December 20, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
The RFTS Flying Club is a nonprofit organization founded in 1983 and based at Washington state’s Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor.
“There is no meaning to the name, although one of the ladies suggested ‘Romantic Flights to Somewhere’ and one of the other members suggested ‘Reach for the Sky,’” said club President Dennis Cunneen.
“Actually, I was working for Boeing on a project called `Radio Frequency Target Simulator,’ "RFTS" along with a couple of engineers who were supplying the first aircraft,” said Cunneen. “They thought it would be cute to use the program acronym as the name of the club.”
There are currently 39 active and seven inactive members. “The club is a not-for-profit group incorporated as such in the state of Washington,” said Cunneen. “We were formed to provide lower-cost flying and thought that profit would get in the way and cause way more complications.”
The club’s fleet includes two Cessna 172s, a Cardinal RG, and a Skycatcher. “Fuel costs have gone down recently, so the [aircraft] prices were reduced,” said Cunneen. The 1967 Cessna 172 is $98 an hour wet; the 2005 G1000 Cessna 172 is $118 an hour; the Cardinal is $130 an hour; and the Skycatcher is $88 an hour. “All prices are on Hobbs time and include gas, oil, and maintenance,” said Cunneen.
New members pay a $500 initiation fee and $60 per month dues for active members and $10 for inactive, said Cunneen. The club offers affordable flight instruction, said Cunneen. “Our instructors charge $15 per hour. The cost to get a license depends on the amount of hours it takes each pilot and the plane that they choose,” he said.
The club holds monthly airplane washes from April to October and monthly breakfasts in the cold and dark months, said Cunneen. “We have a joint Christmas party with the Mt. Tahoma [Ninety-Nines], since some of them are current or past members, and a summer barbecue,” he said.
Cunneen’s advice to new clubs is to be conservative and realistic about costs and income. “Maintenance always costs more than expected and members don't fly as much as they say they will, so don't skimp on it.”
AOPA eNewsletter and Social Media Editor Benét J. Wilson joined AOPA in 2011. She is working on her private pilot certificate.
As the cold weather chills AOPA’s Headquarters in Frederick, many of us are inside generating new resources for flying clubs.
In my house, every Friday night is “Movie Night.” While the movies are rarely educational (I don’t think I learned anything from the Lego Movie), we look forward to the weekly opportunity to spend time together. Why not use the same concept for your Flying Club (with the addition of education, of course)?
The Aircraft Spotlight feature looks at an airplane type and evaluates it across six areas of particular interest to flying clubs and their members: Operating Cost, Maintenance, Insurability, Training, Cross-Country, and Fun Factor.
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