Article published in the "Absolute Altitude” a SFEC's member’s newsletter
East Meets Midwest
Boston flight instructor visits Spencer Flight & Education Center for new club.
By Shelby Alyssa Mettlen - The Spencer Flight & Education Center is bringing the East to the Midwest, proving there’s a whole lot going on in western Kansas - and it doesn’t (directly) involve farming or feedlots.
The SFEC hosted IMC Club president and founder Radek Wyrzykowski at its annual (2015) board meeting (…). The decorated pilot and Boston, Mass., resident made the 1,800-mile journey from Norwood, Mass. to Scott City, Kan. to guide the club’s newest chapter through its first meeting.
With more than 120 chapters and over 2,400 members worldwide, Wyrzykowski says the IMC Club is the fastest-growing aviation organization of its time - measuring in the same trajectory as the Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association (AOPA) when it was formed. Born as a vision of Wyrzykowski, the IMC Club is a membership-based non-profit 501(c)(3) organization offering resources and training to instrument-rated pilots. The Spencer Flight & Education Center is proud to be the first aviation entity to bring the IMC Club to Kansas.
The Right Tool
Located in the center of cattle feed yards and corn fields, Scott City and the SFEC offer something no other facility in the area can: a Redbird FMX motion simulator.
“With aviation, people travel,” Wyrzykowski says. “A lot of times we think locally, and we should not. If you have something good, people will travel. You just have to get the word out that you have it, and it has to be unique.”
The Redbird is a vital tool for instrument training, Wyrzykowski says.
“We have to position ourselves in space and then use those needles to know what is happening,” he says. “Needles are just to fine tune, to know exactly that certain position. It’s all in your brain. [The Redbird] is the perfect machine to practice in.”
A native of Poland, Wyrzykowski has served as Chief Flight Instructor for four different flight schools and has logged over 6,000 hours in the cockpit. He is a Master Certified Flight Instructor Instrument and Multiple-Engine Instructor.
Earlier in his aviation career, Wyrzykowski sat down with three friends near his home in Norwood and discussed a particularly rough instrument situation he’d run into. The four men decided to form a “support group” for instrument-rated pilots to share their experience and knowledge - and the IMC Club was born.
A press release outlining the idea of the IMC Club was picked up by the AOPA and the organization became an overnight success.
“Next morning, I come to work and I’m not kidding, I was getting an email every minute,” Wyrzykowski says. “My inbox was flooded with people asking how to sign up for the organization and open new chapters. I had absolutely no idea, because I wasn’t expecting that.”
From four men with a vision to more than 2,400 members, IMC Club continues to evolve and grow. At the 2011 EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) AirVenture fly-in in Oshkosh, Wis., Wyrzykowski and his team did little more than wear their “IMC Club” t-shirts, he says. Last year, the club had its own pavillion with eight Redbird FMX flight simulators, complete with PilotEdge software, running full time. This year, Wyrzykowski says, it’ll be even bigger.
Keeping It Interesting
“What IMC Club does is address this forgotten group of pilots,” Wyrzykowski says. “We want to address the biggest mistake flight schools make. With most flight schools, we go after private pilots, they get their licenses, we get them instrument training, then we try to convince them that they should go commercial, CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) and become airline pilots.”
The trouble is, many pilots lack interest in becoming commercial pilots, he says. Too often, if pilots don’t want to go commercial, they drift away and fail to remain current on their training.
“With IMC Club, we want to bring them back,” Wyrzykowski says. “We want to bring this group back and show them that it could be a lot of fun to use that instrument training.”
It doesn’t matter how many hours a pilot acquires, he says - it’s about how current he remains; how much practice he has and how recently that practice has taken place.
“I always compare it to going to a gym,” Wyrzykowski says. “Let’s say you stop walking altogether. After a few months, you have to learn how to walk again. If you stop flying instruments, it doesn’t matter if you have your instrument rating, you have to go back. It’s extremely important to do this systematically. A lot of instrument flying is not really moderate skill; it’s in your brain. It’s a mental exercise.”
IMC Club meetings are all about the exchange of practical knowledge, Wyrzykowski says.
“When you have an experience and you tell your friend, “You won’t believe what happened to me,” two people will learn,” he says. “We took it to a global level. We’re putting all those brains together.”
Becoming a member of the IMC Club offers many benefits, including discounts on U.S. military-grade Randolph sunglasses, access to MyGoFlight apps and software, IFR Refresher and IFR Magazine. However, Wyrzykowski says he wants the IMC Club to avoid becoming a subscription service.
“All those benefits are extra, but that is not what we are,” he says. “We’re about real, human face-to-face contact.”
Leave your Smartphone at home, Wyrzykowski says. The IMC Club is all about sharing experience, good and bad.
“You don’t need [your phone],” he says. “What we want you to do is come over here to your local chapter and participate in those chapter meetings. Because good judgment comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.”