By Russ Niles
AOPA says it’s tapping an underused resource by offering some structure and incentive to build the flying club population in the U.S. In a podcast interview with AVweb, Adam Smith, head of AOPA’s new Center to Advance the Pilot Community, said there are about 650 flying clubs in the U.S. and the goal is to have up to 2,000. He said most flying clubs do tremendous work in the areas of promotion, training and fostering of grass roots aviation but they do so in isolation. AOPA, which has done a study on flying clubs, will unveil the full program at next week’s AOPA Summit in Palm Springs, Calif. It hopes to build a network of flying clubs with transferrable benefits and common strategies for the growth of the pilot community.
Smith, a Scot, said flying clubs are an essential element of GA in Europe and have become a “coping mechanism” for aviation enthusiasts in the costly and bureaucratic environment there. In the U.S., he sees a better organized flying club movement as a fundamental part of building GA and lifting the spirits of many involved in aviation.