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Wichita Aero Club established; executive director named

Oct. 9, 2008, Orlando, FL  - A consortium of business, government and educational organizations in the greater Wichita area announced at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Convention that they have joined together to form the Wichita Aero Club.


October 9, 2008
By Carey Fredericks

Oct. 9, 2008, Orlando, FL  – A consortium of business, government and educational organizations in the greater Wichita area announced at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Convention that they have joined together to form the Wichita Aero Club.

 Patterned after the Aero Clubs of Washington and Atlanta and The Wings Club in New York, the new group plans to host monthly luncheons and invite high profile speakers to address major aviation industry issues.  It will also host a website, publish an online newsletter, and host fund-raising events throughout the year. 

An ad-hoc WAC Board of Directors has been conducting exploratory and organizational meetings since April.  It has approved an initial business plan, drafted by-laws and elected aviation veteran Dave Franson as the Club’s Executive Director.  Currently an independent communications consultant, Franson has previously held senior management roles at AlliedSignal, Cessna, Bombardier and the NBAA. 

 “Aviation has been a major part of Wichita’s history for the last century,” said Franson, “so we’re probably overdue when it comes to creating a forum like this.  What has been especially gratifying as we’ve worked out the details is the way the member companies have collaborated and supported this endeavor.  We’ve also received enthusiastic responses from prospective speakers and similar organizations in other locales, all of which provides us with confidence that this will be a successful, worthwhile endeavor.”

The Club’s initial board of directors, representing its Founding Corporate Member companies includes Robert Stangarone, vice president of corporate communications at Cessna Aircraft Company; who will serve as Chairman, Peter Gustaf, president of the Wichita Area Technical College (WATC), Treasurer; Tim Bonnell, Jr., vice president of PIM Aviation Insurance, Secretary; Andrew Broom, director, media relations and public affairs for Hawker Beechraft Corporation;  Lynn Nichols, president of Yingling Aviation; Deborah K. Gann, director of public affairs for Spirit AeroSystems; Tom Bertels, vice president of Sullivan, Higdon & Sink Advertising; Mike Croitoru, director of business development, Cessna programs for FlightSafety International; Norman Jordan, CEO of Labinal, Jeffrey Peier, attorney, Klenda Mitchell Austerman & Zuercher;  Glen Tate, CEO of Air Capital Insurance, and David Coleal, vice president and general manager of Bombardier Learjet.

Six major airframe manufacturers operate local facilities in Wichita.  The community is also home to a plethora of suppliers, and more than 40,000 people who are employed in aviation-related businesses.   Its business community regularly attracts industry and government leaders from Washington and the rest of the country.  The Wichita Aero Club will take advantage of that and will invite those prominent individuals to address its monthly luncheons, Franson noted.

Tentative plans call for club’s first meeting to be held in early December.   The initial speaker will be “someone the aviation community will definitely have an interest in hearing,” Franson said, but the speaker’s identity won’t be revealed “until we have confirmation of availability on the date we’ve chosen,” he added.   Potential future speakers include Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Kansas Fourth District Congressman Todd Tiahrt, Federal Aviation Administration Acting Administrator Bobby Sturgell, Teal Group aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia, Flying Magazine editor Mac McClellan, National Business Aviation Association President Ed Bolen, General Aviation Manufacturers Association President Pete Bunce and other prominent government and aviation leaders.

The newly constituted Wichita Aero Club may, in fact, be a revival of a previous entity.  An organization bearing the same name was actually chartered in 1915, according to documents filed with the State, but it apparently faded from the scene after sponsoring a ballooning event nearly a century ago.  The current Wichita Aero Club, which plans to operate on a non-profit basis, will also be involved in promoting education, providing scholarships and support for aviation-related projects.

The new entity will be self-sustaining.  It will offer a variety of membership categories and dues structures for organizations as well as individuals, students, retirees, government and military personnel. Individual Founding Members can join for a one-time Founder’s fee of $100 for the first year and $55 per year subsequently.  Student, retiree, and government/military  memberships are available for $25 per year.  The club also plans to recognize prominent aviators with an annual trophy that will be presented yearly at a gala awards dinner. It will promote aviation-related educational and career development initiatives, and will take a leading role in the preservation of the region’s aviation heritage.
Founding Members, those who have committed $10,000 each to launch the Club, include Air Capital Insurance, Bombardier Learjet, Cessna Aircraft, FlightSafety International, Hawker Beechcraft, Klenda Mitchell Austerman & Zuercher LLC,  Labinal,  The National Center for Aviation Training/ National Institute for Aviation Research Partnership (NCAT/NIAR), PIM Aviation Insurance, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Spirit Aerosystems, Sullivan, Higdon & Sink Advertising, and Yingling Aviation. Charter Memberships are also available for a one-time donation of $5,000.  Regular corporate members will pay annual dues of $1000.  Founding and Charter Memberships will be available until Dec. 31, 2008.