ANGLETON — Herb Ross loves Houston traffic — when he gets to fly over it.
On Tuesday, Ross and two fellow pilots will kick off a new flying club at Brazoria County’s Texas Gulf Coast Regional Airport in an effort to get more local aviators up in the air.
The Gulf Coast Regional Flying Club will offer members access to club-owned airplanes and will serve as both a social outlet and educational venue, Ross said.
Members who are licensed pilots will get the chance to fly a variety of aircraft at lower prices than renting the planes through a third party. If there is enough interest, the club also could help facilitate training to get aspiring pilots off the ground.
It is an effort to counteract rising costs that have taken a toll on the number of pilots nationwide. The drop in pilots could eventually lead to growing shortages within the airline industry, said Jeff Bilyeu, director of aviation at Texas Gulf Coast Regional Airport.
“The industry is trying to respond to that situation and look for ways to stimulate the growth of new pilots coming in,” Bilyeu said. “This is definitely an opportunity for someone to explore entering into the field, learning to fly, becoming a pilot and growing their time.”
The airport will play host to the club’s meetings, though it will not support the club in any monetary fashion, Bilyeu said. It also will be home to the club’s recently acquired Cessna 206H, a six-seat, single-engine airplane.
Currently, the plane is the club’s sole aircraft. Club founders envision that as the club grows, the airplane inventory also will expand to include planes for various purposes.
“For example, you might have a plane for long hauls, or a plane that is super fast, or a training plane or an aerobatic plane,” Ross said. “We can rent any of these from our club; we don’t actually have to buy the plane.”
The Cessna 206H is primarily geared toward long-distance trips. Ross said it can carry a lot of weight, as well as five passengers, so it is a good fit for cross-country flights.
One of his favorite destinations is Big Bend Ranch State Park in West Texas. He said friends and family load up the plane with camping gear, fly to the park in about three and a half hours, then spend several days hiking before returning to Brazoria County.
Another good option for aviation fans is the annual air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, one of the biggest flying celebrations in the country. Ross said the flight to Oshkosh from Brazoria County takes about six hours.
There also are numerous flying opportunities closer to home, he said, whether it’s watching the sunset over Galveston or heading to Fredericksburg or San Antonio for a night on the town.
Utilizing a club plane is not free, but it is less expensive than renting through a private company, Ross said. According to club projections, annual costs to fly the club’s Cessna 206H dip below rental rates after 25 hours of flight time.
The club will offer different membership rates depending on the type of plane, as well as a free associate membership for those who do not fly.
Tier one planes, including the Cessna 206H the club currently owns, will cost members a $1,000 initiation fee, a $250 monthly charge and $150 per hour of flight time to pay for fuel. The club projects monthly costs will go down as membership grows.
On the other end of the price scale, tier three planes would require a $750 initiation fee, a $115 mostly charge, and $75 per hour of flight time. Tier three planes — such as a Cessna 152 or Piper Cub — are smaller and could be used for training flights. The club does not currently own a tier three plane.
The types of planes the club purchases in the future largely will depend on the preferences of its pilots, Ross said. Right now, the club wants to gauge community interest and grow its membership.
“I hope that, for people who have always wanted to fly but it’s been too expensive, this will get them back into flying,” Ross said. “A lot of people have dropped out. There are also a lot of people who want to learn how to fly, but have been afraid to try.”
The club’s first meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Texas Gulf Coast Regional Airport conference room at 8000 Airport Way in Angleton. To access the airport, take the CR 220 exit off Highway 288.
A representative of the national Aircraft Owner’s and Pilot’s Association will kick off the meeting with a presentation about flying clubs in general. Founding members will follow with information about the local club.
Pilots of all skill levels are welcome, as are individuals with an interest in aviation.