FAA Order 5190.B, FAA Airport Compliance Manual, provides policy regarding the operation of flying clubs at federally-obligated airports. The FAA defines a flying club as: “as a not-for-profit entity (e.g. corporation, association, or partnership) organized for the express purpose of providing its members with aircraft for their personal use and enjoyment only.”
AOPA proposed changes to the Flying Club policy in two primary areas as they related to flying clubs: flight instructor compensation and mechanic compensation. Previous guidance mandated that club members who are CFI’s and/or aviation mechanics could not receive monetary compensation for work performed on/in the flying club aircraft, but could only receive credit towards their club dues.
It is AOPA’s belief that a strong network of flying clubs across the United States can have a positive impact on helping reverse the decline of general aviation activity and the pilot population. Moreover, it is AOPA’s goal to provide guidance that is attainable and ensures educated compliance from all airport users.
As the pilot population trends from individual ownership to club-style aircraft ownership we must ensure that the regulations allow for the safe and successful operation of flying clubs. With safety as our primary goal, we want clubs to be able to provide the necessary training opportunities for their members without bending the rules outlined in 5190.6B. Additionally, we want to be sure that all aircraft maintenance be adequately performed and recorded by qualified mechanics at the intervals necessary for safe long-term aircraft operation. AOPA believes that these policy changes will help encourage quality and current pilots and holistic aircraft maintenance amongst flying clubs, without undervaluing FAA certified instructors and mechanics.
The FAA placed the proposed policy changes out for comment on the federal register and received comments from 44 airport users including flight instructors, pilots and flying club members.
The policy change, which became effective on April 4, 2016, now allows CFIs and mechanics to receive either monetary compensation or credit against payment of dues or flight time; but may not receive both compensation and waived dues concurrently. The new policy allows the airport sponsor to set limits on the amount of instruction or maintenance that may be performed for compensation.
The FAA also underscored that flying clubs may not hold themselves out to the public as a fixed base operator, specialized aviation service operation, maintenance facility or a flight school. Flying clubs may not advertise that they are a flight school or a business where people can learn to fly.
The new policy guidance can be found at: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/03/15/2016-05833/petition-of-the-aircraft-owner-and-pilots-association-aopa-to-amend-faa-policy-concerning-flying
Along these lines, the new FAA policy emphasizes the following two points: (1) Flying clubs should at no time hold themselves out as fixed based operators, flight schools, or as businesses offering services to the general public; and (2) flying clubs must not indicate, in any form of marketing and/or communications, that they are a flight school and flying clubs must not indicate in any form of marketing and/or communications that they are a business where people can learn to fly.
If you are a flying club and want to discuss flight training with members or prospective members, we advise that you refer to flight training as one of the many member benefits offered through the club (i.e. ABC Flying Club offers flight training for members in its club aircraft….).
However, clubs should never assert that they are a flight school or surmise that they are a business where a person can take flying lessons.
Under the new policy changes, flying clubs have not been granted the privilege of an on-field commercial operator. This ensures that flight schools maintain an advantage including the privilege to provide flight instruction to any aircraft owner on field, and advertise their services as a business. The FAA Policy Change specifically spells out that Flying Clubs may not hold out as a flight school or a business.
In addition, airport sponsors at federally-obligated airports can set limits on the amount of maintenance and flight instruction that may be performed for compensation.
AOPA continues to advocate for flight schools as a home for professional, well regimented, aviation education. Additionally, it is important to remember that flying clubs will continue to be non-commercial operators on field, and are not entitled to offer intro flights, scenic flights, aerial photography, non-member aircraft rental, or non-member flight instruction.
Pilots who are looking for flight instruction within their clubs are often maintaining proficiency and currency. Those who need a BFR or IPC prefer to receive this instruction from someone who is most familiar with their specific aircraft’s equipment and performance. One major advantage of a flying club is the opportunity to own and operate high performance or specialty aircraft. Instructors who are in the club and who have spent the most time in the club's aircraft are uniquely qualified to provide safe, efficient, and type specific instruction. These rule changes give clubs the ability to compensate their instructors based on the value they provide.
Flying clubs recognize the great resource that local schools offer to new and continuing students, especially the ability to provide concentrated training towards a new certificate or rating. Working together flying clubs and flight schools are a critical element in building a safe and vibrant airport community.
The service of a flight instructor will no longer be undervalued at flying clubs. Club flight instructors will now have an opportunity to be fairly compensated for their professional skills backed by the airport authority. Club flight instructors will be empowered to provide professional education to club members to ensure the safe and productive long-term operation of the club.