The nonprofit Flywell Flying Club, based at Minnesota’s Anoka County-Blaine Airport, celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2013. The club was formed in 1963 by engineers who worked for Honeywell.
No one knows exactly how the club was named, but treasurer Mark Bakko said there is an urban legend about it. “Many of [the] original members worked for Honeywell, and they wanted to use the Honeywell name as part of the club, but the company’s legal department wasn’t interested in that,” he said. “All the original members are no longer with us, so we’re not quite sure how the name came about.”
The club is capped at 40 members, and that is the current membership, which each owns a share of stock, said Bakko. “If you want to sell that stock, you post it, and the club sells the stock,” he said. “It allows us to maintain a fixed price to buy and sell. If we were going to liquidate, our stock would be worth about $10,000 a member, but no one will pay that. So we charge $6,500 to $6,000 for the share and $500 for a transfer fee.”
During the economic downturn that started in 2007, the Flywell Flying Club went from having a waiting list for members to members selling their stock, forcing the club to market itself for the first time, said Bakko.
Flywell has four aircraft: a Cessna 172, a Piper Archer, a Cessna 182RG, and a Piper Lance, said Bakko. “We have a nice balance of two good aircraft for training and two for cross-country trips. We own our own aircraft and hangar,” he said.
Membership dues are $109 a month, which covers all fixed costs like insurance, property taxes, and rent, said Bakko. “Our hourly aircraft rate, wet with Hobbs, includes maintenance, engine reserves, and fuel,” he said. The Skyhawk is $75 an hour, the Archer is $85, the 182RG is $125, and the Lance is $135. The club does not offer flight instruction, but there are instructors who are club members, he added.
The club has three big yearly events, said Bakko. “One, we work to help put on the Discover Aviation day at Anoka County Airport, where more than 12,000 people show up,” he said. “We also do a nice winter dinner for members and their significant others, and in the summer, we hold a family picnic.”
Once a month during the summer, the club will also do an airplane wash, said Bakko. “We pull out the barbecue grill and socialize,” he said. “And every quarter, we have a learning experience at places like the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport tower, the FAA Flight Center, or a local engine shop.”
Bakko advised other clubs to keep their name out in front of the local aviation community. “You would be surprised at how many pilots don’t know about flying clubs. Most pilots only fly 10 to 25 hours a year, which can be economically tough for the average person,” he said.
Flywell’s market is not convincing people to fly, said Bakko. “We leave that to groups like AOPA. Our market is those who are already pilots who want a way to make flying more affordable for the average middle class person,” he said.