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The Community of Flying

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

45 Years!

On Friday, September 22 we will be celebrating our 45th anniversary with a fun filled party at our Palo Alto location.  We’ll send out more reminders before the event, but we ask that you join us that evening to celebrate with friends, instructors, and fellow members.  There will, of course, be good food, music, and beverages of varying strengths.

So, 45 years.  It’s on occasions like this that it’s worth taking some time to look back and reflect on where we have come from, where we stand, and where we are heading.  Formed as a not for profit 501c7 corporation in 1972, the club has never been about “making money”.   Rather, there has been a bigger focus on creating a safe and fun flying environment rather than maximizing profits.  In the past 10 years, we believe that we’ve improved on the original vision.  How so?  Well, historically the club was run on a shoestring and it didn’t have the funds to save for a rainy day. While the focus was always safety, the safety record could always be better – there simply weren’t enough checks and balances when it came to members flying club planes.  Starting about 10 years ago, we embarked on a mission with a dual purpose.  That’s what has driven the plan for our middle age years of 35-45.

The first and most important goal was to improve our safety record.  We introduced several new safety initiatives including enhanced check-out procedures, phase checks, accident education, and instructor training.  Combined these have had a significant positive effect on our safety record.  Moving forward, we plan to continue this path and make more incremental improvements over the next 5 years.

Financially speaking, we need to be better prepared for the next downturn.  As shocking as it sounds, the current Bay Area economy “bubble” will pop and, just like previous technology recessions, the club will likely take a financial hit as people dial down their flying hobby to save money.  We need to be better prepared for this than in previous similar events.  The club does have the mechanism to raise money through “assessments” and has done so a handful of times in its’ past.  But each time we do that it causes a shock to the system and members leave the club because they either don’t want to pay the assessment or, believe the club won’t survive.  That was certainly the case in 2011 when almost one third of the membership left, convinced that the club couldn’t survive.  And that’s what makes WVFC such a unique entity.  Run by a board of 7 elected directors, the club simply refused to die.  We scraped our way out of a huge financial hole and then focused on running a tighter budget. We have since had some good years and have set aside a rainy-day fund to get us through the next recession. There are no guarantees, but we feel better about where things stand now than when we were 35.

In addition to safety and our finances, there is the important matter of club culture. Let me spend a little bit of time talking about this. First and foremost, we’re a full- service club. We’re open 7 days a week from 9AM to 5PM at two locations. We have real people (and they’re great by the way) to answer the phones, emails, and walk-ins as they come in. How many businesses can say that anymore?  We plan to stay this way. Since our 40th birthday we have started 7 day a week maintenance service. There are very few clubs (or even for-profit FBOs) who can claim this. But probably most important of all is what I call the “Fairness” factor. As a club, we take huge pride in leveling the playing field for everyone.  Sometimes an aircraft owner, CFI, member, or even staff member might ask for a “favor”.  We simply look at the “fairness scale” and have an answer for that request.  If we give person A the deal/favor, are we willing to give it to every other person in that group?  The answer is usually no, and when asked to explain or defend our position we can simply refer to “fairness”.  It’s the right thing to do and I think the club should continue on this path to not only its’ 50th birthday but all the way to 100!

We look forward to seeing many of you on Friday September 22nd at 7PM.  Bring friends and family to celebrate what has been an amazing 45-year journey.

Fly Safe.