In early 2014, only a few years after San Carlos Flight Center (SCFC) opened our doors, AOPA’s new leadership decided to shut down the Center to Advance the Pilot Community, and disbanded the staff to other projects. Only a skeleton crew remained to collate the annual Best Flight School surveys. Gone were the days of the AOPA Summit, and with it the special meeting bringing together flight school operators, to share ideas and build GA together.
SCFC began a process to create a new organization to fill the gap, to bring flight schools and flying clubs together in the same spirit of knowledge sharing and adventure. Along the way, we found a variety of other organizations that work to promote the industry in a variety of ways. We actively participate in many organizations, including the Flight School Association of North America, and are always trying to find more schools, clubs, and organizations to share ideas with.
AOPA still works to support for flight schools and flying clubs. There is an email newsletter that connects flight schools and shares ideas. Similarly, there is an email newsletter and other support materials to help support existing flying clubs and build new ones. Flying clubs seem to have a slight advantage here, as they fit nicely with AOPA’s work to reduce the overall cost of flight training, to address one of the most negative pressures on general aviation – cost.
SCFC works with everyone. As a flight school operating as a flying club, we attend lots of meetings and conferences. The best thing we take away is always the chance to meet to other people in the industry, people who know what pressures we face as flying club and flight school operators, and who share our pain. But we were left wanting more. More sharing of ideas. More energy. More stories of what works and what doesn’t work. Legislation and regulatory pressures are important, but where was the energy.
We’ve been planning to launch SPARK for four years, and this year we finally had the right people and skills to do it. We hope that his call goes out to all flight school operators and flying club managers. Join the revolution. Let us share energy with each other so that together we can build general aviation.