June 1, 2007
By Kathy Dondzila
Has the warm weather got you wishing you could fly more often? Perhaps you and a few other pilots have been talking about starting a flying club. Great! But initial discussions are sure to result in more questions than answers. What kind of flying will you primarily be doing? Local or long distance? Business or pleasure? The answer will help determine the kind of airplane you'll want. How will you finance the aircraft? How will you decide how much the club dues should be, and what expenses will they cover? These questions warrant a lot of thought and research. And then there are the day-to-day club operations. Let's take a look at a few of them.
Scheduling should be realistic and fair to give all members a chance to fly, and to keep the aircraft in the air as many hours as possible. There are several ways to set up a schedule, including assigning it to a scheduling officer, rotating the responsibility between members, or posting a sign-up sheet (either on paper or online) that allows members to schedule on a first-come, first-served basis.
A well-ordered maintenance program is essential for keeping the airplane flying. Members may be able to perform certain preventive maintenance tasks, but the club's maintenance officer is normally the only person allowed to authorize major repairs.
Keeping good records is a necessary part of managing any organization, including a flying club. Accurate and thorough records should be kept for flight time, maintenance, and business transactions.
A basic flight-time form should record the date, tachometer readings before and after each flight, and the member's signature. You also may want to include space for the type of flight, fuel used, airplane squawks, how the squawk was addressed, who signed it off, and when.
Aircraft and engine logbooks are the basic maintenance records for any aircraft, but a club also may want to keep records on the cost of maintenance, service life of equipment, and malfunction and defect reports. These are of interest to club members, and also would be very helpful should the club decide to sell the airplane.
Finally, there are the business records. Even the smallest clubs must keep accurate records of meetings, club transactions, member billings, and all other financial activity. If necessary, consult an accountant, especially at tax time.
These thoughts give you a place to start, but there's a lot more to consider, including administration and staff, new members, insurance, taxes, flight training, and safety. AOPA has much of this information online, along with sample bylaws and articles of incorporation to use as models for writing your own.
If you have questions, call AOPA's Pilot Information Center at 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672), from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday.
Answers to frequently asked questions about your AOPA membership
Q: Can I order shirts, jackets or hats with the AOPA logo?
A: Sure! Our full line of insignia products can be ordered through Sporty's Pilot Shop. You'll find apparel and other useful merchandise with the AOPA logo that will show everyone you know that you're an AOPA pilot. And since Sporty's is a certified partner of AOPA, with every purchase you'll be supporting AOPA programs and services. Call 800/SPORTYS (776-7897) or visit the Web site.
Q. Could I be putting myself at risk flying without renter's insurance?
A. Yes, you're putting yourself in financial jeopardy when flying without renter's insurance. The average cost of an aviation claim is $30,000, in addition to financial risk when the AOPA Insurance Agency offers renter's policies for as low as $90? Call today at 800/622-2672 for a no-obligation quote or visit the Web site.
Q: I've been a member of AOPA for years and just got a mailing asking me to join. Why?
A: It sounds like we have you in our database two different ways. This can be caused by address or name variations such as a home versus work address, or your legal name versus a nickname. Although our computer system catches the majority of these duplicates, if you receive what appears to be an erroneous mailing, please call AOPA Member Services at 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672) or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phone: 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672), from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time from Monday through Friday E-mail: email@example.com Web: Update your personal information, renew your membership, and much more by clicking on My AOPA Membership in the left column of our home page.
Technical Communications Manager, Kathy Dondzila, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.
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