A group of University of Connecticut students have partnered with Philip Smith at Learn to Fly CT to form a flight club with the intention of giving students a path to their private pilot certificate at a cheaper rate.
Robert Dimauro, president of the UConn Flight Club, said members of the club will be given a free introduction flight, and then they are welcome to start their instruction time.
“These are the cheapest rates you’ll get,” Dimauro said, referring to the temporary sale on flight instruction rates being provided to the club by Learn to Fly CT at Windham Airport.
The current club rate for flight and ground instruction is $45, and Smith predicts that with the 40 hours required for a license, plus additional costs for supplies, testing fees and aircraft rental, student members will spend between $6,000-$8,000 on their license, compared to the $10,000-$15,000 national average.
UConn Flight Club is currently brainstorming different ways to fund the club so students will have to pay even less, for both membership fees and flight time.
“We’re reaching out to alumni for donations, which would be tax-deductible,” Dimauro said.
The club also hopes to receive funding from the Undergraduate Student Government, which would be used to reduce the price of flight hours.
Students in the club now would be responsible for paying a membership fee, which has yet to be determined, and the rental rate and flight time from Learn to Fly, according to Dimauro.
There are a few options for students to complete the ground school portion of their training, Smith said, including through Learn to Fly, UConn’s AIRF3500 class or an online class.
Members of the club will also have free access to Learn to Fly’s flight simulator. While the hours spent using the simulator do not count towards your certificate, Smith said, it could help you to be more proficient behind the real controls and flying solo in less time.
The club has a long term goal of purchasing an aircraft, which would reduce flight costs even more than the current discount provided by Learn to Fly, Dimauro said.
“A big focus for us is to find a source for an aircraft,” Dimauro said. “In the future I would like to see the club with one or two aircraft, and in good standing with the public.”
Learn to Fly CT has their sights set on buying a light sport aircraft, which would also be available for members of the club to get instruction time in, according to Smith.
Students only need 20 training hours to obtain a Sport Pilot License and do not need a medical certificate as long as they have a valid driver’s license.
“[Flying light sport aircraft] is where those who don’t want to fly professionally really thrive,” Smith said.
The greater public is also allowed to join the club, although they will not receive the discounted flight instruction rates, Smith said.
“I would love for anyone to get involved and help brainstorm,” Dimauro said.
The more students who are active in the club, the more likely they are to be able to buy an airplane, Dimauro said.
“Flying is expensive, and I’m trying to make it cheaper for students,” Dimauro said.
Dimauro worked as an aircraft mechanic for the National Guard and received his airframe and powerplant certificate in 2014, when he then worked as a traveling mechanic. He was deployed in 2017, and when he returned, he enrolled at UConn as a chemical engineering major.
Smith recently received a Distinguished Flight Instructor award from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and Learn to Fly CT received a Distinguished Flight School award.
All photos by Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus
Ashley Anglisano is the associate news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.