Flying Clubs – Maximizing Fun and Value Through A Common Unity

I used to manage a remote sales team. Everyone worked out of his or her house, as did I. It was a relatively new concept back then, and there were questions about the value of such a setup. The employees were hard working and self-reliant. The company got a lot of hours from all of us and we were successful. But I wondered if the value we delivered to the company and customer was maximized? Something was missing. I weighed the pros and cons, and could only come up with one item missing, the community! The office atmosphere was more professional, the “water cooler” conversations insightful, and the camaraderie was supportive and motivating. Lacking those items translated to missed opportunities for personal and professional growth.

The same holds true in all facets in life, but especially in aviation. Even something as simple as what kind of hangar a pilot chooses has implications. The dollar savings of an individual t-hangar over a “community” hangar are significant. But the value lost is also significant. Beyond the value-added services provided to an aircraft owner in a community hangar, there are many opportunities to get more out of aviation that are missed when one chooses the t-hangar route. The chance (water cooler) conversations, the camaraderie, and the support and motivation that come out of those interactions, provide the same value discussed in the office scenario.

A diverse aviation audience is reading this blog. Yet, I know that all of you share the same passion for aviation as every other reader. No explanations; no discussion necessary. It is our common unity. Our Community. And as discussed, being part of the community maximizes the value we receive.

As president of a flying club, I see this on a daily basis. I receive contact from “wayward” souls looking for more out of aviation. They know they are missing something and come to us via email, in person, via phone calls, and through friends. They’ve learned that getting a set of keys at a flight school/FBO only goes so far in satisfying the need to be part of the community. The theme is the same regardless of their ratings or experience. They want to talk about flying, they want to fly with other pilots, and they want to be able to give and receive encouragement and support. Said another way, they want to be an active part of a family. They want to be part of the club.

The statistics support the importance of flying clubs. Members of clubs are more satisfied than non-club participants. They get more out of aviation and also give more back. The flying club provides both an inlet and outlet for the exchange of real value. It’s common to hear that the value of a club is in the dollar savings a member will realize. On the surface, that thought resonates because flying is an expensive endeavor, which is not helped during these tough economic times. But significant value can be realized if we focus on the utility and personal growth provided by our passion. Ultimately each of us defines value in different terms, but maybe it truly does come down to the smile on our face. Maybe the question is not, “how much does it cost to fly, but rather, “how much does it cost not to fly”?

It doesn’t take long to see that flying clubs aren’t just about lower rates or free breakfasts. The true value is in everything from the fun factor, to the creation of strong bonds of community and fellowship, ultimately translating to growth as a human being. It’s not about Go Fly, but rather Let’s Fly. Welcome To The Club!!!

By |November 29th, 2012|News|0 Comments

Are Flight Schools Dead?

Flight Schools Are Dead:

Yup, flight schools are dead. It’s a tired, worn out model of learning how to fly. The flight school is like a payphone. Payphones were once a roaring industry before the advent of cell phones; now you likely have no idea where the closest payphone is. It’s really unfortunate….actually it isn’t at all. Are you sad that payphones are gone? Do you feel bad that you carry an iPhone now instead of making collect calls? I didn’t think so.

When were you last proud of being a graduate of a particular flight school? If you are having trouble thinking of such a moment, I’m not surprised. Most flight schools are like the payphone industry, they haven’t changed from the day they started and they are dropping like flies. Just think about having to wrangle quarters to make a long distance call, YUCK! That is the same feeling of writing a big check to go learn how to fly at a flight school for which you aren’t even proud to be a student or alumni.

People still need to learn how to fly, but where do they go? Well, go to a flying club! That’s one option. It will be a wonderful experience. All of the flying club members will be genuinely excited and interested in your journey toward achieving your aviation dreams. The support network that you have will be as strong as the membership of your club. What kind of support network will you get at a flight school? You’ll definitely be paying for one, but odds are there will not be any.

A lot of the learning at flying clubs comes from social learning. It’s like a bunch of pilots sitting around a campfire telling war stories and reliving a career’s worth of “I Learned About Flying from That” magazine articles. There is so much value in these stories and words of encouragement. Everybody is on the same flying team and is committed to winning by the slaughter rule.

Everybody is an educator at flying clubs. Each club has its “designated” CFI’s but let’s be real here, you learn from everybody. Think about it, you have a club member base that basically consists of all of your teachers for your favorite subject, aviation. Each person in the club has their own talents and things they are really good at to bring from their own outside experiences. This enhances the club, learning experience and delight to a level that cannot be touched by any school.

You don’t even have to be a pilot to learn a ton. It’s okay to pique your curiosity, it won’t really cost anything and you’ll be so much safer. Go ahead, try it!

By |November 27th, 2012|News|0 Comments

Flying Clubs Amplify Your License to Learn

If you were asked to list the reasons to start or join a flying club, you would likely place the most emphasis on the social potential and / or cost benefits. I completely agree, but I think there is also incredible value in all of the learning that takes place when a group of pilots come together. It takes commitment to build an environment conducive to making the skies a safer place, but this environment is certainly achievable. Over the course of my membership in a flying club, I’ve had countless formal and informal experiences that have resulted in growth to my aviation toolbox. Through a series of posts, I will highlight some of the learning aspects of flying club membership that I’ve found to be particularly meaningful.

To attract new members and keep current members engaged, a flying club that includes certified flight instructors (“CFIs”) among its ranks (or allows certain CFIs to instruct in club aircraft) is definitely on the right track. With ongoing CFI-pilot dialogue through various forms of club interaction, everyone wins. In such an environment, you see members stopping and engaging CFIs in discussions regarding recent experiences when members see them in the hangar or a member sitting in on a ground school session for another student. By participating in this type of ongoing dialogue, the flying club CFI is investing in a longer-term relationship that is likely to see that club member / student coming back for recurring training, biennial flight reviews or even the next rating along the aviation journey. From the club member’s perspective, the recurring interaction encourages an environment of openness and continuous learning, in which the club member pilot feels comfortable bringing questions to his or her CFI as they arise (even outside of a normal training cycle).

To support this point, last year I was planning an overnight cross-country to an airport where I would be required to stake and tie the airplane down in the grass. I had not previously done this in practice, and because it had been several years since I last talked about how to apply a double-hitch knot, a little CFI interaction the night before my flight was a no-brainer. It was a perfect night for flying so of course there were several fellow club members at the airport when I arrived for my training session. Shortly after the CFI walked in, a large debate ensued about the strengths and weaknesses of the various types of tie-down methods one can use to ensure the plane is where it should be the next day. Not only did I walk away prepared to secure the airplane down for whatever Mother Nature could throw at me, but the other pilots present for the instruction got a great dose of continuing education.

In my club, another type of CFI-pilot interaction that has been particularly useful is formal group recurring instruction sessions. These sessions, which have been quite successful, involve a CFI and another club member getting together to plan a two-to-three-hour presentation that touches on some of the areas that fade over time in the minds of us regular pilots. A VFR refresher course held during early spring when club flying hours are about to ramp up is a great way to get pilots back in the right frame of mind. Chart reading, non-towered airport operations and thunderstorms are examples of topics that can gather dust when you aren’t able to stretch your wings as much as you’d like to due to the evils of snow and ice. It just takes a little effort and collaboration between the membership and CFIs, and everyone gets a little smarter and safer.

In my mind, CFI involvement in a flying club provides all sorts of benefits. As pilots, we always need to recognize that the privilege of flying requires us to treat each flight as a learning opportunity. Forming bonds with CFIs that extend beyond the normal training cycle is a great conductor to achieving that objective.

By |November 21st, 2012|News|0 Comments

Coming Soon…

We are doing our pre-flight checks and hope to be airborne shortly.  Start A Flying Club will soon be publishing tips and ideas to help you start a successful flying club.  The members of our executive team have experience building flying clubs from the ground up and look forward to sharing their tips in the near future. Stay tuned to this frequency.

In the meantime, enjoy our Start A Flying Club trailer:

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