The Smoke Eagles Flying Club, based at California’s Fullerton Municipal Airport, was formed in 1954 and originally started by a group of firefighters in Long Beach.
The club, with a maximum of 30 members, is operated as a 501(c)(7) nonprofit organization, said Ray Stratton, the club’s vice president. “Our goal is to provide flying opportunities to pilots at a minimal cost while maintaining safe and reliable aircraft,” he said. “The corporation provides hull insurance and liability insurance to members and owns the aircraft.”
Smoke Eagles’ has two Cessna aircraft—a 172K and a 182Q. “Both are day/night/VFR/IFR aircraft, and the 182 is GNS 530W equipped,” said Stratton.
New members pay a $3,000 buy-in fee that is refunded when they leave the club, said Stratton. Club dues are $75 a month for members and associate members. Associate members are family members in the same household but do not pay buy-in fee.
“We use tach time, not hobbs time. Our rates are wet and we have no daily minimums,” said Stratton. The Cessna 182 is $125 an hour, wet; the Cessna 172 is $90 an hour, wet.
Scheduling is computer based using a local FBO’s scheduling system. All members have full access to the aircraft 24/7 and are issued keys.
“Dues are set to cover all fixed operating costs and calendar-based maintenance,” said Stratton. “We do not have a membership plan for nonpilots but anyone may attend our meetings and events.” Monthly non-mandatory meetings and an annual holiday dinner are regularly scheduled club events, he added.
Stratton’s advice to flying clubs is to set hourly rates and dues to create reserve funds for annuals, overhauls, props, paint, and other long-term expenses. “Good financial planning is essential. We want flying to be affordable but we want to be solvent too,” he said. “A club should have both bylaws for governance and flying regulations for setting operating rules.”