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EAA Chapter 91 Shares Thoughts on Hosting a 'Hybrid' Flying Start Event

By Mike Dooley, EAA 834638, President of EAA Chapter 91

August 2020 – EAA Chapter 91 hosted a combination face-to-face and online Flying Start program on July 25, as part of our contribution to the Spirit of Aviation Week.

Hosting a "hybrid" event like this presented some new challenges, and the intent of this article is to share our experience and encourage other chapters to host similar events as we collectively try to cope with COVID-19 restrictions.


Our facilities at the Lee's Summit (Missouri) Municipal Airport (KLXT) include a dedicated meeting room with overhead projector, sound system, and Wi-Fi internet access. The facility also includes a kitchen and two restrooms. We decided to leverage these facilities to host our hybrid Flying Start program.

This gathering format is a challenge, because the needs of two separate groups must be considered in terms of video, audio, handouts, etc. To comply with local and CDC guidelines, our room capacity was reduced from 70 to 16 attendees, with chairs spaced a minimum of six feet apart.

GoToMeeting was our online software of choice. Our monthly plan provided for up to 250 attendees, screen sharing by any attendee, and more than enough online time for the event. Other online meeting providers offer similar capabilities.


We registered our event with EAA, as required for chapter events. A new part of the insurance program is certification by the chapter that both local and CDC guidelines will be followed to reduce the risks associated with COVID-19.

COVID-19 Procedures:

  • Facility signage was in place to comply with local facility sign requirements for masks, sanitation, etc.

  • Social distancing was maintained through room setup and chair spacing. All chairs were a minimum of six feet apart.

  • Masks were required except when eating or drinking. Presenters were given the option of removing their masks when presenting, since they were distanced 10 feet from attendees; many, myself included, opted to wear a mask while presenting. I found it a bit awkward, but not a big deal.

  • The facility — to include chairs, tables, restrooms, etc. — was sanitized before, during, and after the event. Pens were sanitized before being handed to attendees.

  • All food and beverages were served to attendees with no self-service.


A chapter Flying Start banner was hung on our airport fence for three weeks prior to the event. In addition, EAA sent out a Chapter Blast email one week prior to the event. We also provided press releases to local newspapers.


Nine attendees were able to join us for our face-to-face group.


Flying Start participants were given the option of attending either online or face-to-face, with face-to-face reservations required. Registration was performed using EAA's new Flying Start/Eagle Flight registration system. This system was new to us (and to EAA staff), and we worked together to register attendees. The system also allows pilots and volunteers to register for the event; however, we did not use these features.

A total of 15 participants registered for the event, with three online and nine face-to-face attendees participating on July 25.


Master CFII Jeanné Willerth provides an instructor's perspective.


  • Two online presenters discussed:

    • Kansas State University (Salina, Kansas) degree programs

    • Why I Fly — a pilot's perspective

  • Seven face-to-face presenters discussed:

    • Flying clubs (two local clubs were represented)

    • Why I Fly (multiple pilots and age perspectives)

    • A large local flight school perspective

    • A small local flight school perspective

    • A master CFII's perspective

    • EAA Chapter 91 programs

Facility Setup/Equipment:

To conduct the hybrid event, we used one laptop computer connected to our built-in projector and sound system. We also hooked up a separate webcam (mounted on a tripod) to this laptop to provide a view of the presenter when standing near the projection screen. This first laptop setup provided:

  • Video and audio for the face-to-face audience:

    • Video to the overhead projector (HDMI connection).

    • Audio to the overhead speakers through an amplifier (mini-stereo patch cord from the laptop headphone jack).

  • Video for the online audience is provided when the laptop is linked using the screen-sharing feature of the GoToMeeting app.

    • Video of the meeting room screen was the same as viewed by the face-to-face group.

    • The online audience also saw the presenter via the tripod mounted webcam.

A second laptop connected to GoToMeeting was used to provide:

  • Audio from the face-to-face group (speaker and/or audience) to the online group using an omnidirectional microphone (USB connection to the laptop).

  • Video of the meeting room audience using the laptop's integrated webcam.

System Limitations:

Manual switching was required to manage audio with this setup:

  • The overhead speakers were muted to avoid feedback when using the omnidirectional microphone.

  • The omnidirectional microphone was muted to avoid feedback when using the overhead speakers.

Food and Beverage:

We served coffee, donuts, and juice as attendees arrived. A pizza and salad lunch (with soft drinks and water) was served after the online event was completed.


EAA Chapter 91 President Mike Dooley explains the Eagle Flight permission form.

Eagle Flights:

Missouri weather did not cooperate, so Eagle Flights were not conducted on the day of the event. Had we flown first thing in the morning, we might have been able to fly with our face-to-face attendees. All participants will be scheduled for future Eagle Flights (and as of this writing, two attendees have already participated in Eagle Flights).

Lessons Learned:

Things we did well:

  • Online outreach (speakers and attendees). We were able to link in with presenters and attendees who would have been otherwise unable to attend.

  • Video projection (both in-person and online) worked well.

  • Food and beverage quality were greatly appreciated by all.

  • The overall quality of presentations was excellent.

Things we plan to improve:

  • Online promotion/Chapter Blast timing. Chapters need to give EAA staff sufficient lead time to send out a Chapter Blast event announcement. If you want the announcement to go out two weeks prior to the event, then the EAA staff needs a couple of weeks prior to the announcement date to prepare the message.

  • We plan to revise our sequence of events to provide:

    • Introduction of all participants

    • Show the EAA Flying Start video

    • Conduct Eagle Flights

    • Provide coffee and donuts or snacks as attendees gather after their flights

    • Provide presentations about how to become a pilot, costs, etc.

    • Lunch to close out the event and provide some social time

  • We learned the hard way that video must be run from within GoToMeeting to share video and audio with all participants. We ran the EAA Flying Start video from the projection laptop and used screen share, so online participants could see the video, but they were unable to hear the audio since it was patched into our room amplifier.

  • The presentation will be revised to reduce EAA and chapter marketing content to a bare minimum. EAA and chapter brochures will be placed in attendee folders (and will also be sent to online participants) to share our message.

  • Each speaker will have at least one summary/background slide to provide their name and presentation title, contact information, etc.

  • We also plan to add a slide that tells what to expect during the first flight lesson with an instructor.

  • Copies of the presentations and handouts will be distributed to online participants prior to the next event. Copies will also be placed on our chapter website.


Our first hybrid Flying Start event was a success. Audio is the biggest technical hurdle to hosting an event of this type, but with a bit of planning (and a few extra fingers to hit the mute buttons as needed), the technical challenges can be overcome.

Hosting the Flying Start program using a hybrid format allowed our chapter to reach a broader audience and bring 12 prospective pilots closer to achieving their dream of learning to fly during challenging circumstances.

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