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, and 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 opportunity to receive hands-on experience in any aspect of aviation. Membership is available to any high school student between the ages of fourteen and nineteen, 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, facilities, and reputation. The Lakeland Aero Club exists to provide an opportunity for local youth to get involved in, and create a future in aviation.
The Lakeland Aero Club began in August of 2011 with the purpose of getting today's youth involved in aviation. Mr. James C. Ray, an aviation philanthropist, created the concept of the Lakeland Aero Club, and funded the program to help establish its success. The club started as an after-school program available for students attending the Central Florida Aerospace Academy. Students were involved in activities such as aviation seminars, airport disaster drills, and were even able to log ground training towards pilot ratings. In February of 2015, the Lakeland Aero Club received a corporate 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status. During that time, the club really began to fulfill its mission. Mr. Ray donated a 1953 Piper Super Cub, used in the Turkish Air Force, that the members of the club fully restored. Club members spent three years on the project and on April 1st, 2015, the FAA issued the Cub's very first U.S. Airworthiness certificate. After the completion of the Super Cub, club members flew the airplane to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for EAA's AirVenture 2015, and successfully proved the effectiveness of the program. Aviation organizations across the nation began to recognize the achievements the Lakeland Aero Club, and many were moved to support our 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 by provide a home to its fleet, and members. As of 2022, the club has four flying airplanes and multiple restoration projects that our students are completing. The club operates under the guidance of a corporate Board of Directors, with the addition of student club officers and members. The Lakeland Aero Club continues to grow, and it will further its mission in “Making Tomorrow’s Greatest Aviators, Today!”.