The mission of the Lakeland Aero Club is to provide opportunities for today's youth with hands-on experience in restoring, maintaining, and flying antique general aviation airplanes, all to aid in Making Tomorrow's Greatest Aviators, Today!
The Lakeland Aero Club is a not-for-profit high school flying club that teaches high school and college-age students how to fly and restore antique airplanes. Members of the club have the ability to receive hands-on experience in any aspect of aviation they so desire. Membership is available to any high school or college student within the ages of fourteen and twenty-four, who express an interest in aviation, are of good moral character, and are academically achieving. Members of the Lakeland Aero Club are primarily responsible for maintaining the club’s aircraft, maintaining the club’s facilities, and maintaining the club’s reputation. The Lakeland Aero Club exists to provide an opportunity for local youth to get involved and make a future in aviation.
The Lakeland Aero Club first originated in August of 2011 with the purpose of getting today's youth involved in aviation. Mr. James Ray, an aviation philanthropist, created the concept of the Lakeland Aero Club and even funded the program to help establish its success. The club started out as an after-school program available for students of the Central Florida Aerospace Academy. Students are able to partake in club activities such as aviation seminars, airport disaster drills, and even some ground training for private pilots. In February of 2015, the Lakeland Aero Club received a corporate 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status. During that time period, the club began to take a whole new direction. Mr. Ray donated a 1953 Piper Super Cub, used in the Turkish Air Force, that the members of the club would complete an extensive restoration on. Club members spent three years restoring that airplane and on April 1st, 2015, the FAA issued the airplanes very first U.S. Airworthiness certificate. After the Super Cub was complete, club members flew the airplane to Oshkosh Wisconsin for AirVenture 2015 and created a reputation for the program. Aviation related organizations from all over the country began to know the Lakeland Aero Club and some even decided to help the cause. In November of 2015, Mr. Ray decided to fund the construction of a 12,500-sq. ft. hangar on the SUN ‘n FUN campus. The hangar was built to serve the needs of the Lakeland Aero Club and provide a home to its airplanes as well as its members. As of 2017, the club has four flying airplanes and multiple restoration projects that the students are completing. The club operates under the direction of a corporate Board of Directors, with the addition of club officers and club members. The club will continue to grow at an unimaginable rate, and it will continue to aid in “Making Tomorrow’s Greatest Aviators, Today!”.