January 22, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
TSS Flying Club, a nonprofit flying club at Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg, Md., prides itself on providing members partial-ownership in a fleet of well-maintained, modern aircraft. Members also get the chance to participate in shared flights, group trips, and social events.
The club, formed in 1957, has 50 members, ranging in age from teens on up, with different occupations, interests, backgrounds, and flying experience—student, private, instrument, commercial, ATP, and flight instructors, according to board member Andrew Flank.
“Our mission was to provide quality aircraft and economical rates,” he said. “Any ‘profit’ from one year is used to upgrade aircraft or reduce the cost of flying in the following year.”
The club currently owns and operates a fleet of four IFR-certified aircraft: a1984 Cessna 172; a 1979 Cessna 172; a 2000 Cessna 182S; and a 1981 Cessna 182RG.
TSS Flying Club’s initiation fee is $1,200, “which is refundable if you leave,” said Flank. There’s a $50 nonrefundable application fee and dues of $103 a month for individuals and $118 a month for families.
Aircraft charges are based on hourly Tach wet rates, which Flank said is a more accurate measure of the true cost to operate an aircraft. Rates are $120 an hour for the Cessna 172s and $159 an hour for the 182s. The club does offer flight training and has six instructor members, plus some approved outside instructors, said Flank. “We don’t have anyone in primary training right now, but other club members are working on other things, like instrument ratings,” he said.
TSS is a social club that has planned and impromptu events, said Flank. “We have monthly BBQ meetings at one of our hangars where we fire up the grill, cook some burgers and dogs, and catch up with other members before discussing airplane and club operations,” he said. “We also have an annual banquet in March, where we elect our board members.”
The club takes three or four airplanes to Oshkosh every year, said Flank. “We are taking three planes to a member's ski house in Vermont this month. This past summer, a few club members flew 2,500 miles north to the Arctic Circle and large trips in the past few years have included the Caribbean, Vancouver, Alaska, and more,” he said. “Members frequently share flights to local attractions and members are always willing to safety pilot for each other.”
TSS board member Larry Scurlock said via email that he joined the club 12 years ago for purely selfish reasons. “I wanted to be able to fly good airplanes at cheaper rates and with better availability. TSS has provided this and much more. Joining TSS has allowed me to be involved with all the social activities as well,” he said. “I highly doubt I would have flown as much, or maybe even stopped, had I not joined TSS. Before joining TSS, I rented from an FBO at Manassas Airport. They were very nice and I flew with a few of their instructors but it is not nearly the same as flying with TSS members and instructors and participating in the social aspects of the club.”
Flank’s advice to those wanting to start or grow a club: Start by defining a clear mission. “Is this purely an endeavor to make aircraft available to members? Is there a social component? What are expectations of the members?”
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