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November 22, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
The Land-O-Lakes Flying Club, formed on Dec. 1, 1958, got its name from being based in Waterford, Mich., which is home to 34 of the state's more than inland 11,000 lakes.
The club, based at Oakland County International Airport (KPTK), is very proud of its rich flying heritage serving pilots across southeast Michigan for more than 54 years with the flying experience they want at a price they can afford, said club member Stan Politowicz. “Our long-standing mission is to provide our member pilots with safe, well-maintained and well-equipped airplanes at the lowest possible price,” he said.
Membership in the club, a nonprofit corporation, is equity-based and is limited to 15, said Politowicz. “We are capped at 15 members to give all of our members the greatest level of scheduling availability,” he explained. “Owning the aircraft outright affords us the opportunity to keep costs low," he said, and the club doesn't have to lease extra aircraft to accommodate new members. "One or two memberships come open each year.”
If an existing member leaves the club, typically because of a job transfer, the member is put in touch with membership prospects to negotiate the sale of that person's equity membership, said Politowicz. An equity membership purchased directly from the club is $5,000, he added.
Club aircraft are a Piper Archer II and a Piper Dakota. “We chose the Piper Archer and the Piper Dakota because they are good, safe, and reliable aircraft with proven safety records,” said Politowicz. “Both aircraft are similarly equipped with comparable electronics to enhance pilot familiarity and safety.”
The cost per hour, Hobbs, is $97 wet for the Archer and $115 wet for the Dakota. There is also a monthly maintenance fee of $130. Members can get a 5-percent discount on the hourly rates if the fee is prepaid for the calendar year. The club charges an inactive monthly maintenance fee of $45, for those on nonflying status for nine months or more.
The club holds three general membership meetings each year—April, September, and December—said Politowicz. It also holds two wash-and-wax events each spring and fall and an annual end-of-summer picnic for members and their families, he added.
Politowicz offered advice for those who are starting clubs. “I would suggest starting small, with two aircraft and perhaps up to eight members. You will need to start small if there is no prior flying club experience,” he said. “You will want to operate at this level for some period of time until all of the kinks are worked out relative to business accounting, annuals, maintenance, and operations.”
New clubs should establish a set of by-laws so without question, as turnover occurs, the club continues to operate under the same standard practices put in place when first established, said Politowicz. “You will want to look into different types of incorporation while considering costs, liabilities, and insurance,” he said. “Land-O-Lakes Flying Club incorporated as a nonprofit corporation because the costs were minimized and we could establish legal protection that separates personal assets from the activities of the club.”
To grow membership, have a good ratio of aircraft to members so availability doesn’t become a problem, said Politowicz. “Then you will want to focus on getting the word out. Word of mouth at your airport works great. Also, set up a website, Facebook account, or Twitter account and use every avenue possible to drive traffic to those sites,” he advised. “And don’t forget organizations like AOPA who are committed to the success of flying clubs and will give your flying club prominence within the Airport Directory for your airport.”
Finally, in all cases, safety and fun need to be top priorities, said Politowicz. “Having the common bond of flying shared across your membership ranks is a great foundation to build a great flying club that everyone on your field will be talking about and will want to join,” he said.
AOPA eNewsletter and Social Media Editor Benét J. Wilson joined AOPA in 2011. She is working on her private pilot certificate.
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