Save money and share the fun with a flying club

July 9, 2008

Gas just keeps getting more expensive, but you can reduce the cost of flying by being part of a flying club. In most clubs, members share the cost of aircraft ownership—that means sharing everything from purchase and maintenance expenses to insurance and tiedown costs.

How much can you save? That depends on how much you fly, how many members your club has, and how many aircraft the group owns. See our matrix.

Joe Fox of the Inn Flying Club in Maryland says that compared to renting from a local FBO, members of his club save upward of $30 an hour for every hour over three that they fly each month. The savings, which takes into account membership dues, start after only two hours if they are flying with an instructor.

“I think that a lot of people underestimate how much they can save with a club, and all of the things that they can do in a club that they can’t at a flight school, like take the plane out for a weekend,” said Fox.

Belonging to a flying club can be so economical because it puts the airplane to work when it would otherwise be sitting idle, explained Rodney Martz, an AOPA Pilot Information Center specialist.

“The trick is to realize that unless your plane is an airliner that flies 16 hours a day, a plane sits on the ground more than it flies,” said Martz. “If a pilot can find a way for the plane to fly when he is not flying himself, then that extra utilization can earn money for the plane to pay for itself.”

To find out more about how flying clubs can save you money, visit the AOPA Pilot Information Center online, or call 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672) to talk to a Pilot Information Center specialist.

Let’s run some numbers to see if we can take the bite out of avgas prices. Example: $50,000 Cessna Skyhawk owned by four club pilots vs. sole ownership vs. the renter pilot. Flying time: 60 hours per year, per pilot.

1981 $50k Cessna Skyhawk example, 1 year of operation Sole owner, yearly Club, yearly Club, each pilot, yearly Renter pilot, yearly
Down payment: $5,000. Lost interest on cash used. CD rates 3%. $150 $150 $37.50 $0
Monthly finance: $ 376/mo or $4,512/yearly. Interest cost less principle reduction, year one. $2,614 $2,614 $653 $0
Tiedown $1,200 $1,200 $300 $0
Annual & maintenance $1,500 $2,000 $500 $0
Insurance $1,200 $1,200 $300 $671
Depreciation, engine reserve/use. $9/hr $540 $2,160 $540 $0
Depreciation, estimate book value: -3% $1,500 $1,500 $375 $0
Fuel: 8 gal/hr x $6/gal x 60 = $48/hr $2,880 $11,520 $2,880 $0
Typical hourly rental: $120/hr wet rate $0 $0 $0 $7,200
Total cost $11,584 $22,344 $5,585.50 $7,871
Cost per hour, 60 hours $193.06   $93.09 $131.18
Observation: hourly savings by club $99.97     $38.09