When the calendar turns to a new page, many individuals and organizations take some time to reflect on the past year and set goals for the upcoming year. There are many areas a club might focus on – membership growth, hours flown, financial goals, or aircraft and avionics upgrades. Another area to consider is setting goals for events.
After all, one of the defining elements of a flying club is the social aspect and the camaraderie among members. Having events is one of the best ways to keep members engaged. As your club looks to 2020, here are a few suggestions of things you can do to have fun, encourage a safety culture, and build a sense of community for your members and outside your clubhouse walls.
In setting event goals for the year, it’s best to start with defining your audience. Is the event geared for just club members and families, the broader aviation community, or the general public? This article will provide suggestions for all three.
There are a number of member events that clubs do on a regular basis that build camaraderie, teamwork, and a sense of ownership and pride in the aircraft and the club.
Plane Wash – This is something simple to organize and can be done either a couple of times a year or monthly, depending on just how pretty your club likes it’s plane. It’s an easy way to have members of any age or ability work together on a project, and it’s family friendly – so don’t forget to encourage the kids to come help.
It’s also a good learning opportunity. The maintenance officer can explain what types of cleaners should be used on different materials and how to properly clean certain areas. For instance on you need to be careful what you use on plexiglass and be sure to clean in an up and down motion (not in circles) with a mircofiber towel so you don’t scratch the windscreen. If your club operates a vintage aircraft, you’ll probably need different cleaning products on fabric surfaces.
Member Talk – As part of your club’s monthly meeting, have a member give a talk about their flying experience. Recent trips to an interesting destination are always good topics. Perhaps a member took the club plane to Catalina Island, or Mackinac Island, or Nantucket. Day trips or weekend trips can help spark the imagination of other members.
If club members plan to attend an AOPA Regional Fly-In, Sun ‘n Fun, or Airventure, having another pilot share their experience and lessons learned provides a great pre-trip safety presentation. Have any members flown in challenging airspace, such as the Hudson River Corridor in NY or the Washington, DC Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA)? Pilots don’t need to be afraid of flying in more restricted airspace. It’s relatively simple if you take the time to learn what to do and having a member share their experience can help do that.
One item that often gets overlooked – many of your members are likely to have interesting aviation backgrounds. Whether they flew in the military or as a professional pilot, everybody has a story that other members will enjoy hearing and often they can learn something, too. It’s a way to pass on the collective wisdom of the club, while giving members an opportunity to get to know each other better.
Other easy to host events for members include organizing a Fly-Out for the $100 hamburger or to visit an aviation museum. You’d be surprised how many aviation museums are around. A good list of museums around the world can be found at aviationmuseum.eu, including a list of American Aviation Museums. A monthly BBQ in warmer months is a casual way to spend time with members and can include families or your airport community as a whole. Maybe you can host a movie night – you can either set up a screen or project the movie on the side of the hangar. There are a lot of great aviation movies and it’s a fun, family friendly event. In colder months, a club Happy Hour could be a nice way to enjoy each other’s company in a non-aviation setting.
One of the best ways to build camaraderie at your airport is to invite the staff of the FBO, flight school, or maintenance shops to join you. If your club is based at a towered field, invite the controllers in the tower or the airport fire department if you have one. Building relationships at the airport goes a long way. Consider hosting an event open to more than just the airport community.
An FAA Wings Seminar, an AOPA Rusty Pilot seminar, or a Maximum Fun, Minimum Cost flying club seminar are good opportunities to get your club’s name out in the pilot community while encouraging a safety culture for your club members and the local aviation community.
You could partner with a local flight school of FBO to host these events. Rusty Pilots seminars encourage pilots that haven’t in flown in a while to get back into the cockpit and are useful even for pilots that do fly regularly. The seminar counts as the ground portion of a flight review. AOPA You Can Fly Ambassadors or AOPA Flying Club Staff can hold these seminars for you. For more information, email [email protected].
Host an Open House or Fly-In –This could be either to invite prospective members to come learn about the club, see your aircraft, and meet members or it could be a broader effort like an airport day. Again, you could partner with the FBO, flight school, or maintenance facilities on the field to showcase all the good things going on at your airport.
Since pilots love food (really, who doesn’t) combine open house with a BBQ. If you’re hosting a fly-in consider giving awards or certificates to the plane that flew the farthest to get there, the oldest airplane that came, or have people vote for their favorite airplane. There are a bunch of categories you could come up with and it’s a fun way to engage the pilots as well as those in attendance.
Pilots know how amazing the aviation community is and the many benefits of being a pilot. But most people (the general public) haven’t had the same opportunity to appreciate how great the aviation community is. If your club is interested in sharing the joy of flying as well as the benefits, there are many ways to do that with the general public – particularly educating and encouraging youth.
Young Eagles –For more than 25 years, the EAA Young Eagles program has been one of the most successful ways to introduce children ages 8 to 17 to the joys of flight. Consider participating the next time your local EAA Chapter hosts a Young Eagles event.
BSA Scouts and Girl Scouts– Many clubs have hosted a Boy Scout or Girl Scout troop, teaching them about the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) in aviation. Club members can share their knowledge and help the scouts earn an aviation badge. In addition to the club providing an educational service to the next generation of potential aviators, it’s an opportunity to educate and inform their parents about your club and how it is a positive member of the local community. And who knows, maybe you’ll attract some new members.
These are just a few ideas of events your club can host or participate in to provide value to your members and keep them engaged on many levels. Being part of a club is social, it is educational, and it can include more than just your members. If your club participates in any unique or interesting activities, we’d love to hear about … and perhaps write a story about your club!