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IMC Chapter Spotlight - Chapter 162
By Radek Wyrzykowski
June 2018 - EAA Chapter 162’s IMC Club was started by Joe Creecy, EAA 1139416, a private pilot who received his instrument certificate in 2014.
“I realized there was so much more to be a competent instrument pilot than simply passing the exam and checkride,” he said.
After getting his instrument rating, Joe said he began to seek out additional instrument training courses or resources that could help him continue to improve his skills. That’s when he came across the EAA IMC Club. He said its focus on becoming a better pilot by learning from the experience of others was exactly what he was looking for
“During the time I was working on both my private and instrument ratings, I always liked to hang around the flight school after my lessons and listen to other pilots talk about their piloting experiences,” Joe said. “I always seemed to learn so much from just talking to them!”
At that time there were no IMC Clubs in Tennessee, so Joe decided to start the Nashville club himself, shortly before IMC Clubs officially became an extension of EAA.
All IMC and VMC Club coordinators now receive full training on all aspects of the program, but at the time, Joe had no idea how to host or lead an IMC Club. He just knew what the philosophy and mission of the program are.
Creativity is a key to any success. Joe pored through the materials available on the IMC Club website, then created flyers and posted them at all the area flight schools and FBOs, asking the owners of the flight schools to help him spread the word. He also attended various EAA, AOPA, and FAA Safety meetings and announced the formation of the Nashville IMC Club at each of those. He also spoke to the owner of Nashville Flight Training about the new club, and the owner of the flight school immediately offered support.
“He offered to let us use space at his flight school to hold our first meeting and was very supportive with the logistics,” Joe said.
He had no idea how many people would attend that first meeting or what to expect, but as it happened, 12 pilots came.
“I remember telling everyone at the beginning of the meeting, no, I wasn’t a CFII or a CFI or any instructor,” Joe said. “And, no, I wasn’t a professional pilot, and, no, I wasn’t an expert on anything having to do with aviation. Instead, I told them the absolute truth: that my motivation for starting the Nashville IMC Club was so that I could learn from them, the pilots at the meeting, because I wanted to become a better instrument-rated pilot.”
That may not have been what they were expecting to hear, but as he jumped into one of the IMC Club scenarios, he noticed that the meeting became less of a presentation by him, and more of a discussion among the pilots about how to best handle the given IMC situation — and that was precisely the point of the meeting and the IMC Club’s mission and objective.
“I learned more about instrument flying in that first meeting than I had in the last nine months after becoming an instrument-rated pilot,” he said.
Meeting attendance grew over the following several months, and Joe met with the FAA Safety Team manager at the Nashville FSDO for guidance in getting the Nashville IMC Club meetings set up for WINGS credits and to request that the IMC Club meetings be posted on the FAA Safety Team’s website.
The FAA representative was supportive of the idea, and attendance continued to grow. At one point 65 pilots showed up for the space designed for about 20 people! It was clear they needed a bigger venue, so Joe contacted the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority, which allowed him to begin using one of its meeting facilities located at the Nashville International Airport.
When Joe’s IMC Club moved to the bigger meeting space and attendance continued to grow, he started getting concerned that the meetings would lose some of their intimacy and that the club members might be unable to have meaningful conversations.
“There’s just not a perfect way to have a one-on-one dialogue in a meeting room filled with 90 people,” Joe said.
To help alleviate this, he started using a wireless lapel mic, handheld mic, and projector remote. During the meetings, Joe is continuously moving among the group so that everyone can stay engaged and participate in the discussions.
The typical meeting follows the same format: welcome, meeting overview, announcements, upcoming aviation events, technical presentation (for example, on a new feature in ForeFlight, how the vacuum system works, radio technique, etc.) or occasional guest speaker, and the EAA IMC Club scenario.
Joe said he develops the additional meeting materials throughout the month by reading the e-mails from EAA, AOPA, AvWeb, and other sources, and browsing their websites. He said as he is flying his C-182, he also tries to think about any piloting skills, airplane systems, or instrument procedures he feels rusty on and makes note of those issues. Those ideas or concepts may very well make it into an upcoming meeting.
For guest speakers, Joe finds experts in aviation who are willing to have a conversation about a specific topic with the group. The club has had a professor of aerospace and aerodynamics speak to the group about lift, wing designs, and glide ratios, and a retired two-star Air Force general talk about being a fighter pilot during the Korean War. It has had an FAA controller from the Nashville TRACON speak about what GA pilots say and do that “drives the controllers crazy,” and most recently, the club had the chief operations officer at Nashville International Airport talk about the upgrades and plans at KBNA and the surrounding airports, and how those changes will impact local GA pilots.
“I always want the guest speaker to give our meeting attendees some insight into an aspect of aviation that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to obtain, and I want it to be less of a presentation from them and more of an open discussion,” Joe said.
Any organizational growth is strongly dependent on good marketing practice. Three weeks out from every meeting, Joe creates and posts the meeting on the FAA Safety Team website. Once approved, it generates an e-mail notification of the meeting to pilots who are registered on the website. Two weeks out from the meeting, he sends out an e-mail announcement to his Nashville EAA IMC Club e-mail list, and he posts the meeting announcement on the Nashville EAA IMC Club Facebook page and other area aviation-related Facebook pages. One week before, Joe creates another e-mail and Facebook post, and the day before the meeting he sends a final reminder.
“When I first started the Nashville IMC Club, I limited it to only instrument-rated pilots, but over time I decided to allow anyone,” Joe said. “While our meetings are focused on instrument flying, we also discuss a wide variety of other aviation-related topics.”
The Nashville EAA IMC Club has members ranging from those thinking about taking flight lessons to pilots with thousands of hours logged. The interaction and accessibility between pilots of various experience levels is what the EAA IMC and VMC Clubs are all about.
To date, the Nashville, EAA IMC Club meeting attendance record is 93, and it is one of the most active IMC Clubs in the country.