For some time now I’ve been singing the praises of the flying club. Not any particular flying club, mind you — although there are some excellent examples out there — just flying clubs in general. They work. ‘Nuff said.
Don’t believe me? Read on.
Here’s the skinny on flying clubs. They provide the pilot, or the student, an opportunity to fly more frequently, at a lower cost, and with a greater sense of social satisfaction than the traditional rent-to-fly model, or the personal aircraft ownership option.
Now before you utter words of discontent and slander my heritage, let me be clear: There is nothing wrong with the rent-to-fly option.
Similarly, there is nothing wrong with the personal aircraft ownership route. Heck, I own an airplane. I wish everyone who wanted to own an aircraft could see that dream come true. Reality suggests otherwise, however. In my case it took over 20 years for me to make my way to into the ranks of aircraft owners. That’s a long time.
Perhaps there is a better way. Or if not better, at least an additional option for those who want to fly but can’t justify the cost of ownership and don’t like their choices through the rent-to-fly method.
Flying clubs can be a great alternative for those folks. Maybe for you, too. Let’s keep an open mind and consider them for a moment.
The fixed costs of airplane ownership and operation don’t really change all that much between the various methods of acquiring an airplane to fly. Whether you rent, own, or belong to a club, the hangar will cost about the same amount. The annual will ring up pretty much the same bill. Insurance will typically be higher in a club, but because the cost is being spread over a number of club members, your share of the total cost could be lower, maybe much lower, than an individual owner pays for their insurance.
Given that reality, it’s easy to see how a flying club could shave $20, or $30, or more dollars an hour off the cost of flying.
Now, factor in the social advantages of belonging to a flying club. Not only are you likely to make a new friend or two, or more; not only are you likely to make new professional contacts; not only will you have someone around to help you pull the airplane out of the hangar and push it back in again; but you may find yourself flying with other club members on a regular basis. That cuts the cost of your flying time in half. Half! Would you fly more often and with greater satisfaction if the $100 hamburger was cut down to $50? Of course you would.
I recently spent an evening with members of the Fort Myers Flying Club in southwestern Florida. It has been in business since 1959, and has nearly 150 members.
Penn Yan Flying Club in New York counts five airplanes in its fleet, ranging from a Piper Archer through a handful of Cessnas and ending up with a classic Piper J-3 Cub. Its most expensive airplane rents to club members for $95 an hour. That’s a significant discount for most of us. It also has four airplanes on the line that rent for significantly less.
Throughout my adventures at SUN ‘n FUN this year, I met dozens of individuals who told me stories about the successful flying clubs they belonged to back home. They came from all over the U.S. and Europe, but they all told more or less the same story – their flying club is what has kept them actively flying. And their club has made their flying fix affordable, too.
Best of all, many of the men and women telling me their flying club stories were traveling with another member of their flying club. Woo hoo! Adventure in the air for half price! Now that’s something to get excited about.
Of course, as with all great ideas and honest stories of success, there will be nay-sayers. There will be negative ninnies who will insist that clubs have fatal flaws that doom them all to failure. There will be those who claim this flying club stuff is all pie-in-the-sky dreaming that will never work.
To them I offer this: The Penn Yan Flying Club has been in operation since 1939. The Reading Aero Club in Pennsylvania has been putting pilots in airplanes since 1932. The United States is populated with a number of flying clubs that are more than half-a-century old.
If flying clubs didn’t work, these folks would have been out of business a long time ago. But don’t take my word for it – go find the flying club in your neighborhood and ask them how they’re doing. Or found a flying club on your own field and start growing the pilot population right there at home. You can if you want to.
The whole process might be easier and more satisfying than you ever thought possible. And if you get stuck, drop me a line. I might know somebody who can get you started, and put you in a flying club that you can afford and enjoy for years to come.