April 19, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
Ten-Hi Flyers, a nonprofit 501(c)(7) flying club out of Denver’s Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, prides itself with offering its members “an attractive and affordable ownership opportunity.”
The club, founded in 1956, had an interesting beginning, said Fred Gardner, the Ten-Hi Flyers treasurer. “Back then, the airport was rather new. A used car salesman named Fred White owned two aircraft, a Stinson Voyager and a Cessna 140,” he recalled. “He wanted 10 people to share the aircraft with him, so he took money from them and they shared the aircraft.”
But after three years, some members noticed that the club had doubled to 20 members, and they felt it was too much, said Gardner. “So 10 members broke away and bought White’s Cessna 140,” he said. “When they left, they knew they wanted to be a club of 10 pilots, and there was a whiskey named Ten High, so that’s where the name came from.” The club is currently capped at 45 members.
Ten-Hi Flyers is different because it is not an aircraft rental club, said Gardner. “We have an interesting structure. Members who join buy a capital share in the club,” he said. “Shares cost $3,600. But if you leave the club, you get your investment back. I’m not sure there’s anything else like it out there.”
Dues for the club are $195 a month, but every dollar paid becomes becomes credits to fly the club’s aircraft, said Gardner. “That $195 a month covers insurance, maintenance, hangar rent, and reserves,” he said. “We are not in debt and own all our aircraft outright.”
The Ten-Hi Flyers owns a 1980 F33A Bonanza, a 1988 Piper Saratoga SP, and a 1983 Piper Dakota. “The original group sold the 140 and they bought a Cessna 172. In 1963, they added 22 members, used the new money plus borrowed $7,000 to buy a 1949 Bonanza B35. They now had 2 aircraft, and 32 members,” said Gardner. “Fourteen years later, the formula was repeated. Add members and borrow money for a great purchase. They had found a 1976 Piper Lance with very low time in a distress situation.
“We've learned that most joint-ownership situations can operate with about 15 pilots per aircraft, and find a good balance between affordability and accessibility. That ratio, plus owner maintenance, equals the ability to own and fly our planes with a minor number of schedule conflicts.”
Club members know that as joint owners, they accept that they have to do aircraft maintenance, said Gardner. “We do all the maintenance allowed by law. Ninety-five percent of our maintenance work is done by parts prices only,” he said.
Gardner advises established and new clubs to follow Ten-Hi Flyers’ pattern, admitting it is expensive to do. “The pattern is to pool our money, buy aircraft, and have funds for reserve, costs, and maintenance,” he said, “We realize it’s cheap, but if you share money, buy a mutual asset and share the expenses, it’s a successful formula.”
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