BRUNSWICK — David Keen still has a model airplane sitting in his office that he built when he was 10 years old.
Keen is owner of American Classic Aviation and president of American Classic Flying Club, a group launched in March and based out of Brunswick Executive Airport (BMX).
He said his goal with the club “is to promote aviation and make a difference in aviation safety,” as well as build a community of local people with an interest in flying.
According to him, the group has 15 members and approximately four more are in the process of signing up. It comprises “a whole mix” of people, with members ranging in age from 16 to their late 70s.
For Keen, it was his father who got him interested in flying.
Before he was tall enough to see over a plane’s dashboard, he was going out on flying excursions with his dad. He keeps his first model plane as a symbol of where he began.
“My Dad flew – I started flying before I can remember,” he said. “I keep that as a reminder that that’s what started my interest in aviation.”
Membership in American Classic Flying Club allows people to use Keen’s two small planes “for personal use and enjoyment” for an initial fee of $1,200 and membership dues of $100 per month. They are able to use the aircraft for $120 an hour, including fuel. The membership also covers the cost of insurance.
The club is launching its own ground school soon for pilots looking to get their private pilot’s license. The course will take place Wednesdays from 6-7:30 p.m. for 10 weeks.
On the second Tuesday of each month, Keen holds safety meetings for members in a classroom at Brunswick Landing. He said the meetings are an opportunity for the group to sit down, watch safety videos and discuss “fun things” and sometimes “things that happen that aren’t so fun” while flying.
“(The meetings give) a sense of awareness and help improve our decision-making so that we make the right decisions that keep us safe,” he said.
Keen’s airplanes are stored in a heated hangar at BMX, which allows club members to fly year-round.
He said the club began with one airplane, which he purchased “just to provide for people … something fairly inexpensive to fly.”
The connection forged between members is also important to him – he offers what he calls “an associate membership” for pilots who own their own planes but want to be part of his organization just for the camaraderie.
Two certified flight instructors will teach ground school, including John Favreau.
“Ground school just helps you get that basis of understanding not just to pass the test but to understand what flying’s all about,” he said.
In order to receive a private pilot license, Favreau said, one must pass a written exam and complete a minimum of 40 hours of flight time, though the average is 60.
Keen said the club’s ground school is designed to help a range of people – including those that know “nothing about airplanes” – pass the Federal Aviation Administration exam. However, many of American Classic Flying Club’s members have gotten their certification in the past and are just rusty.
He also said there’s “always a need for women in aviation,” as there are very few, and he would like to encourage that with the flying club.
Though the basics haven’t changed, Keen added, re-taking ground school can help older pilots better understand some developments that have happened in technology over the years.
Favreau has a similar story about how he got into aviation. He said like many people, he passed the exam in high school and flew solo to the level of crossing the country, before taking a break.
“I stopped, raised a family, did the whole thing and then in my 40s, decided, you know, I never finished and I want to finish,” he said.
A Brunswick native, Favreau said he never thought Brunswick Landing would be a place he could fly because it was a Navy base when he was growing up.
Keen said that sentiment is part of the joy he gets from taking people flying in his planes, and renting them out.
Another man who grew up in Brunswick recently took a flight in one of the club’s planes, which, Keen said, the man had always wanted to do.
“(It’s) cool to help people to fulfill their dream that they have thought about all their life, and you get to be a little piece of it,” he said. “(Even though) I wasn’t the instructor necessarily that helped … I had a little piece because he flew in an airplane that was part of the club.”
David Keen, left, president of American Classic Flying Club, and flight instructor John Favreau at Brunswick Executive Airport, where the flying club operates.