What is a flying club? Essentially, it’s an aviation co-op—a group of people coming together to share the cost of ownership to make flying more affordable.
According to the FAA Airport Compliance Manual, Order 5190.6B, “the FAA defines a flying club as a nonprofit or 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.”
Without a doubt, spreading the acquisition cost of an aircraft—as well as its monthly recurring costs such as a hangar fees, annual maintenance, and insurance—among several people makes economic sense. But clubs offer so much more than just affordable flying.
The benefits include quality flight training opportunities, access to a variety of aircraft, and the opportunity to build community. A flying club offers a great path to get into aviation or a way to reconnect to that passion.
The life cycle of a pilot often begins at a young age with a fascination for flight. Many pilots earn their private pilot certificate but as time passes and career or family responsibilities grow, flying sometimes gets put on hold because it takes time and money.
Flying clubs offer a less expensive way to reconnect to the passion for flight as part of a community of like-minded people. And for those just starting out in aviation, it is a great way to become part of the aviation family by getting quality flight instruction and the benefit of the experience and wisdom of the club’s other members.
The club model is fundamentally a more efficient way to use expensive assets, like aircraft. The average active general aviation (GA) pilot flies only 70 hours per year, less than one percent of the 8,760 hours an aircraft is available. Even with a ratio of 12 pilots to every aircraft—about the average across all clubs in the United States—the aircraft will still fly less than 10 percent of the available time.
Most airports regulate their commercial operations with an airport specific document known as the airport’s Minimum Standards. Airports, both public and private, that have received federal Airport Improvement Program funds in the preceding 20 years are strongly encouraged to publish these standards and enforce operations accordingly. The FAA guidance for the development of Minimum Standards is referred to as 5190.6B, and specifically grants flying clubs the rights of an individual not a commercial operator. This means that flying clubs enjoy the right to form and operate at an airport in the same way an individual has the right to base his or her aircraft on the field. The details regarding a flying club’s limitations at a specific airport can be found in the airport’s published Minimum Standards. If Minimum Standards do not exist for the airport where your club will be based, your airport manager is the final authority regarding the types of operations your club may participate in. Generally, flying clubs are governed as follows: