One of the most important aspects of forming a flying club is attracting members. There are many ways to do so, from notices on airport bulletin boards to placing ads in aviation publications or on Craig’s list. Another option is to host an event to let the public know your club exists. After all, one of the benefits of being in a flying club is the camaraderie. An event can be a way to provide value to the aviation community or a fun way to introduce the club the general public.
Let’s say your club is in an early stage of formation. You’ve got some motivated people who are committed to creating the club, but you haven’t established the framework or bylaws yet and you’re looking to attract a few more core founding members to really get things going.
Engage the Pilot Community
Hosting an event geared for the local aviation community is a great way to get the club some exposure without a lot of effort. AOPA has a team of instructors that can deliver either a Rusty Pilot Seminar or a Maximum Fun, Minimum Cost Seminar. Before or after the seminar, give a brief description of your club and how people can get more information about joining.
The Rusty Pilot seminar is a free, fun, interactive program that gives pilots who have been out of the cockpit for a while all the information needed to get current again. It covers a variety of issues such as medical reforms, weather briefings, preflight planning, FARs, and airspace. Best of all it counts as the ground portion of a Flight Review, so there’s value for current pilots as well. It’s a great way to engage pilots in the area, helped lapsed pilots get back in the cockpit, and promote your club in formation.
The Maximum Fun, Minimum Cost flying club seminar is an interactive presentation on how to start, run, and benefit from flying clubs. These seminars, are held around the country and provide an opportunity to network with others who share your interest in forming a club or taking an existing club to the next level. It’s an opportunity to ask questions of folks who really know their stuff, tell your story, and contribute ideas based on your own experiences. These seminars are the fertile ground where flying clubs start the process of germination.
A third way to engage pilots in the area is by hosting a Safety Seminar. Invite your local FAA FAAST Team representative or AOPA’s Air Safety Institute to come for a safety seminar. Both have plenty of topics they can speak on and they’ll advertise the event. All you have to do is serve as the host, introduce the speaker and take a few minutes to talk about your club in formation. Events like these are great ways to serve the aviation community and get the word out that you are starting a club.
Engage the Public
Reaching out to pilots is an easy way to connect with people who you know love aviation and are good prospects for possible members. But don’t forget about the general public. There are lots of people who are fascinated with aviation, and hosting an event to promote your nascent club is a great way to engage an untapped market.
Consider having an Open House to showcase your clubhouse and aircraft so prospective members can see what they’ll be joining. Combined the event with a BBQ or pancake breakfast, and you’re sure to attract some interest. Everyone loves to eat and a day at the airport is something fun and different for most people.
If your club hasn’t gotten an aircraft yet, consider partnering with other airport groups like the FBO, flight school, or other organizations like EAA chapters or Women in Aviation International (WAI) chapters. Plan some activities that can educate people about the airport, the joy of flight, and your club.
Another easy event is plan an educational program, such as a guest speaker who can give an aviation related talk. Some of your founding members may have interesting backgrounds – as military pilots or flying for the airlines or working in the aerospace industry. Hold a talk either at the airport, or even the local library, and be sure to spend a few minutes at the beginning and end to introduce yourself and the club.
Events are a great way to have fun, gain some exposure, and generate interest in your club. They also provide good material for local news stories, which can become another tool in letting people know you’re forming a club.