By Jim Pitman
TakeWING Aviation is a flying club and flight school located at Hobby Field (77S) in Creswell, Oregon. TakeWING is a for-profit aviation club with about 24 members, including pilots, student pilots, and aircraft owners who are business owners and professionals with non-aviation careers. Club Manager and CFI Dorothy Schick recently shared some details about a fun game they play each year called Capture the Airport.
“It’s one thing to go practice landings or go for brunch to a neighboring airport, but pretty soon you run out of things to do and then pilots start flying less and less,” Schick said. “Plus, it’s always more fun when you have something to talk about. We needed a way to keep pilots actively involved and give them goals that were both individually attainable and competitive between members. Besides, who doesn’t like to have bragging rights and a T-shirt? So I came up with Capture the Airport. The game started in 2009, but has morphed significantly over the years,” she said.
“We typically run the game for three months, from July through September. An airport is ‘captured’ when a pilot departs our home airport, lands at another airport, and takes a photo in front of an identifying landmark/sign while holding a ‘TakeWING was HERE’ sign,” Schick explained. “Everything is based on a points system. In recent years we decided to allow members to earn points for multiple captures of the same airport, with more points being awarded for the first capture,” she said.
Points are also awarded for other kinds of pilot endeavors such as good deeds (for example, taking a TakeWING student pilot on a “fun flight”), exceptional achievements, flight maneuvers, training in the simulator, and attending AOPA seminars.
“It’s important to have fun activities to participate in together,” Schick said. “With challenges like weather, smoke from fires, and varying work schedules, we found it impossible to coordinate traditional fly-ins or pancake breakfasts. Capture the Airport has become our activity of choice. It’s been fun to see our club members get excited about the game and friendly competition. The game continues to grow and develop. We now have former club members who are airline pilots and they send us ‘TakeWING was HERE’ photos from all over the world,” she said.
The capture photos are gathered and posted on the TakeWING Facebook page. Beginning in 2014, Schick started putting together a simple video montage of the photos for each year. Those videos can be viewed at the following links:
As for the prizes, Schick said, “We've given away a variety of items over the years, including TakeWING logo jackets, gift cards/certificates, movie tickets, aviation-related patches, coasters and magnets, funny garage sale trophies, stuffed flying monkeys, and other silly stuff. The important thing is to just keep it light and make it fun.”
When asked to share suggestions for other schools or clubs that might want to host a similar game, Schick said, “I learned early on that it’s important to publish rules for the game. It didn’t take long before we had a member doing multiple captures of our home airport, which kind of defeats the purpose of the game. So we now have a rule that says our home airport can only be captured once (still requiring a takeoff and landing). This has turned into a fun race each year to see who will get it first, with the game starting at a very specific date and time.”
It’s also important to be flexible and adapt the game to meet your unique needs and desires. “This year we are awarding points for some new activities. For example, club members are encouraged to plan and fly a round robin trip with landings at two or more other airports. They submit their estimated flight time from start to finish and we award points based on how close they come to the estimate. Of course, this is all based on the honor system, which works fine for our tight-knit group,” Schick said.
Schick created a Google online spreadsheet to keep track of everyone’s points. Every member inputs their own data, and the spreadsheet automatically calculates the totals. For time-sensitive events, such as who is first to capture an airport, Schick simply goes by who sends in the photo first (via text or email).
It seems that many businesses, including flight schools, struggle with finding quality content to post on their social media sites. When I commented to Schick that these Capture the Airport photos must be great advertising, she said, “Yes indeed. Even though marketing was not my primary goal, it has been a nice side benefit. I look at our Facebook page as more of a community gathering place than an advertising vehicle, but it’s neat that our members’ friends and family also get to see what we’re up to. When others see that you are genuinely having fun, they want to be a part of it.”
From fostering camaraderie to effective social media marketing, there are many worthwhile benefits to implementing Capture the Airport or something similar at your club or flight school.
For more information about the Capture the Airport Game or to connect with Dorothy Schick directly, call 541-895-5935 or email [email protected].
Jim Pitman has been a flight instructor since 1997. He has been a Part 141 chief flight instructor, Cessna Pilot Center regional manager, and Arizona Flight Instructor of the Year. He currently flies the Canadair Regional Jet for a U.S. carrier while operating his own flight training business. Connect with Jim at his website (FlywithJim.com).