Everyone involved with the AOPA crew came away from the 2017 installment of Sun ‘n Fun’s International Fly-In and Expo with a big smile, a bit of sun on our faces, and a real appreciation for what networking can do for all of us. Specifically, we are particularly impressed with the power of the AOPA Flying Club Network, which now includes more than 800 unique flying clubs extending from coast to coast.
One of the truly successful events AOPA hosted during the nearly week-long aeronautical extravaganza was the Flying Club Social, a Friday evening get-together that is designed to put AOPA staff across the dinner table from flying club members. It’s in these settings that we learn from club members in the trenches about what sort of problems they’re facing, and delve into the various types of assistance we might be able to offer in order to keep them on track. At least that has been the plan and the practice for the past few years. This year something different happened, however. The AOPA Flying Club Network came to its own rescue, and we couldn’t be happier about it.
Gather sixty-five or so folks from all over the country, give them something good to eat, and ply them with cold beverages on a warm day – and something interesting starts to happen. First, it’s the sound of conversation breaking out. Loud conversations. Then laughter intercedes. That’s when you know you’re on the right track. And that’s exactly what happened at AOPA’s Flying Club Social at Sun ‘n Fun. Folks gathered, got fed, got friendly, and shared stories of their flying exploits.
They also shared stories of their flying club challenges. Interestingly, many of those members chose to share their stories with members of other clubs from different parts of the country. And it was there they found understanding, friendship, and respect for their efforts.
With three of AOPA’s five You Can Fly Ambassadors on hand, as well as the Senior Director of Pilot Community Development, we were primed and ready to handle any questions or concerns that came our way. What we hadn’t expected, but were thrilled to discover, is that so many club members have discovered the value of talking to members, and officers of other flying clubs, sharing their challenges, and exploring time tested ways of resolving those challenges.
Networking works, even in flying clubs. Maybe, especially in flying clubs. That’s one of the reasons we developed the AOPA Flying Club Network in the first place. Not only can potential members find contact information for network clubs right on AOPA’s pages, existing clubs can use that same contact information to seek out answers to their questions, and bounce their ideas off other successful flying club members, even if those other clubs are hundreds if not thousands of miles away.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, perhaps it takes a flying club to help support and promote another flying club. AOPA’s You Can Fly team remains ready and willing to take on the challenge when we’re needed, but we came away from this first fly-in of the season feeling pretty good about the realization that the network is working – for all of us.
Please review your own club’s status and information on AOPA’s Flying Club Finder to be sure it’s accurate. You never can tell, there may be new members seeking you out, or other club’s looking to you for advice based on the successes you’ve found over the years.