Checklist: How To Start A Flying Club
Flying clubs can help put the fun in flying, but what if none are available in your area? Start one, suggests Jamie Beckett, an Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association ambassador.
Flying clubs allow the cost of owning, maintaining, storing and operating an aircraft to be spread among a number of pilots. They allow members to have access to an aircraft or to multiple aircraft for less money than they would spend on an aircraft individually.
They also provide a social network of pilots who share a passion for flying and a place for mentorship opportunities, Beckett says.
A flying club can have 10 members or 100, but the average club has four aircraft, about 50 members and has been in existence for 40 years.
Still, nearly half operate with only one or two aircraft and a few members, Beckett says.
Some clubs cap the number of members to a small amount so they can gain access to an aircraft more readily, he says.
Flying clubs are not a flight school, a ferry operation or a rental organization, Beckett says, and the club cannot make a profit from the use of aircraft.
A flying club must have a mission with a philosophy, pricing structure, bylaws and a board of directors or officers. They also should hold regular safety meetings.
Flying clubs may be formed using one of three structures, such as a corporation, limited liability company or a tax-exempt nonprofit organization. Each has positive and negatives aspects, but Beckett recommends forming a nonprofit, which offers the most benefits of the three. In a nonprofit organization, the Board must file with the appropriate state, form bylaws, keep financial reports and file tax returns.
Organizers must also decide on aircraft and a home airport with hangar or tie-down space, how much to charge members for initiation fees, monthly or annual dues and aircraft usage, keeping in mind fixed costs, such as insurance, financing, hangar rent and variable costs, such as maintenance, engine and propeller overhauls, avionics upgrades and other charges.
AOPA has authored a guide on starting a flying club: https://download.aopa.org/fly-ins/2019/downloads/YCF_HowToStartFC_Final…; and https://youcanfly.aopa.org/flying-clubs/flying-club-resources/getting-s…
The FAA has published a compliance manual on the subject at: https://www.faa.gov/airports/resources/publications/orders/compliance_5… with an amendment: https://www.regulations.gov/document/FAA-2015-2022-0013.