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EAA’s Flying Start Program: Growing Your Chapter by Giving Wings

By: Serena Kamps, EAA Lifetime 1011028, chapter field representative

“I’ve always wanted to learn to fly, but …” How often do we hear this from friends, relatives, or co-workers? Flying is a dream that so many have, yet very few accomplish. Perhaps they never even started, driven away by stories of expense or difficulty. Maybe they started, but job or family commitments got in the way. For many, the dream, although perhaps relegated to the back of their mind, never quite dies. Your chapter has the perfect opportunity to rekindle the spark and provide these folks a direct avenue into flight training through EAA’s Flying Start program. 

Flying Start was developed to provide adults who have an interest in learning to fly a clear pathway to achieve their dream through a local EAA chapter. Chapters are uniquely suited to provide a gateway through the airport fence and debunk the myths around learning to fly, while providing direct guidance for training options and mentorship opportunities within the chapter.

The Flying Start program kicked off during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018, and since then, more than 80 chapters have hosted a Flying Start event. Here are comments from some of these chapters:

“It is an excellent opportunity to grow membership in your chapter.”

“Ours was a success. The provided media brought more awareness to our chapter and resulted in new members.”

“It’s a fairly easy-to-do community event and a great way for chapters to grow aviation and grow membership, which should be any chapter’s main goals. A great benefit to chapters.”

“What an amazing program! So many people have misconceptions about learning to fly. This program shatters the misconceptions, gets people in the air for a first flight, and creates a community of support to help them achieve their dreams of flight.”

“Good turnout. Ten new EAA members in chapter.”

Success stories

Chapter 323 Flying Start Program Takes Off

EAA Chapter 534 Hosts Successful Flying Start Event 

In keeping with our goal of making all our chapter programs easy to implement, EAA provides everything you need to successfully plan, promote, and execute your event. Following the initial successes, EAA surveyed all the chapters that had participated, and based on the responses received, made the following updates and improvements to make the process of hosting an event easier still.

  • Event-hosting handbook: The revised event handbook concisely provides all of the information you need to know to host a successful event. It includes the list of requirements to hold an event, handy checklists to guide you through planning and executing, and a helpful outline of what a typical event would look like.
  • Turnkey solutions for event promotion: Upon notification that a chapter wants to host an event, EAA will ship it a package containing posters, rack cards, and business cards, with space to fill in the details about your Flying Start event. These can be posted in local businesses, around the airport, and handed out to folks who are good candidates to advertise your event. Also included in the package is a handbook and Eagle Flight packets for the number of participants you expect.
  • Online registration coming soon! Many chapters are already using the online registration EAA created for our Young Eagles events. A program with a similar look and feel is being developed for chapters to use for Flying Start. Look for more information on this in the coming months.

How the Program Works

The program targets those who have always wanted to learn to fly but haven’t yet started. Your chapter identifies these individuals (parents of Young Eagles your chapter has flown are often great candidates) and invites them to participate in the Flying Start event. On the day of the event, participants are welcomed in a relaxed environment, perhaps with coffee and donuts, where they can meet and mingle with chapter members. Next, everyone assembles in a classroom-style area for an EAA-provided presentation and video that covers reasons for learning to fly, types of aircraft available to fly, the flight training process, introduction to local flight instructors, aircraft access, and cost. Anecdotes from various chapter members about their experiences learning to fly or how they’ve been able to use their pilot’s certificate since they got it are also good to include.

Following the presentation, participants are introduced to and paired with pilots from the chapter who will provide each one an Eagle Flight. If the weather is not conducive to flying, pilots will work out a time with participants to fly soon after.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Consider having a preregistration process so you know the folks attending are truly interested in learning to fly and not just looking for a free flight.
  • Limit the number of attendees. You don’t want a huge group, because you want to be able to give each participant plenty of one-on-one time and answer all their questions.
  • Please modify the presentation as needed to fit your chapter. You’ll definitely want to include information about local flight training options.
  • Flying Start participants each will receive a free six-month EAA membership with their Eagle Flight. Your chapter should consider providing a free six-month chapter membership to match the EAA membership.

Start Planning Now

While much of the country is experiencing the cold temperatures and snow of winter, it’s not too early to beginning planning your event. May 16 is EAA Learn to Fly Day, and this would be a great time for your chapter to host an event. As an added incentive, EAA is offering two free weekly AirVenture wristbands to chapters that host a Flying Start event any time during the month of May. To register your chapter for an event, click here.

There is nothing quite like seeing the light in a person’s eyes as they again experience flight in a small airplane, or perhaps for the very first time. The excitement generated when they realize that learning to fly is not out of their reach is contagious, and you’ll probably gain several new chapter members as a result as well. What’s not to like? It’s a win-win situation! Make it a point to be part of this excitement, and plan to host a Flying Start event in 2020!

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