What’s Your Type?
How Type Clubs Enhance Safety
By Tom Hoffmann, FAA Safety Briefing Managing Editor
If you have a hobby or favorite activity, no matter how common or unconventional, there is probably a club somewhere out there that caters to that interest. Auto clubs, TV show fan clubs, and book clubs; these are just a few among the myriad organizations that appeal to nearly anything you can imagine. But how about a club that can help save you time, money, and possibly even your life one day? Sound good? If you’re an airman, it most definitely would.
Of course we’re referring to aircraft “type clubs,” which, for decades, have helped aircraft owners and pilots become more in tune with the performance and safety of their flying machines. In fact, anecdotal data, as well as accident data collected by some specific type clubs, suggest that members of an aircraft type club are less likely to have an accident than their non-member colleagues. Let’s have a closer look.
Getting “Type” Casted
Aircraft type clubs are organizations formed to support airmen who share a common interest in a specific make, model, or manufacturer of aircraft. Although type clubs vary in how they operate and the services they provide, they generally function as a safety and informational support network to keep members abreast of best practices, as well as any changes or news regarding their aircraft. This is particularly important for a pilot transitioning to a new aircraft type, or one who owns an aircraft no longer supported by the manufacturer.
Enhancing safety among type club members is accomplished in a number of ways. It is facilitated chiefly through the availability of technical and safety-related information and supplemented by the first-hand knowledge and expertise of its members. How this information gets disseminated can vary among different type clubs, but websites, publications, and seminars are the more common vehicles.
In addition to making available a ream of online statistics and data about their aircraft, many type club websites also use blogs and chat rooms, allowing users to ask questions, post comments, and exchange ideas about anything ranging from which engine oil is the best to use, to where the best airport diners are.
Type clubs generally function as a safety and informational support network to keep members abreast of best practices, as well as any changes or news regarding their aircraft.
“It may seem trivial, but simply providing a forum for networking and discussion about safety issues and the discussion of approaches and techniques is actually profound,” says Coyle Schwab, president emeritus of the International Cessna 195 Club and current chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Type Club Coalition (TCC), a consortium of more than 40 agencies and type clubs formed in 2015. Schwab states that these information-sharing opportunities among like-minded aviators “are a type club’s greatest asset” and a feature the TCC continues to leverage to improve knowledge transfer among the coalition.
The access to open communication has also been the catalyst for some aircraft type club members, particularly those of more recent design, to play a part in discovering and developing safe practices for undocumented issues, sometimes before the manufacturer gets wind of a problem.
Type clubs also provide outreach via newsletters and magazines, as well as organizing safety seminars and pilot proficiency programs for their members. These live programs usually feature speakers well-versed in safety matters germane to their type-specific audiences, and can sometimes be supplemented with additional, one-on-one flight training sessions.
Among the excellent safety promotion tools some type clubs offer are service clinics, where maintenance professionals will check a club member’s aircraft for items that are historically problematic. So, whether you’re more technically inclined, or prefer a more traditional hands-on approach to keeping up to speed on your airplane, you’re bound to find a type club learning solution that suits your needs.
My Type of Club
Directories available online (see below) list hundreds of type clubs and flying associations, covering every group of aviators from Cessna, Piper, and Mooney pilots, to those more taken with amateur-built, light-sport, or vintage designs. Then there are niche organizations based on pilot demographics, occupation, or locality and which have targeted audiences ranging from musicians and chiropractors to octogenarians and wheelchair aviators. While these groups don’t necessarily focus on the safety aspects of a particular aircraft, they are still extremely useful in keeping members up to date with more generic safety matters, or issues that are relevant to their profession, area of interest, or specific environment.
For example, maybe you’re new to the Colorado area and want to expand your knowledge of high-altitude flying. What better way than to chat with experienced mountain flyers in your area?
In case there isn’t a club in your particular area, start one! All it takes is a few folks with a common interest to get it going. In fact, the TCC has made starting a type club even easier by publishing an online how-to guide (PDF download). This comprehensive document incorporates first-hand experience from other type clubs and covers everything from finances to club leadership roles.
Spreading the Good Word: Safety
In keeping with its strategic plan to reduce GA accidents, the FAA is looking to leverage the tremendous influence type clubs have on aviation safety. One example can be found in Advisory Circular (AC) 90–109A, Transition to Unfamiliar Aircraft, in which the FAA recommends using type clubs to help build familiarity when transitioning to a new experimental or unfamiliar aircraft.
“We recognize the significant safety value type clubs have for the aviation community,” says FAA’s General Aviation Operations branch manager Mark Giron, who is also a proud member of the American Bonanza Society. “In addition to providing and sharing tailored best practices, type clubs also help members to connect with qualified flight instructors specific to their type, a task that can often be very challenging.” Giron adds that the FAA’s work with type clubs, in particular the Lancair Owners and Builders Organization, led to development of the Additional Pilot Program for flight testing experimental aircraft. (See AC 90–116, Additional Pilot Program for Phase I Flight Test, for more).
Members of the FAA offered suggestions and collaborated with the TCC during the development of their Transition Training Guide. This guide is a seed document for type-specific pilot transition training programs and incorporates the experiences of other type clubs. “We hope this will become the baseline upon which type clubs can build custom, detailed training curricula that address their concerns,” says Schwab.
There’s a lot to gain from being a member of an aircraft type club: shared information, tried and true tips, trend data, and locality-specific issues, not to mention a club’s ability to provide important social and professional networking outlets for like-minded aviation enthusiasts. You may also consider joining a type club to offer up some of your own talents and expertise. So don’t delay — join one today!
Tom Hoffmann is the managing editor of FAA Safety Briefing. He is a commercial pilot and holds an A&P certificate.