East Hill members have access to a Piper Seminole for multi-engine training.
Whatever the “secret sauce” is that makes for a great flying club, East Hill Flying Club certainly holds the recipe. Based in a city of just 30,000 people (Ithaca, NY) the club has more than 200 members and a mouth-watering selection of eight aircraft including a Flight Design CT, Citabria and Mooney 201. Last year the club saw 20 of its members obtain their certificate, and no less than 4 engines were sent out to Pen Yan Aero for overhaul.
East Hill first appeared on my radar last summer while doing some research on the AOPA flying clubs initiative. Looking to get a better feel for the scope of flying club activity I visited something like 300 club websites and East Hill’s really caught my attention. It isn’t slickly-designed but somehow radiates a positive energy that grabs attention, makes you want to go flying and (most important of all), makes you want to join such a really great flying club.
With a large crowd in attendance at the holiday party, members wore name tags and the newest member was the greeter at the door so she could meet everyone.
I joined their Facebook Page, which is a perfect example of how to use the social network to create community spirit and camaraderie in a flying club. It acts as a newsletter, with photos and updates that document the flying experiences of the members. The page also creates lots of free advertising—for a cost of exactly $0 East Hill Flying Club was exposed to more than 76,000 people on Facebook last year. If your club doesn’t yet have a Facebook page, I strongly recommend you create one and encourage your members to use it.
So, East Hill Flying Club became lodged in my mind as a club worth watching. Then last September we were reviewing winners for the first set of AOPA Flight Training Excellence Awards. When all the scores were tallied, from almost 2,500 nominations, I’ll give you one guess as to which was the only flying club that won a national award.
I had the pleasure of meeting the club’s general manager, David St. George, when we presented the award at AOPA Summit. David is the personification of aviation enthusiasm, so when he invited me to attend the club’s annual holiday get-together in December, I couldn’t refuse.
It was a hugely enjoyable evening. On a tour of East Hill’s cozy clubhouse I noticed an idea worth sharing. The club has purchased a number of iPads and related accessories like yoke mounts and the Stratus ADS-B unit. Members are able to check them in and out on their flights.
General Mike Hall and AOPA’s own Adam Smith were special guests at the East Hill Flying Club’s holiday party in December.
This is a club that gets small things right. Entering the community hall for the social event, a young lady had been positioned as a greeter. Her smile and warm welcome set a nice tone for the evening. Even better, she made sure we all had a name badge, something that should be compulsory for all club events. Later, I learned she was actually the newest club member and had been assigned as a greeter to ensure she met all the other members. Great thinking!
It was good to see a healthy number of young faces in the audience. Ithaca is the home of Ithaca College and Cornell University, and the club has made a big point of reaching out to the student population. Perhaps something to consider for your club too?
All in all it was a lovely evening. I always enjoy the variety of a potluck dinner, which also happens to be one of the easiest ways to feed a flying club. As we left the building I remarked to a friend, “These are the Good Old Days.” One of the goals of the new AOPA Center to Advance the Pilot Community is to counter the idea that somehow the best days of aviation are behind us. We believe the essence of flying is as incredible today as it ever was, and there’s a huge part flying clubs can play in bringing the gift of flight to future generations.
This testimonial I found on East Hill’s Facebook page says it all:
Little did I know when I walked into the East Hill Flying Club a few years ago that it would be the beginning of an amazing adventure that has opened a wonderful new chapter in my life, filled with friendly, accomplished and interesting people, and sights and experiences I could never have imagined.