A t 7:30 one sunny Saturday morning in September, about 15 University of Colorado students gathered at the Boulder Municipal Airport and waited to take flight.

Instead of sleeping in, the members of the flying club at CU wanted to get an early start. They had breakfast plans in Sydney, Neb., some 200 miles away.

Flying to another state for brunch is just an average morning for members of the flying club, who travel in style -- even for a simple plate of bacon and eggs.

The club's 150 or so active members range from commercial pilots who fly regularly to airplane enthusiasts who just enjoy riding along. The club was inactive for the past few years, but a new group of flying aficionados started gearing it up again last fall.

The flying club offers a free ground school, which is similar to the classroom portion of driver's education, for students who want to start the process of getting a pilot's license. Lonnie Hilkemeier, president of Specialty Flight Training in Boulder and former flying club participant, teaches the course.

Jay Davis, a fifth year senior at CU studying engineering physics and atmospheric and oceanic studies, said one weekend afternoon last summer he flew up into the mountains for a few hours of mountain biking.


"I've been able to throw my bike in the back of the plane, fly up and go for a ride," said 22-year-old Davis on the perks of having a pilot's license.

Because his flight instructor was interested in meteorology and spoke often about weather during their flying lessons, Davis wants to pursue a career in climate research. It's a way to merge his love of flying with his formal education at CU.

Flying club junior officer Geoff Inge said he got bit by the "flying bug" after attending an air show when he was 5 or 6 years old. In high school, he said, he was always the "nerdy guy looking at airplanes."

The summer after his high school graduation, Inge started flight training. He currently has a private pilot's license and an instrument rating that allows him to fly in low visibility.

Soon, there will be a shortage of commercial pilots in the world, Hilkemeier said, citing the number of Baby Boomers who are close to retirement. This means that the flying club has practical benefits for its members, who could make a career out of what started as a hobby.

"It's good for the whole industry," Hilkemeier said. "The aerospace engineering (program) at CU helps us get airplanes in the sky, or in the future, spaceships in the sky. It really is giving back to the community, trying to help the younger persons that normally have time but may not have financial resources to at last get them in the door."

Some of the students, like Inge, are studying for a bachelor or master's degree while attending flight school, though Inge said it wasn't tough to balance the two.

"When you're studying something you love it's not something you think of as 'Oh gosh, I have to study' like calculus or physics," he said. "It's almost something you do for fun rather than as an extra class."

--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.