In my last post, I spoke about the value of CFI membership in a flying club provides to the rest of the members. Besides CFIs, another pool of aviation knowledge readily available to flying club members is the application of the buddy system. When flying buddies are in a cockpit together, they should challenge each other throughout an entire flight to make it a mutually beneficial learning experience.

Starting with the preflight briefing and aircraft checks, a great flying buddy is someone who, while not acting as pilot-in-command (“PIC”) for a particular flight, prepares as if he or she will be PIC. This mentality forces the PIC to critically think through the different aspects of preparing for a flight, rather than just going through the motions. A flying buddy’s presence could result in a reminder to the PIC that the oil dipstick is not fully in and locked or to engage in a discussion about the particulars of prevailing conditions when the forecast calls for something other than ceilings and visibility unlimited. When I fly with buddies, I like to find out what tools they use to obtain all available information prior to a flight. As opposed to a one-off conversation, I get the most value through real-world experience before we take to the skies. It is through this type of interaction that I’ve recently expanded my ForeFlight knowledge base. What better way is there to learn how to maximize the utility of ForeFlight than through talking through the entire profile of a forthcoming flight?

Once airborne, the learning potential of having a flying buddy onboard really takes off. We as pilots should strive to leverage the past learning experiences of our flying buddies to make ourselves better pilots. One such aspect of learning is the use of technology. Aircraft systems have become increasingly complex over the past several years, and most pilots have developed knowledge of these complicated systems to varying degrees. A non-instrument-rated pilot, for instance, may only be familiar with the direct-to-function in a Garmin GTN 650. An instrument-rated flying buddy may be able to pass along tips to more effectively use the system to navigate through complicated airspace (for example, Chicago’s airspace, complete with areas of Class B, Class C and Class D-controlled airspace). On a recent flight, one of my flying buddies showed me how to extend the display of runway centerlines on the screen when approaching an unfamiliar airport at night. If I had been flying solo in the same scenario, I may have figured out how to use the functionality, but I would have wasted valuable time and concentration in doing so.

At the conclusion of a flight, there is always potential for a good debrief when another pilot came along for the ride. In the scenarios I discussed above, I portrayed the PIC as the one doing the learning. Obviously, this is not always the case. I previously mentioned that the buddy pilot should prepare as if he or she will be PIC. This mindset should carry through the entire flight. The buddy pilot should be observing, reacting and thinking about the flight as it transpires and consider how he or she would react in each situation. The post-flight discussion could be a great forum to talk through any particular aspects that may differ and hopefully results in some great takeaways for both pilots.

Now how does this relate to flying clubs? Couldn’t a pilot go out and find his or her own flying buddy? Of course, but the potential for linking multiple aviators through the social forum of a flying club is much greater than the other means available to pilots. A flying club, when operating as designed, brings pilots together. Through flying club interactions, it quickly becomes obvious that an empty seat in an aircraft is a wasted seat. While cost sharing may be a catalyst to creating flying buddy bonds, making better pilots is certainly be one of the favorable byproducts.