Not long ago Hurricane Hermine blew through Florida. This was a Category 1 hurricane. A relative pip-squeak on the spectrum of deadly storms. Relative in that it did result in a fatality, but for most of those affected it caused little more than an occasional tree blocking a road, stray limbs littering the yard, and the almost unavoidable power outages that come with these storms.
It might seem odd that I found myself motoring north on a Friday afternoon, following the path of a storm that was only a few hours ahead of me. Had it been a Category 3 or higher I might not have been on the road so quickly, but I was on a mission, and completing the task assigned to me is what I do. I give it a good shot anyway – even if it’s raining.
A collection of folks from EAA 797 in Live Oak, Florida, along with a smattering of interested parties from southern Georgia, had expressed an interest in learning more about how they might form and operate a flying club. So I went.
I stayed overnight in a hotel that was almost entirely populated by power company employees and contractors who were grabbing 40 winks before launching off to get the lights back on in that part of the state. And there was me, an aviation nut in the middle of a very non-aviation friendly weather event.
The seminar I was facilitating goes by a variety of names, all of which are a variation on Maximum Fun, Minimum Cost or How to Form and Operate a Flying Club. Audiences almost universally thrive on the information they get at these gatherings, and a high percentage of them get to work actually building a flying club as a result of their participation.
The version of the presentation at EAA 797 that soggy Saturday morning went well, with attendees taking notes, asking questions, and sharing their enthusiasm with others in the room. Three potential flying clubs came out of that get-together. One in southern Georgia, one right there in Live Oak at Suwannee County Airport, and one further south in the Gainesville area.
One particularly important question that came up that day had to do with the relationship a flying club can have with the FBO on the field. It’s a great question because that relationship can be of tremendous benefit to both the FBO and the club — or it can be a toxic stew that eats away at both entities.
Obviously, I’m a big fan of the former and believe it’s best to avoid the latter at all cost. Why fight when you can get along so well with just a little effort?
There are plenty of examples of FBO operations that have done well by working cooperatively with the flying club on their field. Thankfully, many FBO mangers see the potential for profit that comes with aligning themselves with a club that will use their services more often than most private owners do.
The latest positive example of this involves the Quantem FBO Group in Kissimmee, Florida, and the newly formed Kiss the Sky Flying Club.
Like many new flying clubs I work with, Kiss the Sky Flying Club came about as a result of a one or two people who had an idea, then built on it. When I met up with them for a flying club seminar at Kissimmee Gateway Airport, they had the full cooperation of the airport administration. The airport manager, to his credit, saw the up side of increased participation at the airport from a wider selection of users. That’s a plus.
The drivers behind the club recognized the potential for partnerships, too. They had already approached the manager of the Quantem FBO and gotten his commitment of support. As a result, the club moved its meetings to the FBO, are preparing to rent space there, and will be purchasing fuel and maintenance services from its new landlord.
This is the brilliance of doing your homework, establishing good communications, committing to a relationship based on mutual respect, and reaping the rewards.
The airport administration and FBO recognize the power of the club to bring users to the field who would not be customers if not for their ability to participate in a flying club. The club’s board of directors are aware that with the cooperation and support of the administration and FBO their operations will run more smoothly, and their list of resources will be expanded greatly.
The folks in Kissimmee are doing an outstanding job of putting their best foot forward, working collaboratively to find a workable solution to the challenges of being involved in aviation, and in the process making the airport and the flying club a more attractive destination for a growing number of users/members.
Kiss the Sky has a stated goal of growing the club to 150 members. That’s ambitious, but not at all unrealistic. The Fort Myers Flying Club supports that many members, and has the capacity to welcome even more. Numbers like those make the club’s board of directors, and the FBO, very happy.
There is an undeniably powerful relationship to be had between flying clubs and FBOs. Those who seek it out and foster it with care do well on both sides of the equation.
If you are even the least bit interested in how you might make the most of the possibilities at your local airport, shoot me a message. Whether you’re forming a club, or running an FBO, I know a whole team of folks who can help set you on a productive path to success — and it won’t cost you a dime to ask them all the questions you can ever think of.