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?