Christopher Parker
Flying club to launch at Washington Airport
April 4, 2024
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  • Washington’s newest club is ready for takeoff, according to Pete Kephart.

    The former U.S. Army pilot, who now flies private jets and serves on the board of directors of the Washington Regional Airport, is behind an effort to provide Washington aviators with more opportunities to fly locally. 

    The Generations Flying Club will launch on May 18 with a grand opening at the airport. Club members will receive invitations to social events and workshops, as well as opportunities to rent single- and multi-engine aircraft owned by the club.

    Kephart said he founded the flying club when he and his family lived in Kansas City, before moving to Washington in 2020. His family has a legacy of aviation — Kephart is a fourth-generation military pilot — and he said he wanted to encourage his son, soon to be an Air Force Academy graduate, to pursue the career. 

    Kephart said one of his motivations is his concern about the future of aviation.

    “There’s just not as much up-and-coming aviators anymore to fill the void,” he said. “Kids just aren’t going down that path anymore. And I’m always thinking about training my replacement.”

    Kephart said a number of retired and semi-retired pilots from around the region have expressed interest in the club, including Washington Mayor Doug Hagedorn. Hagedorn said the developments are “hugely exciting” for Washington.

    The fledgeling club is gearing up for some major changes at the Washington airport. Last month, Kephart renovated a storage space in the airport building and installed a RedBird TD2 Simulator, an FAA-recognized training device. 

    Hagedorn said it is an excellent training tool that he’s excited to use. 

    “What it does is it allows inexperienced pilots to work on their instrument procedures,” the mayor said of the simulator. “They work on their instruments so they can upgrade their ratings.”

    The flying club is not a flight school, said Kephart, but it could help connect prospective students with the means to earn their credentials. The club is shopping for a single-engine aircraft for members to use and potentially teach with. The club’s only current plane is a Cessna 310 multi-engine aircraft.

    “Any club members, if they’re a certified flight instructor, they could take a club aircraft and provide instruction in that aircraft. So that’s an excellent opportunity, and an opportunity that hasn’t existed for a long, long time at Washington Regional,” said Kephart.

    Hagedorn said prospective students can sometimes be intimidated by the different steps and exams involved in a pilot’s license. One reason for the social club, Hagedorn said, is to create a network of aviators that can provide answers and guidance through the process. 

    To that end, Kephart said the club will offer several tiers of membership, so beginners are not required to pay quite as much for access to the club’s aircraft. 

    The long-term goal, according to organizers, is to grow the Washington airport through community engagement. Hagedorn explained that local pilots-in-training will need to practice landings and takeoffs at the airport, and those numbers are “one of the things the FAA looks at in terms of airport expansion.” More traffic through Washington could mean more attention and more dollars from the federal agency in the future.

    “It’s a small step but it’s a necessary step to expand our airport capability,” said Hagedorn.

    “Increasing the quantity of airport operations is an integral part to justifying the construction of a control tower, staffing by the FAA” and more, Kephart added. “At the end of the day, it’s all part of a big picture I’m super excited about.”

    Kephart served as a mentor for the pilot program of “Soar into Stem” in the Washington School District last fall. Kephart’s wife, Washington Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Kephart, introduced the free, five-session program to showcase aviation careers for high schoolers through the Four Rivers Career Center. The program featured speakers, mentors, classroom instruction and hands-on learning, according to previous Missourian reporting.

    Kephart said he heard from a number of students who wanted to continue their education after the program concluded. 

    “A lot of the kids were so excited, so motivated, they had learned some great things, and they said, ‘What’s next?’” Kephart said. 

    Kephart said he will release more information about the May 18 grand opening in the coming weeks. The Troy chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, a nationwide aircraft enthusiast community, will be in attendance, according to Kephart. He said he hopes the club can make waves regionally and bring some attention to the Washington airport.

    For local aviators, the club represents a chance to do what they love closer to home while keeping their skills sharp.

    “Just looking at the sim, I can’t wait to get on the thing,” Hagedorn said. “Now all we need is students.”