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Chapters Take Advantage of Flying Start Program
By Kyle Voltz, Chapter Field Representative
October 15, 2018 — If you haven’t heard yet, EAA has relaunched a long-dormant program for chapters this year called Flying Start. For years, chapters have used the Young Eagles program to reach out to youths ages 8-17, but outreach to aspiring aviators ages 18 and up has been unsupported. That changed when EAA introduced Eagle Flights at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2012. Since that time, EAA members have given more than 4,500 Eagle Flights. Flying Start is the next step in engaging aviation enthusiasts in your community. EAA has created materials to market Flying Start events and content during the event to help chapters bring in new prospective members and introduce them to aviation in the communal atmosphere of our chapters. Over the past 12 months, a number of chapters participated in beta testing Flying Start and had some great results. Chapters are averaging about 20 participants at each event with multiple chapters reporting groups of attendees starting flight training as well as the recruitment of new chapter members.
EAA Chapter 113 of Canton, Michigan, completed a Flying Start event after this year’s convention.
“We purposely wanted to start small as our first try, so publicity was limited to word-of-mouth,” said Chapter 113 President Joe Kirik, EAA 671595. “A total of 16 prospective pilots attended. After a short presentation about EAA and various types of flying, 13 of the attendees took demo rides offered by the nine pilots who volunteered for the event. We’ll definitely do another, bigger one next year! The biggest plus was that we gained three new chapter members as a result of Flying Start.”
EAA Chapter 1 in Riverside, California, held the first test of the Flying Start concept last September, and has decided to put on two Flying Start events annually, one in spring and one in fall. The chapter has already minted a new pilot from their attendees, with four more in flight training and 11 new members from just two events. When asked what his advice to other chapters was, Jim O’Brien, president of EAA Chapter 1, responded with enthusiasm.
“Just do it,” he said. “EAA has made the program ridiculously easy to use and follow. Basically all we had to do was show up, set a date, and try it!”
EAA Chapter 33 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also completed a beta test of the EAA Flying Start content in May and reported that it loved reaching out to its community with Flying Start.
“At every Young Eagles event there is at least one parent that says, ‘I have always thought about becoming a pilot.’ Now we have a great program to offer them and ignite the spark,” said Justin Cook, who spearheaded EAA Chapter 33’s first Flying Start. “Flying Start provides a great introduction for the public to learn about general aviation, EAA, and becoming a pilot. At the end of the day the attendees will at the very least walk away having a great view of aviation in their community.”