My wife and I are both of British extraction, we met and began dating when members of a small flying club in central Scotland. I’ve sometimes joked that Janet and I are the ultimate expression of how flying clubs can create lasting relationships!
Like many British pilots, both of us came over to Florida for flight training. I read recently that more UK pilot licenses are earned in Florida each year than in the whole of Britain put together. This seems quite remarkable, but the idea of learning to fly in America does make a lot of sense for British people. It’s significantly cheaper, the weather is much better, and the whole experience feels like a vacation.
One day in the early 90’s my wife was on a routine solo cross-country flight from her training base near Miami, and planned a routine stop at Lakeland (KLAL). As she neared the airport, Janet was asked to follow some very unusual air traffic procedures. Being a very low-time pilot, she didn’t ask questions, just did what she was told by ATC.
The airspace seemed incredibly busy, and once on the ground Janet was marshaled to park in a big field full of other small airplanes. As she shut down the engine, someone shouted “Welcome to Sun n’ Fun”. Without knowing it, she had stumbled right into the middle of one the world’s busiest fly-ins!
Sun n’ Fun is a great way to kick off the flying season and we’d like to invite everyone to some flying club activities being hosted by AOPA.
On Wednesday, April 10th from 9 A.M. to 11 A.M., we’ve scheduled an information-sharing event that will take place in Room 1 of the forums building. Coffee & snacks will be served, and we plan on running a series of short breakout sessions on topics like insurance, marketing, financing, maintenance and starting a new flying club.
Later that same day from 5 P.M. to 7 P.M., we’re hosting a flying clubs social at the Sun n’ Fun fire hub, located at the campsite entrance on Poberezny Road. This is an “around the campfire” social gathering for flying club members and we’re laying on free beer & brats.
AOPA staff members Woody Cahall, Chris Lawler and I have been working closely together on the flying clubs project and will be located at the main AOPA tent all week long. Please stop by, we’d be happy to answer questions and get your input on how we can assist the flying club community.
And the AOPA staff all looks forward to meeting David Miller, who is in the process of forming a new flying club at Lakeland. AOPA recently profiled David’s ambitious efforts in an article A Flying Club is Born. It looks to me like he’s doing everything right, and this will be a benchmark example of how to get a new club off the ground. The ultimate mission of the new AOPA Center to Advance the Pilot Community is to get aviation growing again. Reading about David’s efforts makes me feel that flying clubs can play a big role in accomplishing this goal.