New Program Aims to Increase Chapter Engagement, Boost Membership

By Mike DiFrisco posted 04-30-2019 15:39


Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter Field Representative David Leiting Jr. writes about EAA's initiative to restructure their membership benefits and dues.

New flying club initiative
The focus of EAA’s new flying club initiative is to assist EAA chapter members in developing separate nonprofit flying clubs at their home airports. EAA has a number of programs in place that provide pathways to flight, including Young Eagles, Flying Start and Eagle Flights. The goal of these new flying clubs is to provide a landing spot for the flight experience participants (pardon the pun), where they can learn to fly in a supportive, communal atmosphere. Following flight training, these members will also have an affordable way to exercise their pilot certificate and stay proficient. Although these clubs are great for folks just getting started in aviation, they also provide a terrific pathway for current pilots to participate at a more affordable level.

The key is to provide affordable and accessible flying opportunities. That’s essential to recruiting new pilots and especially a younger membership base who might not be aware of the local possibilities. For example, an adult in their mid-30s with two kids and a home mortgage typically cannot afford to purchase their own aircraft. However, sharing the costs between 10-15 individuals via a flying club drastically lowers the price to participate. And because the club is based in the context of a local EAA Chapter, the communal, supportive environment encourages more individuals to complete flight training.

Building upon existing resources
EAA is in a unique position, having 900 local chapters nationwide. We are the only aviation association with that sort of outreach on the local level. Because of that, we already have groups of members organizing aviation activities at their airport, and there were many groups of members who expressed an interest in forming a flying club. These members were simply looking for some guidance and assistance, which was another driving factor behind launching this program.

Prior to rolling out this program, the only resource EAA had for members looking to form and operate a flying club was a basic EAA Flying Club manual. We now offer a completely updated Flying Club Manual, Flying Club FAQs, tax-exempt basics, sample documents (bylaws, article of incorporation, membership applications, membership agreements, etc.), club cost calculator and some specific benefits for EAA members who are running a club.

Increased membership and chapter engagement
Aviation, by its nature, is a very connected activity. Pilots are always seeking ways to connect and gather. EAA Chapters have long been our boots on the ground at the local airport and are our primary way to deliver EAA programs in the field. The flying clubs, although supported by EAA, are not officially sanctioned
by the organization. They are set up to be completely separate entities from EAA chapters, therefore there are no club dues rolled into EAA membership dues. However, these clubs will naturally build relationships with EAA chapters and we expect a large cross-section of members participating in both the flying club and the local EAA chapter. Student pilots and pilots who come out to the airport will have the flying club as a new portal to affordable and accessible aviation, while the chapter is their home for education and community within aviation.

This article is reprinted from VantagePoint magazine, the quarterly publication of WSAE.