Flying Club of Kansas City: Making flying affordable

October 30, 2013

Missouri’s Flying Club of Kansas City, founded in 1967, was originally started as the Kansas City Navy Aero Club at Olathe Naval Air Station, which is now New Century Airport. It touts its shared ownership model for members as a way to make flying much more affordable.

The club, based at Johnson County Executive Airport, currently has 49 members, 42 of which are active, said President Bob Winney. It is a nonprofit 501(c)(7), he added.

The fleet includes a Beech Debonair C33, a Cessna 177B Cardinal, a Cessna 172M Skyhawk, and a recently added Grumman AG5B Tiger, said Winney.

“Our fee structure is $750 to join and $85 per month for dues. Our model is for the dues to cover the fixed expenses such as hangars and insurance and the hourly rates on the planes to cover for annuals and reserves,” said Winney. “We have a non-active status, which is allowed by board approval. Those members retain voting rights, but have no flying privileges. We also have a social membership for $10 per month.”

Rates for the fleet are billed on a dry basis, using Hobbs, with members responsible for refilling the airplane based on a fixed number of gallons per hour. Fleet rates are $69 an hour for the Debonair, $39 for the Skyhawk, $49 for the Cardinal, and $42 for the Tiger.

After joining a flying club, members stop being a renter an start being an owner, said Winney. “The difference is significant. You, and your fellow members, take pride in your airplanes,” he said. “You also get to realize the advantages of no longer padding someone else’s profit margins.”

The club does offer flight training, and has five instructors, said Winney. “We currently have two students and other members working on advanced ratings,” he said.

Monthly meetings are held on the second Tuesday of the month, said Winney. “We try to have a hangar party at least once a quarter. Our December meeting is a Christmas party, which is always a big event,” he said. “We schedule group activities, such as book all the planes and try to load them up for various fly-ins in the area.”

Winney’s advice for growing a club: The larger your group, the more diversity of opinions it will encounter. “Essentially I see two different business models used at least in the local clubs. Ours is with a pretty inexpensive buy-in at only $750 and we are not bound to any long-term agreement. Easy in and easy out,” he said.

“Others I see have a limited number of slots and the buy-in is fairly high. You are bound to keep paying your dues until you can sell your share to an incoming member and that price is whatever you can sell it for. When the economy started tanking, I saw a few of those memberships which were normally in the $4,500 range selling very inexpensively because the seller just wanted to get out from under the monthly obligation,” said Winney.

Winney sees both as viable options with advantages and disadvantages. “Ours was in place when I joined and it has worked for us. We have had very few bad experiences with members over the years,” he said. “I see the club environment as the wave of the future in aviation. The economics of it made it a lot easier to sell to my better half and I really enjoy the feeling of having a stake in the planes as opposed to being just a renter.”

Winney also likes the community that has  been  built with the club. “We have ex-military, ex and current airline pilots, as well as new students and it is a nice blend of people all with a like passion for flying,” he said.