August 16, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
San Jose, Calif.-based Seagull Flying Club credits having members manage club functions, like maintenance, for the success of its organization. The club also requires that members contribute half an hour toward the club for each hour of flight time.
The club, founded in 1963, has 20 members, who are all board members with equal rights and privileges, said Club President Anders Vernblom. It operates as a California nonprofit mutual benefit corporation.
In researching the club’s name, Vernblom quoted a member who joined the club a few years after its inception. “He suggested that some attributes of the seagull may have been the motivation for the name of the club, like a seagull is a pretty graceful flyer, and pretty fuel efficient, as well as being above average in acrobatics,” he said.
The club has two aircraft, a Cessna 172 and a Beechcraft Bonanza A36, said Vernblom. “We’re a 20-member club, with each member owning 1/20th of the club assets,” he said. "The cost of a membership is what the market will bear, which is between $12,000 and $14,000.”
Members pay $140 a month in dues. But the real bargain is hourly cost for the airplanes, based on dry rates and using tach time. The Cessna 172 costs $22 an hour, and the Bonanza costs $42 an hour. “The thought is around the ideal of creating a club where you drive down costs to make it [as] affordable as possible for people to get involved in general aviation,” said Vernblom.
The club does not offer flight instruction, but it does offer training for higher ratings, said Vernblom.
A few things come to mind when giving advice to other clubs, said Vernblom. “I would start with trying to articulate a club’s goals and standards, along with ideas on how to reach them,” he said. “Have processes in place to assess new members and how well they’ll fit into the club’s structure and personalities.”
The real objective is to find the right people with common goals and same love of flying, said Vernblom. “Our club drives down the cost of flying and makes it [as] affordable as possible,” he said. “We also do as much maintenance work as possible to drive down the cost. For us, it’s not a rental club—it’s an ownership club that shares the assets.”
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