Fly Outs

It’s Just Lunch

lunch2When was the last time you were invited out to lunch by an entire Approach Control facility over the radio? It probably hasn’t happened in a while if at all. Well the other day, the Leading Edge Flying Club got just that!

Ground Effect Advisor’s Louis Bowers turned what would normally be a simple and quick flight review into a 6 airplane fly out! Louis thought it would be awesome to take his flight review over the top and extend the learning and entertainment opportunity to the entire Leading Edge Flying Club. Putting Mr. Bowers’ thought into action, six flying club airplanes fired up on the morning of 4/13/13 and flew VFR into St. Louis Lambert International (STL). Don’t think it went unnoticed when a caravan of weekend warriors showed up asking for Class B clearance into one of the largest airports in the Midwest.

St. Louis Approach really thought something was up when a Piper Archer, Piper Dakota, Cessna 172, Cirrus SR20 and two Cirrus SR22’s all landed at once. Approach control asked one of the airplanes if something was going on at STL – Lambert International that day.
The pilot responded “Yeah! We are going to lunch!”

Jealousy presented itself quickly at the STL Tracon Center when they responded “Next time you come, fly into Spirit of St. Louis, and we’ll join you!”

lunchHow about that!? What was going to be a simple VFR Flight Review turned into a standing invitation and injection of fun for lunch between controllers and pilots! This is the true demonstration of what a flying club can do. As the club flies by, they turn heads. The level of fun is infectious and people want to join in.

Think about the learning opportunity for the pilots in the airplanes too! Flying VFR into a Class B airport isn’t something weekend warriors regularly do. It’s a pretty incredible learning opportunity and confidence booster. This one goes down in the books!

The real question is, who is going to have the honor of buying lunch next time? The pilots, or controllers of St. Louis Approach? A flip of a coin will have to decide that battle!

By |April 30th, 2013|Fly Outs|0 Comments

Experience Multiplier Turns A Flyout Into Something So Much More

What pilot doesn’t enjoy heading out to the airport, firing up an airplane and flying out somewhere for a $100 burger? A fly-out is a great experience that can be enjoyed by pilots weekend after weekend, allowing us to really seize the value offered by a pilot’s license. When you inject a flying club into a fly-out, the reasons flying clubs represent an experience multiplier to the pilot community become quickly evident. I realized this firsthand when we piled 15 fellow members from the Leading Edge Flying Club (LEFC) into four aircraft and met individuals from several other Wisconsin and Iowa flying clubs at Kealy’s Kafe at Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport (KJVL) for breakfast, socializing and, of course, hangar flying. Over a few hours, here are some of the things I got out of my experience…

A fellow LEFC member and I intended to fly the club’s Sky Arrow to and from KJVL. The Sky Arrow is a great airplane for tooling around the Chicago area or making short cross-country trips, as was the case here. The Sky Arrow is a two-person, tandem seat pusher that offers incredible views with a bubble canopy configuration. Due to a low battery, complicated by the frigid January temperature, the Sky Arrow did not start. Thankfully, two of the other aircraft going on the fly-out had held back to ensure everyone got off of the ground, and we were able to quickly hop in and depart only a few minutes behind schedule. Had we planned to fly on our own, the trip would have been over before it had begun.

cirrus1Further proof that a flying club can turn an aircraft maintenance issue into an opportunity: a few minutes after walking away from the Sky Arrow, I found myself in a club member’s Cirrus SR20. This being my first time in a Cirrus, I was blown away by the experience and how seemingly no details were overlooked during the aircraft’s design process. Riding in the back seat gave me the opportunity to peer around and take in the experience over the shoulder of the PIC, while also exploring the cabin details.

My fellow passenger from the Sky Arrow was able to hitch a ride in the back of a Cessna 310 – the turn of events worked out nicely for him as well. With over 30 pilots arriving in a variety of airplanes, including an LSA, a taildragger, and several Cessnas, the fly-out was a pilot-rich environment. All attendees took full advantage of this experience. Name tags were distributed, and the whole event was like a grown-up version of musical chairs. There was a constant buzz to the atmosphere, and conversations covered the entire gamut of aviation. Even pilots not originally part of the contingent, but who happened to otherwise be at KJVL for breakfast, joined in on the fun. One of the culminating events of the day came in the form of a remix of Frank Sinatra’s Come Fly With Me, which can be viewed (at your own risk) here.

gps_mapBuilding upon the musical chairs theme introduced above, there was a lot of aircraft shuffling on the tarmac of KJVL before kicking off the return leg to KPWK. I settled into the left seat of the LEFC Archer and logged some cross-country PIC time with a fellow club member. It was fun to be at a different airport and hear so many familiar voices and tail numbers over the radio. We ultimately lifted off just as the Leading Edge SR22 fired up. As a testament to the speed of the SR22, we landed at KPWK only immediately prior to the SR22 (and had watched it gain ground on us the entire time on the Avidyne multi-function display). The journey, though, offered a great opportunity to share different piloting techniques, aerial waypoints and provided another set of trained eyes to look for others taking advantage of the perfect flying conditions. Once back at KPWK, all participants gathered in our flying club’s common area to debrief on all of the fun and settle the financial details. Total cost per person came in at just under $93, proving that the $100 burger (or breakfast, in our case) still has a pulse!!!

For me, going on the fly-out to KJVL provided firsthand evidence of how a flying club can be an experience multiplier. Had I planned to go up to KJVL for breakfast on my own, I would have been grounded for mechanical reasons. Instead, through the community of a flying club, I ended up making the trip, logging PIC time in a different type of aircraft than I had originally planned, spent a few hours with a great group of fellow pilots and rode in a Cirrus for the first time – all for under $100. When are we doing this again?

By |March 6th, 2013|Fly Outs|0 Comments

Flying Clubs – Making Your Go / No-Go Decision Fun

flyingclub_panoramaEvery time a pilot climbs into the cockpit before a flight, he or she is faced with a critical go / no-go decision. In making such a decision, the prevailing and expected weather, the state of the aircraft, and the condition of the pilot must all be considered. How does the dynamic of a personal go / no-go decision change when multiple pilots assemble for a planned cross-country and the weather doesn’t cooperate? I recently found out first-hand.

In mid-November, a group of friends / fellow members of Leading Edge Flying Club and I planned a cross-country trip to Central County Airport (68C) in Iola, Wisconsin to experience the annual holiday party held at the airfield. The event at 68C is not just any holiday party; it is grassroots flying at its finest – a congregation of pilots with an overabundance of food (nearly ten turkeys and ten hams) and aviation cheer. For all participants, the motivation to make the trip was high, as it offered a chance to fulfill many aviation objectives: landing at a grass strip; logging extended cross-country time; and, most importantly, bonding with fellow members of the flying club.

On the day of our adventure, we each arrived at KPWK early in the morning desperate for the scud of clouds and mist to dissipate by the time of our intended departure. Given the distance to our destination, coupled with the noon serving time of the turkeys and ham, we needed to be airborne by a certain time. As Todd McClamroch described in his post, Lunch With the Pilots, the six pilots (and one prospective pilot) present maximized the collaboration potential offered by a flying club and engaged in a technology-fueled discussion utilizing ForeFlight to determine our options. While designated pilots-in-command had been established for the first leg of the trip, everyone maintained an ownership interest in the critical go / no-go decision. Each of us weighed in on the current and anticipated weather conditions along our planned route with the most recently-issued terminal aerodome forecasts at hand. This process evolved into a discussion about the different airspace classes and the legal flying limitations of each. It was a great way to intertwine flight planning and refreshing our brains with some of the concepts that often fade after getting a private pilot license.

After weighing all of the available information, we collectively made the right call not to launch. By making our decision in a flying club environment, we engaged in a much more comprehensive process than we would likely otherwise have had had we been faced with the same challenge individually. Rather than simply cancelling the flight or launching with a case of get-there- itis, we determined that we had a weather problem and held an open forum to discuss the potential solutions. Where could we divert along different points of the route? Would the instrument-rated pilots feel comfortable taking the lead? Could we fly west first, where the ceilings were reported to be higher, and then turn north? What would we do if we arrived at our destination and field conditions were not ideal? These are all questions we should ask ourselves when planning a flight on our own, but as I found out this past weekend, planning a flight with a group of other pilots / flying club members helps ensure no stone goes unturned. In the end, everyone felt comfortable with the decision that was made and all of us walked away better, safer pilots.

To get more out of aviation, pilots should not just cancel a flight after a quick read of the existing or forecasted weather conditions. Weather conditions change, and the forecast is not always accurate. Being in a flying club and flying with fellow members enhances the go / no-go decision process by making it collaborative and fostering an environment in which pilots challenge each other. If the weather is bad, you should get to the same decision, but the journey along the way becomes much more meaningful.

By |February 12th, 2013|Fly Outs|0 Comments

Club Fly with Me

This is what you happens when you mix flying clubs and friendship! 44 pilots a lot of breakfast, and Frank Sinatra wannabe’s!!! Representing six Flying Clubs from three states met up this weekend at KJVL for friendship and flight. It was incredibly awesome. Don’t believe us? Just watch us serenade you.

By |January 27th, 2013|Fly Outs|0 Comments