Help me get smart about evaluating flight clubs

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by mxalix258, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. mxalix258

    mxalix258 Pre-Flight

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    mxalix258
    When looking at a flight club to join, what are the best indicators of a stable/well-run club that wont be impossible to find plane availability?

    IE: cash reserves, planes to member ratio, monthly rates, etc

    Additionally, are there good questions to ask regarding airplane engine overhaul times or other things that can give me a sense of if the plane is being invested in and will be reliable?
     
  2. Eric Gleason

    Eric Gleason Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I joined a club last month, so I just went through this same process. I've copied the list of questions from my notes for you below. This club is on the big side (5 planes, 63 current members, 75 max), with a pretty well-organized board who have a process in place for new members. After receiving the application, they have a "get to know you" interview with the applicant and part of the board. They've done this enough that a lot of my questions were answered through conversation, which I took as another good sign.




    Club Strategy/Vision/Future
    1. What is the vision for the next 5-10 years? Aircraft upgrades/paint/interior? Different A/C? After that? How to handle aging membership?
    2. How many primary students are there?
    3. How many new members do we get in a year (or 5, or whatever)?
    4. How many people are trying to get out?
    5. How many members are paying their dues?
    6. What is the minimum number of dues paying members the club needs to remain solvent? How many members are currently paying?
    7. What equipment is going in what aircraft?

    Club Activity
    1. Any club activities besides the meetings?

    Club Finance
    1. Insurance? Am I a named member on the club policy?
    2. Are any upgrades scheduled now?
    3. What is the breakdown of allocations for dues and hourly aircraft rates?
    4. What are the budgets and reserves? Are they broken down for each plane, or are all of the reserve funds commingled?
    5. Has the club had to assess members in the past to raise funds for upgrades/repairs/etc.? Is an assessment anticipated?

    Operations
    1. How much does each plane fly per year, on average?
    2. What restrictions are there on reserving airplanes for overnight trips?
    3. What's required for a checkout in an airplane? Can I check out in the Warrior in an hour or two? Does a sign off in the Warrior apply to the Archer, too?
    4. Any currency requirements beyond the FARs?
    5. Are there electronic copies of POH/PIM for the aircraft?
    6. Does anyone have Foreflight profiles set up for the planes?
     
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  3. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    First rule of flight club is don't talk about flight club! :D



    Sorry.:rolleyes:
     
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  4. bradg33

    bradg33 Cleared for Takeoff

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    A few ways to see "behind the curtain": sit in on a board meeting, if possible; sit in on a regular club member meeting. Take a close look at the airplanes and see what kind of items they "defer" vs. actually fix. Clubs can be a great value, but you're putting a lot of trust in the Board and in the other members with whom you'll be sharing aircraft. I'd want to be comfortable, from a maintenance perspective, that the airplanes are being taken care of. The Club I was previously in had board members who were not maintenance/safety focused at all. Those board members were more interested in "growing" the club than running it well.
     
  5. SkyDog58

    SkyDog58 Final Approach

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    What goes here?
    Ask for a copy of the bylaws, operating rules, and financials. Read those and understand them. If there is anything that bothers you, ask questions.

    Take a look at the aircraft and try to do a decent preflight on them to see if there is anything that sticks out.

    The number of members per plane is a good indicator of availability. My club is 10:1 which results in great availability. 15:1 is the most that I’d like to see. Also you can ask a current member to log into the scheduling system which will allow you to see a snapshot of the availability.
     
  6. Sundancer

    Sundancer Pattern Altitude

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    They have a waiting list? How long they been around, and is scheduling optimized for traveling, or for instruction? That's a big diffrentiator - clubs set up for x-ctry generally have low/no minimum hours per day. Our club is one hour mimimum, and you can have one extended trip scheduled at a time, or more, if everyone else is good with it.
     
  7. AggieMike88

    AggieMike88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Now offering reverse discounts.
    Adding to Eric’s questions...

    As a member, what is your financial responsibility if a very expensive item (such as unplanned engine replacement) happens?​

    In the club I am with, in February we were told during the planned annual that the Skylane engine had a cracked block. Repair will be about $45k-50k when done. Fortunately for me, the club financial plan means that my personal obligation for this repair is just my continued monthly dues.

    What is the policy for when you wish to exit the club? Can you just stop paying dues and leave? Or do you need to find someone to buy your share before you can leave?

    Can you train for advanced ratings in the aircraft?

    In addition to Skydog’s member ratio question... how many members are dormant (pay the dues but don’t fly), slightly active, or very active? Helps to answer the aircraft availablity question

    How far in advance can you schedule? How are desirable dates such as holidays and AirVenture handled?

    Is billing done off of Hobbs meter or Tach?​
     
  8. Eric Gleason

    Eric Gleason Pre-takeoff checklist

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    How is scheduling handled, and what if there are conflicts? Some clubs use scheduling software (mine does), some just use a google calendar and rely on the honor system for someone not to double-book the plane.
     
  9. TipTanks

    TipTanks Filing Flight Plan

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    Have a good sense of the financials... One of our airplanes just had an unscheduled overhaul, and because of low contingency reserve, everyone was out of pocket. Try explaining that one to your wife... although owning an airplane that had the same issue would have been a heck of a lot worse.
     
  10. paflyer

    paflyer Final Approach

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    The first rule of Flight Club is: you do not talk about Flight Club.
     
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  11. AggieMike88

    AggieMike88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Now offering reverse discounts.
    You're about 7 replies too late.... :lol::lol:
     
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  12. Eric Gleason

    Eric Gleason Pre-takeoff checklist

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    The aircraft rental prices at my club were high enough to give me pause, but when I weighed out the financials it seemed like a good choice. For instance, our 172S is like $143/hr (tach), but includes about $30/hr for various reserves (engine, paint, avionics, interiors, etc.). That's only slightly lower than the rental rate, but there's only one place to rent and I just heard they were going out of business because they were losing money. The club budgets for the engines reaching 90% of the recommended TBO, and hasn't had a shortfall.

    The more I think about it, the more I like this system. The pilots who fly more pay a proportionally higher share of the cost of an overhaul since it's baked into the rental price, instead of each member paying an equal share regardless of how much they use the planes.
     
  13. AggieMike88

    AggieMike88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I agree with the sentiment.... Which is why I say thank you to our high usage members at the club meetings. Because they fly sooo much, it keeps the costs for occasional users like me more affordable.
     
  14. BigBadLou

    BigBadLou En-Route

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    It sucks being late.

    That's what SHE said! :D
     
  15. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    Big difference...I used a contraction that @paflyer didnt, and he used a colon that I didn't. Two completely different posts!:D
     
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  16. Clip4

    Clip4 Pattern Altitude

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    It depends what type of flying club you are joining. If you joining an equity club with the ability to assess members or a membership club where you can just walk away if you want to.
     
  17. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    “Do you have cookies at day meetings and beer at evening ones?” :)
     
  18. bflynn

    bflynn En-Route

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    Yes, but there IS a $30 ramp fee, waived if you buy 10 gallons of our overpriced gas.
     
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