LEAF Intro Pilot Program

The Longmont Electric Aircraft Flyers (LEAF) started its Intro Pilot Program roughly four years ago for two main reasons: to introduce RC flying to the public and to increase club membership—especially youth members. The program has had great success meeting both objectives.
The program began by forming a group of experienced pilots to go through training and testing to qualify as a club and AMA Intro Pilot instructor. The process was not to get only the best pilots in the club, but also to identify individuals who have been pilots for some time and not only could fly well, but could communicate these flying skills both to the youth through seniors wanting to learn to fly in a friendly and well-communicated manner.
Instructors went through an Intro Pilot flying skill test recommended by the AMA, then were give the control of a body-box transmitter system and an airplane and were asked to take the tester up for a test flight walking the tester through a training flight. The tester behaved like a typical student, making mistakes and putting the airplane in bad flight conditions. The Intro Pilot instructor was judged on skills in recovering the aircraft and communication with the student tester. Our club currently has seven instructors.
The club purchased four club trainer airplanes (E-flite Apprentice D 15e models) and set up pairs of radios and batteries for each. All of the instructors used the same airplanes and transmitters for all instructions, and provided an aircraft that students could fly until they soloed. This was a major part of our program because a person looking into this hobby did not have to come up with hundreds of dollars to get into the hobby and not be concerned about crashing the airplane while learning to fly.
This program offered consistence in training, which brought in more new members to the club faster and was an easy way a new student could get into the hobby without coming up with a lot of money.
The final item to get the program going was to set up a certain day each month to introduce the hobby to the public. We accomplish this by placing event flyers at our local hobby store, HobbyTown USA in Longmont, Colorado, and placing free ads in the local papers. We reached out to the local schools, inviting students and teachers to attend. Finally, we had information tables at the town and local airport events to attract additional visitors to our introduction day.
The program has been a great success. At each of the events we have held, we normally had 15 to 20 people attend. From each event, the club typically receives three to five new members. Each parent who brings a youth for a flight gets to fly as well. That has increased our family membership because the parent was as excited as the youth.
The program has also been a win for the local HobbyTown USA, increasing sales of airplanes and supplies. In the last three years, our club has grown from 36 members to 105. This is amazing since our club is the only all-electric flying club in District IX.
I consider this a win for the local schools, too. Our members have been asked to attend various STEM programs to discuss aerospace education and our club sponsors a local high school RC flying club. We feel that the future of our club depends on attracting youth members.
—Rick McCaskill
AMA District IX AVP
LEAF Secretary and Lead Instructor

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