News From HQ: Transitions, Questionnaire, and Survey Results


Transition – a change of one thing to another.  As pilots, we transition all the time – and not just upwards.  On December 2nd, Director of the Flying Clubs Initiative Steve Bateman presented Up, Down and Sideways – Transitioning is Directional at an NTSB Safety Seminar held at the NTSB Training Center in Ashburn, Virginia.  The seminar program was highly focused on discussing and improving safety during aviation-based transitions, and featured speakers from AOPA, NTSB, NAFI, and Cirrus Aircraft.

In preparing for the seminar, Steve thought about the various transitions that occur in flying clubs – and not all were to do with flying different aircraft.  For example, many flight schools have “line people,” who look after fuel, oil, clean windscreens, etc.  If new members had previously rented from flight schools, they may not be familiar with their responsibility to perform pre-and-post flight inspections, how to report maintenance issues, to actually ground an airplane if necessary, and to keep aircraft clean and ready for the next member. 

We mostly think of transitioning as applying to pilots who wish to “move up,” perhaps in the number of seats or engines, greater horsepower, retractable gear, and so on.  These most definitely are serious transitions and should involve training, as well as the required written tests, endorsements, and check rides. 

But don’t underestimate transitioning downwards - and sideways.  For example, transitioning to a light sport aircraft may sound “easy,” but each make and model has its own characteristics, some of which may take you by surprise.  Sideways transitions include things like “buttonology” on glass cockpits, different autopilots – and, topically, different transponders, especially if involving ADS-B IN, which initially will result in more head-inside-the-cockpit time than usual.

We suggest that you consider the following points to help with transitions within the club:

  • Ensure that new members undergo some sort of “onboarding” process, where club officers provide training and tips, and bring practical meaning to the words in the bylaws and operating rules
  • Regularly review aircraft check-out and check-in responsibilities with all club members at club safety meetings
  • Provide club-wide training on new equipment – however small it may seem
  • Keep clear and up-to-date records of club members’ proficiency.  You may not think about it in these terms, but flying on a cold winter night after months of long, warm summer days definitely counts as a transition
  • The comment “it’s just another airplane” is a hazardous attitude, so treat it with training

Please share the following resources with club members:


You may remember that we conducted a flying clubs network survey earlier in the year, as part of a bigger study to understand how we may measure the health of flying clubs.  We’ll present some snippets from this survey later in this article, but we discovered that a large number of clubs are listed with outdated information on their AOPA Club Finder pages.  The Club Finder is a wonderful tool and helps prospective members find flying clubs – but the information is only useful if it is correct.

We sent out an email to all network clubs on December 4, 2017, requesting that you check your club’s listing in the Club Finder and update it as necessary.  A glitch occurred and links in some emails didn’t work – our sincere apologies.  We did test it…but obviously not sufficiently.

After we fixed the bug, we sent out a second email on December 6.  We know this is annoying – but we would be most grateful if you would search for the second email and retake the questionnaire.

If you didn’t receive any emails, then we definitely do not have the correct contact address for your club, and so prospective members won’t be able to contact you – nor can AOPA provide benefits to you as a member of the flying club network.  Please send an email letting us know if you didn’t receive the questionnaire, and we’ll help you work through the update process – please send your email to:   [email protected]

By the way, you’ll have to log in to your AOPA account before being redirected to the club update page. Just log in with your AOPA login (typically, your email address) and password, and you’ll be directed to the appropriate page.  If you have any problems, we’ll be happy to help - please email us at: [email protected]


Flying Club Survey – Some Results and Findings

One of the major projects currently underway in the Flying Clubs Initiative involves research into the health of flying clubs.  This research—which will be used to improve and expand AOPA’s resources available to flying clubs in the future—is being conducted to answer several important questions.  What exactly constitutes a “healthy” club?  Which factors are most important in contributing to a club’s health?  Which issues, should they arise, are most likely to threaten a club’s sustainability?  And—most importantly—what can AOPA do to help clubs grow and thrive?  

To answer these questions, the Flying Clubs Initiative team created a research plan comprising two prongs.  The first prong—which was implemented in June—involved the distribution of a flying club survey.  This survey, which was sent to every club within AOPA’s Flying Clubs Network, yielded 143 responses and a variety of interesting findings.  The questions that it asked ranged from simple metrics (the number of aircraft, members, etc. that a club has), to enquiries about the influencers of club satisfaction. 

From the clubs that responded to the survey, statistics were gathered that included the following:

  • 49 percent indicated they definitely intend to grow in the coming 12 months, while an additional 15 percent indicated they probably will grow 
  • 63 percent indicated they regularly hold safety meetings
  • 66 percent indicated they hold social events

The second prong of research—meant to give the Flying Clubs Initiative staff deeper insight into the inner workings of clubs—is taking the form of a series of interviews with 12 flying clubs across the nation.  The 12 clubs, chosen from the survey’s respondents, were selected for their diversity—clubs within the study span a wide range of sizes, missions, and geographic locales.  So far, Flying Club Initiative Director Steve Bateman and Flying Club Initiative Manager Michael Hangartner have met with representative members of seven clubs.  While most meetings have been done online, a period of good weather allowed Steve and Michael to fly to Lakewood, NJ to meet with the Jersey Aero Club—New Jersey’s oldest continuously operating (powered) flying club, at one of its monthly meetings.  The resulting discussion touched on a variety of issues the club was facing, and provided Steve and Michael with valuable takeaways, and we thank the club and its members for their hospitality and open discussion.

Some of the core questions being asked in each of the flying club interviews are: what can AOPA do to improve its resources, and what it can do—in clubs’ eyes—to add value to the AOPA Flying Club Network?  These questions are open to all clubs, so if you have ideas for new offerings that would allow the network to better serve clubs, please send an email to Steve or Michael at: [email protected]


Fly lots and fly safe!

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