The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Center to Advance the Pilot Community (CAPComm) held the first of a planned monthly series of webinars Nov. 14. The webinar, with 631 registrants, covered what people need to start their own flying club.
Webinar speakers were Adam Smith, senior vice president of the Center to Advance the Pilot Community; Woody Cahall, vice president of AOPA’s Pilot Information Center; Garry Ackerman of the North Texas Flying Club; and Ray Speciale, an attorney and certified public accountant at Yodice Associates. A recording of the 90-minute webinar is available for those who missed the live presentation.
According to AOPA flying club research, 55% of pilots interviewed have been or were in a flying club. Of those, 96% felt it was a positive experience.
A poll of the webinar attendees showed that 56% were curious about forming a flying club and wanted to learn more; 22% definitely plan to start a club; 3% recently started a club; and 18% were already in an established club.
There is no standard definition of a flying club. The insurance industry will usually view a group of five people or fewer as a partnership; six or more will be viewed as a club. AOPA is focusing on the “classic” flying club model — a not-for-profit group.
Insurance is usually the largest fixed cost for a flying club. Rates will vary considerably according to the type of aircraft, number of members, extent of coverage, etc. Rates will be several times what you would pay as an individual aircraft owner.
As a rule of thumb, a ratio of 15 people per aircraft has worked well for many flying clubs.
North Texas Flying Club started in 1999 with one aircraft; within three years it grew to 13 aircraft and 200 members. The club operates as standard C corporation, leases its major assets, and is run by a board of directors through an executive committee.
Startup clubs have a number of choices about how to structure their club for best liability protection, taxes, etc. Seek the advice of an experienced attorney.
If you want to start a flying club at a federally funded airport, it’s a good idea to meet with the airport authority first.
AOPA plans to create a starter kit for those who want to form a flying club. AOPA’s Pilot Information Center can offer guidance on general insurance questions.
More resources are available for those who want to create or join a flying club on the AOPA website.