April 2018 - The IMC/VMC Club’s purpose is to promote flying, proficiency, and safety. The intent is to create a community of pilots willing to share information, provide recognition, foster communications, improve safety, and build proficiency in general aviation.
In the last three months alone, more than 30 EAA chapters have added IMC and VMC Club programming to their chapter offerings. This makes for a total of almost 250 locations, most of which are associated with an EAA chapter.
Most chapters new to using IMC/VMC Club programming contacted me for more information, and, after a brief explanation of how it works, established their programs with great success. Some were already very active EAA chapters, but others needed a little boost of energy.
On occasion, however, I would get an unusual message from a chapter leader saying, “Radek, I would love to do it, but I don’t think there is an interest in our chapter.”
It was sometime in the middle of the last winter when I opened my e-mail inbox, and one of those e-mails showed up in my folder. I called the chapter leader right away.
I sensed significant concern from the pilot on the other end of the wire.
“I will be honest,” he said. “I have very few members in our EAA chapter, and I don’t know this program will work here.”
I tried to explain to him the benefits of promoting safety and proficiency in a structured environment through the EAA chapter.
Aviation safety is all about our mindset, behavior, and attitude. We can have all sorts of minimums, but at the end, it is each individual pilot who will decide his or her course of action. Regardless of our experience, we are all susceptible to making the wrong decision. We shouldn’t quit or wait for somebody else to address the issue; we can instead try taking a proactive approach.
“Let’s make a deal,” I said to the chapter leader. “I will organize the first meeting for you. We will invite all pilots from the neighborhood. I will come over to explain what this program is all about. If nobody shows up, no problem, but if we have at least 15 pilots in the room, you can take over and carry forward.”
I arrived on the morning of the day of the planned meeting. The announcement was e-mailed via the FAA Safety Program Airmen Notification System (SPANS) 10 days before. I checked into the only hotel in town, to discover that I was the only guest there.
On my drive to the meeting hangar, in the middle of a snowstorm, I was passing empty, snow-covered cornfields. My concern grew as my GPS guided me to a single building beside the airport fence.
I will never forget that group of well more than 20 enthusiastic pilots. Some of them were very experienced flyers, and others had not flown in years. Some were returning EAA chapter members, and some were new to the organization. We all brainstormed together about possible solutions to the uncertain situation presented in our flying scenario. The discussion was heated and productive.
Since that night, that EAA chapter and its VMC Club is not only meeting regularly, but also growing steadily.
So, before you say, “I don’t think there is an interest here,” remember, aviation safety is for everyone, not just a low-time pilot. It is up to us to create a proactive safety environment.