The Twenty One Flyers Club at Sikorsky Memorial Airport (KBDR) is celebrating its 60th this year.
The club, which started on Jan. 5, 1953 at Bridgeport airport, has been in active continuous service there since then.
“We are proud of our organization and the service it provides to the general aviation community,” says club president Lee Warncke.
The early roots of the club and its members were mostly employees of Sikorsky Aircraft located on South Avenue in Bridgeport predating the current Stratford location. Charter member Bob Burgess remembered the club’s first aircraft – a 1940 Luscombe 8A hangared at the airport, and soon after a 1946 Piper J3 became the second aircraft.
In the ’50s, member pilots included a TV film editor, engineers and various executives from many local corporations. Back in the early days the club membership was open to all qualified and licensed pilots, and that same philosophy guides today’s club. Current members include two area law enforcement officers, several Sikorsky engineers, a podiatrist and Sacred Heart University staff member, a commercial photographer, a retired phone company executive, mechanical engineer, and an educator.
What does The Twenty One Flyers club provide? The 21 Flyers is a true flying club. The club’s founding fathers established the club as a not-for-profit organization, which operates with a spirit as a cooperative organization where its members take active rolls in the management of the club, maintaining and upgrading the club aircraft. These are the time- proven key elements to provide the club members the affordable right to fly and to promote aviation to those interested in flight. Basically the club provide pilots with the means of pursuing a past-time of flying at a reasonable cost, including an exchanging of knowledge and information that results in safer and more proficient piloting. Another benefit is the availability of a CFII within the membership, and 21 Flyers Anniversary providing a closer and more integrated means of personal learning and advancement.
What is amazing is the amount of diverse personal and flight experience its members possess. As an example: Lee Warncke, the club’s current president, developed the bug for aviation as a teenager and was mentored by his father, an Army Air Corp pilot. Early on he was an avid aerobatic pilot, mastering advanced aerobatics with his friend, corporate pilot Dave Sayles.
He admits he was drawn to 21 Flyers not only to fly but also to enjoy the personal hands-on satisfaction that comes with being actively involved in maintenance and support of the aircraft. One of his favorite pastimes is a lobster run to Maine for summer backyard cookouts. Warncke, an instrument rated pilot, is an aerospace manufacturing engineer with Stevens Manufacturing Company.
Don Adams is a senior member whose professional career (recently retired) with Sikorsky Aircraft spans more than five decades. As an engineer he has been awarded 36 U.S. patents, is the recipient of the UTC ‘Grover Bell Award’, and the first person the be awarded the Sikorsky ‘Donald Ferris Lifetime Achievement Design Award.’ As a pilot he received the FAA ‘Wright Brothers “Master Pilot” Award’ for 50 years of a safe and unblemished flying record. Don has flown to all 48 states with his wife and family. He is also a licensed pilot with commercial, instrument, Rotocraft and instrument flight instructor certificates .
Dave Adams, also a Sikorsky employee, is a mission systems engineer and is following in his father’s footsteps. He experienced flight by flying with his father as a youngster and later earned his private rating in 1991. Since that time he has added instrument, and commercial ratings plus experience in Cessna 152 & 172, and Pipers through Seneca PA34. Other aircraft include the Citabria and the Enstrom helicopter.
Past president Jim O’Keefe is a also a 20-plus year member, a member of the Milford Police Department and is an instrument rated pilot who likes to ‘get away’ with his wife to places like the Cape, Montauk Point, New Hampshire, and farther. He is one of the longest serving presidents and has always kept his leadership focused on safety and practical decisions to allow for growth and future membership.
The list goes on.
The flyers club meets monthly on the third Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in the administrative conference room. Current officers are Lee Warncke, president; Don Adams, treasurer; Steve Burrows, secretary. More information, 21flyers.org.