By Gary L. Vacin
A Sun Lakes resident’s love for aviation and an article submitted to the Splash back in the summer of 1995 led to the formation of the Sun Lakes Aero Club. Now numbering more than 70 members, the organization will have its first fall meeting October 17 at Sun Lakes Country Club.
Aldo Galvanoni, known to his friends as Al Galvi, penned the piece for the “Human Interest” section of the paper. The article described Galvi’s lifelong experiences in aviation. The final paragraph, however, suggested the possibility of forming an aviation-related organization for Sun Lakes. Plane owners/pilots or aspiring pilots in the community were encouraged to contact Galvi to express their interest in forming such an organization.
Galvi submitted a number of articles to the Splash in the following months, each including a photo of an airplane. Sun Lakes residents Elton Dyal and Sam Doria were among the first to respond to Galvi’s initial article. Both were longtime aviation buffs who were involved with the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force chapter located at Falcon Field (FFZ) in Mesa. Vern Nelson, another Sun Lakes resident and flying enthusiast, joined the group in January 1996. The four formed the backbone of the club in its formative years.
“Our early meetings were very informal, generally consisting of those of us who showed up sitting around the table telling ‘war stories’ about our flying experiences,” Galvi recalled.
Occasionally, a hat would be passed for donations to support the club’s expenses, but that was about to change. Nelson introduced many ideas that have given structure and strength to the club. A newsletter was added; by-laws, policies and procedures were developed; annual dues were established; and officers were elected. Little by little, SLAC evolved from an informal gathering of aviation buffs into an official Sun Lakes organization.
The club meets the third Wednesday of each month, from October through May, in the arts and crafts room of the Sun Lakes Country Club. The highlight of each meeting is a featured speaker talking about some unique aspect of aviation. The October 17 meeting will include a presentation by Korean War veteran and SLAC member Tom Malthaner, who will entertain members with his vast knowledge of the history of World War II.
Previous speakers have given presentations on topics ranging from aviation safety and flying powered parachutes to Grand Canyon International Airport and the TWA-800 crash.
From the beginning, the club’s purpose has been to foster interest in aviation and to promote increased knowledge in all aviation-related fields. Membership has always been open to those having widely varying interests, including ultralites, hot air balloons, sailplanes, homebuilt and factory-built aircraft, radio-controlled models and even paper airplanes.
Members include current and previous general aviation pilots, retired military and airline pilots and others who share an interest in flying. Some have tens of thousands of hours of logged pilot time, some have none, but all are welcome. Local pilots who own airplanes are especially invited to join.
All four of the original founders are still active in SLAC. Galvi, who at 88 years of age may be the oldest FAA-certified flight instructor in Arizona, if not the U.S., serves as the club’s vice president. Nelson, now 92, still manages the club’s website and prepares the monthly updates. He seldom misses a monthly meeting or fly-in. Dyal, responsible for obtaining speakers for the meetings, flies his Beechcraft Bonanza to many club fly-ins. Doria seldom misses a meeting, fly-in or field trip.
Unlike many other flying-related clubs, SLAC doesn’t own aircraft. However, about a dozen members own planes or have access to planes through membership in conventional flying clubs.
Nelson also was instrumental in developing the club’s website, which features pages available to both members and non-members. Non-member pages include the club history, information on how to join, previous Splash articles, programs and activities and links to other aviation-related websites. Pages available only to members include a membership roster, member profiles, list of members owning aircraft, treasurer’s report, board minutes and club bylaws and procedures.
Another Nelson innovation is an update emailed to members twice a month. One of the most valuable membership benefits, this feature includes club-related information such as meeting and club activity reminders and other information about club members. Most of the update is devoted to aviation-related items and photos submitted by members.
Club activities also include fly-ins and field trips to aviation-related sites and attractions in the area. Members owning planes volunteer for fly-ins, with expenses shared by other members who ride as passengers. Previous fly-in sites include the Palm Springs Air Museum, the Titan Missile site at Tucson, the March Field Museum and Edwards AFB in California, as well as trips to Sierra Vista to tour Kartchner Caverns, Fort Huachuca Museum and the Military Intelligence Museum.
Fly-ins planned for this year include a tour of the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier & Museum at San Diego and the Lockheed-Martin Flight Service Station at Prescott. Club members have taken field trips to the Mars Space Facility at ASU and the Phoenix Terminal Radar Control facility in Phoenix. A tour of Luke AFB is planned for this fall.
For more information, visit [http://www.sunlakesaeroclub.org] or call Bob Walch, president, at 480-895-8869, or Al Galvi at 480-802-0104.