EAA Chapter 54 Lake Elmo

Lake Elmo EAA Chapter has success with flying start

When members of EAA Chapter 54, Lake Elmo, Minnesota wanted to create more awareness about flying and EAA a few years back, they decided to hold an EAA Flying Start event. Members were so pleased with the program they’ve now held a total of three Flying Starts, the most recent in April this year, at Lake Elmo Airport (21-D).

See the following video about Forbes attending the EAA Air Academy in Oshkosh, WI which was sponsored by EAA Chapter 54 (Lake Elmo).

Art Edhlund, Chapter 54’s Flying Start coordinator, said April’s event resulted in eight new EAA members, three new Chapter members, and a few potential new pilots (although he’s still working on some people). The Chapter has some 80 members, 40 of whom are very active. “But some of us are getting a little older,” Edhlund noted. “Flying Start is a great way to create an interest in flying and EAA.”

The primary idea behind Flying Start is to create pilot starts. “We’re not talking about a flying lesson here, but hopefully, that’s where it will lead to,” said Troy Toelle, EAA chapter field administrator. “The goal is to encourage people to take the necessary initial steps toward becoming pilots.”

Developed several years ago by the EAA Chapter Advisory Council, EAA Flying Start offers Chapters (including EAA Divisional Chapters/Squadrons) a structured way to host local programs that provide information about cost, risks, the time needed, and any other questions people have about learning to fly. EAA has all the materials a Chapter needs to run a first-rate event, including banners, brochures, posters, name tags, and registration cards, as well as brochures and Chapter membership applications.

“Flying Start is hard to beat,” said Edhlund. “Some people are ready to fly, others have always thought about it. We’re just trying to push them over the edge.” At their latest Flying Start event, Edhlund said one person was looking into an aviation career, while another just thought it would be fun. Still, another flew a long time ago and wanted to get back into it.

Some Chapters, like Chapter 54, throw in a free Flying Start Orientation Ride to attendees who become EAA members. “The spark occurs,” Edhlund said, “during a Flying Start Orientation flight when you hand over the controls and they get a feel for the freedom of flying.”

Flexibility is built into the program, which means it can be a formal, sit-down presentation or an informal Flying Start information table at a Young Eagles event; it’s up to the hosting Chapter.

Like anything else, you get out of it what you put into it. Chapter 54 promoted the event heavily with flyers at local airports, grocery stores, city halls, and colleges. The Chapter also ran an announcement on the community cable TV bulletin board.

Flying Start can be a way for any Chapter to generate more interest in flying in their areas.