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Get Your Chapter Flying!

David Leiting Jr., EAA Lifetime 579157, Chapter Outreach Specialist

May 2017 - It is that time of year again. The days are becoming longer, the snow has melted, and the calendar is filling up with aviation events. What’s even more special about the return to flying season is that it provides the opportunity for your chapter to get airborne!

There will always be something special about pulling up to the hangar in the early morning light to get out your airplane for a Saturday morning pancake breakfast. The smooth air, quiet cockpit, and sunrise create a relaxing bliss, which can be matched by few other experiences.

However, these types of flights are best when taken with your peers who share your love for aviation. Often, when we look back on our most memorable flying experiences, they include the smiles and camaraderie shared with fellow aviators. Whether it is a $100 hamburger, a pancake breakfast, or a weekend getaway, get the entire chapter involved!

Think back to when you first got involved with aviation. What was the ultimate allure of this wondrous world? For many, it was the opportunity to spread their wings and fly. Once those first few hours of flight were logged, many yearned to get back out to the airport to chase down their next aviation adventure. Unfortunately, many aviators are brought back to the real world when the pressures of everyday commitments begin to restrict their flying schedule. For chapter members, their free time is consumed with planning the next monthly gathering, organizing the next Young Eagles rally, and taking care of basic chapter management. Yes, I understand the basement needs cleaning, the car needs washing, the chapter newsletter needs editing, and the tool crib needs organizing. The excuses to keep the aircraft on the ground can become abundant. Nevertheless, it is time to break out of that rut!

Chapters are always told, “You have to stay active to keep your members engaged.” When it comes to an aviation organization, there’s no better way to be engaging than by taking flight. Get those airplanes in the air, fill your empty seats, and I promise you that the excitement level within your group will see major gains.

Getting your EAA chapter to take part in a flying-related activity, or a fly-out, is likely to provide a level of engagement for each type of member in your group. There will be those seasoned aviators who rarely fly unless given an excuse. On the flip side, your chapter is likely to have a number of members who recently passed their checkride and are champing at the bit to go flying. Additionally, you are sure to have those members who have yet to experience flight but are looking for their chance to finally see the world from above.

The seasoned aviators now have a reason to pull their airplane out of the hangar for a day of flying. Although they have made this $100 hamburger run many times over, they can share the experience by filling an empty seat with a member who has never enjoyed a fly-out before. 

Those newly minted pilots are also in for a treat. For the first time in their piloting career, they will be able to roll up to the airport restaurant in style, an event that only adds to the attraction of being a pilot.

The tangible benefits to a chapter fly-out are numerous. The newer members to the chapter can go home saying, “I just got to take part in an activity that no other social organization would provide me the opportunity to take part in.” Additionally, this flight may very well be the spark that is needed to begin their flight training! The newly minted aviator just gained a new pilot experience, which was ripe with educational opportunities: cross-country planning, new airport familiarization, and operating in a more congested airport environment. For those longtime members, this fly-out may have been the nudge that they needed to get the airplane out of the hangar more often and take new members flying.

No matter one’s reason for taking part in a chapter-organized fly-out, members are sure to feel more engaged and a part of the group. As word of these events spread, you will begin to see a buzz and excitement building around the chapter while members clamor for the next chapter fly-out.

So what is the best way to organize a chapter fly-out?

The first step is to determine the destination and purpose of the fly-out. The simplest events can revolve around a Saturday fly-out to a local airport restaurant. Fly 2 Lunch and Fun Places To Fly offer a great listing of airport destinations, including airport restaurants.

Once flying season hits, it is nearly impossible to find a weekend without some sort of fly-in event scheduled. These pancake breakfasts and burger burns offer another great destination for a chapter fly-out. An extensive schedule of aviation related activities can be found on the EAA Calendar of Events. In addition, Social Flight, AOPA, and FlyIns.com have aviation calendars of events.

After you have selected your fly-out destination, it’s time to advertise the event to your chapter members. Use your chapter e-mail list to share the details concerning the fly-out, including the date, time, location, and if the chapter will be departing en masse to the event.

As is the case with any chapter activity, you must also submit a request for chapter event insurance. You can submit that request for insurance by using the online form. Please remember, it is important to operate these fly-outs within the parameters set by the EAA Insurance guidelines.

To organize chapter fly-outs and submit the insurance requests, some chapters have created a fly-out coordinator position, which is great for a gung-ho member who keeps close tabs on area aviation events.

If your chapter hasn’t taken part in a fly-out, give it shot! You may be pleasantly surprised by the energy it brings to your group. Has your chapter taken part in a fly-out? If so, send your story and photos to dleiting@eaa.org.

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