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Making an Operating AgreementMake an Operating Agreement

In addition to the club’s bylaws, which govern how the club is run, formal operating rules outlining how members may use the aircraft are a necessity. They lay the foundation for your club to operate safely and efficiently, and they set the standards for members to be good partners with one another. In short, the operating rules help create the culture for the club.

The most effective operating rules define how members should fly and care for the club’s aircraft, as well as procedures for scheduling flights, performing maintenance, and other details of using the aircraft, which can help create a sense of ownership and ensure a positive experience for every member every time they get into the plane.

The rules should cover everything from fueling the aircraft to how to report maintenance issues, including what happens if there is a maintenance issue away from your home airport. The rules may also outline proficiency requirements, whether night flying or IFR flying is allowed, how long an aircraft can be scheduled, what the daily minimums are if you take the plane for an extended trip, and how the plane is cleaned and put away after returning from a flight including correct tiedown procedures.

Other topics the rules might cover include the maximum number of members in the club; the types of memberships available, such as social or non-flying memberships; how many reservations an individual can have booked at one time; and how to resolve scheduling conflicts if they should arise.  

The operating rules might include maintenance practices, such as whether 100-hour inspections are part of the normal maintenance practices, who to report maintenance issues to and how that gets communicated to other members, and what maintenance issues would ground the aircraft.

Operating rules also provide guidance when problems arise, and go a long way in preventing issues because members are clear on what they can and can’t do. The rules may outline who pays an insurance deductible if there is an incident with the aircraft, when monthly dues and hourly rates are collected, and what to do if someone is late making their payments.

It’s important to include the members in developing the club’s operating rules not only to ensure everything is covered, but also to build camaraderie and a sense of ownership in how the club operates and how the planes are cared for.

This may be the first time many general aviation pilots are operating an aircraft with a set of rules, so take the time to go over the rules with new members. It helps the club operate more professionally and safely.

Over time, your club will evolve and the rules will need to be updated periodically. These updates should reflect the experience gained as a club, improvements to operations, and successful ways the club has solved problems.

Many clubs have their operating rules posted online and AOPA has examples of rules that your club can use a model for drafting your own operating rules.

View a sample operating agreement.