The GACE Flying Club, formed in 1969, was originally founded as the Grumman Aerospace Corporation Employees Flying Club on Long Island, N.Y. Now operating at Islip MacArthur Airport, the club’s goal is "advance, encourage, and promote safe and economical flying."
At one time, Grumman was the largest employer on Long Island, said GACE Flying Club Membership Director Mark Goodman. “When you got a job there, you had a job for life. Back then, you had to be a Grumman employee or immediate family member to join the flying club,” he said.
The club, currently with 60 members, operates as a nonprofit 501(c)(7) and is run by nine board members, according to Goodman. “We have a $750 member buy-in, with $250 of it returned when a member leaves,” he said. “Club dues are $45 a month, which is quite a nice bargain.”
Members have access to two club aircraft: a Cessna 172SP that rents for $125 an hour and a Cessna 172 that's King IFR equipped, for $114 an hour, wet, using tach time. “Our 1979 Skyhawk recently received a refurbished interior, which our club members did themselves,” said Goodman. “We’re also arranging to have it repainted soon.”
For members, GACE is all about being a flying club, said Goodman. “We do two or three plane washes a year. We also hold barbecues where members are encouraged to bring friends and family,” he said. “We encourage members to come and hang out at our office on the ramp, and we do flyouts for breakfasts and lunches. We also hold our monthly meetings at a local diner.”
Although the club doesn’t offer flying lessons, it does have members who are flight instructors, said Goodman. “The club doesn’t set the rates for instructors, because they’re just members who wish to instruct. But they must use GACE aircraft for ratings and their tickets,” he said.
Goodman said it was difficult to give advice to other flying clubs in a continued tough economic environment in which it’s difficult to attract new pilots. “People aren’t breaking down the doors to get into pleasure aviation,” he said. “But it’s really just a matter of getting your club members to be enthusiastic about their hobby so they talk to friends and family, and get them enthusiastic and hope they join the club.”
Flying clubs are the way to go to bring in new pilots, said Goodman. “It’s the most economical way and has the social aspects of meeting and flying with other pilots. There’s no interaction and collaboration when you just rent an aircraft at an FBO,” he said. “The key to a successful club is the participation of members in running the club and doing things for the club.”