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Choosing a Flying Club
by Jonathan Money

11/08 - Okay, so you've gone through training. You've flown solo, you've done your cross country work, you've had hood training and night flight training and done over a hundred and twenty landings. You've taken and passed your checkride, and your pilot's license just showed up in your mailbox. Congratulations!!! Now what? Well, it's time to pick a flying club.

One of the most rewarding parts of being a pilot is by sharing your experiences and flight time with your friends. Not everyone has the benefit of having friends who are pilots, but that doesn't mean you can't make some. Joining a flying club can be the best way to experience the different aspects of aviation that you would normally miss by going on with things alone. Aside from providing good friends and good company, a flying club can provide enthusiasm, confidence, and most importantly, ongoing flight education that reaches past your student flight training and into your future with aviation. Fantastic websites such as Student Flying Club provide a list of hundreds of great flying clubs by US state, so go check out which ones are available in your neck of the woods!

Whether you're going to fly professionally and continue to get ratings, or just use your pilot's certificate for recreational purposes, joining a flying club is always the right move. Many flying clubs require little more than a minimal annual dues, sometimes only as much as $40 or $50 a year. Most flying clubs meet on a monthly or bi-monthly basis, where pilots can share their knowledge, keep each other up to date on the latest airport or FAA regulations, talk about weather conditions, and most of all plan to fly places together. These types of clubs often arrange club fly-in's to local restaurants at neighboring airports, and some plan even more ambitious cross country flights. Many pilots love to fly with the benefit of a co-pilot, so you can easily jump into the right side seat for a quick trip or spin around the airport... making new friends in the process. At a good flying club you'll meet aircraft owners, aircraft renters, and even some non-pilots who joined the club just for the love of flying. Together you can go and see places you wouldn't normally have thought of without the benefit of meeting all these other people.

Choosing a flying club might be as simple as going down to your home airport and seeing that there's only one available. Sadly, rising fuel costs and reduction in disposable income has put a big dent in General Aviation as a whole. Still, pilots who love to fly will always find a way... and these pilots generally stick together in their flying clubs and flight communities. Find yourself a flying club that's local, and that flies out of an airport you'll be comfortable with. Ask them where they meet, and when their next meeting is. Most of these clubs will be thrilled to have you, and will invite you to sit in on a meeting or two so you can see how they operate.

Once you're sitting in on a flying club meeting, make yourself known. Stand up and introduce yourself, and talk about your piloting experience. Ask questions. Find out how often the flying club plans trips, and where they go, and what they do when they get there. Most flying clubs will have a president, vice president, treasurer, and such. Ask about dues and what it will be used for and how it will benefit the club as a whole. Some flying clubs maintain video libraries for flight training purposes, and many have close relationships with an FBO or home air base. Joining a club could get you special privileges at such an FBO. Sometimes your dues can even grant you the benefit of reduced aircraft rental rates. If you're an aircraft owner, you'll find pilots who will be willing to fly with you just for the joy of being in the skies. Most of them will offer to split fuel costs, or grab the stick for the return trip. And even if you don't own an aircraft, a local flying club will put you in touch with people who do. These members can become fast friends after just one or two trips or meetings. Building relationships with other pilots will teach you much more than any book or video ever could, and flying with other flying club members is the best teacher there is. Observe their flying techniques, seek out unknown airports, and if you're a very experienced pilot, you can even share your own knowledge with others.

So take your time, check out your options, and pick a flying club that's right for you. If you have more than one choice, sit in on meetings for both. Talk to everyone you can, and get a feel for how the flying club operates - and how their members operate - before deciding to commit to those monthly meetings. But once you do, you'll be happy to have other pilots around you with which to share your love of flying.