10/12/11 — Aviation association hoping to grow membership

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Aviation association hoping to grow membership

By Gary Popp
Published in News on October 12, 2011 1:46 PM

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Lt. Col. Nichole Malachowski, the first woman to fly with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, speaks at a recent meeting of the Wayne County Aviation Association. The group, which formed in January, is hoping to grow its membership.

Members of the Goldsboro-Wayne Aviation Association were treated last week to a speech from Nichole Malachowski, the first female pilot to fly with the Thunderbirds, the U.S. Air Force's demonstration squadron.

Mrs. Malachowski spoke to the group of aviation enthusiasts Thursday in a small hangar at the Wayne Executive Jetport in Goldsboro.

The aviation pioneer told the group that her first experiences flying were on aircraft similar to those flown by many in the group.

The aviation association was founded in January and the membership has expanded to over 30 people, but the group is hoping to continue its growth.

The association's president Chad Coker said anyone with an interest in flying is welcome to join.

"Being a fairly new organization, it is the variety of additional people that will help us reach out in further ways." Coker said. "We know we are young, and we feel like we will be able to do more with a larger membership base."

Coker, who serves as a logistics officer with the North Carolina Army National Guard, said the current members have a lot to offer to novice enthusiasts.

"Aviation has a tendency to be a little intimidating, and we want to work hard to take that barrier away," he said.

Coker said the group offers those with less experience an opportunity to interact with veteran pilots.

"We create an environment that is conducive for people to come in and learn about aviation," he said.

About half of the group's members have their pilot's license, some of whom have logged thousands of hours flying, including one who has logged 10,000 hours in a cockpit. Other members have backgrounds in aircraft maintenance.

While some members take part in the group for pure recreation, Coker said the group can provide an advantage to someone who plans on pursing a career in aviation.

"We offer the ability to network, so somebody without their pilot's license who is thinking about a career in aviation can come out to our meetings and talk with our guys and grow their contacts," Coker said.

The group meets the first Thursday of each month at the Wayne Executive Jetport.