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.