The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has created an advisory group of 10 flying clubs as part of the association’s efforts to help pilots fly more frequently and affordably.
The advisory group will focus on how flying clubs can create a sense of community among aviators, AOPA officials said.
Starting in 2011, AOPA conducted research into flying clubs, including six focus groups, individual interviews with more than 800 flying club members and an Internet survey of more than 250 flying club leaders.
AOPA’s research found that flying clubs play a significant role in the aviation community. More than half of all active pilots are past or present members of a flying club, and virtually all of them consider club membership as a positive experience.
“It’s clear that flying clubs are an important part of the fabric of aviation. They make flying more affordable and accessible, often in a social environment that keeps pilots active and engaged,” said AOPA President Craig Fuller. “It only makes sense that AOPA has committed to a long-term initiative that aims to support the development and growth of the flying club community.”
Areas of focus will include: marketing and promotion of flying clubs on a nationwide and local level; assistance with the start up of new flying clubs; resources to help leaders manage their clubs more easily; and opportunities to network with other clubs.
More details on this initiative will be announced at the AOPA Aviation Summit in October.
For more information: AOPA.org
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The announcement is a little short on specifics, but I’m wondering how familiar Craig Fuller is with the average flying club.Â I have belonged to three over the past 15 years; two were more like partnerships, with multiple owners for a single aircraft. No question about ownership there.
But the biggest club I belong to is a soaring club of over 100 members with six gliders and two tow planes.Â All the work is done volunteer, the management is very good, and the social aspect is active.Â Some of the earlier posts describe groups that I would have left in a few months – but the clubs I am in now will be long term.Â If AOPA can discover a program that will have some benefit to these organizations, that will be a plus.Â I will be watching, carefully.
I agree with Rick..AOPA is enamored with the word ‘Initiative’ and forming comimitees that accomplish zilch..I for one am ready to relinquish my membership…R Villarreal
Wow… don’t usually comment on these stories but having been an officer and member of several flying clubs over 40 years I need to say the characterization of flying clubs in some of these postings could not be further from the truth! Â
I have always found standards to be high, and for clubs to be an excellent way to introduce people to aircraft ownership. Â Countless members have started with our club at an affordable level and then gone on to acquire their own aircraft. Â
The social connections they make through the club plays a big part in keeping people involved. Â
Clearly some people are promoting a new business venture here. Good luck with accomplishing your vision. Â But surely you can find a way to promote your business without bad-mouthing one of the best parts of aviation?
I have been a member of a flying club (non profit corporation of ten members) for 10 years.Â Once we fly past our minimum 6 hours per quarter, we fly additional hours at roughly 1/2 the cost of renting.Â We do our best to maintain the 44 year old plane in tip top condition.Â We are talking about Â upgrading the aircraft.Â My experience with this group has been very positive and the fact that I pay for 6 hours per quarter whether I fly or not, it keeps me flying regularly.Â Â Â Â Â
Rick G says
I wholly support AOPA’s efforts in bringing flying clubs into the mix. I belong to an equity ownershipÂ flying club in upstate NY that owns 5 aircraft, one being a complex CessnaÂ 182RG. Our club has been in existence since theÂ mid 1960’s. I have been in several aircraft partnerships over the years and actually joined this club with the intent ofÂ it being aÂ short term thing until I found a couple partners to purchase anÂ archer—that was in 1995 and I am still an active member!! My experience, asÂ is shared by numerous other members, has been very positive.Â I have the ability to fly a number of aircraft and can choose based on the mission at hand. We constantly stress that we are all owners and instill that message to all when they first join.The aircraft are maintained to high standards as has been the case all through the clubs lengthy history. Sure that may cost us a few extra $/hour, but maintenance is something that we will not compromise on. I have also made some greatÂ freindships (even started a small aviation relatedÂ business with a fellow member) and have shared some memorable flying experiences with fellow members.Flying with other club pilots has alsoÂ made me a better pilot.Â Scheduling and club flight regulations are very member friendly as well. We have had numerous members who also went on to become sole aircraft owners.Â Like many others the past few years, we have had ourÂ financial challenges with this economy over the past few years, butÂ so far haveÂ been able to weather it. We did however, seeÂ the down economyÂ as an opportunity to upgrade one of aircraft and take advantage ofÂ distressed aircraft prices. We will welcome any advice from AOPA and others to build upon ourÂ success and contribute to the health of GA. Flying Clubs can be a very positive experience if done properly.
Please take a few minutes and review my blog. I’ve been advocating a system of Recreational Sport Flying Airparks for aÂ couple ofÂ years now. In fact, Rick and Leonard are familiar with my idea. It’s a little different twist that adopts both shared ownership and optional rentals as well as for-profit small business opportunity, including promoting a community of aviators, not unlike a club. I believe it’s the only means to revivingÂ a stagnant GA industry. Of course, an improvedÂ economic environment would bolster any attempt to improve GA in all segments. Check it out at: gethookedonflying.blogspot.com/. Enjoy!
I joined a flying club about 7 months ago, and it’s been a super experience.Â We own our aircraft and we don’t allow maint issues to percolate and worsen.Â I’m now flying a complex HP aircraft for about 40% less than it would otherwise cost in the rental marketÂ (and that’s IF I could even find one like ours to fly).Â Flying clubs aren’t perfect, but they do offer a great option for most of us who can’t plop down $100,000 on a nice airplane plus annual maint.Â I particularly like AOPAs idea to provide a network for different clubs to link up.Â
Eye In The Sky says
Agree with Rick 100%. You can also add that some of these flying clubs are borderline illegal in the way they operate their non-profit status, not to mention the muddy waters of “ownership” of the airplane and skirting 100-hour inspections. The IRS and FAA would have a field day in fines and penalties if they just dug into this sector.Â A flying club is nothing more than a private company renting airplanes to a small group of people. You have to do the math with flying clubs. Monthly dues can add up and actually cost you MORE to fly year-over-year.
Leonard, AOPA has been missing the mark for a very long time now. They’re interested in one thing: membership. They will say anything to create the illusion of how wonderful aviation is. But if you pay attention, you can see that they are trying very hard to survive. If aviation is that great, you don’t need to spend all this effort trying to convince people. People will come to you if it’s that good.
Alan Hoffberg says
Rick and Leonard are right on.
Our three remaining club members treat our year 2000 aircraft not as renters but as owners. Our $300 monthly dues and $50 net dry rate per tach hour generally covers our expenses. When we have upgrades, we discuss and all financially pitch in equally to upgrade/replace.
When our club had 60 members, most “members” were in name only and never flew our three OLD aircraft nor attended meetings, except to vote their buddies back into elected position from year to year. The dues were artificially low, and the officers received free monthly flying hours.
There was no preventative maintenance — only maintenance necessary to maintain airworthiness. Eventually all three hulls corroded through and the aircraft were scrapped. Almost overnight 55 members and the old board of directors bailed out when the club had to consider replacing at least one aircraft and raising dues/hourly rates to a realistic level.
We continue to maintain the club organization for the ease of members to deduct the cost of flying for charitable purposes.
Clubs do not create a cohesive community; the typical club consists of renters with neither financial interest nor incentive — despite the enormous effort to make it otherwise.
As to the social aspect, our GA ramp is like a country club, club lounge with entertainment amenities, a fuel co-op, and everyone knows everyone else. The landlord sponsors a monthly social which is open to anyone with aviation interest. Even FAA personnel from the tower and local FSDO attend.
Leonard Assante says
I have to generally agree with Rick. AOPA has done a great job recognizing the issues, doing the research to support to quantify the problems, and has begun to offer solutions. But in my opinion, increasing OWNERSHIP of aircraft will do more for our industry and do more to increase the number of active pilots than anything else. Why? Owners have an amazing incentive to complete training (addressing our woeful dropout rate that AOPA research has found) and an economic incentive to keep flying. More active pilots changes the economic equation in the industry and increases economies of scale.
I do not want to disparage clubs and partnerships, as they serve a vital role. But, getting more people involved with the pride of ownership will do more to help than these other efforts in my opinion. Aviation Access Project offers an economical way to own a share of a brand new LSA category aircraft for thousands less than the average new car. (Under 20k.) Monthly maintenance fee covers EVERYTHING except gas and INCLUDES 70 hours/year of flying. That’s about a 90% availability rate! We also have plans to develop a Community of Aviators at every flight center, making the airport your home away from home. The best of all worlds? We hope so.
Flying clubs are great places to get non flyers interested in aviation, to bring in those that have let their passion slide a little to the left and the old timer to still be a part of history. Yes history, every time I get in that plane I think of the many who had passed through those very same clouds to make my experience very enjoyable. I belong to a very unique club with 300+ members. We are a flight training center from private, instrument, commercial, CFI, multi and all the way to ATP. We are a Part 61 & 141 facility with our own in house FAA examiner. We are a certified CATS testing center as well. Sure we have old aircraft andÂ yes they are well taken care of. We have aÂ C-310, four C-172’s, an Arrow and two T-41 trainers. We have on contract 5 to 6 instructors for flying and Ground School too. Want to hear the the best part, our 172’s rent for about $118.00 an hour, our Arrow goes up for $130.00 an hour and the twin a pricey $228.00 an hour. That’s wet with a fuel surcharge added. We do have some rules that some people would consider oppressive, but in the name of safety these rules work for us. We have mandatory monthly staffing and members meetings. Our members have taken aircraft as far away as California (we are in Fla.) for just the fun of it. In this time of a bad economy our club has had to tighten its belt, got inventive on ways to get people into the air by offering discounts on flying hours. So you are going to say “well of course you can have a great club with all of these benefits” we have worked hard to make this happen and some people have volunteered their time and own money to get where we are. If AOPA wants to know how we do it or wants to see for themselves then they are invited, as anyone else is too. We are located in the Panhandle of northwest Florida. Our website is www.EglinAeroClub.com
Once again AOPA misses it…they keep skirting around the REAL ISSUE and continues to form initiatives to tweak a thing here and there. Â They might as well remove the word OWNERS from their name and replace it with RENTERS. Â Flying Clubs are rental co-ops. Â There is no equity. Â Somebody else is toting the note. Â Flying clubs are non-profit. Â AOPA is non-profit. Â Do you see what this is setting up?
MyÂ experiencesÂ with flying clubs were horrible. Â Non-profitÂ meansÂ volunteer administration. Â Non-profit means shoe-string budgets for maintenance. Â Non-profit means lots of down time, old equipment, and oppressive rules and regulations so they can obey the insurance underwriter gods..
We areÂ stakingÂ our futures on the real solutions. Â Someday AOPA will take notice and give us someÂ exposureÂ instead of giving half a page to next great intention toÂ designÂ the next great supersonic executive jet [March issue].
Our solution is called the Aviation Access Project. Â It proposes grassroots managed partnerships [aka fractional ownership for the REST of us]Â featuringÂ many planes, hosted by Flight Center franchise communities at most every airport. Â Staffed by a passionate team. Â Lead by visionaries who have the courage to face the real issues in the face and overcome the doubters and cynics. Â Attracting hundreds of thousands of new pilots into aviation.
Tell me more about the AAP and how that would work. Most flying clubs in Minnesota (where I live) do require purchasing a stake in the fleet that becomes salable (if there’s a buyer!) when the member wants to depart.I am an aviation professional that cannot afford to fly privately. Finding a way to do that is just about my number 1 priority in what remains of this life.