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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Learn to fly at the UC Davis airport

If you want to impress your partner on your first date, maybe you should fly him or her to Monterey.

That is exactly what Jonathan Bar-or, chief pilot and CEO of the Cal Aggie Flying Farmers (CAFF) did when he was a student at UC Davis through the UCD airport.

UC Davis is the only campus in the University of California system to own its own airport. The airport is a non-towered, public airport located two miles west of the main campus. It is home to the CAFF, a non-profit general aviation operation, Davis Air Repair and other owners.

Everything began in 1947 by two World War II pilots that wanted to share their knowledge of aviation with the public. Harold Hopkins donated land to the university, with one requirement for the campus.

“Hopkins stipulated that UC Davis use [part of] the land for an airport,” said Cliff Contreras, Transportation and Parking Services director and airport manager.

The airport is constantly in motion – with almost 25 landings daily and is used by students, faculty and members of the community.

“Hundreds of prospective students are flown into Davis through the airport every year,” Bar-or said. “Animals are flown in for the veterinary school. Even business men fly in for meetings on the campus.”

Using the airport for commercial needs, however, is limited. There are no airline companies that fly to Davis, but you can hire a private pilot to fly you if you lack a license.

As a public airport, people can also use it for flying lessons or as an alternative to bigger airports. CAFF offers both flying lessons for those wanting to learn how to fly and plane rentals for people with pilot’s licenses. Flying lessons can run up a tab of about $150 for private pilot ground school. Plane rentals, depending on the type of plane, range from about $70 to $200 an hour.

“CAFF’s goal is to introduce and educate the UC Davis and local community about aviation for reasonable prices,” Bar-or said. “[The airport] has a great atmosphere and we act like a family.”

CAFF owns their own planes, an important distinction from others who only rent out planes. This allows CAFF to maintain their planes without prior permission, lowering rental prices.

If you want to become a commercial pilot, CAFF owns planes that are as technologically advanced as commercial planes. They even own a plane with more aviation devices than commercial aircrafts, Bar-or said.

Currently, CAFF has over 300 members, mostly comprising of UC Davis staff and students. Andrew Theiss, a junior computer science and engineering major, is one of those students. He earned his pilot’s license back in high school and occasionally goes to the Davis airport to fly on his own.

“If you can afford the flight, [the airport] is far more scenic and convenient,” Theiss said. “The times I have flown proved to be easy to do.”

Even if you do not want to learn how to fly, CAFF offers a familiarization flight, allowing you to go into the air for only $50.

For more information on CAFF and the airport, visit the TAPS web site at taps.ucdavis.edu.

NICK MARKWITH can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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