Grassroots IMC Clubs lift off

 - February 24, 2010, 5:46 AM

Instrument pilots looking to improve their knowledge and skills beyond those gained from formal training and checkrides may be interested in joining–or even starting–a local chapter of the newly founded IMC Club. The Club’s intent is to bring together seasoned and new instrument pilots to share experiences of IFR flights, avionics operation and ATC procedures. Chapter meetings are usually held twice a month in the evenings and can be viewed by members of other chapters via IMCTV. The club is a grass-roots endeavor by Radek Wyrzykowski, a 4,500-hour pilot and chief flight instructor for Norwood Flight Academy, Norwood, Ma., also the headquarters location for the IMC Club. He recently fielded a few questions.

When did the IMC Club go active and how did it come about? What needs do you see the club fulfilling? 
I had had the idea for this club for several years. Last July when a few of us met, we liked the concept and it started growing rapidly. One of the big issues is the absence of a GA community to help the new instrument pilot find his or her way from initial licensing to practical competence. We want to establish a mentoring network matching experienced pilots with newly licensed ones.

Can you explain the goals of the club?
So far we have completed initial development of our Web site (imcclubs.org). We have developed IMCTV, a video exchange among chapters. Mid-term goals are to attract more vendors willing to make their services available at discounts for our members, and to establish a modest membership fee. We cannot operate long term solely for love of aviation. Long-term goals: I see IMC Club establishing cooperation with industry leaders such as AOPA. An alliance we recently formed with Safe (the Society of Aviation and Flight Educators) automatically added some 500 new members to the IMC Club.

How many individual members and how many chapters are currently active?
We currently have 13 active chapters, with two more applications pending [at press time]. All active chapters are listed on the map on our home page. At the time of this interview, we crossed 600 members and growth was averaging two members per day.
 
Give examples of specific subjects that have been discussed at the meetings.
Because so many aircraft are equipped with Garmin avionics, we talk a lot about the products’ lesser known features. The Avidyne Entegra cockpit software was also a recent topic. Members discuss recent IFR flights. We also discuss the use of autopilots in IMC, and ATC communications, including obtaining clearances at nontower airports. In addition, we cover how to fly GPS approaches, how to avoid runway incursions in low visibility and so on.
 
Several vendors are providing discounts to IMC Club members. Can you name others that you are talking with about joining the list? Also, is there a plan to provide members with a membership card?
To date, Avis, Nashua Flight Simulator (www.nashuaflightsimulator.com) and The Pilot Shop (www.thepilotshop.com) are on board, and we are talking to other major players. We will have ID cards, patches and pins. Unfortunately it is all budget related. We are in the process of fundraising and are asking our members for donations.   

Wyrzykowski told AIN that IMC Club affiliates have been expanding “beyond what we had expected or even hoped for.” As a consequence “our expenses have grown as well.” He said donated assistance is needed in Web site management, e-mail marketing, IMCTV and printing and marketing materials.