Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Buddy System

In my last post, I spoke about the value of CFI membership in a flying club provides to the rest of the members. Besides CFIs, another pool of aviation knowledge readily available to flying club members is the application of the buddy system. When flying buddies are in a cockpit together, they should challenge each other throughout an entire flight to make it a mutually beneficial learning experience.

Starting with the preflight briefing and aircraft checks, a great flying buddy is someone who, while not acting as pilot-in-command (“PIC”) for a particular flight, prepares as if he or she will be PIC. This mentality forces the PIC to critically think through the different aspects of preparing for a flight, rather than just going through the motions. A flying buddy’s presence could result in a reminder to the PIC that the oil dipstick is not fully in and locked or to engage in a discussion about the particulars of prevailing conditions when the forecast calls for something other than ceilings and visibility unlimited. When I fly with buddies, I like to find out what tools they use to obtain all available information prior to a flight. As opposed to a one-off conversation, I get the most value through real-world experience before we take to the skies. It is through this type of interaction that I’ve recently expanded my ForeFlight knowledge base. What better way is there to learn how to maximize the utility of ForeFlight than through talking through the entire profile of a forthcoming flight?

Once airborne, the learning potential of having a flying buddy onboard really takes off. We as pilots should strive to leverage the past learning experiences of our flying buddies to make ourselves better pilots. One such aspect of learning is the use of technology. Aircraft systems have become increasingly complex over the past several years, and most pilots have developed knowledge of these complicated systems to varying degrees. A non-instrument-rated pilot, for instance, may only be familiar with the direct-to-function in a Garmin GTN 650. An instrument-rated flying buddy may be able to pass along tips to more effectively use the system to navigate through complicated airspace (for example, Chicago’s airspace, complete with areas of Class B, Class C and Class D-controlled airspace). On a recent flight, one of my flying buddies showed me how to extend the display of runway centerlines on the screen when approaching an unfamiliar airport at night. If I had been flying solo in the same scenario, I may have figured out how to use the functionality, but I would have wasted valuable time and concentration in doing so.

At the conclusion of a flight, there is always potential for a good debrief when another pilot came along for the ride. In the scenarios I discussed above, I portrayed the PIC as the one doing the learning. Obviously, this is not always the case. I previously mentioned that the buddy pilot should prepare as if he or she will be PIC. This mindset should carry through the entire flight. The buddy pilot should be observing, reacting and thinking about the flight as it transpires and consider how he or she would react in each situation. The post-flight discussion could be a great forum to talk through any particular aspects that may differ and hopefully results in some great takeaways for both pilots.

Now how does this relate to flying clubs? Couldn’t a pilot go out and find his or her own flying buddy? Of course, but the potential for linking multiple aviators through the social forum of a flying club is much greater than the other means available to pilots. A flying club, when operating as designed, brings pilots together. Through flying club interactions, it quickly becomes obvious that an empty seat in an aircraft is a wasted seat. While cost sharing may be a catalyst to creating flying buddy bonds, making better pilots is certainly be one of the favorable byproducts.



By |December 14th, 2012|News|0 Comments

Lunch with the Pilots

Picture this: a prospective student pilot walks into a his or her local flight school inquiring about flight training and eight hours later the student walks out after a nearly full day of hangar flying, lunch with the pilots, and his first flight in a General Aviation aircraft. Sounds like a dream, right? Surely if this type of experience existed the industry would see all  prospective student signing up for lessons.

Meet Harsha. He did the best thing a prospective student pilot can do when wanting to learn more about flying, he walked passed the flight school and sought out a flight club. He read an a recent article the AOPA website about Leading Edge Flying Club, a club with the motto; “Great Planes, Great People“.

Harsha stopped by to learn about flying and was warmly greeted by six club members who were preparing to head out on a fly-out adventure. As all good pilots would have done they did some weights and measures in their head then realizing they could fit him in, they quickly invited Harsha along for his first GA Flight. The only issue was that Mother Nature was not on board with their plans. What ensued was Harsha’s first introduction to one of the biggest considerations in flying, weather. He watched as six pilots discussed options and worked through the go-no-go decision. It was determined the group would need to wait and see if the weather would improve. Harsha seemed to be enjoying himself and was happy to stick around to partake in a few hours of hangar flying that ensued.

As often is the case, the weather was slow to improve so the pilots took their cars and moved the party to a local pizzeria with the prospective student pilot in tow, who was quickly losing the prefix “prospective”. The camaraderie only found in the aviation community continued despite our distance from an airport or airplane. During lunch Harsha received a call from his wife and he told her he was out to lunch with the pilots. When he got off he shared that his wife was surprised to hear he had just met these men and was now out with “the pilots”.

As the bill was settled, there were some smirks around the table as pilots checked in with Foreflight. Their home airport, Chicago Executive, had just gone VFR. It was one of two airports in the area reporting VFR with a full selection of IFR, Light IFR and Marginal VFR in every direction.

It was as if the air raid siren had just gone off. The LEFC members sprang from their chairs and reported back to the airport. Within 30 minutes, Leading Edge Flying Club had eight club members and one future club member in the air in two club airplanes and two privately owned airplanes (Beechcraft Bonanza, Piper Archer III, Piper Dakota and a Cirrus SR20). The prospective pilot enjoyed his first flight in a general aviation airplane and spent the day as one of the club. Harsha’s story had a very happy ending.

I worry that too often those that want to join our ranks as pilots get turned away by a cold reception at a flight school. “The Pilots” don’t let the prospective pilot taste what it is he or she has dreamed of. Didn’t we all dream of flying and spending time talking about flying? Today Harsha met a family of pilots who get together under the name Leading Edge Flying Club. I don’t doubt that he will soon start his training and I know he will have a support structure that only a flight club can offer that will help him achieve his dream of becoming a certificated pilot.

When was the last time a flight school took their prospective student to lunch, engaged them in hangar flying and then got them airborne? I challenge all pilots in a flight club to make this a goal in the upcoming year.

Todd McClamroch is the editor of, a blog dedicated to covering the topic of learning to fly and leveraging a private pilot certificate.  

By |December 9th, 2012|News|0 Comments

The Tank Ran Dry

Why do we always have to keep our tanks filled in aviation? Where in the rule book does it say we have to keep our tanks filled? Oh….It does say something in the rule book about filling your tanks up.

§ 91.151 Fuel requirements for flight in VFR conditions.

(a) No person may begin a flight in an airplane under VFR conditions unless (considering wind and forecast weather conditions) there is enough fuel to fly to the first point of intended landing and, assuming normal cruising speed—
(1) During the day, to fly after that for at least 30 minutes; or
(2) At night, to fly after that for at least 45 minutes.

But seriously……
Think about what you can put into a tank. Need help? Here is what I wrote down in this order:

1) Sharks
2) Fuel
3) Money
4) Soldiers
5) Rubber Super Balls
6) Nothing?

Okay, if we want to fly an airplane, we need to put something in our tanks. The first thing that comes to mind is fuel. Metaphorically, we are filling our tanks with money. Are fuel and money really essential in aviation? Yes, if you want to fly. No if you want to hang out at the airport.

Money is one of the biggest hurdles flying clubs run into. The money tank needs to have something in it so that the flying club’s members can have access to airplanes. I have heard that money is one of the biggest obstacles people face when starting a flying club. Unfortunately, clubs may be over thinking the problem. Why do you need money to start a flying club? The answer is you don’t.

All you need to have in order to start a flying club is a good aviation story to tell. That’s it! More members of flying clubs participate in social events than they do flying. Out of a roster of nearly 80 members, only 20 members actively fly. The rest tell stories, hang out at the airport and enjoy the company. As I write this I am going to add another item to my “What can you fill a tank with” list:

7) Stories

Think about how full the tanks can get with stories! If you have a logbook, you have stories to tell. If you have ever thought about aviation, you have stories to tell. If you have….okay, I’ll shut up. You get the point. Why not find a friend, go to the airport, tell a story and call yourself a Flying Club? You can make your wildest aviation dreams come true and not spend a dime. It really doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. Your club could be the best flying club in the entire world with zero airplanes, zero money, and tons of stories. Heck, you can prove it by even registering:

Who cares if you have empty fuel tanks and piggybanks? It doesn’t mean you should be excluded from aviation.


By |December 7th, 2012|News|0 Comments

Creating a Flying Club Budget

This week’s question comes to us from Tom from Ohio. He asks what should be considered when creating a budget for a flying club. Al, Louis, Marc and Todd share their thoughts in this week’s edition of Contact the Tower:

Contact the Tower

Contact the Tower is a new series on Start A Flying Club where our experts answer your questions. If you have a question about starting a flying club, submit it through our contact us form. Bi-monthly, our experts will get together to answer one of the questions and share an audio file of our roundtable discussion on the topic. We hope you learn something that will help you in starting a flying club or improve an existing flying club.