transfer the Club's equipment and supplies to a dilapidated old hangar adjacent to a building housing a helicopter unit of the Anne Arundel County Police. From October through December, volunteers led by then Chief Flight Instructor David Fairhurst installed drywall, insulation, air ducts, telephone lines, lighting, and carpeting, transforming a veritable disaster area into a comfortable Clubhouse. The former Clubhouse, Building T-90, was demolished by Army engineers. Because of limitations on numbers of tiedowns at Lee Airport, only the FMFA and NAFC-owned airplanes could be parked there. Owners of private aircraft in the FMFA were faced once again with finding tiedowns at other airfields. In the period immediately following the move, membership dipped. Some people resigned because they found the new location to be inconvenient, while others were daunted by the shorter runway (2500 feet) and the tall trees at Lee's west end. However, there was an influx of new members from the Andrews Aero Club when that organization disbanded, and by the end of 1997 membership had climbed back up, to 240. While based at Lee, the Club enjoyed ready access to the mechanics at Chesapeake Aviation. This, plus the prodigious efforts of the Club's longest-serving maintenance officer, Perry Phipps, helped to keep aircraft "down times" to a minimum.
Just a few months before the move to Lee, the FMFA obtained four Cessna T-41C aircraft on long-term loan from the U.S. Air Force, in July 1995. These were part of a fleet of T-41Cs used by the Air Force Academy to train cadets. Six lucky FMFA pilots were dispatched to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to pick up the new acquisitions and return them to Fort Meade. During the two-day return flight, pilots flew the four aircraft in line formation across the country, identifying themselves to tower controllers as "Wingtip 1, 2, 3, and 4", in honor of the FMFA mascot. (For details on the mascot, see Events of Note, below) The T-41Cs were equipped with 225 hp fuel-injected engines and propellers designed for maximum climbing performance. They retained the colors and markings of the U.S. Air Force Air Education and Training Command and proved to be an instant hit with Club pilots. In 1997 a T-41A was acquired at no cost from the former Andrews Aero Club, and a Bellanca Citabria was purchased from a private owner at Lee for $28,000.
At this time the latest technological innovation in navigation, GPS (global positioning system) units, began to appear in FMFA cockpits. Originally, these were handheld sets, purchased by the Club and made available to pilots for a nominal rental fee. They were later replaced by cockpit panel-mounted units in four of the Club aircraft. Members enthused about the "moving map" feature and the degree of accuracy the new devices brought to cross-country flying.
Four aircraft were lost to accidents in this decade, three of them in 1997: A Cessna 172 was demolished in an unsuccessful crosswind landing approach at Lee; a Cessna 152 was stalled during takeoff and crashed near the windsock at Lee; and a Bellanca Citabria was wrecked on landing at Easton. Tragically, an NAFC instructor and his passenger were killed in the crash of the Cessna 152, becoming the first fatalities ever to occur in a Club aircraft. In June 1998 another Cessna 152 was destroyed when, its fuel supply exhausted, the plane was brought down for an emergency landing into a ploughed field.
Events of Note
The FMFA acquired a mascot in the winter of 1994 when an abandoned Tabby kitten was found huddled under the wing of the Piper Arrow. FMFA members and employees adopted and cared for the animal, who was promptly named "Wingtip" in recognition of his origins. "Wingtip" earned his keep by decimating the field mouse population near the Clubhouse and warming the chairs in the pilots' lounge.
Aviation Appreciation Days
In 1992 the FMFA held its first open-house "Aviation Appreciation Day". The goals were to provide the local community with a close-up view of General Aviation, while attracting new members and augmenting revenues for the Club. The major attraction was a static display of more than thirty airplanes and helicopters flown in for the day by the DC chapter of the Confederate Air Force, the Potomac Antique Air Squadron, local chapters of the Experimental Aircraft Association, U.S. Army Aviation, and the Maryland Air National Guard. In addition to viewing beautiful homebuilts, classics, and warbirds. some of the visitors took their first airplane ride. For a modest donation, they could take a short hop toward the Annapolis area in FMFA and Navy Club aircraft piloted by volunteers holding commercial pilot certificates. The event also featured radio-controlled model airplanes, classic automobiles, children's rides, and refreshments. Aviation Appreciation Days were held each successive year until the relocation to Lee Airport and grew in popularity. 1994 event drew a crowd of more than 6,000 and received coverage by Baltimore area television stations. On that day, weary FMFA and NAFC pilots flew 129 sightseeing sorties, giving some 300 visitors their chance to "slip the surly bonds of earth."
Many FMFA members hoped to return to Tipton when the field eventually reopened as a general aviation airport. The Club still had an asset (the fuel tank) remaining at the airfield which it planned to use in negotiating a favorable lease arrangement with the new owners. However, a number of legal problems arose when Army lawyers argued that the FMFA should not be able to lease space at a reopened Tipton, even after transfer of the land to county government was finalized. The membership disagreed with the Army's interpretation of the BRAC Act, and began legal actions to permit an eventual return of the Club to Tipton. Lawyer-members within the FMFA and NAFC volunteered their time to file suit, and members donated money for expenses. Throughout the legal skirmishes, President John Ferrone lobbied long and hard with officials in the Pentagon and Congress. Nevertheless, when the case reached the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1997, it was the Army view that prevailed. As later events would demonstrate, however, this did not prevent the return of the FMFA to Tipton.
In 1997, its fortieth year, the Club was the largest of only five IMWRF flying activities left in the entire United States. (The other four were located at: Fort Lewis, Washington; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Fort Knox, Kentucky; and Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.) At this time, members rented a Cessna 152 for $37 an hour and a Citabria for $40 an hour.Back to Top Beginning 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s
Facilities and Operations
Citing high costs and declining revenues, IMWRF authorities informed the Club manager early in 2001 that the U.S. Army would no longer support the FMFA and ordered a cessation of operations. Stunned Club members scrambled to locate a new sponsor and were fortunate to find one in the Civilian Welfare Fund (CWF) of the National Security Agency (NSA). During negotiations between the U.S. Army and NSA regarding Club assets and liabilities, the FMFA was permitted to continue normal activities. Talks continued for about six months, ending with the CWF assuming control of FMFA operations on November 1, 2001. Among the advantages of operating under the aegis of the CWF, the FMFA would no longer lose all the profits it might make to an IMWRF-type fund. This held out the possibility of purchasing additional or replacement aircraft if Club ledgers were kept in the black. However, prospects for a quick financial upturn were dashed following the murderous attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11. Tight restrictions imposed on general aviation, particularly in the Washington area, by the National Security Council and Federal Aviation Administration severely curtailed flying by Club members. From mid September to late December, Lee Airport found itself within a doughnut-shaped ring around the nation's capital, the inner ring of which was 18 miles from the Washington Monument with an outer boundary extending out to 25 miles. Within this temporary restricted area, flights for non-instrument rated pilots were permissible only with an instructor onboard. To enable continued VFR flying by solo pilots, a few FMFA aircraft were deployed to Frederick Airport, which lay outside the restricted zone. However, even though the autumn of 2001 was blessed with a long succession of bright, clear days, flight time in Club airplanes declined catastrophically.
At about the time that most of the restrictions were lifted in December 2001, the new sponsor directed that the FMFA and its fleet of five T-41s, three Cessna 152s, and one Piper Cherokee return to Tipton Airport. Volunteers provided the labor and vehicles to transport the Club's equipment and supplies, making the move in a single day, just prior to Christmas. The NAFC, which had shared facilities with the FMFA for nearly two decades, elected to remain at Lee. The new Clubhouse was a comfortable double-wide trailer procured by the CWF. The trailer and aircraft tiedowns were located at the far western end of the field, near the abandoned control tower and only a short distance from the site occupied before the move to Lee in 1995.
Two aircraft were lost in the years 2000 and 2001. The Club's only remaining tail-wheel aircraft was stalled during a landing approach and was demolished in a ploughed field in April 2000. During a severe storm in August 2001, the Piper Arrow slammed into a mountain west of Frederick, near the Appalachian Trail. This crash resulted in three deaths, and marked the first fatality of an FMFA member in an FMFA aircraft since the Club's inception in 1957.
As the 2000s began, costs for renting Club aircraft averaged $58 per hour for the T-41s and $45 for the Cessna 152s. Instructors received $15 per hour.
Forty Five Years and Counting
In its first 45 years the FMFA acquired and operated at least 48 airplanes (an entire squadron of the "Flying Tigers" in WWII only had about 33 aircraft) and gave hundreds of aspiring pilots the chance to earn their wings. As the first Club members clambered into their yellow Cubs in 1957, Eisenhower was in his second term as president, the Soviet Union launched the first "sputnik" satellite, and the book Peyton Place was shocking American sensibilities. The world has changed considerably since then, but in the Club some things remain constant. Now, as earlier, dedicated volunteers step forward to maintain the airplanes, wash them, paint walls, install computer systems, vacuum floors, stock the oil lockers, conduct safety programs, and perform all the myriad tasks of day-to-day operations. At the end of nearly half a century, new members continue to exhibit the same enthusiasm for flying and their flying club as did all their predecessors.Back to Top