News from HQ: Flying Club Network is Growing

Twenty-two – that’s the number of new clubs that AOPA has helped form so far in 2017.  Thanks to the hard work of the AOPA Ambassadors and the Flying Clubs staff, we are on target to achieve the goal of 30 new clubs this year.   We’ve also been working on our plans for 2018, and we have some exciting projects and programs planned for the rest of 2017 and beyond.

We are also up to 819 clubs in the Flying Club Network, and we are adding both new and existing clubs every week.  If you know of a club that is not in the Network - either in-formation or one that has been around for a while - please give them a nudge and point them to the Join The Network webpage.

We’re also pleased to announce that Michael Hangartner has joined the Flying Clubs team as Manager, Flying Clubs Initiative, reporting to Steve Bateman.  Having Michael come on board will allow us to produce additional and updated resources for new clubs, as well as providing new material and guidance to help existing clubs grow and thrive.  Michael’s previous position at AOPA was Research Analyst, where he was responsible for survey-based research initiatives, including our own Flying Clubs survey.  Michael is a helicopter and fixed-wing private pilot and we are delighted to have him join the Flying Clubs team.

Thank your Airport Board

As we head into fall and flying days become shorter, it’s good time to reflect and thank those who help us with our passion and hobby through the busy months of summer.  An often overlooked group is the Airport Authority - or Board - depending on how your airport is structured. 

Many Airport Authorities – especially those managing small airports – are made up of volunteers who give their time to support community airports and folks like us in Flying Clubs.  Airport “sponsors” at federally-funded airports (the majority in the USA) must comply with comprehensive and complicated rules (see FAA Order 5190.6B if you are interested), so please bear this in mind if you think the board is being a bit “hard-nosed” on certain matters – they too have operating rules.

Probably the most important relationship that a club can have is with the airport management team, so think about attending an airport board meeting and thanking them for their hard work.  You might also think about helping the airport board by, say, offering to host a fly-in breakfast or other event that showcases the airport to the wider community.  At the end of the day, airports need clubs and clubs need airports – so working closely together with the authority makes perfect sense!

AOPA Hangar

If you haven’t discovered it yet, check out the AOPA Hangar, our new online community platform.  The primary purpose of the community is to connect pilots with other pilots in meaningful and engaging ways. The Hangar feels very much like a Facebook for pilots, but without all the distractions of Facebook! 

It’s a place where pilots can gather, get to know one another, make new friends, and share their flying stories and experiences. Pilots can have in-depth conversations about topics that matter to them, find and create aviation events, search for other pilots by location, type of aircraft owned, or by certificate level (and much more). You can also join groups, where like-minded pilots can congregate and create their own mini-communities (for example, flying clubs, student pilots, rusty pilots, etc.).

Over the next few months, we’ll be exploring ways to use the Hangar to keep in contact with our network clubs and to open-up more club-to-club interactions.  Feel free to check out the Hangar and join in a conversation or two – more information can be found by clicking here.

You Can Fly – Tying It All Together

If you’ve followed some of the links in this and previous editions of the Club Connector, you might be familiar with the AOPA You Can Fly program.  This wonderfully broad and deep program is based around doing whatever it takes to reverse the decline in the pilot population.

What you may not know is the Flying Clubs Initiative is just one component part of You Can Fly.  Following the High School Initiative that brings aviation careers to the minds of our youth, the Flight Training Initiative focuses on raising the standards of the flight training experience, to raise the number of people achieving a private pilot certificate.  As we all know, Flying Clubs provide cost-effective access to airplanes outside of the rental fleet, as well as the camaraderie that comes from being with people with a shared passion.  Then, if life conspires to take us away from flying, we have the Rusty Pilots program that has successfully brought back more than 1,250 pilots this year alone.  All of this, coupled with our “boots on the ground” regional Ambassadors, is what makes up You Can Fly.  Try to find the time to check out this integrated program – we’ll think you’ll be impressed!

We’d be delighted to hear your stories around the components of You Can Fly, and also any interesting crossovers – such as a flying club working with a local high school to provide hands-on experience with aircraft and flying, or perhaps an ex-rusty pilot starting a flying club.  If you have something to share, please post your story on the AOPA Hangar, or email Steve Bateman at [email protected].

Norman, OK Fly-In Report

Two down, and two more to go in 2017!  The AOPA Regional Fly-In at KOUN, Norman, OK, was nothing short of spectacular.  The venue (University of Oklahoma Westheimer Airport) was perfect for a regional fly-in – lots of ramp space for static displays and the large vendor tent, and fields of manicured grass for airplane parking and camping.  The weather was perfect - clear blues skies, slight cooling breeze, which helped attract more than 500 aircraft and around 7,500 people - a record setting number at a regional fly-in.  The AOPA Village hummed with activity and interest in all things aviation, and the volunteer corps made up of pilots, aviation enthusiasts and university staff and students were wonderful and fun to work with.

The all-day workshops on Friday were packed with a variety of topics covering Owner Guided Maintenance, IFR Refresher, Understanding Aviation Weather and Pilot Plus One.  Two Rusty Pilot seminars were very well attended in the You Can Fly tent, and Steve Bateman presented Maximum Fun, Minimum Cost (How to Start and Benefit from a Flying Club), followed by Drones 101, an introduction to flying and operating sUAS aircraft.  For a more in-depth report of the flying, see the story here.

Pulse Poll Results and This Month’s Question

In the August edition of Club Connector, we posed the question “Without considering aircraft size or type, what is the average cost per hour of flight time across your club fleet?” 

Here are the results:   


Even with the fairly limited number of responses, it is encouraging to note that a big majority of club aircraft cost less than $100 per hour to use.  Of course, club dues and initial buy-in fees should be factored into the overall cost per hour, but even so, this is good verification that flying clubs offer very affordable access to aircraft.

For the next few months, we are going to ask some details about club aircraft, to help us understand the make-up of the club fleet. 

The question this month is very broad: “What is the wing configuration of your club aircraft?” In following months, we’ll ask about aircraft make, model, number of seats, age of aircraft – and more! 

Thanks for your participation in these quick surveys – they really do help us better understand the way that our network clubs operate – which allows us to provide better and more targeted help and resources.

By the way – when you follow the link and take the poll, you’ll immediately see the results at that point in time, but you can follow the link at a later time to see how the results change as more people participate.

Preparing for Groton, CT

With the success of Norman behind us, two regional fly-ins remain in 2017:  Groton, Connecticut, on October 6-7 and Tampa, Florida, on October 27-28. 

As with all 2017 AOPA regional fly-ins, Groton will play host to workshops, seminars, training, education, trips to local attractions, aircraft galore, good food and conversations, and perhaps most importantly, fun for the whole family.  Les Smith (Sr. Director, Pilot Community Development) will attend the Groton Fly-in, along with Norm Isler, the AOPA Ambassador for the Northeast region.  Please stop by and introduce yourselves – Les and Norm are both active pilots, and have a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. 

Upcoming Flying Clubs Team Events

If you are in the Delaware and Virginia areas in early October, please join Steve at “Wings and Wheels-2017 and Aviation Education Expo” at Georgetown, Delaware (KGED), on October 6-7 and at the “Virginia Festival of Flight”, at Suffolk, Virginia(KSFQ), on Saturday, October 7.  Please stop by and say hello if you make it to these events.

Starting next month, we’ll include a calendar of events that our Ambassadors will be hosting or attending in their regions.  These events would be excellent opportunities for a club fly-out, and will give you the opportunity to spend some time with the incredibility experienced Ambassadors.

Fly lots and fly safe!

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