Already a member? Please login below for an enhanced experience. Not a member? Join today
Menu

Flying Club Resource Library: How to Start a Flying Club

Welcome to the AOPA Flying Clubs Resource Library. Created with "clubs in formation" in mind, this library breaks down the elements of forming a flying club into brief, informative articles.

1

Introduction

Whether you began your adventure in aviation in a flying club, you came to belong to one years later, or you’re just finding out about them now, there is no doubt that flying clubs can maximize your enjoyment of general aviation, while substantially cutting your costs.

Keep reading >
2

Getting Started

Although every flying club is unique and operates independently of others, you can use this guide as a step by step primer that will help you get a new flying club up and running.

Keep reading >
3

Establishing Founding Members & Writing Your Mission Statement

The culture of your club is something that separates it from all others. The type of membership structure, operating rules, aircraft types and social calendar all help form your club’s culture, and after you complete the process, you’ll have the club that you’re fully comfortable with.

Keep reading >
4

Structure Your Club

Once you’ve established the Founding Members and written your Mission Statement, it’s time to start getting into details. You’ll need to decide if you want to buy or lease a plane, what type of structure you want to establish, and whether or not you want to apply for tax-exempt status either now, or in the future. Let’s look at each one of these decisions individually.

Keep reading >
Also in this Section:

If you and your fellow club members buy an airplane, and share equally in its costs, then you have an Equity Club. read more...

Flying clubs have various options in the way they form and now is the time to understand the benefits and drawbacks of each structure. read more...

Once you’ve chosen an aircraft make and model and decided on an equity or non-equity structure, its time to work out the expenses of your future club. read more...

5

What's It Going to Cost & How Do we Pay for It?

No matter how small or large you plan your flying club to be, there will be costs associated with its start-up and long-term operation. These costs can be mapped out on a spreadsheet and managed by the club treasurer or you may choose to simply enter a few basic headings in a ledger and track them as you would your household expenses.

Keep reading >
Also in this Section:

Insurance is one of the more significant costs your flying club will incur. Read more...

Financing in the strictest sense of the word is only pertinent for equity flying clubs; that is to say, flying clubs that own the aircraft they operate. Read more...

In aviation, flight is optional, but maintenance is mandatory. At a minimum your aircraft will require an annual inspection, or if it is an experimental aircraft, an annual condition inspection. Read more...

Where the club chooses to store their aircraft, and what sort of a space the club will meet in are decisions that have long-ranging implications. Read more...

If the idea of creating a budget makes your eyes glaze over, fear not! Creating a budget is pretty straight forward. The AOPA Flying Clubs team can provide examples of budgets, on request. At the end of the day, it is a cash-flow issue, so spend time thinking about the numbers – and timing – of cash in and out of the club coffers. Read more...

Buying an airplane is easy. Buying a “good” airplane takes time and care! Once you’ve found the perfect airplane, a pre-buy inspection is an absolute must. Read more...

Before writing the check, you want to be sure the airplane has a clean title and is free of liens or other encumbrances – just like when buying a house. Read more...

Depending on where the airplane is located, you may need to make arrangements to get it home. You can do it yourself, or you can contract with a ferry pilot. Read more...

After the club is established, there will be recurring operational costs – we’ll separate these into fixed and variable costs. Read more...

Regardless of what airplane you end up with, you’re going to need some operating capital—extra money—in the bank. This is your cash reserve. Establishing a cash reserve up front is very important. Read more...

6

Make it Official

Congratulations! By now, you’ve likely decided as to the type of legal entity you want to form. You may have chosen the Corporation, or you may have chosen the Limited Liability Company (LLC). Regardless, the next steps are identical.

Keep reading >
Also in this Section:

This is a legal document and must be filed with your state government. The requirements vary from state to state. As we’ve suggested before, consult an attorney for guidance here. Read more...

Bylaws are simply the “rules of the road.” They govern how the club will function as an organization. They list the Directors and/or Officers, the terms for those positions, and how they are elected. Read more...

SOPs are not the same as bylaws. Well-written SOPs will cover day-to-day operations and more routine things like how the airplane is scheduled and how often, or how far in advance a member may schedule the airplane. Read more...

To open a bank account, or to file your club’s tax return with the IRS, you’ll need an EIN. You can get this number online from the IRS. The process is pretty simple. Read more...

7

Your Aircraft

Aside from writing your club’s mission statement, choosing the aircraft you hope to operate may be the most important decision your club makes in its first years of operation. If your flying club is to be truly successful, the aircraft has to fit and support that mission statement and the real-life goals of the club.

Keep reading >
Also in this Section:

Once you’ve chosen the general type of aircraft you’re looking for, your club will need to decide if you want to lease or purchase it. Read more...

Even if you’re intending to lease the airplane, it is worth knowing the condition of the aircraft. It is not unheard of for an aircraft with a pretty paint scheme and a beautiful interior to have serious flaws under the skin. Read more...

Keep in mind while you search, you’re not just looking for an airplane. You’re looking for an airplane with the specific bells and whistles that are important to you. Read more...

Everything is negotiable. Everything. Whether leasing or buying, you are not locked into any price or terms until you sign the necessary documents. Read more...

If purchasing an aircraft is appealing to you, but the workload of searching for good aircraft, evaluating their condition, and negotiating a selling price feels daunting, there is hope. Read more...

8

Running Your Club

With organizational aspects well underway, you can now turn attention to growing and running your flying club. This doesn’t have to be a detailed business plan, but you should consider some basic marketing ideas for finding and attracting members.

Keep reading >
Also in this Section:

AOPA has an online Flying Club Finder. This is a database of flying clubs located all over the U.S. Some have been in operation for years, while others are in the formative stages. Read more...

Now that you’re listed in the AOPA Flying Club Finder as a club in formation, this is the perfect time to arrange a casual meeting with your airport manager or director to let them know you’re planning to establish a flying club on the field. More often than not, the airport manager will be supportive of your plans. Read more...

No matter how big or small a crowd you anticipate coming out to the airport to hear about your club, you will need a place for them to meet. It doesn’t have to be luxurious, but it should be a place where people can sit comfortably while you present your plan. Read more...

AOPA maintains the AOPA Flying Club Network group on Facebook to connect people and clubs, and it works. Thousands upon thousands of people share news about their flying clubs, their most recent flights, and ask questions to resolve issues and help improve the way their club operates, all through the common use of a simple social media site. Read more...

While this is not something you need to trouble yourself with while in the formation stages of your flying club’s organization, it is something you will want to get complete by the time you become fully operational. It is a valuable resource to your members, and once operational, it also becomes a valuable marketing tool. Read more...

Anything from a simple vinyl banner to an elaborate professionally designed and built sign can be a real benefit in helping to get the word out. Initially, you’ll probably want to keep costs down, so most clubs will go with a relatively modest banner to announce their presence on the airfield. Read more...