The Dawn Patrol Flying Club, based in based Northville, Mich., was formed in 1960 at Canton-Plymouth-Mettetal Airport with the idea of offering social and affordable flying.
Joe Fortman, vice president of the club, isn’t sure of the origin of its name. “The story seems to have been lost through the years, but we kind of assume the original founders liked to find places to fly for breakfast on the weekends,” he said.
Fortman recounted the club's history, saying that in 1970 the club moved to Salem Airport where some members made advance hangar rent payments to help the owner pave the runway. “When Salem Airport was closed around 1983, the club moved to Willow Run for a short while, but then settled back at Mettetal,” he said. “At one time the club had four planes—a Cessna 150, [Cessna] 172 and two Mooney M20Fs. During the 1980s, the club dropped back to just two planes and we have been that way ever since.” Dawn Patrol currently has a 1976 Cessna 177B Cardinal and a 1975 Cessna 172 Skyhawk.
The club has 24 members, and operates as a nonprofit, said Fortman. “It was formed as a means to make flying more affordable and accessible, and be a social group rather than a business,” he said.
The Cardinal costs $91 an hour wet, while the Skyhawk is $79 an hour. Both charge by tach time. “We are an equity club so the buy-in is up to the member that sells,” said Fortman. One recently sold for around $2,900, he said, and monthly dues are $75.
The club requires a minimum of a private pilot’s certificate to join, said Fortman. “We meet once a month to go over matters, review finances, maintenance, potential upgrades, and share recent flying news,” he said. “Twice a year we hold a work day to wash and wax our planes and share some camaraderie.”
Fortman advises using existing resources to get the word out about a flying club.
“Go amongst friends and market both with paper flyers and online sites. Get to know the instructors at the local FBO so they can recommend the club to new pilots,” he said. “Take as many friends and acquaintances flying as possible. Be good stewards of club finances, keep improving airplanes.”
Make sure the club has a good screening process to ensure sure new members are a good fit, said Fortman. “They should also be able to take good care of the planes, since they will own a portion of them,” he said.