After 25 years of holding its annual convention at the Mooney factory in Kerrville, Texas, MAPA now chooses a different location each year. (Photo by Mooney Aircraft Pilots Association)
Type Clubs in the Digital Age
While the FAA declined to require a type rating, the result of the input from the owners and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which still fully supports the airplane even after it has been out of production for nearly three decades, was a Special Federal Aviation Regulation that mandates special training requirements for the MU-2. As a result of the type-specific training, the MU-2 now boasts the best safety record of any twin turboprop on the market, Klain said.
In addition to providing information about the availability of proficiency training and technical support, Klain said the MU-2 AOPA website provided valuable information to him even before he became an MU-2 owner. “I was very pleased because the numbers that I got in my first year of ownership have been within 5 percent of what I was told they would be,” he says. “And my cost to acquire the airplane was off by less than $300.”
Klain finds the MU-2 type club particularly valuable because representatives from the service centers are part of the communication threads in the online forums and mailing lists, providing reliable information in a timely manner. It is interesting to note that the MU-2 AOPA website lists nearly 300 registered users, about the same number of people as Mitsubishi lists airworthy MU-2s. While some of those users are service providers and enthusiasts, Klain estimates the organization reaches about 75 percent of MU-2 owners and operators.
Another enthusiastic club is the International Cessna 195 Club, which boasts 1,200 members, the organization’s president, Larry Nelson, said — an impressive number since only about 1,200 190s and 195s were produced. The club’s annual fly-in attracts very large groups of these beautiful vintage airplanes and, Nelson said, “There is no question that the 190/195 series is better supported today than maybe at any time in the history of the type.”
Despite being an all-volunteer organization, the 195 Club has kept up with the times with a website that has a large database of well-organized information and a very active Hangar Talk forum where questions generally appear to be answered promptly.
The ability for a type club to quickly deliver information to its members is one of the greatest benefits Frank has seen with the birth of the digital age. “Say there is an accident and there is a problem that has to be addressed fairly quickly,” he said. “We literally can get ahold of our members within hours as opposed to weeks, as it used to be when we had to communicate with the magazine and mail solely. It’s a real boon to safety, this almost instantaneous ability to communicate.”
Instant communication through type clubs is particularly beneficial in the amateur-built world, which is one reason for the success of a Web-based type club named Vansairforce.net. Vansairforce.net is a terrific example of a website that has become a public forum for technical support. No matter what time of day a question is posted by an owner/builder, a response can be expected within an hour.
“A lot of times, somebody will be out in his garage and working on [an airplane] and he’ll be stuck,” said Vansairforce.net founder Doug Reeves. “He’ll just take a picture with his phone and put that picture up in the forums and say: ‘Do I have this backward?’ It may be 3 in the morning in Portland where Van’s Aircraft is, so their tech support obviously couldn’t answer the phone. And so a guy in Great Britain who is on his lunch hour sees the post, realizes he’s worked on the same part and responds: ‘Yes, you’re doing it right. I just did that two weeks ago.’ And that happens on a daily basis.”
Vansairforce.net is a perfect example of how a type club can grow online. Reeves started what he called an “online build log” in 1997 for an RV-6 he was building at the time. Today, Reeves claims close to 17,000 registered forum users and estimates about three website “lurkers” for each registered user.