It is not every day that we hear about dedicated volunteers who think outside the box to inspire the love of aviation and to educate members of the business community. However that is just what the Williamson Flying Club has done in western New York. I dare you not to be inspired after reading about this engaged group of volunteers at KSDC Williamson-Sodus airport. Take their lead and find ways at your local ‘drome to get into the spotlight.
The Williamson Flying Club
Founded in nearly sixty years ago by five local pilots, the Williamson Flying Club [WFC] purchased land in the nearby town of Sodus to establish an airport in 1957. Beginning as a small grass strip, the airport now is the 7th largest General Aviation airport in New York State, with approximately 70 based aircraft, 50 hangars, a 3800′ runway with GPS RNAV approaches, AWOS and a fuel farm. Managed by the Board of Directors of the Williamson Flying Club, the airport is a public-use reliever airport and is the only hard-surfaced runway in the county. It boasts over 25,000 operations per year. On field business include the club-managed FBO, and two maintenance facilities. According to New York State economic development reports, the airport contributes $2.3 Million to the local economy and $115,000 in school, property and state and local taxes. All of this comes at no cost to the local towns, county or county taxpayers.
In 2013 the Williamson Flying Club created the Williamson Flying Club Aviation & Aviation Sciences Scholarship awarded to a graduating high school student who chooses post-secondary study in an aviation-related field at a college, university or trade school. The scholarship is $1,000, payable in $250 amounts each year over four years, or $500 each year for two-year programs.
Scholarship winner Paul Sperr received a certificate and will be receiving $1000 over the course of his four years of study at the University of Buffalo. Paul is a 2013 graduate of the Williamson High School.
Paul was valedictorian and he will be majoring in Aerospace Engineering. In addition to the scholarship funds, Paul also received a membership in the Williamson Flying Club, and they have invited him to use his membership to learn more about aviation, meet pilots and mechanics and maybe some day, start taking flying lessons.
The WFC shows the value of an airport to the business community
Williamson-Sodus Airport [KSDC] was invited by the Wayne County, New York, Economic Development/Industrial Development Agency to present an overview of the airport’s economic impact to the region to a group of about sixty decision-makers which included local town and government leaders, state and federal representatives, county tourism, planning and economic development officials. Local business leaders,bankers and real estate developers also attended.
The day-long event began at the airport, with County Supervisor Jim Hoffman welcoming the attendees. The airport presentation followed, which discussed the size, scope and capabilities of the airport, the airport land that is available for compatible non-aviation development, as well as the obligations the airport has to remain an airport “in perpetuity”, due to grant assurance obligations. As club President Joe Ebert remarked, “from an economic development standpoint, it’s important that potential investors who make decisions based on the presence of an airport have confidence that the airport will be there in 5, 10, 20 or 30 years or more!”
Each attendee boarded the bus that took the group on a tour of the region to learn more about the region’s economy and opportunities for economic development. Attendees were given a canvas airport logo’d bag to carry all the items they would gather that day, a copy of the presentation and a nifty airport logo’d pen.
When the group returned to the airport, having just completed a wine tasting at Young Sommer winery just a few miles down the road, each participant was surprised with a split of an award-winning fruit-blended wine from the winery, custom labeled for the airport.
The “Fab Five” who created the Williamson-Sodus airport had vision, passion and perseverance. It seems to me that nearly sixty years since its inception, the flame has not flickered. The scholarship entices the youth, the wine might entice the long in the tooth, but the educational and economic value to the community is boundless. Airports such as KSDC prove that they are good neighbors and an asset to the surrounding communities.
Now it is time for you to think out of the box. As I am fond of saying, there are three kinds of people: those who watch their lives happen, those who make their lives happen, and those who wonder how life happens. The Williamson Flying Club made it happen. You can too.