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Sun, Oct 12, 2003

Soapbox: A Challenge to All

By ANN Reader Dirk Powell, Metropolitan Flying Club, Lansing (MI)

I am current president of a small (10 member) flying club, based at KLAN (Lansing, MI). We own and fly (1) aircraft, a Cessna C172N.

Whenever I get the chance, I will pick out a destination that is new to me, and drop in for a visit (soda, potty, fuel - you know the routine). In the lounge of the typical small FBO/county airport building, you can almost always find a young, friendly attendant to strike up a conversation with. More often than not, this "aviation nut" is a CFI (which seems to stand for Challenged FIscally).

The conversation often gets around to discussing N6726E, and our club. As everyone who flies already knows, rental aircraft have become scarce or non-existent at the smaller, non-metropolitan fields. However, I was somewhat surprised to learn that flying clubs at these locations are just as elusive.

Now to the point:

Time and time again I hear the CFI say, "I want to start a flying club, but I have no money for my share of the purchase down payment." As a member of a fiscally conservative, established club, I share with them the details of how many options there are to fund the club, and the average cost of entry and ongoing operations. As they begin to see the real potential for getting started, they can't help but get back to their "cash on hand" dilemma.

Here's an idea for everyone to consider:

[Your] recent article on the Be A Pilot organization got me wondering. Why not offer a "qualified" CFI an opportunity to pledge flight training hours to primary students, in exchange for the down payment on a pre-qualified trainer aircraft, financed through AOPA? With the help of AOPA, the CFI can set up the club structure, and then secure commitments from potential founding members. You might even stipulate that the founding members need to be a certain percentage of primary students.

The CFI would account for his "grant" on a quarterly basis, with certificates signed by his/her students, and credited accordingly. (A system of accountability needs to be in place, obviously.)

So -- we end up with a CFI with access to a trainer; we have new student pilots, with access to a trainer and some free instruction; we have existing pilots with access to a basic, solid aircraft design; we have increased flight hours (fuel, oil, maintenance; annuals…); AOPA makes a loan sale (and there's an opportunity for an insurance company, too); and a good ol' aircraft probably just sitting someplace gets to fly again.

So, if a program like this were available, and somebody were up to kicking in for the down payment funding, how many CFIs would take up the challenge of starting a club?

[Dirk asks a lot of questions, and obviously his suggestion would take cooperation among a number of businesses and organizations -- but if it happened... hey, why not? Are you willing to work on this? --ed.]

FMI: www.beapilot.com; www.aopa.org; DPowell@THEIFERT.com

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