The creation and nurturing of Roanoke, Texas-based Aerovalley Flying Club is very personal for founder and President David Bitts. His love of aviation and flying clubs began when he was a boy.
Bitts belonged to a club that died because members let their fire and love of aviation die. So one of the main tenets of the club he started at Northwest Regional Airport in 2009 is to have members with “the eternal flame in their hearts for flying, so as not to let it be extinguished.”
The club, currently with 12 members, was created after Bitts moved from Frederick, Md., back to the Dallas area.
Aerovalley was created as a nonprofit corporation, where it dry leases its aircraft from club members. “When our members fly any aircraft, they pay the dry rate and fuel. Our aircraft go out of hangar full of gas,” said Bitts. “The dry rate goes right back to the owners.”
The club’s initiation fee is $250, which is refundable after one year if members choose to leave. Monthly dues are $75, and members who refer a pilot who joins get 50 percent off the next month’s dues; there are discounts for students and multiple pilots in the same household, said Bitts.
The current fleet consists of a 1967 Cherokee 235B and a 1960 Cessna 172B, said Bitts. The rates are $60 an hour Tach and $40 an hour Tach, respectively.
The club offers flight lessons and has two CFIs—one instrument and one VFR, said Bitts. “We have two primary students and one instrument student, who is on hiatus,” he said. “We recently added two A&P mechanics and they provide all of our preventive maintenance annuals and some overhauls.”
Aerovalley is still a young club that works hard to get together for activities like washing aircraft and cleaning the hangar, said Bitts. “In that respect, we’re not the most active club on that. It’s hard for people to work around their schedules for official events,” he said.
The best advice Bitts can offer to others wanting to start a club is be persistent and don’t give up when it looks like it won’t happen. “We had very slow growth and in the first year, not much happened,” he said. “I got discouraged, but I still plugged ahead and we grew.”
Bitts said he prefers the club model where members can lease aircraft from owners and not have the extra overhead that comes with owing an aircraft. “It’s a win-win for our club and our aircraft owners. We help them defray the costs of owning aircraft,” he said. “It works well, as opposed to getting cash to buy an aircraft and take off all the responsibilities of ownership. We want to make it as economical as possible for members to fly.”