Off and Running: How AOPA's Flying Club Initiative Is Making a Difference

April 1, 2013

Six months have passed since the announcement of the AOPA flying clubs initiative at our 2012 Summit in Palm Springs, and this seems like an appropriate time to reflect on how things are going.

One of our basic goals with the project is to shine a spotlight on flying clubs, moving them from being a “hidden gem” in aviation, right into the mainstream. AOPA is in the fortunate position of having the largest megaphone in the industry, and we want to use it to get people thinking about clubs in a positive way. Over a dozen stories have run in AOPA’s own print and electronic publications, and our director of media relations, Steve Hedges, has done a fine job of setting up interviews (15 and counting) with virtually every major media outlet in aviation.

Our president, Craig Fuller, travels extensively and meets with a lot of people at all levels of aviation. He told me recently he’s noticed a distinct “buzz” in recent months; people are talking about flying clubs in a way that he’s never seen before, seeing them as an opportunity, incorporating them in future plans, etc. This was good to hear and tells me our work is having an effect.

Chris Lawler reports on progress with the AOPA Flying Clubs Network elsewhere in this month’s newsletter. But I want to confirm that it was truly delightful to receive news of our first brand-new flying club. Getting lots of new flying clubs started is an important long-term priority for AOPA, and we are assisting several other groups.

We’re also working on starting our very own flying club at AOPA Headquarters in Frederick. This will help us get a better understanding of the realities of operating a club; there’s nothing like “walking your own talk.” For example, we had already received the message that insurance is a big pain point for a lot of clubs, especially those trying to get started. But somehow the message comes through a lot more clearly when we, ourselves, are experiencing the same issues when seeking insurance for the AOPA club.

I was quoted in AvWeb recently saying that AOPA’s flying clubs initiative is “classic association work.” The whole point of an association is to bring a community of shared interests together, to do things that are difficult to accomplish alone. Historically, most flying clubs have operated in isolation from one another, but there’s much value in sharing knowledge and best practices across our community. That’s why we’ve created things like this newsletter, our monthly webinar program, and the Flying Clubs Facebook Group. Participation levels have been very pleasing, so hopefully you’re all finding them to be of use.

What do the next six months hold? Here are some things to look out for:

  • A starter kit to help new flying clubs.
  • A financing program for clubs.
  • Version 2.0 of our online Flying Club Finder.
  • A new insurance program for clubs.

In closing this brief report, perhaps the most encouraging thing of all has been the reaction of the aviation community to the flying clubs initiative. From Day 1 it’s clear we’ve been flying with a good tailwind of support. As aviation faces numerous challenges, there is a growing belief that flying clubs can play an important part in growing a new generation of active pilots. Please don’t hesitate to let us know how we can assist you in this work.