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Training Tip: Aces of clubsTraining Tip: Aces of clubs

A fun feature of flying clubs is that there’s no barrier to student pilots becoming fully involved members from day one. It’s not uncommon for student members to be among a flying club’s most active individuals, volunteering to schedule meetings, selecting topics for group discussions, and contacting guest speakers for presentations.

Photo By Christopher Rose.

Sound like the job for you? All you’ll need is a club contact list and some meeting-topic ideas to get you up and running setting up the social sessions. (AOPA is a strong advocate of flying clubs as a source of access to affordable flying. The AOPA Flying Club Initiative is a component of You Can Fly, AOPA’s umbrella program to support the pilot community and grow general aviation.)

Topics can be finely focused—perhaps a briefing on installing Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) equipment in the club aircraft—or general, such as a group discussion of a flight-planning skill.

Sharing ideas can broaden your aviation horizons. For example, what comes to mind when the question of cross-country altitude planning is raised?

Likely, the topic conjures an image of a pilot spreading out a sectional chart, studying a proposed route, and selecting a cruise altitude that’s safely above the terrain.

OK, but that’s not the whole story. Even before the flight’s cruise phase begins, you must plan how to reach that cruise altitude safely and efficiently.

Club members may point out that there may be departure obstacles requiring a nonstandard departure method. Or a climb at a best-angle-of climb speed may be required to clear an obstruction. Can the terrain features sometimes cause wind shear?

Absent such hazards, be conscientious after takeoff about using the recommend best-rate-of-climb speed to reach a safe maneuvering altitude promptly in case of a problem requiring turning back to the airport.

If you must perform a long climb to a high cruise altitude, monitor your engine temperature gauge on the way up, and use a climb airspeed near the top of the recommended range for better cooling of an air-cooled engine. For a 1980 Cessna 152, the climb-airspeed range is 70 to 80 KIAS (knots indicated airspeed).

Nearing your destination, when is the right time to start descending?

Build safety margins into your descent over the area’s highest terrain features. Your sectional chart provides maximum elevation figures for each chart quadrangle, but those values—as the Aeronautical Chart User’s Guide explains—are based on “the best information available.” They are not verified by field surveys.

Good planning includes researching and keeping these kinds of cautionary considerations in mind when planning your flight altitudes, and how to reach them.

Share your thoughts about flying clubs as an educational venue at

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: You Can Fly, Aviation Education Programs, Student
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