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The Community of Flying

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

2018 – The year in review

At the beginning of each year, the club management, with support from the board of directors, puts together a plan for the year. It’s about this time of the year that we get to look back and reflect on how we did.  This is my chance to report on that progress.

There were 4 main areas of focus for the year:

1)    New member programs

2)    The fleet

3)    Infrastructure

4)    Safety Culture

New Member Programs.  We made several changes in this area for 2018.  First, we moved from a quarterly new member orientation to a monthly session. By the end of 2018 we were getting as many people attending the monthly session as we used to get for the quarterly session, so we are planning on continuing this approach for 2019.  We moved the monthly Palo Alto barbeques to just before the board meetings.  We not only increased attendance at the BBQ, but also to the board meetings, so we’ll be continuing this in 2019 as well.  We had three different ground schools running in 2018 with good attendance for most of the sessions so we’ll continue with this approach in 2019 as well. We also ramped up the number of safety seminars.  

From an event standpoint, we had our first ever Hightower Kids Day Camp.  This was well received and will appear again in 2019. We had our first ever Poker Run and we plan to repeat the event in 2019. We held our 46thbirthday party in August with one of the largest turnouts ever for a WVFC event and celebrated in true German style. Stay tuned for plans for the 47thbirthday party next year.  In 2018, we rolled out the ACH payment program and had a huge increase in the number of members participating.  We also introduced non-flying rates which helps alleviates the age-old problem of flight minimums and the cost associated with it. 

The Fleet. Once again, we’re going to miss our year-end goal for fleet size. Sigh.  We wanted to end the year at 55 aircraft and are likely going to end at 53.   There were some distinct highlights during the year.  We acquired two “new” Cessna 152s.  They’re bright yellow and are a lot of fun to fly and economical as well. The $100 hamburger at Half Moon Bay is once again achievable.  The Super Decathlon that the club owned was sold to a member and kept on the flight line. This is a win-win all around and we would like to repeat that model with other club acquisitions like the Cessna 152s. One of our trainee mechanics became an FAA A&P bringing us to three A&Ps, enabling 7 days a week maintenance availability. We also became a Cirrus Service Center and are building a lot more in-depth knowledge on Cirrus maintenance practices, saving both the owners and the club time and money.  We also opened a maintenance facility at San Carlos which has given us a much better place to service our San Carlos based fleet.  We’ve even taken the occasional Palo Alto plane there for service when the Palo Alto maintenance facility has been maxed out.

Still the biggest challenge is the fleet. We simply don’t have enough airplanes to meet demand and that’s frustrating for everyone involved. We continue to ask that every member seriously consider the possibility of airplane ownership for both their own purposes and to keep the club viable as we move forward.

Infrastructure.We made some important additions in 2018 to our infrastructure. We introduced Mac laptops at both locations and now we have both PCs and Macs, so hopefully everyone has a go-to machine.  We added several more loaner headsets for members needing extras for trips and tours. Schedule Master got a new interface, and there’s now support for calendar integration, something members have been asking about for years.  We upgraded the WiFi at San Carlos, and it seems to have been a much better experience in 2018.  We’ve also continued to decorate our walls with interesting artwork throughout the year. And last, but not least, we added a large banner above the club entrance at Palo Alto so it’s easier for prospective members to find us alongside our competition.

Safety Culture.  We reorganized the Safety Office into Fight Operations and Safety (FOS).  We hired a new Safety Manager, Jim Higgins, who leads the team.  The team included 4 members at the mid-year point, but due to various personal issues, the team at the end of the year is just two people. They are severely strained because of this and things like new CFI intake has suffered accordingly.  We will plan to address this in 2019 and get the group back to full strength.  From a safety aspect, we had a good year.  No significant accidents or incidents but unfortunately several minor ones, all of which take time and effort to address and ultimately affect our insurance program.  One additional highlight is that we did reach the 500thmember signing up for the DWP program which helps with the hassle of insurance claims for both the member and the club.

While we set the bar high for 2018, and we didn’t meet all the goals, we hope that the things we did do made a difference to you and the club at large.  As usual, I’m always open to suggestions and feedback to help make the goals for 2019. Thanks for continuing to help make WVFC one of the best places to fly in the area/state/country.

Safe Flying and Happy Holidays.