The subject of flying clubs and their relative merit has taken up space in this column before. I’m a believer. The idea of spreading the cost of ownership across eight or 10 or 12 partners in a flying club makes sense. And that’s to say nothing of the social aspects that can be so beneficial in a club atmosphere. The opportunity to have access to multiple club airplanes in exchange for a small investment is appealing, too. In short, clubs have a lot to offer the general aviation pilot.
Admittedly, clubs aren’t for everyone. And that’s okay. Some can afford an aircraft of their own. They take great pride in ownership. Who can blame them?
But that’s not a viable option for the bulk of the population, and if general aviation is to thrive in the long run it has to pull participants from the general population who are more caught up in meeting the mortgage, covering orthodontist bills, building college savings accounts, and making car payments. To this massive pool of potential general aviation pilots we need to offer a wider variety of options – and flying clubs are a part of that offering.
The biggest challenge to anyone who is audacious enough to consider firing up a flying club is, how do I go about setting one up? Fortunately, there is help available.
The FAA issued AC 00-25 Forming and Operating a Flying Club way back in 1965. It’s still valid, too. Better yet, it’s available as a free download from the FAA website. While the document is dated and even manages to look a bit beaten up in its digital format, it provides a great deal of information that can be helpful to a potential club member or club administrator.
Perhaps one of the more surprising revelations in this AC is the realization that flying clubs come in various sizes and serve various functions. Some are dedicated to flight training, while others are associated with professional groups or businesses. You can design a flying club for folks who just want to fly low and slow and stay local, or build one that encourages long-distance travel to far-off places. The aircraft can be owned by a single individual or business that leases it to the club, or the members can own it jointly, or the club itself can be listed as the owner. It’s all up to the membership of the club, and this brief AC is a great place to start learning the ropes and getting a feel for how it might be possible to build a club. It’s probably a good resource for those who are thinking of joining a club, too.
That’s all well and good, but you may have noticed that a few years have slipped past us since 1965, when AC 00-25 was first issued. For one thing the Beatles broke up. But that’s another story for a different day. This column is more focused on the flying clubs themselves.
You may be surprised to find that AOPA is also focusing some significant attention on the flying club concept. It has initiated a new branch of operations called the Center to Advance the Pilot Community, and one of the areas this newly minted resource is working on is flying clubs. How can I form a new flying club on my field? AOPA can help you with that one. How can I find an existing flying club nearby? AOPA’s developed a tool for that, too.
This is no pie in the sky idea, either. They’ve put some serious effort into this long standing success story, interviewing more than 800 individuals who have experience with more than 600 flying clubs. AOPA isn’t spouting off platitudes or floating ideas to see what works and what won’t. They already know what works. They’ve done their homework on the subject.
This is something like wishing you could start a business and finding out that the leader in the field was willing to share their research, resources, marketing, and demographic data with you. That’s a no-brainer. You say thank you, pick up the package they deliver to your door, and start working toward your ultimate goal.
Let’s be honest, general aviation has contracted in recent years. That’s not great, but it’s not the end of the world either. We’ve got tremendous potential to make a comeback that’s custom designed for the world we live in today, acknowledging the challenges we face in the modern world, and maintaining hope for a vibrant future. With partners like the FAA and AOPA helping us find our way, how can we lose? All the rest of us have to do is step up, accept the gifts they’ve given us, and get to work.
I encourage you to consider forming, joining, or promoting a flying club in your area. I’m working on it in my neighborhood. Imagine how general aviation and general aviators might benefit if we got this ball rolling in the right direction? I don’t know about you, but I’m psyched.
Jamie Beckett is a CFI and A&P mechanic who stepped into the political arena in an effort to promote and protect GA at his local airport. He maintains multiple blogs and interacts via the Internet at JamieBeckett.com. You can reach him at Jamie@GeneralAviationNews.com.