... it is rare to see
active in a club when
flying is no longer fun.
• Successful clubs promote
a policy of never allowing
spectators to sit off to the
side by themselves, but
rather encourage their
members to introduce
themselves. If the spectators
express an interest, invite
them to check out the
airplanes and to sit with the
It’s counterproductive to
send a new visitor/potential
member home with
instructions to search for the
information that they’ll need
to get started in the hobby.
Novices don’t even know
what questions to ask, so have all of the printed forms needed
to join AMA and the club (even if they’ll be joining online),
and, if possible, a printout of an RTF basic trainer, ready to
hand to any interested spectator before he or she leaves.
• When talking with a potential member, club members
refrain from airing dirty laundry and tales of failure. Instead,
they should accentuate the positives of how technology is
making it easier to fly than ever before, and that by joining the
club, he or she will have access to a dedicated flying site and
experienced pilots who can offer advice when needed.
• As long as a person’s equipment is airworthy, leaders of
clubs with high retention rates generally hold off pointing out
everything they would change or improve upon, but do their
best to help that person experience the thrill of seeing his or
her airplane in the air as soon as possible.
• Unless it’s appropriate, leaders of active clubs avoid
framing members’ equipment as inferior and trying to
persuade them to purchase increasingly more complex/
expensive equipment under the guise that it will make them
better fliers. Instead, club leaders emphasize that the main
things are to have fun within their individual comfort zones.
Although good equipment is important, correct practice is
much more important. (Remember, what someone might refer
to as an inferior radio today would have been state of the art
only a decade ago, and entirely capable of fulfilling the needs
of 95% of fliers!)
• Rather than promoting 3-D flying and complex 3-D
equipment setups as the end-all after learning to fly, leaders of
successful clubs try to offer practical recommendations based
on what they feel gives each member the greatest likelihood
of success, based on his or her immediate skills and interests.
Effective leaders correct the impression that the route to
becoming a better pilot is to try to mold yourself after the
club’s best 3-D flier, but instead hype the fact that the
awesome (unique) thing about the hobby is that there
are so many options available, and that pilots can
change their interests at any time.
My efforts to highlight these tendencies and help stem
the 15-year trend of declining club membership might
prove to be wishful thinking. However, I make
my living in the hobby, and I fly large aerobatic
airplanes that require well-maintained runways.
Therefore I have more than a casual interest in
clubs doing well. That noted, I want to bring
up a couple of final observations.
Although I’m sure there are exceptions, I
know that if a club does not appoint leaders
who actively fly and have a personal stake in
maintaining a pilot-friendly club, club politics
almost always take over until eventually so
many people have been turned off that there
are barely enough members to sustain the club.
For a club to experience growth, it must
have individuals in positions of leadership who
possess the initiative and/or natural inclination
(often as a result of career backgrounds) to
map out a club’s mission statement, along with
a step-by-step plan of action aimed at cultivating an active,
fun, flying club.
When people in the area hear about the club and decide to
check it out, they will encounter an appealing club that looks
as though it would be fun to be involved with. The reason that
it takes this type of leader is because the turnaround or growth
doesn’t often happen right away.
Throughout the process, some members will likely try to
sabotage the leadership’s efforts because, from the sidelines,
they think they know better. That’s when having a plan in
place helps keep things moving toward the club’s stated
objectives, rather than allowing the diversions common to any
group undertaking to sap everyone’s enthusiasm.
There are many other things that successful clubs are
doing, including building attractive websites, community
involvement, etc., but it all starts with getting the basics right
to foster an environment that promotes flying and encourages
people to have fun and pursue their own particular interests.
Have a great 2016 flying season!
Dave Scott is a champion full-scale
aerobatics competitor and an air show
pilot, as well as the founder of and chief
flight instructor at 1st U.S. R/C Flight
School. His groundbreaking books
and articles feature the accelerated
training techniques and
methodologies he developed
while professionally instructing
more than 1,700 RC pilots of
all skill levels. More information
about his books and school can be
found at www.rcflightschool.com.
Photos by the author, Jay Smith, and Jenni Alderman.
27 Model Aviation MAY 2016