In 1980 two Civil Air Patrol Search-and-Rescue pilots had had enough. Jack Neathery and Mary Mercker were both working part-time at Tucson area flight schools while finishing up additional pilot ratings.
They watched appalled as prices escalated and shenanigans proliferated. Instructors worked part-time and were poorly paid; unlicensed mechanics were turning wrenches at midnight. There was an almost universal lack of coherent training standards and maintenance assets. On behalf of the flight schools, there was often never enough money to go around, much less pay supervisory help.
Both pilots were in hot water for refusing to schedule or fly unsafe aircraft. Aviation safety was just too important to be compromised. There had to be a better way! Then Jack heard about non-profit flying clubs and it seemed like an answer to their problems. He wrote up a business plan, but they had no aircraft or resources.
Out of the blue, one businessman, angry at the shoddy treatment he was receiving, offered to finance a training aircraft for Mary if she would go out on her own. As luck would have it, another friend had a clean, well-maintained C150 for sale. The gods were laughing!
Alpha Air was incorporated as a non-profit 501(c3) corporation that October. It was tough sledding as Jack and Mary, still working other jobs, fought to pay the bills, but they refused to skimp on maintenance, insurance, or sound instruction.
Club Founder Mary A. Mercker began her flying career in Phoenix Arizona in 1949 when Sky Harbor was just a "dirt strip". She flew tail-wheel aircraft exclusively until the late 50's and was experienced in almost every General Aviation aircraft from Aeroncas to Stinsons, Beechcraft to Vikings, as well as every variety of Cessna, and most Pipers.
In addition to his job, Jack taught Private Pilot ground school at Pima College for over ten years and Mary taught the Instrument ground school whenever a large enough class formed. Gradually flight instruction and aircraft rental absorbed more of their time and the small fleet expanded.
Jack lost his battle with cancer in 1994 and Mary continued on until her passing in 2016. Present day, Alpha Air is operated by Mary's son, Ben Martin. Ben inspects the aircraft's daily and is willing to go the "extra mile" for renters and students. Ben carries on with the legacy that originally inspired Alpha Air; clean, well-maintained aircraft, conscientious instruction, and honest dealing with customers.