Flying Clubs And Chapters
When pilots, airplane owners, and aviation enthusiasts think of EAA they often think of an organization that is totally dedicated to building and flying airplanes. While homebuilding has and always will be the heart and soul of EAA, to be a growing and successful Aviation Association, it is not the single and only focus of EAA. Instead, EAA has grown to become the leader in a wide variety of areas of Recreational Aviation, including pilots, airplane builders, airplane restorers, airplane owners and aviation enthusiasts. These are not the only groups that exist within EAA, but they certainly represent a very large majority of the overall membership.
With EAA having such a wide and varied membership, it is not unusual to expect that local EAA Chapters may become interested in forming Flying Clubs. While Flying Clubs certainly offer a wonderful opportunity for shared ownership and a more economical way of enjoying the privileges of flying it is not always a harmonious union with the mission of a local Chapter.
EAA's position on Flying Clubs is that while Flying Clubs are certainly a positive aspect of Recreational Aviation, they do not fit within the structure of EAA or local EAA Chapters.
There are several reasons why local Chapters should not endeavor to form or operate Flying Clubs. These reasons include conflicting missions, financial issues, pilot qualifications, and risk exposure issues.
Looking at the first issue, conflicting missions, Chapters are most successful when they are many things to many EAA Members. Successful Chapters include builder's groups, individuals interested in flying, aviation enthusiasts who simply like to be involved with other aviation people, social activities and also opportunities to share the sky and educational opportunities with young people. While there are many other activities local Chapters get involved in, these are some of the central focuses. Conversely, Flying Clubs are focused entirely upon providing an opportunity for individuals to enjoy the privileges of airplane ownership and flying in an economical way. Because Chapters are most successful when they have a varied and wide number of interest areas, they are not very adaptive to becoming harmonized with the operations of a Flying Club.
Similar to conflicting missions, the financial strain put on a Chapter to own and operate an airplane can be very significant. Costs, including annual inspections, insurance, operational costs, maintenance costs, overhaul costs, and other unexpected expenses can become very burdensome; and they may create a substantial strain on a Chapter's budget. Chapters that seldom have incomes in excess of $5,000 a year will struggle to cover the costs of operating a Flying Club. These strains often can create conflicts within the Chapter where groups of Members feel that the expense for the Flying Clubs should not be borne by the rest of the Chapter's efforts.
Pilot qualifications are another major issue. Should a Chapter acquire an aircraft, such as a tail-dragger, what if some pilots in the Chapter are not qualified to fly a tail dragger? A situation such as this would restrict access to the aircraft for those Chapter Members. There is also the possibility of strict, or even unreasonable, pilot check-out requirements stipulated by the insurance company. Along with the pilot qualifications issues, Chapter members owning their own aircraft, may not see the need of the added expense, hassle, or other issues related to the Chapter Flying Club airplane.
The last and probably one of the most potentially significant issues in owning and operating an airplane within a Chapter as a Flying Club are the risk exposure issues. The risk exposure issues do not begin and end at the Chapter level. These exposures not only include all the Members and the Officers and the Chapter; they also include EAA, your Association, which we all belong to. EAA is at risk anytime a Chapter operates a Flying Club. While EAA is at risk in other areas such as Young Eagles or Chapter Fly-Ins, these activities have been addressed with excellent insurance programs. To add additional insurance programs to protect EAA for Chapter Based Flying Clubs would put a substantial expense on the Chapter Program and EAA, an expense that would have to be shared with all Chapters, including those that have Flying Clubs as well as those who do not. The most substantial exposure, of course, is an uninsured or underinsured loss; and for these reasons it is important that the Flying Clubs that exist do not do so under the banner of a local Chapter or EAA.
On one hand while we are stating that it is important that Chapters not operate Flying Clubs, EAA Staff is prepared and willing to work with EAA Members and Chapters to help them with some options for aircraft ownership and operations.
One of the best documents that we have come across in helping to facilitate the formation and operation of a Flying Club is a publication written by EAA Member Bruce Luedeman. The publication is entitled "Keeping the Peace in Partnerships - (A Guide to Aircraft Co-Ownership)". Bruce is a long time EAA Member and a past Founding President of EAA Chapter 720. In addition Bruce has had extensive experience in working with individuals and groups in dealing with group conflicts as well as group coordination to make successful Flying Clubs. This publication is available through EAA or it may be obtained directly from Bruce's company "The Matthew Group".
Information on obtaining these documents is listed below.
11308 East 39th Street
Independence, MO 64052
Bruce Luedeman, President
Another option that shows a lot of promise in solving specific Chapter problems in this area is to obtain assistance in establishing a Fractional Ownership Program (FOP). For this option, there are several companies that offer this type of program that may be able to offer these services:
- Converting a Chapter-owned aircraft into a separate FOP to relieve the Chapter of liability questions.
- Assisting in gathering those Chapter Members not currently involved in aircraft ownership and operation, and placing them in an inexpensive ownership position (or "airshare"), thus providing them with a piece of aviation they may otherwise not be able to.
- Provide a service to purchase from Chapters certain assets that have been donated to them that they wish to have removed from their books. This allows them to receive their badly needed cash for other projects. Such assets may include donated aircraft of any type, projects, and parts.
- Provide consultation services for Chapter Members with questions and solutions to problems in regard to organized ownership issues.
Flying Clubs are a very valuable way for individuals to enjoy the privileges of airplane ownership in an economical way. EAA Staff is endeavoring to help, in every way possible, those groups of EAA Members that want to form local Flying Clubs. The hurdles and challenges listed above are the reasons why EAA cannot allow Flying Clubs within the structure of EAA or within the structure of local EAA Chapters. Until which time as liability relief can be obtained or when other assurances can be made to help keep Chapters from struggling with the challenges that we have mentioned in this document, we will continue to support EAA Members as they endeavor to form Flying Clubs outside of the EAA banner or their local Chapter.
The Chapter Office is willing to help in every way possible. If you have any concerns or issues regarding this position, please contact the Chapter Office Staff.
EAA Chapter Office
P.O. Box 3086
Oshkosh, WI 54903