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Richard Edelson, Tuskegee Airmen Julius Freeman, Mike CiminoDownwind Pilot Association Founders:  Richard Edelson (left), Mike Cimino (Right) with Tuskegee Airman Julius Freeman (center).

My name is Mike Cimino and I am the president of The Pilot Shop, Inc. located in Baldwin, NY. I learned to fly at the tender age of 15, down in Brooksville, FL. After a couple of financial delays, I eventually earned my private pilot license through Glass Cockpit Aviation School at Farmingdale’s Republic Airport (FRG).

Aviation is such an amazing field. I fell in love with it early, and as a teenager I used to clean planes after school just so I could be with and around airplanes, the airport, and the people who inspired me. I have met numerous people in the industry – from your everyday private pilot to Harrison Ford, Jack Rousch, and John Travolta. Each and everyday I learn something from meeting new people: from pilots who fly a PA28-161 to those who take to the air in a Boeing 777, I get to hear how different pilots have learned how to fly, how certain countries do things differently, what charts look like abroad, even seeing how different pilots licenses can look. No matter who they are or what ratings they hold, I always learn something from those I meet. This, in turn, has become a major goal in my life: to pass on to our pilots of tomorrow the ability to learn from everyone we encounter.

Like many industries, the field of aviation is a diverse yet small community. Over the years I have spent a great deal of time thinking about ways I could bring everyone closer together. I decided the best approach would be to create a flying club. Yes, I know they exist all over the place, but I want to change the way clubs are. My goal is simple: I want to create a place where pilots of all ages and experience levels can go, a place to hangout, share their experiences and stories.

I would like to introduce you to the DOWNWIND Pilots Association, created by DOWNWIND magazine and the Pilot Shop. Located in the store front adjacent to The Pilot Shop, DPA’s headquarters will be a place where pilots can sit down, have a pastry and a cup of coffee (or tea or hot chocolate) while watching movies on a 63” plasma or using the latest aviation study-aids and simulators. You will be able to talk shop with fellow pilots, share anecdotes and gossip. We will have guest speakers, discounts at the shop next door, and monthly fly-ins to airports renown for their great food.

Sure we all know that renting a plane can be extremely costly – it’s one of the main reasons why pilots don’t fly as much as they would like to. Our solution: join DPA and network with pilots who own their own airplane! If your fellow pastry and coffee-sharers don’t own their own plane, guess what? Now you have someone with whom you can rent and split the costs. What pilot likes to fly alone? I know I always enjoy someone to talk to besides ATC (have you noticed how their attitude depends on how many people they’ve yelled at prior to your call?).

Beyond being a physical location where you get to talk about airplanes nonstop, another aim of DPA is to see that our future pilots can fulfill their dreams. If a student lives in Queens and their instructor lives in Suffolk, well, Baldwin is just about as midway a point to meet as possible. Instead of doing a ground lesson at a diner or in a car, now the instructor and the student have a designated place to do ground lessons all while having the latest study aids available. Did I mention that DPA has two Flight Simulators?

Don’t get the impression I am trying to take business away from flight schools. I am not the kind of man who steps on other people’s toes. What we are doing here is creating an atmosphere where pilots can go to relax, meet people and enjoy our passion of flying. In fact, I already have a few flight schools willing to participate by giving discounted flight lessons to people who join DPA.

The Pilot Shop is, hands down, the most amazing place to hangout in. As a teenager I always enjoyed talking with Sandy and Stefanie Scherner at the shop, listening to Mr. Scherner’s history lessons on aviation, or nosing through the books. Believe me, DPA will be even better. So come down to The Pilot Shop, Inc. in Baldwin, NY or visit us at www.pilotshopusa.com. Just make sure you take time to stop in next door and check out DPA.

For more information on the DOWNWIND Pilots Association call (516) 623-8823 – and be sure to ask for me, Mike Cimino, or visit us at www.downwindmag.com.

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