Club Spotlight: Reawakening Your Club After A Winter Hibernation

Winter in many parts of the country can be rough, with low temperatures, less daylight and stormy weather. If club members decided to hibernate for a few months and leave the flying to snowy owls, no one would blame them. 

South Dakota is one of those places where winters can be long. It’s no surprise that members of the Mockingbird Flying Club based at Joe Foss Field (FSD) in Sioux Falls fly dramatically less during the first quarter of the year than they do the other nine months.

As the weather warms and the days get longer, the club does a number of things to encourage its 37 members to get back out to the airport and fly in one of Mockingbird’s three aircraft.  The fleet consists of two Piper Archers and a fixed-gear Piper Saratoga.

The club has prioritized investing in the aircraft. One Archer was recently painted, and it is scheduled to get a new engine later in the year.  The other Archer had the work done in reverse—it has a new engine and will be going to the paint shop in the fall.  A couple of years ago, both Archers got new leather interior and new carpet. 

All three aircraft have similar avionics with dual Garmin G5s, the Garmin GFC 500 autopilot, GPI 830 engine monitors, as well as either the Garmin 430 or 530 GPS. The Saratoga has the Garmin GTN 750.

“We’re trying to keep them fairly consistent so a member can hop in either of the Archers,” Communications and Social Director Jeff Veire said. “They’re really well-equipped airplanes for a club.”

For starters, Club President Matt Meert sent out an email to members encouraging anyone who hasn’t flown in a while to contact one of the three club-approved CFIs. They’d be happy to go up and help members knock off the rust after the winter, he wrote.

In the spring and fall, the club always hosts annual “Birdie Parties”—which is what Mockingbird calls its plane washes. “We get the planes ready after the long winter,” Jeff said. “In a couple of hours, we’re able to get all three aircraft looking really good.”  

The Birdie Parties are a family event with a cookout and social time to start before everyone washes the aircraft. Besides getting the Archers and Saratoga ready for the spring, they take everything out of the hangars to clean them as well. This year the club even plans to power wash the hangars since it hasn’t been done for a few years.

“It’s a lot of fun. The little six-year-old girls were the best workers,” Jeff said. “They were there scrubbing away, and a 10-year-old was in there vacuuming the airplane out. The kids cleaned the airplanes a lot better than us.” 

The club also hosts an annual Awards dinner, which used to take place in the spring. It was put on hold during Covid, until last fall. About 75 percent of the members attended, most with their significant others. The club covers the costs for members and if they choose to bring a guest, which is the responsibility of the member.

Like the Birdie Parties, it’s an opportunity for club members to get together socially and take care of some club business. The club has four awards. The first, the Gaining Altitude Award goes to any member who achieves a new or advanced rating. Last year two members earned their IFR ratings, one a commercial rating and another a multi-engine rating. 

The Silk Scarf Award goes to the member who flew the most hours during the year. The most recent winner, Lane Swanson logged 144.5 hours. The Sustaining Member Award honors dedicated service to the club, which went to Jim Juhl for his efforts to oversee the maintenance and interior upgrade on one of the Archers. The Distinguished Service Award is given to a member that exhibits exceptional service to the club, and this year honored past President Neil Schmid, who died in a car accident.

In addition to the annual award dinner, the club also tries to have quarterly training.  In March they held one using the Pilot Workshops Flying Companion manual, which is available as a spiral bound book or a pdf. The club-member CFIs put on a workshop using the book and showed companion copilot videos that are available on AOPA’s Air Safety Institute website.

While it’s important for club members to reawaken their flying muscle memory, it’s also a good idea to think about passengers, particularly those who fly with you frequently. Helping make sure passengers are safe and have an enjoyable experience will help reawaken those good habits for pilots as well. As you are getting reacquainted with the aircraft, it’s a perfect time to show your frequent flyers some things they can do to help.

“Our most recent training was with members and their significant other or family members that fly with them,” Jeff said. “My wife who flies with me read the Flying Companion book and learned all kinds of things.  It’s really good.” 

Other events that the club has hosted to keep members engaged include a presentation by the Vanguard Squadron, an aerobatic team based in Sioux Falls. The formation team flies RV-3s fueled with 100 percent ethanol. One of the pilots did a presentation on formation flying and ethanol as a fuel source, and then gave club members a tour of the RVs.

The club also organized a tour of the Sioux Falls tower where members had the opportunity to see the skies from the perspective of both approach control and the tower. Jeff also lists local aviation events and flyouts in the club’s monthly newsletter and has offered to coordinate flyouts with members that are interested in attending.

Now that spring has sprung, the Mockingbird Flying Club is busy planning events and taking steps to get its members to head out to the hangar to do some flying. It’s one of the best things about being part of a club—having a community of fellow aviators to help knock off the rust or simply give you a reason to fly.

“We try to do things like flyout opportunities to encourage our membership,” Jeff said. “It’s fun to get together and do aviation stuff.”



Mockingbird Flying Club


Joe Foss Field (KFSD)

Sioux Falls, SD




[email protected]

Year formed



1981 Piper Saratoga ($110/hr)

1980 Piper Archer II ($70/hr)

1977 Piper Archer II ($70/hr)

Rates are Hobbs time, dry.

Joining fee

Share price is negotiated between shareholder and buyer. The club sold 4 shares in 2021 for $5,000

Monthly dues

$115 per month + $10 for avionics






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