Join the club: Flying can be more affordable

April 29, 2009

In the current economic climate, aircraft ownership might seem more like a pipe dream than an achievable goal. And yet, you can become an aircraft owner of sorts—simply by joining a flying club.

Flying clubs, which can range from a few members to more than 150, are quite simply the cheapest form of ownership going because the expenses are shared, as well as the ownership fun. Many pilots join flying clubs before stepping up to a partnership or sole ownership.

What are some of the advantages? They can include lower usage rates, better availability of aircraft, and fewer restrictions on such things as overnight trips, as compared to renting an aircraft from an FBO. Joining a flying club also is a good way to stick your toe in the water of ownership to make sure it’s right for you. And, if you should find that you’re not flying enough to justify the cost, chances are good that other pilots at your airport are waiting to take that available slot.

Clubs come in all shapes and sizes, with rules and restrictions that vary. How do you know if a club is right for you? Start with the resources you’ll find at the Aircraft Ownership Information Center on AOPA Online. A special section is designed to answer all of your questions and give you the tools you need to make a smart decision.

Can’t find a club that fits your style? Then why not start your own? We’ve provided you with a blueprint for creating and managing a flying club, including sample bylaws, tips for finding and financing aircraft, attracting members, promoting your club, and much more. We’ve also included a section that discusses the challenges associated with flying clubs, which can range from finances to tense relationships with FBOs, and included suggestions on how to anticipate and help prevent them.

While you’re doing your homework, be sure to read “The key to ownership: Realizing the dream”, originally published in the September 2008 “AOPA Pilot.” Here, you’ll find a profile of a vibrant and active flying club based in upstate New York whose 150 members—that’s right, 150 members—fly a selection of six club aircraft, including a Piper J-3 Cub.

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman | AOPA Technical Editor, AOPA

AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.