If you see the Easter Bunny at the airport, it’s a pretty good sign that spring is here. With the days getting warmer and sunset getting later, it’s the perfect time for some spring cleaning.
For flying clubs, cleaning off the cobwebs applies to both pilots and planes. After a long winter, particularly in parts of the country that are cold, snowy or just simply have nasty winter weather, club members may not have been out at the airport as much as they probably are during the rest of the year.
There are many ways to encourage club members to knock off the rust. The Mockingbird Flying Club based at Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls, Idaho takes a direct approach. The club president sent an email to members encouraging those who haven’t flown in a while to reach out to a club-approved CFI and book some time (See this month’s Club Spotlight).
Another good way to ensure pilots are flying safely is to host a safety seminar. AOPA’s Air Safety Institute has all kinds of content, from videos to webinars to online courses and quizzes that a club could easily turn into an event. There are general topics that all pilots can learn from, such as weather conditions like VFR into IFR, or specific topics on things like Back Country Flying or Flight Deck Technology. Whether your club wants to focus on safe flying techniques, maintaining proficiency, or perhaps maintenance, there’s sure to be content that will help members get reacquainted with flying.
Safety seminars are also good opportunities to partner with a flight school, maintenance shop, or other aviation organizations at your airport. Perhaps hold an FAA Wings Seminar or a Rusty Pilots Seminar (which is useful for all pilots even those who fly regularly) and open it up to all pilots, not just the club. It’s a way to get members reengaged, contribute to the larger aviation community in your area, and promote your club.
Something even easier to set up is a guest speaker. We all know that pilots like to talk. Surely your members have some interesting trips or experiences they can share. Another idea is to have a discussion on basic maintenance. If your club has a plane captain or A&P that oversees the aircraft maintenance, ask them to talk about some basic topics—like good preflight or postflight inspections, changing spark plugs or oil, or upgrading the GPS database. There are lots of maintenance-related topics that will really enhance a pilot’s understanding of the aircraft.
If there is a tower at your airport or a nearby airport, see if you can arrange a tour. Creating a dialogue between pilots and controllers helps both improve communications and understand each other’s perspective. It’s also a fun way for members to spend time together.
As Steve Bateman says in this month’s Question of the Month, great guest speakers come with great responsibilities for the club to treat them appropriately and respectfully. Read more about that, here.
One of the surest signs that spring has arrived at the airport is a flying club’s annual plane wash. Everyone likes flying in a clean aircraft, and there’s no better time than the start of the busy flying season to instill a club culture of maintaining aircraft well. Most clubs combined the plane wash with a BBQ and include family and friends. You may be surprised at how well the kids clean the planes and just how much fun everyone has. It’s a great opportunity to build camaraderie while getting the fleet nice and shiny.
Now that the pilots have exercised those mental muscles in a safety seminar and the planes are spic and span, let’s go fly. There are tons of pancake breakfasts, airport events, or just interesting destinations to visit in your area. So why not organize a flyout, get some members together and go somewhere. Sometimes all it takes is a member to book each of the club’s planes and let the rest of the club know you’re going to a local event and would love some company. It’s an opportunity for members to build bonds with each other, as well share the costs of flying. If you want to keep things really local, consider having a spot landing contest or other activities for club members to sharpen their skills.
There’s no time like the present to reengage club members ahead of a busy flying season. Whether you plan club specific events like a BBQ and plane wash, or participate in a broader safety or WINGS seminar, there are plenty of ways to encourage members to come out to airport to get reacquainted with the aircraft and to fly safe. Now hop to it.