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Making Safety a Chapter Event

By Roy Beisswenger

Roy Beisswenger

The winter months can be long and tough on pilots who fly open-cockpit aircraft. Flying opportunities are often reduced and the flying we do enjoy is often solitary since not all of our flying buddies want to fight the weather and the reduced daylight hours. That doesn’t mean that flying isn’t on our mind. It becomes a question of finding an outlet for our “inner flyer.” Read more

The answer can be found in safety seminars. Despite the admittedly boring-sounding name, safety seminars give pilots an excuse to get together in large groups, visit, dine together, and even learn something more about what it is we all like to do. A good safety seminar will even provide attendees the opportunity to visit with vendors about tools, aircraft, and flight accessories. If you think about it, these are a lot of the reasons we go to fly-ins. Yes, I know, fly-ins include flying. But think about it. Flying is not the only –or even the primary – reason you attend a fly-in. After all, we all have plenty of fresh sky right over our own fields and airports. A fly-in is an excuse to get together with like minds.

Hopefully this has gotten you interested in attending a safety seminar. Unfortunately, for most of us I’m merely showing you a donut on the other side of the glass. (Donuts! Another great reason for safety seminars. For some reason they taste even better at a safety seminar, and I have it on good authority that safety-seminar-donut-calories don’t count for dieting purposes.) The “unfortunately” is that there are less than a handful of ultralight and light plane flavored safety seminars in the country. Illinois has been at it for 30 years and Wisconsin actually has two sport aircraft flavored safety seminars, one for all ultralights and one focused on powered parachutes. Go Cheeseheads! Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, and Minnesota have all had programs in the recent past. But unfortunately, those events didn’t take place last year as far as I know.

That leaves us with a challenge for 2011! There are pilots in 48 states who need to get together and hold safety seminars next year and the planning needs to take place now. A safety seminar isn’t that difficult an event to organize if it is done as a club or chapter project and it is done on a small scale. Making it a chapter event spreads the organizing load over several people. It also guarantees some attendees so that those calorie-free donuts don’t go to waste.

The best way to organize a safety seminar is to think of all of the things you would want for a daylong club or chapter meeting. The main act is speakers. This is your chance to invite some of the people you know (or would like to know) in the industry to come speak. The Illinois event has four main speakers, but other events use more. These are the people that make it an “ultralight and sport aviation seminar” as opposed to one of the garden variety safety seminars that often focus on topics that we aren’t that interested in. Engine experts, weather experts, radio communications, maintenance folks – these are the kinds of people you want to invite to speak.

After you get the speakers, the rest of it is “party planning.” Remember, you’re hosting not only your local pilot friends. Hopefully people from a distance away will want to attend your event. Coffee, donuts, lunch, and maybe an after-party are all things to consider. You don’t have to pay for the lunch, either. No one expects that. But making plans for the lunch is important. Everyone can go out to eat together, it can be ordered out, or maybe even a cookout if the weather cooperates. Another thought is to invite a local youth club (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, you get the idea) to host the lunch as a fund-raiser. The important thing to remember is that this is your opportunity to invite old and new friends over to visit and learn. Just don’t tell the boss that a safety seminar is fun. Explain that it is dreadful work, but you have to do it!

Roy Beisswenger is host of the weekly Powered Sport Flying Radio Show and Technical Editor for Powered Sport Flying Magazine.

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