Flying Clubs

May 23, 2013

Flying with the Monticello Flying Club

mike_fbo.jpgI am such a huge advocate of the General Aviation community. Since becoming a pilot in 2004 I have been amazed by how open and friendly the aviation community is. Whenever I visit new places I try to seek out local pilots to go flying with. It has opened up opportunities to fly in some unique places including flying over the Golden Gate Bridge (with Jason of Finer Points) and down the Hudson River (with Mike at 110knots) with a unique view of the New York City skyline.

This past week I found myself in Charlottesville, Virginia for a conference. I did some searching and found Mike of Monticello Flying Club, a club that is just being started in Charlottesville. With my recent work on the Flying Club Scholarship, with Ground Effect Advisors, I figured spending some time talking and flying with Mike would be a great way to cap off a trip to the area.

Mike is setting a good example for others interested in creating a flying club, he is hitting the pavement (or in reality the runway) and working hard to drum up support for his club. On the day we met we hoped into a Cessna 172 rented from the local flight school and made a short hop from Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport (KCHO) to Culpeper Regional Airport (KCJR) to drop off a flyer promoting the club. While there Mike found an aircraft for sale that might be the perfect first aircraft for his club.

We had an enjoyable flight chatting about flying clubs and exploring the area. Mike had a nice surprise for the end of the flight, an aerial tour of Monticello. I guess it makes sense that a flight with the Monticello Flying Club would not be complete without an aerial tour of Thomas Jefferson's plantation. Sadly, I did not have my Canon T2i with me to capture a photo to share. I had toured the property many years ago but from the air you really get a special view of the massive size of this property.

Do you seek out pilots when you travel? Doing so might get easier if OpenAirplane takes flight!

Posted at 8:31 PM | Post Category: Flight Experiences, Flying Clubs | Save & Share This Story

May 13, 2013

Flying Club Scholarship Receives 126 Applications

scholarship_graphic.jpgSeveral months ago I joined forces with three other Chicago based pilots to form Ground Effect Advisors and to offer the first ever scholarship to help create a flying club. We realized that there is a need across the country for new flying clubs to be created to foster more flying and to help keep the costs of flying down. However, starting a club is not easy.

So we developed some strong partnerships and created a scholarship that will provide over $3,500 in goods and services to the winner in effort to assist them in getting their club off the ground. Honestly, we did not know what to expect. We were blown away to receive 126 quality applications for the scholarship.

We have spent the last 14 days reviewing the applications and talking with many of the candidates as we try to identify 10 finalists, which will be announced on Wednesday, May 15. We will then select a winner by June 1, 2013.

There were some interesting data points that came out of the application data we received so we build an infographic that shares that information. You can access it through the image to the right or on the website.

Stay tuned for further updates!

Posted at 8:30 PM | Post Category: Flying Clubs | Comments (83) | Save & Share This Story

February 7, 2013

The First Ever Flying Club Scholarship

I am proud to announce my participation in the creation of the first ever Flying Club Scholarship. It all started several months ago I had the opportunity to join Marc Epner and Al Waterloo, hosts of Simple Flight Radio, for an episode of their show. We spent a few hours talking with Adam Smith, AOPA's Senior Vice President of the Center to Advance the Pilot Community. One of his key initiatives is growing the number of successful flying clubs in the United States. AOPA through its research has determined that flying clubs help decrease the cost of flying while creating more social opportunities for pilots and are great places to foster aviation in perspective pilots.

startaflyingclub.gifAll three of us are firm believers in the value flying clubs can provide to the general aviation industry. As members of a successful flying club, Leading Edge Flying Club, we felt we could help share with others ideas and tips for creating a successful flying club. We looped in another aviation blogger and aviator, Louis Bowers and formed Ground Effect Advisors. Just a few months later we launched a blog dedicated to assist in development of America's next great flying club.

We believe to date most aviation scholarships have been focused on the individual pilot. We believe our scholarship will help an entire community of pilots. AOPA's Adam Smith said "I love the idea of scholarships to help start flying clubs. Like a scholarship to help someone learn to fly, but a gift that keeps on giving back to aviation."

We are in the process of building out content in the form of checklists, playbooks, blog posts, audio and video tips all related to creating and growing a successful flying club. We thought there would be no better way to start things off then to offer a scholarship to help someone create a flying club from the ground up. We have been overwhelmed with the response we have received from the industry and our partners that include: AOPA, Sporty's Pilot Shop, David Clark, Signature Flight Support, PilotEdge and They are all donating products or resources that will help us build a flying club for the winner.

The Flying Club Scholarship application window is now open and will run through May 1, 2013. We will then narrow the submissions down to ten finalist and select a winner on June 1, 2013. We look forward to working with the winner to open the new flying club before the end of summer.

If you or anyone you know is interested in creating America's next great flying club, please apply today at

Posted at 10:31 PM | Post Category: Flying Clubs | Comments (82) | Save & Share This Story

November 1, 2012

Flying Clubs can Save the Pilot Population One Pilot at a Time

flyingclub1.jpgIn a dimly-lit doctor's office in 2009, my wife and I looked at two beating hearts on an ultrasound and immediately realized our lives were about to change. At the time we could never have known how positive the experience would be, but that is for another post. In the weeks after the ultrasound I started to think about what role flying should have in my life. Flying has always been extremely important to me so the thought of walking away was an unpleasant one. However with the risks of flying and its costs, it was hard not to think seriously about whether I should stay committed to this hobby.

I spent a great deal of time mulling over my options and talking with my family and other pilots. Learning to fly was a lifelong dream that I did not achieve until I was thirty. Since then it has been one of the brightest parts of my life. During my soul searching I realized that I wanted to be sure to teach my kids to follow their dreams, and how could I do that if I walked away from mine? That being said, I still needed to determine how to mitigate some of the other, more "practical" factors including risk and cost.

I determined if I was going to continue to fly I would continually work on becoming the safest pilot possible and I would need to find ways to fly more efficiently. However, that was easier said than done. In most of the country, and definitely in Chicago, the costs of flying continues to rise so it makes it harder to be more proficient on the same budget as a few years ago. As a result of all the life changes and my lack of a plan, 2010 represented the fewest hours flown in a year for me since I started flying in 2004.

hours_by_year.jpgI believe if it were not for Leading Edge Flying Club, my hours would have continued to dwindle away and I would have contributed to the pilot population decline. In Hangar Flying: a Dying Art Form?, I wrote about the Flight School I had been flying with from 2005 to 2010. I knew if I was going to continue to fly I needed to find somewhere new, because while that club had a healthy membership roster, they did nothing to foster social activities between those members, including sharing the cockpit. My trips to the airport were to log an hour or two by myself then return home and those experiences were not doing much to help me grow as a pilot.

I needed and wanted something more out of my aviation experience. AOPA President Craig Fuller said it well when speaking of Flying Clubs, "They make flying more affordable and accessible, often in a social environment that keeps pilots active and engaged." He couldn't have been more accurate. Since joining Leading Edge Flying Club I have been able to get so much more out of my aviation endeavors. Prior to joining Leading Edge I was primarily flying by myself. If I had a budget of two to three hours a month to fly then I was very limited in what I could do with those hours. I essentially had two choices: burn most of my hours in one longer, more fun flight, or spend them all in the pattern and practice area in a groundhog day kind of loop. I was primarily limited to learning from my own experiences and mistakes. Now, I am more frequently sharing the cockpit with one or many pilots. It allows me to seek out better and more fun flying experiences. When I am not Pilot in Command I am still learning from all the other pilots I am flying with, both those more and less experienced than I.

Prior to joining Leading Edge Flying Club my most distant trip was just a few hours away from my home base, primarily due to the cost. This year alone I have gone on a slew of multi-state cross-country flights, including two overnight trips and visited seven states for the first time by General Aviation aircraft. These are aviation adventures that just were not something I could accomplish within my flying budget when I was flying on my own. During those flights I have packed a ton of learning in as well. I landed at my first Class B airport and enjoyed the best vantage point for watching Instrument pilots fly a perfect approaches to minimums. I also have logged time in complex and hi-performance aircraft for the first time since earning my license. These are the exact experiences I was missing out on and their absence could have contributed to me drifting out of the pilot community.

I am not the only pilot and blogger to realize the value of a Flight Club community. Check out fellow Leading Edge Flying Club member Louis Bowers' post "Flying Clubs - Ceiling Unlimited" on his blog, Sky Conditions Clear. Last weekend Louis and I along with four other fellow Leading Edge Flying Club members took three planes and flew out to breakfast. I logged & paid for just under an hour but enjoyed a few hours of flying and aviation conversation and learned a bunch along the way. The photo to the right is from that flight.

It is no wonder AOPA has made their first goal for the newly created Center to Advance the Pilot Community to support the development of a network of Flying Clubs. This Sunday I will be joining Simple Flight Radio hosts Al Waterloo and Marc Epner in a Sunday evening conversation with Adam Smith, Senior V.P. AOPA Center to Advance the Pilot Community and look forward to speaking with him about the role Flying Clubs will play in their efforts. The show is recorded live at 8pm CT so tune in and join in on the conversation!

Posted at 10:15 PM | Post Category: Flying Clubs | Comments (0) | Save & Share This Story