Question of the Month

Can someone provide a realistic per-hour cost of flying as a member of a club?

March 15, 2014

Chris Durney of Little Rock, AR asked this question on AOPA’s Flying Club Network Facebook Page. He noted, “My FBO just raised the rates on a 180hp 172 to $139/wet plus tax, making it very difficult for someone on a government salary to afford drilling holes in the sky. The local for-profit club charges $145/wet for a 172 (plus monthly dues) -- way to high for me!”

His question generated a flurry of responses (more than 70 at the time of this writing). The comments included hourly costs for different aircraft; a discussion of new, faster composite aircraft overall costs vs. older, slower aluminum designs; as well as advantages of being in a flying club and how different organizational structures produce different cost structures. Below are some of the actual responses:

Brad Koehn: There are several discounts to be had when you are in a club vs renting:

1. A club has no profit motive
2. An equity club doesn't have to do 100 hour inspections
3. A club allows you to split the fixed costs more equitably than renting (people who don't fly a lot pay as much of the fixed costs as those who do)

The cost of fuel and the plane are otherwise equal.

Andrew Gideon: ‪Brad Koehn‬‬ wrote above that a club can allocate fixed costs "more equitably". I won't argue whether or not this is truly "equitable", but it does mean that club flying is cheaper for those that fly more often and more expensive for those that fly less often. This is because the per-hour cost of club flight time is usually lower than that of the rental, but the rental isn't likely to have a monthly cost. In the most extreme case, club members that don't fly over the billing period are still covering their share of the fixed costs.

So: figure out how often you fly and factor that into the function when you compare clubs to renting.

Also consider other possible motivations to join a club. For example, if you want to take trips then a club w/o any form of daily minimum can save you a lot. If the club hasn't a lot of churn, and/or if it encourages an "owner mentality", the aircraft may be treated better than those being rented.

A club will often offer opportunities to become more involved in the "management" of the aircraft. As a member of ‪http://flyingclub.org/‬‬ I have learned a lot about aircraft - knowledge that has helped me become a better pilot.

Doug Penocvich: A very long time ago I joined the Civil Air Patrol to help me build up time. CAP Membership covers you on the insurance and Senior Members that have a current Annual Check Ride may rent a CAP airplane for Pilot Proficiency. A C-172P is $50.00 an hour dry and a C-182 is $60.00 an hour dry. They even have G1000 Equipped C-182, same rental cost which would have cost me $180.00 an hour from the local flying club, plus their monthly dues. Lots of opportunities to fly missions that are fully paid for by CAP,, just a suggestion, worked in my situation.

Tomoharu Nishino: Someone mentioned CAP as one way of flying with lower costs. The other is to do public benefit flying with organizations like the various regional Angel Flights or Pilots-n-Paws. Expenses associated with flying you do for these public benefit organizations are tax-deductible. So, depending on your tax bracket, you will get a significant chunk of your hourly rate back come tax time.

Andris Skulte: We're $55/hr dry tach time on our club (Connecticut Valley Flyers - here on facebook) 180hp constant speed 172K, which for me works out to be about 90% of hobbs. With the crazy fuel prices at KHFD, I ballpark about $100/hr and plan for 9.5 gph leaned at cruise. Monthly dues are $55 which covers insurance and hangar.

Mike Lambert: A C172SP up here will run you $165/hr wet. A standard C172 will cost you $130/hr wet. I wouldn't complain too much.

Keith Sanderson: Our club charges $40 an hour hobbs, you fill it up when you get back.

William Woodbury: All-in operating cost for a fairly modern C172 flying 250hrs/yr is right at $100/hr. Several factors can influence this one way or the other, but $100 is a pretty good average.

Robert Mahoney: The wet hourly rates at ‪AirSpacers FlyingClub‬‬ in Santa Monica are:
172 M - $76
182 P - $120
210 L - $160

Sean Berry: Find a club with older planes. Our club has a 40 year old C172 that rents for $100/hr. A club on the same field rents a 10 year old C172 for $130-150/hr.