David Kruger was looking to find a partner to buy a light sport aircraft—but his printed notices on FBO bulletin boards attracted little attention. His fruitless search didn’t dissuade him from the idea of an aircraft partnership, however.
Instead, Kruger became convinced that thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of general aviation aircraft owners, pilots, and flight students were being squeezed out of the skies by high costs. Using his considerable knowledge of business, the Internet, and social networking, Kruger founded the Aircraft Partnership Association (APA), an eHarmony of sorts for pilots seeking likeminded co-owners to share aircraft and reduce overall flying expenses.
“I put notices out on the bulletin boards at a few local airports saying I was looking for a partner to buy a light sport aircraft—and I got no responses at all,” said Kruger, an entrepreneur in Frisco, Texas, who had recently sold his Web-based business that facilitated e-commerce in the construction industry. “I was whining to my wife one day about how hard it was to find an aircraft partner. And she said, ‘You know all about Web-based collaboration. Why don’t you go fix it?’”
Since founding the APA in 2008, about 3,000 owners looking to sell a fraction of their underutilized airplanes, and prospective buyers, have signed up at the free site to find potential matches.
In an ongoing effort to squeeze more flying out of our aviation dollars, AOPA is seeking your tips on frugal flying. Have you found creative ways to operate your aircraft more efficiently? Better manage maintenance, training, hangar, tie-down, or insurance costs? Or buy aviation-related goods in bulk or at lower prices? E-mail the author at [email protected]
Kruger expects the idea of aircraft partnerships, and APA memberships, to grow even faster once he gets a critical mass of more than 10,000 U.S. members. APA plans to make money by selling online scheduling and aircraft maintenance software as well as some online ads. The APA also provides sample partnership agreements and other documents to serve as guidelines for pilots forming their own aircraft partnerships, clubs, and fractional ownership groups.
“Partnerships aren’t new in aviation,” Kruger said. “But there’s got to be a better way to get the word out than simply pinning up notices at local FBOs. That didn’t work out for me at all.”
Kruger’s research shows most GA aircraft in the United States fly fewer than 100 hours a year. Owners could substantially cut their total costs—and have minimal impact on aircraft availability—through partnerships. Lowering the economic barriers to flying also promises to boost the number of student pilots, certificated pilots, and aircraft sales.
“GA does a great job of attracting interest,” Kruger said. “But the cost is a show-stopper for most people. It’s the biggest reason the pilot population is shrinking. People need to realize that flying doesn’t have to cost more than a bass boat.”
Kruger said several APA members already have purchased, or made plans to purchase, new and used aircraft.
“We know what we’re doing is working,” he said. “We’ve already had APA members find each other and go out and buy new airplanes. We’re all about getting more people flying, in more airplanes, more often. Aircraft partnerships have tremendous potential to lower costs, increase flying, and strengthen GA.”
E-mail the author at [email protected].