One of the best-kept secrets aboard Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville is tucked away out-of-sight on the north side of the airfield.
The Jax Navy Flying Club (JNFC) offers not only the possibility of learning how to fly, it also has aircraft available for members to use.
“One of the unique things you can do here is to rent a plane and go places,” said club member and flying instructor Bill Derr.
“You can fly to St. Simons Island, the Bahamas or Key West for the weekend. It beats the heck out of driving the overseas highway.”
Derr is a retired naval flight officer for the P-3C Orion and one of four Federal Aviation Authority licensed flying instructors at JNFC. The club also has three single-engine Cessna and Piper airplanes members can check out.
“I enjoy being an instructor,” Derr said. “It takes me back to some of the favorite parts of my Navy career, as an instructor at VP-30. It is rewarding. It is fun to teach people new skills.”
The club offers a number of flying courses including the Private Pilot Certificate, Commercial Pilot Certificate, Instrument Rating, Airline Transport Rating and Certified Flight Instructor course.
One of the students taking lessons at JNFC is Cmdr.Dave Brosche, a Navy undersea warfare reservist at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay.
“I enjoy the sense of freedom and controlling your own destiny,” Brosche said about what he likes about flying.
“I love the beauty of being in the air and seeing everything from above. It’s amazing.”
Brosche is close to getting his private pilot’s license, but he is undecided on his flying goals. The Jacksonville native said he may want to continue on to get his commercial pilot’s license.
Brosche said he considered other flying schools, but chose JNFC.
“Cost was a factor. It is cheaper here,” he said. “Part of it also is the familiarity with the Navy and the base. Everyone here has some military ties. It is a brotherhood that exists here.”
Acquiring a private pilot’s license requires a minimum of forty hours of flight time which can been done aggressively in a couple months or up to a year or more on a more relaxed schedule.
“It takes a lot of work, so it is not something you just do casually,” Derr said.
For those who are considering learning how to fly, JNFC offers Discovery Flights, which gives prospective students the opportunity to take a flight with an instructor where they can take control of the plane.
JNFC is sponsored by the NAS Jacksonville commanding officer and is administered by the Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Department. It is a non-profit club that is funded by club memberships, aircraft rentals and the flight school.
“We are part of the Navy Flying Club Program, which is a national program,” said John Barnard, operations officer of the JNFC. “We are an MWR program that has established Navy written instructions on how we have to operate.”
The club currently has about 50 members and is located in Bldg. 847-A aboard NAS Jacksonville. Its hours of operations are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
For members, airplanes are available 24 hours and day and seven days a week as the planes are signed out for rental online. The club is also constantly looking to increase its fleet of aircraft.
“There is nothing like flying, and Florida offers year-round flying,” Derr said. “That is the beauty of Florida and there are fantastic places to go. We have the coastline here. My favorite thing to do is to fly up around Fernandina and Cumberland Island or to the west coast of Florida. It is just gorgeous from the air.”
For more information on the Jax Navy Flying Club, call 542-8509 or visit their web site at www.jaxnfc.net.