New Swamp Creek Flying Club builds own aircraft

April 1, 2013

The new Swamp Creek Flyers flying club is forming from the ground up—including building its own aircraft. Seven employees of Arlington, Wash.-based Dynon Avionics recently bought a Glasair Sportsman kit aircraft, with plans for club members and employees to build it under the manufacturer’s Two Weeks to Taxi program.

Dynon CEO Robert Hamilton said he and six other members decided six months ago to form a flying club. “Our issue is that we had to decide between an experimental or light sport aircraft,” he said. “But since we make equipment for experimental aircraft, we felt we wanted to fly behind our own equipment.”

Because the club decided to buy an experimental aircraft, everyone had to have an ownership position, otherwise members would not be allowed to rent the aircraft, said Hamilton. So the club was formed as an LLC, he added.

“When we were searching for a club name, we knew we couldn’t use Dynon because the club is not associated with the company, nor did we want to infer our aircraft was a company plane,” said Hamilton.

The club needed a name for the corporation name that was unique, said Hamilton. “Out here in the Pacific Northwest, lots of clubs have names like Cascade, Puget Sound, and Olympic. We wanted to be different,” he said. “A river that runs from Paine Field to our company is called Swamp Creek, and that’s how we got the name.”

There were some great airplanes available out there, but the Glasair Sportsman is a very nice aircraft, especially in the northwest where there’s a fair amount of bush flying, said Hamilton. “Glasair is only 30 miles away, and we saw this as an opportunity for club members to actually build their aircraft, and we wanted to do it in short order,” he said.

Instead of using a bank, one of the club members loaned the money to the club to buy the aircraft, said Hamilton. “We did check around, and the going rate is 6 percent for 15 or 20 years, which is an interest rate for investment you cannot find anywhere else,” he said. “One of our members saw this as an investment opportunity. He knows the collateral, the airplane, and can keep close track of it.”

Hamilton said the seven club members, along with other Dynon employees, have taken vacation time to help build the Sportsman. “We started building it on March 18, and hope to be done by the end of this week [March 31]. After testing, FAA inspections, and painting, we hope to be flying the aircraft by June,” he said. “Our monthly dues will be about $300. And flying time will be about $15 an hour, plus fuel.”

The base price for the Sportsman is $179,000, said Hamilton. The aircraft being built by the Swamp Creek Flyers is a Carbon Fiber Sportsman, said Christopher Strachan, Glasair’s director of marketing and sales. “The aircraft features a higher gross weight and increased payload, which is a benefit for club members with families or those wanting to travel with gear, and rear-facing seats” for four adults, he said. Glasair will work with clubs interested in the Sportsman to customize the aircraft and offer a special discount, he added.

For others wanting to start a flying club, Hamilton said it takes up-front homework to choose the right legal structure to form. “We took advantage of AOPA’s Pilot Protection Services and found a lawyer who helped us with the paperwork,” he said.

The hardest thing was to find the right insurance company, said Hamilton. “The first five companies said no, but the sixth one said yes,” he said. “Ask around and talk to people who are in flying clubs for advice.” The club is using Starr Insurance, he added.

Club members are looking forward to flying the Sportsman, said Hamilton. “Building a plane is a wonderful way to discover about manufacturing and getting to really know your club members,” he said.