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January 14, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
The North Texas Flying Club, formed in May 1999, has structured itself to swell and shrink along with the economy as a way to ensure its survival. “Right now, the club has 70 members, but it has been as high as 200,” said President Garry Ackerman.
The McKinney-based club was formed as a regular C corporation, and is run as a not-for-profit, said Ackerman. “We did it that way because we didn’t see the benefit of creating a nonprofit 501(c)(7)” under IRS rules for social clubs, he added.
Right now, the club has six aircraft in its fleet: a Cessna 120, two Cessna 152s, a Piper Warrior, a glass cockpit Cessna 172S, and a Piper Arrow IV. “All the aircraft are on leases. It’s unique, but it gives us flexibility,” said Ackerman. “We can drop an aircraft with 30-days’ notice if we have to. If we need to shrink, we can do it. We don’t have to sell an aircraft during a bad economy.”
The club has flying and social members. Social members pay $25 a year, while flying members pay $65 a month and a $200 initiation fee, which allows access to all aircraft, said Ackerman.
Members can learn to fly with seven club instructors, said Ackerman. “Students can spend between $5,000 and $6,500 on lessons over eight months, depending on the aircraft type and how often they fly,” he said. The club is currently training 12 students.
The North Texas Flying Club is one of the 11 pathfinder clubs chosen to help develop and grow the AOPA Flying Club Network. Ackerman said several factors led to his club’s inclusion.
“The club is unique in several ways. One, we lease all our aircraft. Two, we designed our financial system so that all our overhead costs are covered by fixed income,” he said. “The rental rate on our aircraft covers all the operating costs, so if the weather was bad for a month and no one could fly, it protects the financial viability of the club.”
Ackerman was featured on the AOPA Flying Clubs Network’s first webinar, which covered how to start a club, making him an ideal candidate to offer advice on the topic.
“One, you have to realize that over the life of the club, the economy will drive the viability of the club, so you need to be able to react to changes,” he advised. “Second, don’t underestimate [the] amount of work it takes to operate a club, even with one aircraft. It’s a fair amount of work involved, but along with that work, there is the reward.”
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