Birds of a Feather Flock Together

birds of a feather

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birds of a featherThere are some interesting phenomena that occur when pilots of similar types of aircraft coalesce into a group. Some of it is really good and some of it is not so good. But let’s examine an often taboo subject and see where it leads us.


I’ll use the term type club because that’s how we often think of these groups, but not all of them are formally organized. One example, my beloved RV clan, in spite of its sheer mass of almost 10,000 flying airplanes, it has no formal structure like COPA (Cirrus) or ABS (Bonanza), etc. 


Let’s start with the bad…


Formal type clubs are businesses and as such they need to make money or at least break-even to exist. This creates some financial drag on the membership. Also, they can be like small governments, with bureaucracy and red tape prevailing. This doesn’t serve the membership and paints a sour picture to outsiders. Luckily most, if not all, have structures and programs that return a ton of value to their members.


Type clubs are exclusive by nature and many times they aren’t bashful about it. I have literally seen this in action as the “snob factor” kicks in at the local FBO when someone mentions what they fly. Of course, this really just comes from pride. Certainly if you worked your ass off to get into an airplane that you really love, why wouldn’t you be proud? But often the message that gets transmitted to everyone else, is “my airplane is way cooler than yours” or “you should be honored to be in the presence of greatness!” 


This creates an immediate turnoff and also proliferates into a stereotype for the brand. Bonanza drivers are often lumped into this group, but really any club can get a little too precious about their breed and spoil their image. RV drivers are prone to this too. RV folks will preach the super versatility and efficiency with such evangelistic fervor that no one in their right mind should fly anything else. As an RV guy myself who has flown a lot of different airplanes, I can tell you that almost every airplane has its attributes and I’m never one thumb my nose – there’s always something bigger or faster or cooler out there. 


Like the attitudinal issues above, we run into more birds of a feather flock together issues. One buzz job by an RV and they are all reckless wild men. One self-appointed airport police type that happens to fly a Cherokee…  One braggart in a Mooney… You get the point. If someone that flies a certain type does something that can be judged, the verdict ultimately falls on the whole group. This becomes more unfair stereotyping that is fodder for airport bums across the nation. “Hey, did you hear about that RV guy that ran Bob out of the pattern on a straight in yesterday? Those guys are a bunch of cowboys!” or  “I saw a Cirrus scud running out of here last week when the weather was crap and I know he didn’t have an IFR clearance!” and so the stories go. 


[pullquote]I try to take the tact to always complement folks on whatever they are flying and not come off as stuck up. Due to the stigma that exists behind RVs, I have even tried to limit how much I mention my airplane on this site to avoid sending people away before they get to know me. Isn’t that silly?[/pullquote]


It doesn’t matter what we fly, the point is we are flying and because of that we are a brotherhood. Nuff said!


Let’s end with the good…


Luckily these organizations are often very valuable. Not only to the constituents inside the club, but potentially to outsiders. 


Type clubs demonstrate the power of an organization to affect change. Through their numbers some of these have been helpful, along with other alphabet groups, to affect legislation or keep an airport open, etc.


They can also provide targeted training and currency processes that enhance safety and can be a template for others to use. Cirrus has been particularly aggressive in this area. 


Benefits to the members can include discounts for all sorts of goods and services. Often the insurance discount is worth the price of admission if you go through their sanctioned safety courses or other programs.


They also benefit from the power of sharing information and this is one of the biggest benefits of all. Virtually nothing goes unnoticed when you put thousands of pilots into a group focused on one airplane. It’s unlikely you’ll be the first to encounter anything. This is like tech/customer support supercharged. 


OEMs should love these groups because they ultimately help sell the product by virtue of the value the club brings. 


The camaraderie is a big draw for many. I am personally in that camp. I love the feeling of belonging to a group. It’s like a family, we don’t always agree, but we can all relate. Is that why they call them relat-ives? 


In the final analysis…


If you add everything up, the pros far exceed the cons when it comes to these groups. The good news is the negative aspects are correctable if we all worked on cleaning up our images and kept each other in check. Save the buzz job for the air show circuit; save the snobbish demeanor for your golfing buddies; and check the attitudes at the door. 


As pilots we are all ambassadors and we need to seek to be as inclusive as possible to anyone that shares our love for this great avocation.


by Brent Owens (click my name to email me)


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