When you’re part of a flying club, it’s a little like being part of a family—lots of individuals with unique personalities and varying needs living under one roof and sharing a bathroom, or in this case living at one airport and sharing aircraft. And, just as in a family, being courteous and establishing some simple house rules can go a long way to creating harmony.
According to Joe Fox of the Inn Flying Club in Maryland, good relations between members and between the club and airport-based businesses “rely on courtesy, pure and simple.”
But there are rules, too, and following them can help prevent conflicts from arising in the first place. Scheduling conflicts are generally avoided by using an online or automated scheduling system. And clear rules, often set by an insurance company and exceeding FAA requirements, govern proficiency. Most clubs also have rules about refueling aircraft and leaving them clean and stocked for the next member.
At most airports, club members are happy to work with airport businesses, including FBOs and maintenance facilities that provide essential services like aircraft inspections and fuel.
But at least one flying club, the Simsbury Flying Club in Simsbury, Conn., acts more like an FBO than a flying club. Club members don’t own shares in aircraft. Instead they pay club dues that, along with tiedown fees and profits from fuel sales, keep the airport operating. The club president is also the airport manager and the club, which holds a lease to operate the airport from the property owner, subleases space to the local flight school and maintenance operation.
A group of pilots established the unusual club more than 20 years ago after the airport was essentially abandoned. By taking over airport operations, the local pilots kept the public-use airport going. The club now has 52 full members who base their aircraft at the field, as well as 10 social members who do not own aircraft at the airport.
“We’re all trying to do the same thing here, so it’s a very friendly, close relationship between the club and the airport businesses. If you just came to the airport you’d think it’s a regular airport; you wouldn’t know it was a club,” said Bill Thomas, Simsbury club president and airport manager.
To find out more about the varied roles flying clubs can play and how to manage the challenges of running a flying club, visit the AOPA Pilot Information Center, or call 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672).