News from HQ: Backcountry Clubbin'

There are many ways to experience high adventure in a flying club, but few can match the excitement of aviation at its most rugged—backcountry flying. While it often conjures images of taildraggers with tundra tires flying over scenic vistas in areas of remote and mountainous wilderness, “backcountry flying” is in reality a much broader term that can refer to any flight that begins or ends off an airport.  In this month’s issue of the Club Connector, we will explore ways that clubs can have fun miles from the nearest runway.

This month, we’ll highlight the thrill of backcountry flying by focusing our Club Spotlight on the T-Craft Aero Club, based in Nampa, Idaho.  The T-Craft Aero Club gives its members the means to access remote areas by aircraft, and to enjoy the freedom that comes with backcountry aviation.  It is also a club that prides itself on honing the piloting abilities of its members, both through training and ongoing educational opportunities.  On the topic of education, our Safety article focuses on ways that you can learn techniques required for backcountry flying (and landing) at your home airport—techniques that are sure to improve the skills of any aviator. 

One great thing about backcountry flying is that it often doesn’t require a specialized aircraft; even clubs with planes not suited for wilderness flying can find strips of the beaten path that are accessible to Cessnas—strips that are perfect for a picnic or camping.  Some of the basic characteristics of aircraft that are good in the backcountry are examined in our Aircraft Spotlight. 

If your club allows backcountry flying, you might wonder just where you are able to take the aircraft.  Some important considerations for off-field landings are addressed in the answer to October’s Question of the Month.

Whether you are a member of a club that currently engages in backcountry flying or simply have an interest in remote possibilities, this is an issue for you!

Carbondale Fly-In a Success

The AOPA Regional Fly-In in Carbondale, held on October 5 and 6, saw 179 aircraft descend on Southern Illinois Airport, with nearly 7,000 people attending the event over the course of the weekend.  Saturday's attendance was boosted by the Third annual Southern Illinois Plane Pull, which was held at the airport during the fly-in and raised more than $10,000 to benefit Special Olympics Illinois. 

The Carbondale Fly-In was attended by numerous families, and AOPA Flying Clubs Initiative Manager Michael Hangartner and Sr. Director of Flight Training Technology Pablo Maurelia gave a new presentation titled You Can Be a Pilot.  The presentation is the first at AOPA's fly-ins to be aimed at nonpilots, and is meant to convey the fun and excitement that comes with the aviation lifestyle.  It also outlines the flight training process, showing attendees how a dream of flying can—with effort—be eminently attainable.  AOPA Ambassador Andy Miller gave a well-attended Maximum Fun, Minimum Cost on Saturday, during which he explained to attendees the financial and social advantages that can come from starting or joining a flying club.  

Last Stop for 2018: Gulf Shores

AOPA will host its final regional fly-in of 2018 on October 26-27 at Jack Edwards National Airport (KJKA), located in Gulf Shores, AL.  Gulf Shores offers a wide array of options for both water and land-based activities, and includes beautiful beaches, fresh seafood, championship golf courses, charter fishing trips, wildlife areas, and historic sites.  Surrounded by bays and rivers, there are myriad opportunities for recreation in Gulf Shores—a location that has something for everyone. 

The fly-in at Gulf Shores will include all the popular events that have come to define AOPA Regional Fly-Ins, including a Barnstormers Party Friday evening, a variety of free seminars on Saturday, numerous aircraft displays, and a Pilot Town Hall with AOPA President Mark Baker.  Saturday’s seminars will include “Maximum Fun, Minimum Cost: How to Start and Grow Your Flying Club” and “Rusty Pilots,” both of which will be presented by AOPA Ambassador Jamie Beckett. 

For more information, including event times, go to AOPA’s Gulf Shores Fly-In page.  We hope to see you there! 

HQ Hosts Redbird Migration

On October 9-11, AOPA hosted Redbird’s annual Migration Flight Training Conference at the You Can Fly Academy in Frederick, MD.  Migration—which has become a leading conference for flight training professionals over the past decade—featured presentations from industry leaders as well as small-group breakout sessions in which attendees were able to discuss some of the issues that are facing flight schools today. 

One of the breakout sessions included a presentation by Flying Clubs Initiative Director Steve Bateman that examined the different and important roles that both flight schools and flying clubs play at airports.  The presentation highlighted how necessary schools and clubs are to the sustainability of general aviation, and also contained advice for flight training professionals who might be considering forming an affiliated flying club for a flight school. 

AOPA Flight Training Experience Awards

The Redbird Migration conference proved a perfect venue for AOPA to announce the winners of the 2018 Flight Training Experience Survey on October 10.  The annual survey, which extended from April until August, solicited responses from pilots who had received flight training in the prior twelve months.  AOPA's Sr. Director of Flight Training Education Chris Moser explained that the survey is part of a program that seeks "to promote good flight training practices and recognize those providers who excel in the eyes of their customers."  

At its close, the 2018 Flight Training Experience Survey had received 6,310 complete responses. From that feedback, 954 flight schools and 1,849 flight instructors were reviewed by their customers. Awards were chosen for standout schools and for instructors with at least five independent reviews and consistently superior ratings. Customers highlighted educational quality, customer service, information sharing, and community among the 78 distinguished flight schools and 123 distinguished instructors. A "blind committee" of industry experts awarded the top-scoring flight school and instructor in each of five regions—West, Southwest, Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast. A sixth award was presented to the overall national award winner.

New Clubs

We in the Flying Clubs initiative would like to welcome the following newly-established clubs to AOPA's Flying Clubs Network:

OZ1 Flying Club based at Bentonville Municipal Airport (KVBT) in Arkansas, Texas

Blue-Sky Flying Club, based at Ankeny Regional Airport (KIKV) in Ankeny, Iowa

Walla Walla Flying Club, Inc., based at S95 in Walla Walla, Washington

Here's wishing all three new clubs blue skies and tailwinds!

Related Articles