June 4, 2013
By Thomas B Haines
Just three years after conceiving the idea and only about a year after promoting it significantly, Radek Wyrzykowski welcomed the sixty-fifth chapter of the IMC Club—with three additional clubs coming online in the next few weeks. To date, the founder and president of the group has attended the opening of each of the clubs, but with an aggressive growth plan of 150 chapters and 6,000 paid members in the next three years, Wyrzykowski admits future clubs will open without his presence.
Wyrzykowski and Steve Sullivan, IMC Club volunteer board chairman, stopped by AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Md., June 3 to update AOPA staff on the group’s success and its plans for helping pilots leverage—and enjoy—their instrument ratings. The two report that in Norwood, Mass., where the first chapter was formed, pilots who prior to the monthly meetings didn’t know each other now seek each other out for practice instrument flights and social flights.
Wyrzykowski said the idea for the club came to him after he earned his instrument rating, but quickly realized that he didn’t know much about flying in instrument conditions. He began talking with other pilots and seeking advice and eventually organized regular meetings to discuss instrument techniques. Since then, opening new clubs and supporting existing clubs has become most of what he does. Using experiences shared by some of the group’s 1,750 registered members, he on a monthly basis creates about a three- to four-minute multimedia instrument training scenario that he sends to club organizers in 40 states. The organizers then facilitate monthly meetings in what Wyrzykowski calls “organized hangar flying.” The scenarios provide no answers; they are only intended to stimulate discussion, which typically lasts about an hour.
Pilots pay $36 a year to join IMC Club International to attend the meetings and to gain access to the organization’s Knowledge Base of questions and answers about instrument flying, including online access to a professional flight instructor. Membership also includes Safebook, which allows members to connect with other members, including flight instructors and potential safety pilots to fly together. Those who complete monthly instrument tasks, maintain proficiency, give back to the community, and participate in other ways will become eligible in 2014 to win the “brown jacket” award, which includes a brown leather flight jacket.
In its short existence, IMC Club has attracted to its board the likes of EAA Chairman Jack Pelton, Redbird Flight Simulation founder Jerry Gregoire, aerobatic pilot Mike Goulian, and Hartzell Propellers COO Joe Brown, among others.
AOPA Editor in Chief Tom Haines joined AOPA in 1988. He owns and flies a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza. Since soloing at 16 and earning a private pilot certificate at 17, he has flown more than 100 models of general aviation airplanes.
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