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!!!