YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- An assortment of "shirt tails" fill one of the walls in the Aero Club on Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 15, 2012. The tradition of cutting off shirt tails after a pilot’s first solo flight started in the early days of aviation when radios were not often used. An instructor, usually sitting in the back seat, would have to tug on the student's shirt to get their attention. Cutting off the shirt tail signifies the student no longer needs an instructor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad C. Strohmeyer)
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Staff Sgt. Galen Apo, student pilot from the 374th Maintenance Squadron, attaches a tow rod to a Cessna 172 prior to performing pre-flight checks on Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 15, 2012. Pre-flight checks for a student pilot take approximately 30 minutes to an hour depending on the student's knowledge level. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad C. Strohmeyer)
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Staff Sgt. Galen Apo, student pilot from the 374th Maintenance Squadron, takes off in a Cessna 172 with his instructor at his side on Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 15, 2012. Apo has logged more than 30 hours of flight time and flew solo in April as a member of the Yokota Aero Club. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad C. Strohmeyer)
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Staff Sgt. Galen Apo, student pilot from the 374th Maintenance Squadron, looks out his window in a Cessna 172 after departing Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 15, 2012. Flying at approximately 4,000 feet, Apo flew 45 minutes to Atsugi, Japan, and back. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad C. Strohmeyer)
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- The view through a window of a Cessna 172 in flight after departing Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 15, 2012. In addition to providing flight training, the Yokota Aero Club offers tours of Tokyo with up to an hour of flight time. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chad C. Strohmeyer)
by Staff Sgt. Chad C. Strohmeyer
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
6/20/2012 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- When you think of hobbies, flying may not usually be at the top of the list. For some, it's too daunting, too expensive or just too high in the sky. But for others, it's the greatest experience in the world.
The Yokota Aero Club opens its doors to all those interested in learning how to fly, no matter their current skill level.
"We get students who have some experience in the cockpit and others who have never been inside one," said Rick Krakoff, Aero Club flight instructor. "No matter what your experience level is, we can turn you in to a certified pilot."
The aero club follows Federal Aviation Administration guidance and certification, which allows pilots who are certified at Yokota to fly almost anywhere in the world.
"At Yokota, we must adhere to FAA and Air Force policies," said Krakoff. "Every student must be able to read, speak and understand English, have a flight medical certificate and have valid identification."
For Staff Sgt. Galen Apo, a pilot in training with the Aero Club, flying has always been a dream of his.
"Ever since I was a little kid, I have dreamed of being a pilot," said Apo. "To me, there was no greater or more nerve racking feeling than going up for the first time."
During Apo's first flight, he flew in one of the four Cessna 172 aircraft owned and operated by the Aero Club. The club also maintains, inspects and trains on this specific aircraft.
"Our aircraft go through regular inspections," said Krakoff. "Making sure students fly in a safe aircraft and environment is a top priority for us."
Though some may believe flying isn't safe, the Aero Club was recently recognized as having some of the safest instructors in the Air Force.
"Recently, we were awarded the Air Force Aero Club Safety certificate," said Victor Arzuaga, Aero Club manager and flight instructor. "Out of all of the aero clubs in the Air Force, Yokota Aero Club has been recognized as one of the best in the Air Force due to its outstanding programs and zero mishaps during 2011. That is a tremendous honor that myself and my fellow instructors don't take for granted."
In addition to certifying pilots, the club offers flying tours of Tokyo, Cessna displays during the Yokota Friendship Festival, and their distinctive paint schemes make them a popular attraction at air displays throughout Japan. They also support training Yokota's Civil Air Patrol and cadet incentive flights.
Individuals interested in learning more about the Aero Club and what it has to offer can contact them at 225-8988 or stop by their facility located on the east side of base in building 4304.
"We invite everyone to visit, take a Tokyo tour, or to pursue their dreams of flying," said Krakoff.
7/12/2013 9:12:37 PM ET I am so excited to start flying here at Yokota. I started many years ago when I was 15 and was never able to finish. This is going to fulfill a life long goal of mine.