Whether flying for fun, looking to build hours, or wanting to learn more about flying, joining a flying club is a fun process that can be very rewarding. But there are many details to consider before signing on with a club. I sat down with Mike, a long-time member and manager of a Midwestern flying club to find out exactly what he recommends interested pilots do before joining.
1. Inspect Club Aircraft
It doesn't take being a professional pilot to know that flying in well maintained aircraft is very important. Mike: “Visit and rate the overall cleanliness and organization of the aircraft. Are the planes well maintained? Are they modern? Another area to look at is the airplane hangars. Are tools strewn about?” By looking at these factors, you should get a feel for the overall quality of the flying club. If the club is disorganized on the ground and the planes are poorly maintained, it won't be worth taking chances in the air. Mike: “You should also ask about the clubs cleaning and maintenance policies and log to get a feel of the regularity of the aircraft fixes.”
2. Investigate the Clubs Reputation
Another important thing to do is to ask around about the club's reputation. Do they offer professional and friendly service? Do they have a good working relationship with the FBO, businesses on the field, the city, and/or community partners? Mike: “Most flying clubs require a paid membership as well as airplane rental fees, so it is important that the club have a strong reputation for working with pilots of all experience levels in a calm, professional manner. It's equally important to find out about the school's safety history and instructor experience level.” The majority of clubs spend time every year promoting aviation in the community by offering introductory flights, fly-in drive-in pancake breakfasts, or airshow sponsorship. Inquiring about club promotions and events will help gauge the commitment of the club to aviation, the airport, and the community.
3. Understand the Costs
Flying is NOT a cheap hobby, and investigating the cost beforehand can save money. Most flying clubs charge by the hour and also add a charge to have an instructor fly along, but it’s important to know your budget before you join. Mike: “Is there an added charge for ground instruction? Is there a fuel surcharge? Is there a weekly, monthly, or yearly membership fee? These are all questions that will help you determine the true cost of belonging to a flying club in your area.”
4. Understand Reservation Process
There’s no point in joining a flying club if the process of reserving an aircraft is time consuming and inefficient. A detailed look into the flying clubs reservation log history, step-by-step process, and potential barriers should be a great way to understand the clubs’ underlying structure. Flying club membership should be an enjoyable and time-saving venture, so don’t let the groundwork keep you from getting in the air! Mike: “The reservation schedule can vary depending on the size of the flying club. If it's a smaller club, there may not be much difficulty renting a plane. If it is a busier club, however, busiest times may be weekend days and evenings. To maximize availability, it may be best to rent a plane during off peak hours.”
5. Understand Club Insurance
The fact is that accidents happen. Being protected while a member of the club is a VERY important aspect of being in a flying club in the first place, so don’t skip this step! Mike: “Insurance varies quite a bit. I would want to see in writing that there is hull insurance; coverage while in motion, in the hangar, tied down, etc. It should also state that all active members are covered under the policy. Clarify the pilot’s responsibility in the event of an accident. Our club will pay the deductible if an accident is not the result of pilot error otherwise the pilot is responsible for the deductible.”
Paul Lemley of ClassicFlightBag.com contributed this article to All-Things-Aviation.com and we appreciate his advice on joining a flying club. Be sure and check out the Classic Flight Bag on his website - they are really cool! In the meantime keep your wings straight and level Hersch! Please share "5 Things to Consider Before Joining a Flying Club" with your friends using the buttons below. Thanks! Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7+ ps: Don't forget to sign up for updates via email for "All Things Aviation" here!