Believing in a concept can be a noble thing. Seeing the benefits, sharing ideas, and gathering information to prove your point are all valuable steps that most of us take at one time or another, on some topic.
Actually doing something is an altogether different thing. The point at which a belief transitions from a thought to an action is often the disconnect where great ideas fall by the wayside. Without direction or drive, the idea founders, weakens, and ultimately dies.
That’s not what’s happening here. This is a success story. Better yet, it’s a success story that’s still in the early stages, and growing in scope on a daily basis.
Several years ago, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) quietly dipped a toe into the flying club pool to test the temperature of the water. The organization liked the look and feel of the flying club model, which can be surprisingly flexible and unique to the group of individuals involved.
In the intervening months AOPA has gotten increasingly serious about supporting and promoting flying clubs as a method of getting pilots into the air with less expense and greater social reward.
In short, AOPA believes that flying clubs hold the key to turning the pilot population statistics around.
The mission is simple: Be helpful, be supportive, assist in creating an environment that not only can, but will get more people flying, more often.
Now, there’s nothing quiet or tentative about the organization’s dedication to the flying club concept. It is all in, and the pilot community is benefiting as a result.
As the AOPA Ambassador in Florida, a big part of what I do on a day-to-day basis is identify people who want to get involved in a flying club. If possible, I help them find an existing club that’s close by and make the appropriate introductions.
If there isn’t a club nearby, or if there isn’t one that meets their specific needs, I can help them get a handle on starting a club of their own, assist in finding additional members, and even provide resources that allow them to acquire an aircraft that meets their needs without exceeding their financial abilities.
I’m not alone in this, of course. Kay Sundaram performs similar duties in Southern California. Between Kay and me and the folks back at headquarters, AOPA has successfully assisted in forming 10 new flying clubs over the past year, with several more in the wings making real strides toward establishing themselves as fully functional flying clubs.
Along the way, Sean Collins took on the ambassador role in New England where he has been making inroads with fledgling clubs from Maine to New York City.
Yep, it became obvious pretty quickly that this thing was taking off. So what do you do when your game plan shows every indication of working? You ramp up the activity. We did exactly that.
Pat Brown came on board this year as the ambassador in Texas. Pat’s a seasoned pro, one heck of a nice guy, and a real asset to the team. He’s doing a bang-up job bringing Texans back into the cockpit, and sharing his knowledge of general aviation in a way that makes it clear, this GA life is available and accessible to anyone who wants to make general aviation a hobby or a career.
Later this year a new ambassador will be selected to cover the Great Lakes region. That move will increase the coverage of ambassadors in the U.S. to put us in face-to-face contact with a significant portion of the overall pilot population, and perhaps equally as important, the want-to-be-a-pilot population.
The good news doesn’t end there, however. This year, for the first time, AOPA will be giving away a magnificently classic aircraft that’s perfect for low-cost, high fun-factor, flying club use.
The Flying Club 150 Giveaway will put a Reimagined Cessna 150 into the hands of a start-up flying club – and it’s going to happen soon, so if you were thinking flying club thoughts, this is the time to get motivated.
Could your start-up flying club use a free airplane? I know mine would be pretty darned happy to see a pristine example of what Rod Machado calls the “Cessna 150 Thrustmaster” roll through our hangar door and take up residence.
Unfortunately, the flying club I belong to isn’t a start-up. We’re well established, and ineligible as a result. This contest is for start-up clubs, exclusively. Lucky them.
Best of all, AOPA isn’t setting the bar all that high. To be eligible to win the Cessna 150 Giveaway, a flying club must meet several criteria and complete the online application.
The criteria include having a minimum of four club members; having a named set of club officers including president, secretary, treasurer, safety officer, and maintenance officer; having a set of bylaws (drafts are acceptable); receiving a quote from AOPA Insurance; and being listed as a club in formation on AOPA’s Flying Club Finder.
The deadline for meeting the full set of rules is Sept. 1, 2016 – which means that even if you don’t belong to a flying club today, you still have plenty of time to find three like-minded folks, form a flying club of your own, send out a couple very specific e-mails, register for the giveaway, and potentially win!
Here’s the kicker. If you don’t have any idea how to start a club, you can simply call or write to me, or Kay, or Sean, or Pat, or contact our headquarters flying clubs staff at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll walk you through the whole process, from start to finish.
Yeah, we can help you do that.
Check out the rules and get yourself in the running at: AOPA.org/FlyingClubGiveaway