"N3195N cleared for immediate takeoff," radioed the control tower. In the Harvard Flying Club's Cessna 120, N. De J. Portocarrero '61 taxied on to the runway and pulled back the throttle. Seconds later, the two-seater left Bedford Airport, making a wide turn toward Cambridge. As the plane droned over route 128 and the lakes and farms of Lexington, Portocarrero explained the instrument panel: airspeed--100 m.p.m., direction--south-east, altitude--1500 feet.
Over the College
Over Cambridge, even at this height, it was possible to watch football plays in the stadium, and to see students walking in the Square. Only Widener's bulk and the graceful spire of Memorial Church broke the leafy roof of the Yard. Flying from Bedford to Cambridge and back takes only a few minutes, but it offers a delightful perspective on the University's architecture and layout--the bold patterns of Quincy and Leverett Towers, for example, and the pleasing sweep of the riverfront Houses.
Although an air of the modern surrounds its activities, the Flying Club's history traces back to 1911, when an intrepid group of undergraduates--truly "pioneers"--formed the Harvard Aviation Foundation. Only eight years after Kitty Hawk, their statement of purpose outlined a bold program in the infant field:
"To promote, hold, manage and direct aviation meets, exhibitions and contests of all sorts; to encourage and develop aviation; to manufacture, buy, sell and deal in balloons, aeroplanes and any and all machines, vehicles and contrivances for the navigation of the air...."
No More Balloons
Over the past five decades, the Club's purpose has remained broad, except, says President David C. D'Costa '60, "the group is no longer much interested in flying balloons or manufacturing airplanes." At present the group flies a couple of two-seaters: a newly acquired Luscombe 8F, and the Cessna 120 rented fulltime "at highly favorable rates."
As undergraduate interest in flying has varied over the years, the Club has adjusted to meet the demand. In 1948, when it had over 100 members--including many exservicemen eager to continue or learn to fly--the Club owned three planes.
This year D'Costa hopes to add 35 new members to the ten returning students, who now form the Club's core. With a larger membership, fixed expenses can be spread more thinly, and experience has shown that around 45 members will keep both planes fully scheduled on good flying days.
Although perhaps a quarter of this year's members will already hold their Private Pilots Rating, says D'Costa, the Club is primarily for those "who haven't flown and would like to fly." While he discourages applicants whom he thinks are merely "joyriders," D'Costa welcomes students whose interest in learning to fly is serious and likely to last.
Unless he joins with previous experience, the new members's first step is to secure a Student Pilot Certificate, restricted to those 16 years or older, who know English and have at least 20/30 corrected vision in each eye. Since learning to fly is not like driving a car--for an aviator cannot stop to think things over--ground instruction is required before the student goes aloft.
The Club's advisors--Lt. N. M. Tollefson of the Navy ROTC, and Capt. O'Connor of the Air Force ROTC unit--run a weekly ground school where members can study weather, navigation, care of aircraft, and civil flight regulations.
Then the student makes his first flight, with an professional instructor who drills him on takeoffs, turns, approaches, landings, and other maneuvers. After a minimum of eight flying hours, when the instructor is satisfied that his tutee will be no danger either to himself or the surrounding community, he issues a solo license.