Through private pilot clubs, one can save a sizable amount of money with flight instruction since club rates are, often, known for being more affordable than what one would find at a local FBO or flight school. Also, seasoned pilots student pilots have the opportunity to fly without the expense of owning an aircraft. Members of a pilot club can, additionally, enjoy accessibility to a variety of aircraft, share flight-specific information with like-minded aviation enthusiasts, develop pilot camaraderie, and spend quality time with family and friends during those times when a club’s social and flying events take place.
Most aviation organizations are categorized as non-profit; and there are approximately 300 nonprofit flying clubs in the US. Some of the most successful and coveted of these flight clubs maintain their nonprofit 502(c) organization status, yet will operate with a business mindset. The key to the success of innovative and insightful flight clubs lies with making sure dues are very reasonable while offering an array of aircraft to choose from, and keeping insurance rates very competitive.
Some flight clubs certainly have more amenities to offer than others; but whether large or small, sophisticated or more simplified, flight enthusiasts have a wide variety of flight clubs, from which, to choose.
Here are three private flight clubs that differ in some ways but share a common thread: they want their pilots to perfect their flying skills and, just plain, have fun!
Plus One Flyers/San Diego, CA – If You Like Large
The Plus One Flyers Club in San Diego is, indeed, a model club that warrants emulation. With almost 1,000 members, this club has more than 60 planes located in four locations including Montgomery Field, McClellan-Palomar Airport, Gillespie Field, and Ramona Airport. The secret behind a fleet of so many aircraft lies with the club’s leasing of airplanes from owners who, in turn, become club members and are, also, cut a check from Plus One every month.
Founded 30 years ago, this club allows members to pay a one-time, upfront fee, and very affordable monthly dues, thereafter. Members are in the envied position of selecting from a diverse collection of aircraft including Cessna, Piper, Beech and Cirrus singles, Beech and Piper twins, LSA’s and a Decathlon or Citabria.
The absolute ease and efficiency of on-line scheduling permits members to make five reservations at a time; and no restrictions exist on the amount of time a particular aircraft can be reserved. Pilots are aware that they will be billed a minimum of one hour of flight time for each day an aircraft has been scheduled. Also, fight insurance with Plus One Flyers gives members peace of mind since a special insurance fund covers 80% of a member’s $500 deductible; and members are entitled to $1 million of liability and $100,000 per passenger.
The Boeing Employee’s Flying Association/Renton, WA – If You Like Medium
Contrary to what the name might imply, The Boeing Employee’s Flying Association, located in Washington State, is open to not just Boeing employees, but to anyone who meets the established bylaws. The mission of this non-profit flight club is to foster, promote and engage in all aspects of flying. Located in the Renton, WA airport, this club has nearly 500 members with a fleet that can vary between 18 or 22 aircraft. At any given time, the inventory of craft can include three Cessna 150’s, seven Cessna 172s, a Piper Warrior, a Citabria, a Cessna 172 on floats, a Cessna 182Q, two Cessna 182RGs, a Cirrus SR20 and a Cessna Turbo Centurion. Members can also enjoy the club’s two PCATD-M simulators and two Redbird FMX sims. Full access to the facility, 24/7, as well as access to qualified staff, 6 days a week, for assistance with flying needs is a wonderful convenience. And speaking of the Cessna 172 on floats – BEFA offers SES (float) training as well as solo use of a float aircraft, beyond the local area. The Boeing Employee’s Flying Association utilizes flight instructors who are highly-qualified Boeing employees, both active and retired, in addition to outside talent and expertise.
The social aspect is not emphasized with the BEFA in Renton but, rather, more of a training organization and provider of aircraft. The focus zeros in on continuing education with developing and perfecting flight skills. As BEFA President, Steve Beardslee put it: “The legacy of BEFA of Renton is a key reason why it is successful. We are standing on 60 years’ worth of members.”
The Pensacola Navy Flying Club/Pensacola, FL – If You Like Small
Do you live in or visit the Pensacola, Florida area; and are you an active or retired military or government-affiliated employee? If so, you may be interested in the Pensacola Navy Flying Club. Anyone who is employed or retired by an agency of the federal government or anyone who is employed by a company that is directly affiliated with the federal government can become a member – this would include state, county and local-government personnel. Interestingly, even dependents of an active member, who reside in the same household, are eligible to join this club, as well.
If joining a small, intimate club environment is to your liking, you’ll enjoy the Pensacola Navy Flying Club’s reputation that offers a down-home, relaxed atmosphere, located in the Pensacola International Airport. There are four aircraft that are available: a Cessna 172, Archer, Arrow and Piper Twin Comanche which are all four-place aircraft with dual NAVCOMs, ILS and Marker Beacons. These planes come equipped with a Garmin GNS 430W, and are IRF Certified. The Cessna 172 is utilized for training while the other three aircraft can be enjoyed for cross-country flights. The hourly rates range from $100 for the Cessna 172 (160 HP), up to $255 for the Twin Comanche. Club-owned aircraft are studiously maintained by the club’s in-house mechanics, and are inspected after every 100 hours of flying time.
The total cost to join is $345 plus the cost of “non-owner aircraft insurance”. Each member chooses an insurance policy from his or her preferred insurance company. Monthly dues are $45.
Many people believe the catalyst for the emergence of private flight clubs was due to Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight in 1927. Historical records indicate that by the 1930’s flight clubs were beginning to become, commonly, established.