AN IDEA WORTH SHARING Starting A Hamburger Social At Your Airport

by John P. Chmiel, Manager
Wausau Downtown Airport (KAUW) – President, Wausau Flying Service
Wausau, Wisconsin
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine – Aug/Sept 2016

When we first came up with the idea of “Hamburger Social Night At The Airport,” I personally called the airport people I knew at each airport in our area. I told them exactly what we were trying to do – establish informal dinner socials at airports during the week to encourage pilots to get in their airplanes and fly to other airports to meet and network with the local pilots there. Email or snail mail would not have had the same impact as a personal telephone conversation. But not everyone I spoke with embraced the idea.

The stakeholders are the first that should be contacted: airport manager; airport committee/commission chairperson; FBO manager/owner; and airport support group/EAA chapter. Once I spoke with someone at another airport who is willing and ready to take on an event, they took it from there for their airport.

A misconception of the social is that it is just a fly-in during an evening of the week. This is far from true. Socials differ from fly-ins in many ways.

First, the social lasts about 2 hours max! The social is pilot oriented, not necessarily public oriented (although it can be). Responsibility should be distributed enough among pilots at an airport that it won’t turn into work for any one individual. If it is work, you’re doing it wrong! It should be completely low-key, informal and fun for all.

Second, the goal is to give people an excuse to go flying, experience another airport in the area, and network with other pilots and their families.

Third, the only way the social works is if all the airports in your area host a hamburger social at their airport. They fly to your airport and you fly to their airport and everyone benefits, socially and as an aviation community. Airport managers, fixed base operators and EAA chapters need to encourage pilots at their airport to fly to the other airports, or the other pilots won’t fly to theirs.

An airport only has to host one or two socials a season, while pilots have the opportunity to fly to 6 to 10 other socials during the season (work 20%, play 80%).

Some airports get it, some don’t. Without personal dialogue with those airports surrounding your airport, a clear understanding of the purpose may not happen. Please call me if you have any questions: (715) 845-3400.

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