Founding (1964-1966)

The earliest reference we can find to a flying club at Caltech appears as a small notice in the student newspaper in 1964: “Anyone interested in flying, learning to fly, buying a plane, sightseeing, etc., come to the meeting of the Caltech Flying Club tonight at 7 :30 in Winnett Clubroom 1.” (Learn to Fly, The California Tech, November 12, 1964.).

Just a few months later, a full article in the student newspaper details steps that will lead to AACIT as we know it. 18 founding members each dedicated $100 (about $750 each in 2016 dollars) to help capitalize the new club, with three named leaders, grad students Dave Cartwright and Dave Wooten and senior Don Blumenthal, dedicating another $3200(?) in total to create a fund of $5000. The article notes that Caltech is helping to establish the club, arranging legal and insurance assistance. Noted among the sponsors are Clark B. Millikan (head of aeronautics at Caltech and instrumental in the creation of JPL). The founders have identified a Cessna 150 as their plane of choice, with an expected “wet” rate of $5/hr on top of $4/month dues to cover costs of insurance ($700) and annual tie down ($300). Somewhat optimistically, they anticipate being up and running before the 3rd term has ended – that would have been by May and in reality it took until the following January or March to raise more donations and complete steps of incorporation and plane purchase. In related news, we learn the Cessna 150 “lands like a baby carriage”, LA is smoggy, and part 91 obstacle requirements were the same then. (Techmen Institute Flying Club for Enjoyment, The California Tech, February 18, 1965)

Nearly a year later, another article in the student paper shows the club nearing the final steps of incorporating the club and buying a plane.  We now nearly have the final name under which the corporation will be established, listed here as “The Aero Association of the California Institute of Technology”. The article notes that incorporation will happen “next Monday”. In addition to some of early members listed earlier, we now find Peter Lissaman (later a founder of Aerovironment) and Peter Lingane (head of the Flight Standards Committee) noted. We also learn that the Flight Standards Committee and much of the club’s approach to safety was there at the beginning. (Flying Club off the Ground, The California Tech, January 27, 1966).

The Articles of Incorporation were submitted on January 21, 1966 and filed by the Secretary of State on March 9, 1966. The articles list as directors David Cartwright, Donald Blumenthal, Robert Edelson, Dario Iacuelli, and Peter Lingane.

In April of 1966, Caltech’s main magazine announces the new flying club and even gives us a picture of the club’s first plane, N3027J. We learn that it costs $100 to join the club and the plane is based at Brackett Field (POC) near Pomona. Howard and Iris Critchell  are mentioned for their parts in club operations. (It’s a Plane, Engineering and Science, April 1966, Page 26) [Iris spoke at the club’s meeting in 2015]

By later articles, we know that the club moved its airplanes from Brackett to El Monte in the Fall of 1968 and the club flew N3027J 900 hours in the first year and 600 each of the following 2 years.

The 70s

California Tech, April 23, 1970 – “Up, Up, and Away In My Beautiful Aero Club 150” (Page Four)

NTSB, November 3, 1971 – “N3027J Accident

California Tech, April 5, 1974 – “Aero Club Picks Officers” (Page Ten)

California Tech, February 13, 1976 – “Flying Deuces” (Page Five)

1976-N6643S-N8810NA plethora of early club history and data of the day. Cessna 150, Cherokee 140, and Cessna 182. People: Bill McCord, Ed Sherry (Pres, Sec 291), $800 for license?, monthly $15/12, $300/$100 deposit, Initiation $100/$10; 150: $11, 140: $14; 172 $15.  Wouldn’t You Like to Fly…, Lab-Oratory, 1976 [CL#16-1735.  Courtesy of the JPL Archives]1976-Washday-N3852Q

California Tech, May 13, 1977 – “Tech World Airlines!” (Page Three)

Scholarly paper by Caltech economist Charles Plott that used the club as an experiment in selecting the fleet: Agenda Influence and its Implications

The 80s

California Tech, May 22, 1981 – “And Blacker Beaches” (Page One)

Caltech News, July 1982 – “Alumni welcome to join Caltech Aero Association” (Page 10)

California Tech, December 2, 1983 – “Flyers Wanted” (Page 8)

2 Cessna 150, Piper Warrior, Cessna Cutlass RG. Mentions David Rossing and Steve Phillipson (Fly with AACIT, JPL Universe, June 28, 1985 [CL#16-1735.  Courtesy of the JPL Archives])

California Tech, November 22, 1985 – “Plane Crash Claims Two” (Page 1)  club’s only fatal crash

California Tech, December 12, 1986 – “Get Your Feet Off the Ground” (Page 3)

California Tech, June 5, 1987 – “Penetrate Soviet Airspace” (Page 8)

Charles R. Plott, 1987 “Dimensions of parallelism: some policy applications of experimental methods

California Tech, April 14, 1989 – “Ferber Eats Weeds” (Page 3) – participation at the SAFECON competition.

The 90s

Tech Pilots Storm Arizona (California Tech, April 27, 1990 – Page 8)

Article about pilots at Caltech, mentions club. No fear of flying here (Caltech News, April 1990 – Page 1)
90 members, 6 aircraft – 2 Cessna 152, Cessna 172, Cherokee, Arrow, Tabago. Sherri Trujillo, Kevin Baines, Jim Kaufman, Robert Nafie (JPL, Caltech Flying Club observes its 25th anniversary, JPL Universe, August 16, 1991 [CL#16-1735.  Courtesy of the JPL Archives])
1992 announcement of seminar at JPL
1992 Fall meeting announcement
1993 spring meeting and speaker announcment
(1998 mention of Club concerning Garrett and astronaut candidacy)
1999 AACIT given $350?

2000s and beyond

2000 mention of possible SAFECON funding
2000 spring meeting/speaker announcement
2001 spring meeting announcement/speaker (Schiff)
2002 Flying Fair announcement
(2002 Flying Fair article in The California Tech)
(2002 article authored by pilot with picture of plane, mention of Cessna)
2002 Caltech “flying team” mention
2002 SAFECON article by Iram
2002 membership call
2003 announcement of flying fair
(2003 picture and caption about flying fair & 3 astronauts in E&S)
2003 announcement of fall meeting and speaker
2003 general announcement
2004 Caltech News article (Baines, Werntz, Huang quoted) + article about ’82 alum aerobatic pilot
(2007 Club of the Week in The California Tech)
entry for PA80
(2010 Article about International Learn to Fly Day)
(2013 blog entry by student Karsyn Bailley)
(2014 Flying Fair article and picture in The California Tech)
Former member John Kunis
mention in oral history of trustee decision to restrict personal flight

Club Aircraft

N3027J, 1965 Cessna 150 (1966-1971)
N8810N, 1969 Piper Cherokee 140 (1971-?)
N6643S, 1968 Cessna 150 (1971-?) [registration says 1967]
N3852Q 1972 Cessna 172L (1975-?) [registered still]
N43602,  Piper (-1975)
N20JZ, 1986 Socata TB10 (? – 1991 -?) {registered still]
N89084 ( – …)
N9685Q (-2007)
N98326 (2007?-…)
N54678 ( – …)
N2333C ( – 2013)
N152BS (2011 – …)
N2824Y ( – 2018)
N599PM ( – …)
N7571T (2014 -… )