If it’s 8:30 a.m. and it’s the first Saturday of the month, head on over to the Golden Corral in McKinney, TX. That’s where you’ll find members of the North Texas Flying Club. It’s one of the easiest events a club can set up and one of the best ways to build camaraderie, as I found out on April 6.
It all started ten years ago when a club member who was a former Naval Aviator couldn’t make the club’s monthly Donut Day meeting, which features a guest speaker and is held in the FBO’s conference room at Collins County Regional Airport (KTKI).
“So he said, ‘Let’s just go to breakfast. We don’t need a program, we don’t need anything else,’” Club President Garry Ackerman said. “It’s really nothing more than that. It’s an excuse for everybody to run out and get together.”
Although the member has since moved out of state and left the club, the tradition has continued. The group generally ranges from just a few people to as many as 15. This month there were eight members of the club sharing flying stories, asking questions, and enjoying each other’s company before heading out to the airport.
“I usually come to help the hangar flying be instructive and to actually teach,” Bruce Miller, the club’s chief flight instructor, said. “You might notice that sometimes I’m talking about things that are just with one person. It’s really free ground school for them and I’m trying to let them know something or help them out in some area. It’s a forum for informal teaching.”
Gene Lee appreciates listening to the more seasoned pilots share stories and experiences. “I’ve only been a pilot for a few years and all the people that are in the club that are coming to this are typically guys that have flown their whole life,” he said. “I’ve got a lot to learn and a short time to catch up. When knowledge is pouring out you can absorb a lot.”
For example, we started talking about flying in the days when ATC might ask you to “turn right for identification” and how there are rules prohibiting an aircraft from doing something that another aircraft was told to do. “It was because there was an airliner that was getting some direction and an instructor and student just followed them. They were identified as the target, and they flew the real one [the airliner] into the ground. You’re not allowed to do that,” Bruce said. “See the teaching moment there?”
As we ate scrambled eggs, hash browns, and biscuits and gravy, conversations ranged from Garry talking about flying a friend’s Sky Bolt and how if flew differently from the one he owns, to a museum that has an Ercoupe outfitted with a JATO (jet assisted take off) system, to a conversation focused on whether overinflated tires on the club’s Cessna 120 might result in a wobbly landing.
Garry believes he and other longtime pilots have an obligation to pass on the knowledge they have gained, either through their own experience or what they have learned from other pilots.
“The older generation at the airport is starting to disappear, and we are now the gray hairs,” Garry said. “We are now the guys who are bestowing virtual experience on the newbies and it’s actually our responsibility.”
There is one thing to be mindful of if your club starts a monthly breakfast…it’s easy to get lost in the conversations and forget to actually go fly. We were enjoying ourselves so much it was almost lunchtime before we headed out to the airport to take one of the club’s 152 around the pattern a few times.