Renting an aircraft for pleasure or training can soon become expensive, but what if there is a way to get some savings? This is where a flying club in your area could really provide that and many other benefits!
Joining a Flying Club can offer many great benefits such as reduced flying costs, large aircraft selection, greater aircraft availability, mentoring & training, social belonging, and flexibility for not only the pilot, but their whole family to enjoy.
Not only does cost play a major draw to joining a flying club but it can also make you a better pilot and enhance your skills at no extra cost. See why joining a club can really benefit you in so many ways…
What is a Flying Club?
A flying club is usually a group of aviation enthusiasts that run an aircraft or a number of aircraft as a non-profit, members-only club.
By pooling the membership fees the club is able to reduce the cost of flight and reduce or remove the responsibility of owning an aircraft, leaving you with more time to enjoy flying.
Most towns will have a local flying club and at the time of writing this AOPA (Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association) lists 1425 registered flying clubs across the US, so finding one near you should be a breeze.
Flying clubs can be as varied as your sock draw – From small clubs with 1 aircraft and half a dozen members, all the way up to the Plus One Flying Club in California with over 60 aircraft at 4 locations and close to one thousand members!
In the past, flying clubs have been given a bad stigma, and while it may be true about some clubs, the majority of them can be a very pleasurable and worthwhile experience.
Many of these stigma’s and rumors have been dreamt up by competing flight schools and FBO’s to keep your business. Aviation is a tough business at times and ruthless tactics can be employed. Many of the rumors can be along the lines of ” Flying clubs can be troublesome, rumors of old airplanes, casual maintenance practices, scheduling problems, and bad management” always seemed to accompany discussions about flying clubs.
Like anything in life, what fits for you may not fit for another person so a trip around your local clubs will instantly tell you which club may be the right fit for you.
Reduced Hourly Costs
The main benefit to most pilots is the reduced hourly costs to rent an aircraft. But how is a flying club able to do this?
By running as a non-profit organization all the funds are returned back into the pot to reduce the costs.
Most clubs charge an initial joining fee and sometimes a deposit to be returned upon termination of your membership. This joining fee goes into the fund to help pay for the annual maintenance costs of the aircraft.
Each member will be charged a monthly membership fee which also goes towards the costs of running the facilities and aircraft.
Each member will pay for the hourly use of the aircraft. Most clubs base this rental time on the ‘Tach Time’ which counts the running time based on engine RPM. The slower the RPM, the slower the clock ticks, Vs ‘Hobbs Time’ which runs at a set rate as soon as the engine starts.
This Tach Time can be a huge saving to the renter especially at large airports when a lot of taxiing is required or waiting in line to depart is common.
Costs To Join:
Many clubs have varying fee structures depending on the number of its members and amount of aircraft they run:
One Time Joining Fee – Can be anywhere from $1000 to several thousand dollars.
Deposit – Can be anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars.
Monthly Fee – Usually under $100 at most clubs.
Hourly Aircraft Rental – This all depends on the type of aircraft and the number of hours it flies. Can be anywhere from $50/hour to several hundred dollars per hour.
Fuel Costs – Some clubs include fuel as part of the hourly rental fee and some do not. This is something to enquire about when researching a club.
Generally, the larger the club, the lower the rental costs as the more an aircraft flies the lower it’s cost/hour will become. Some quick searches using the AOPA Club Finder will give you access to each flying club’s website which usually always gives their fee breakdown.
Many flying clubs, especially the larger ones can offer the benefit of having several different aircraft within its fleet. With a simple checkout from one of the club’s instructors on each aircraft, you can easily increase your skills, knowledge, and experience by being able to fly the different club aircraft.
If you wanted to practice some touch-and-go’s, you could rent out a cheap 2-seat Cessna 152, but if you wanted to take the family for a burger you could rent a 4-seat Cessna 172. The flexibility can be great to your wallet and your requirements.
This can be one of the biggest benefits to a flying club compared to a flight school or an FBO. Busy flight schools can make it impossible for you to rent an aircraft once you have passed your check ride.
They are in the business of making money and you renting it decreases their profits.
I know of many students who were promised rental time after they completed their training with a school only to be shown the door once their training was over. This is where joining a flying club comes in.
Many flying clubs now use online-based scheduling programs so it makes it easy to book your desired aircraft on a first-come-first-served-basis. The other benefit to flying clubs is that most will allow you to book an aircraft for multiple days, if not weeks to allow for some incredible trips to take place.
Good luck trying to rent an aircraft for this long from a flight school!
Renting an aircraft from your flying club gives you the flexibility of the different aircraft in the fleet, the ease, and comfort of scheduling from your armchair but also the time you wish to book.
Many flight schools may have only limited timeslots available to renting and if this does not match your schedule then getting to fly could be an issue.
Being able to find the right timeslot for your desired aircraft is much more likely in a flying club, but beware that time slots in the good weather months for a single aircraft club could fill up fast. Something to look at when selecting a club.
Owning an aircraft can be out of the reach of many pilots. Not only is the financial side a limiting factor but also the knowledge of how to keep it maintained, insured, and compliant.
With a flying club, all of these aspects are taken care of by appointed members of the club. Those with the know-how or the aircraft owners themselves will look after all the ‘Paperwork’ side of things leaving you to just ‘Book & Fly’.
Some flying clubs may also offer ‘Aircraft Buy-In’ shares to its members to be able to either make a small dividend from its rental, a reduced hourly rental cost, or free hours depending on how the contracts are set up. This could be an option for those of you who have a little more spare cash or want to take a more active role within the club.
Mentoring & Training
To me, one of the best benefits of becoming a member of a flying club is the learning, training, and mentorship from the more experienced pilots and ‘Old Salts’.
Some flying clubs may have their own instructors and examiners within its membership allowing you to fulfill all your training requirements in one location and on an aircraft of your choice.
Being able to sit down on poor weather days with a pot of coffee and bounce ideas, get second opinions and have discussions on incidents and emergencies is a great way to increase a pilot’s awareness and experience.
Another great benefit of training at a flying club vs a flight school is you could hand select your instructor (if the club is big enough) that you bond with on a personal level that will take you from zero to pilot in one go.
Flight schools can be notorious for bouncing you around between instructors. Some leave, some get sick, and depending on the quality of the school you could get a different instructor for every flight you do!
Training consistency is key to rapid progression and cost-effectiveness. However, the quality of the instructor at a small flying club may not be up to a standard that suits your liking. Something to look into.
The word ‘Club’ brings together the social aspect of this type of flying. There is alot more to aviation than being up in the air and being surrounded by individuals who share your passion where you can talk and ‘Nerd Out’ can really enhance your enjoyment.
Many flying clubs organize ‘Fly-In’s’ where other clubs fly in for BBQ’s, Pot Lucks, and other fun times. At the same time, you get to fly with your club member to other fly-in’s and events.
From personal experience, flying with your friends to events is not only great fun but also a great way to build confidence, especially among the junior members of the club!
The availability of aircraft and the cheaper rental costs all allow you to fly more often. This not only increases your skills but also allows them to stay refined which makes you a safer pilot.
Another great aspect of being able to fly more often is that you may be able to persuade one of the more experienced pilots to come for a ride with you giving you the chance to soak up all the advice they have to offer.
Flying with others is a great way to make you a safer pilot but will also help to build your confidence as a lower time pilot, or as a pilot with little experience in that type of aircraft, weather, terrain or environment.
Company & Military Clubs
Another option you may not realize is that a lot of larger corporations may have their own flying clubs. Subsidized and ran on behalf of their employees can give you access to further reduced flying costs if you are lucky enough to be employed by one of these organizations.
There are also a large number of veteran-only flying clubs dotted across the country. What better way to fly than with your brothers & sister in arms. Not only sharing your love for aviation but also your service too.
Many of these clubs do not require you to have served in the Airforce or have any previous flying experience, but having served is usually the only requirement. A search of your local area may bring up a club close by.
Like everything in this world, there is always a downside to everything. Flying clubs can be no different. The most common downside I hear often is always the clash of personalities. People can be fickle and add to that the ego’s that some pilots can have can make for an unpleasant experience.
Selecting your flying club can take some time and speak with as many of those individual members is a must. Going along to a club’s Fly-In or event is a great way to meet the majority of their members.
Lumped in with the personality clashes are the inevitable club politics that will always become apparent once you have been around long enough. There is just no getting away from it sometimes!
If you can ignore it then great, if not you may have to speak to other members and see if something can be done about the issues. Failing that, you can always move to another club, but you will have to pay another joining fee.
Another downside I often hear, especially from the smaller clubs is aircraft availability, especially from those who want to book ad aircraft, its already taken, but then not used on that day – Sure it is frustrating and hopefully, it does not happen too often, but it might be a question to ask around the members during your club selection.
To help you find some even more great information about flying clubs near your please check out these following links:
The benefits a flying club may have to offer you can be one of the best decisions you can make in your aviation journey.
Whether you are just about to start flight training or you are looking for a way to continue flying then a search of your local area would be well worth the time and effort if you can find a club that can satisfy your requirements.
Not every club is perfect, but if you have a flying club nearby, it will be worth checking out!
If you found this article interesting and would like to keep reading, I highly recommend the following articles from my blog:
- Do You Need a Pilots License To Fly?
- Starting Flight School? Essential Gear For Every Pilot
- Cost To Become a Pilot: All the Licenses Compared!
- PC Flight Simulators: Can You Really Learn To Fly On Them?
- Can Pilots Wear Glasses? Is This a Dream Destroyer?
Post Header Image:
Flying Club Aircraft Lineup – Source: Les Chatfield