New River Flying Club celebrates 50 years

By REBECCA HINKLE, The Register-Herald
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — Fifty years is a milestone worth recognizing, and having reached that 50-year mark, the New River Flying Club is doing just that.
The club, which takes its name from the New River Gorge, was created by Dr. Joe Jarrett and his wife, Astri, Jan. 28, 1967 in Beckley.
Members of the club come from all walks of life. There are 15 members — 11 who fly, three associate members, and one honorary member. Members include a dentist, engineer, veterinarian, government workers, business owners, construction tradesmen and retirees. Ages range from 36-81.
“It’s rare for an aviation club to be around for 50 years.” said President Gary Patterson. “When you are flying, there are new things you will notice about an area you know well like Sandstone Falls or the New River Gorge that you did not notice before.”
Patterson flew his first solo flight on his 57th birthday, Jan. 15, 2015. Chuck Elkins, his flying instructor surprised him with this.
“It is a tradition to cut off the back of your shirt tail once you’ve flown solo.” said Scott Durham, a past president of the club. In one of the offices at Albatross Air there is an office wall covered with some of the shirt backs of pilots. The shirt backs are covered with drawings of small planes and runways, along with the name of the pilot, the instructor and the date of their first solo flight.
The New River Flying Club has owned six planes during its 50 years. Today, the club uses a Cessna 172 and members use it frequently.
“Sometimes I’ll go up to relax and sometimes I’ll take my family on trips. Dollywood is a 45-minute trip from here and Myrtle Beach is only 2 hours away by plane.” said Mike Pedri, a retired military member of the club.
The only requirement for membership is an interest in promoting private aviation. The club operates as a nonprofit, with all income being used for the operation and maintenance of the airplane. Bylaws govern the club’s operations.
The club is located at the Raleigh County Memorial Airport in the Albatross Air offices.