In an industry that is battered by a variety of negative forces (fuel prices, regulation and demographics to name a few), almost everyone is looking for a solution. While some ideas look fairly hopeless, one concept that has caught on lately seems more realistic: flying clubs. AOPA in particular has been touting the advantages of clubs, and has plans to create a nationwide network of them.
The arguments in favor of flying clubs are appealing. Proponents say that, by pooling resources, clubs can reduce the cost of flying for student pilots and experienced flyers alike. Beyond this financial advantage, there is some research to suggest that flying clubs create a sense of community and camaraderie that is essential to keeping pilots engaged in aviation. With a built-in support network, regular social events and opportunities to share the passion for flying, a club can offer something that even the best FBO simply can’t match.
But it’s not that easy, say the skeptics. Not all flying clubs are good ones, so starting a club isn’t enough–they have to be effective. And there are many obstacles to having an effective club, from financing to insurance to maintenance. A good club also demands outstanding leadership, which isn’t easy to get. Some FBOs and flight schools don’t like flying clubs either, viewing them as a non-profit competitor.
What do you think? Are flying clubs an effective way to grow the pilot population and keep pilots active? Or are they just another well-intentioned idea that is destined to fail. Add your comment below.