Picture this: a prospective student pilot walks into a his or her local flight school inquiring about flight training and eight hours later the student walks out after a nearly full day of hangar flying, lunch with the pilots, and his first flight in a General Aviation aircraft. Sounds like a dream, right? Surely if this type of experience existed the industry would see all  prospective student signing up for lessons.

Meet Harsha. He did the best thing a prospective student pilot can do when wanting to learn more about flying, he walked passed the flight school and sought out a flight club. He read an a recent article the AOPA website about Leading Edge Flying Club, a club with the motto; “Great Planes, Great People“.

Harsha stopped by to learn about flying and was warmly greeted by six club members who were preparing to head out on a fly-out adventure. As all good pilots would have done they did some weights and measures in their head then realizing they could fit him in, they quickly invited Harsha along for his first GA Flight. The only issue was that Mother Nature was not on board with their plans. What ensued was Harsha’s first introduction to one of the biggest considerations in flying, weather. He watched as six pilots discussed options and worked through the go-no-go decision. It was determined the group would need to wait and see if the weather would improve. Harsha seemed to be enjoying himself and was happy to stick around to partake in a few hours of hangar flying that ensued.

As often is the case, the weather was slow to improve so the pilots took their cars and moved the party to a local pizzeria with the prospective student pilot in tow, who was quickly losing the prefix “prospective”. The camaraderie only found in the aviation community continued despite our distance from an airport or airplane. During lunch Harsha received a call from his wife and he told her he was out to lunch with the pilots. When he got off he shared that his wife was surprised to hear he had just met these men and was now out with “the pilots”.

As the bill was settled, there were some smirks around the table as pilots checked in with Foreflight. Their home airport, Chicago Executive, had just gone VFR. It was one of two airports in the area reporting VFR with a full selection of IFR, Light IFR and Marginal VFR in every direction.

It was as if the air raid siren had just gone off. The LEFC members sprang from their chairs and reported back to the airport. Within 30 minutes, Leading Edge Flying Club had eight club members and one future club member in the air in two club airplanes and two privately owned airplanes (Beechcraft Bonanza, Piper Archer III, Piper Dakota and a Cirrus SR20). The prospective pilot enjoyed his first flight in a general aviation airplane and spent the day as one of the club. Harsha’s story had a very happy ending.

I worry that too often those that want to join our ranks as pilots get turned away by a cold reception at a flight school. “The Pilots” don’t let the prospective pilot taste what it is he or she has dreamed of. Didn’t we all dream of flying and spending time talking about flying? Today Harsha met a family of pilots who get together under the name Leading Edge Flying Club. I don’t doubt that he will soon start his training and I know he will have a support structure that only a flight club can offer that will help him achieve his dream of becoming a certificated pilot.

When was the last time a flight school took their prospective student to lunch, engaged them in hangar flying and then got them airborne? I challenge all pilots in a flight club to make this a goal in the upcoming year.

Todd McClamroch is the editor of MyFlightBlog.com, a blog dedicated to covering the topic of learning to fly and leveraging a private pilot certificate.