Question of the Month

How does your club handle “snow birds,” students, or members who don’t live locally all year round?

How does your club handle “snow birds,” students, or members who don’t live locally all year round?

Ernie Kelly posted a question on the AOPA Facebook Flying Club page on behalf of the River City Flying Club in Columbus, GA:

“What is the way clubs handle "snow birds" or students? We have a potential member whose son is a pilot, but the son goes to school a long way from home. The membership will be pricey and it's hard to justify a monthly payment for someone who is not there eight months a year. Same for our members who move to the beach or the mountains for the summer. Is there such a thing as a "guest" membership that doesn't violate our equity participation rule, but doesn't penalize those who are not full-time residents? Maybe a social membership that ramps up while they are in town? A "partial" membership? I'm wide open.”

Stephen Talmon‪ I would think fbo rentals are just the ticket for such situations.

Ernie Kelly‪ If only we had that kind of luxury in Columbus. No rentals. No flight school. We're launching the flying club to address that need.       

Stephen Talmon‪ I would imagine that as long as all the principals agree, any "special" membership can be custom written on a case by case basis.

Frederick W Landau‪ Ernie, we have 3 classes of member. In addition to standard, we have family members (same household) who only pay $5 a month in dues, and standby (non-flying) members who pay $15/month. Standby members are a mix of people who are working through medical issues, people who are too busy to fly but don't want to resign and rejoin later, and people who are out of the area temporarily. Members can go on/off standby once per year, which only works because members DON'T do so just because the weather is bad.

Ernie Kelly‪ Hmmmmm. Standby membership? That sounds like a possibility. Do family members have flying privileges for $5 a month?

Frederick W Landau‪ Yes they do. We currently only have two, both children of full members.

David G Bitts‪ Our Club has family discount dues. For Members who need time away from the Club we will keep their membership suspended but still on the books.

Jeffrey Lavine‪ We also have inactive memberships in our club. During inactive status the member pays no dues, but can't schedule an aircraft. We charge a fee to return to active status that is credited after four months of being active. The fee is equal to about five months dues. Then "snowbirds" have a choice. Go inactive or continue to pay monthly dues.

Harry Hammond‪ Create an inactive member status and suspend monthly dues billing for special cases.

John Stevens‪ The real question is does the club want to be equitable to all members or provide maximum flexibility to each member's unique situation? Being equitable means rules are applied equally; this cuts down on perceptions of favoritism. However, providing flexibility can gain member loyalty. Either choice, stick to your decision and codify it in your bylaws.

Ernie Kelly‪‪ Thanks, John. That IS the challenge. We are going to be an equity club - everyone owns (owes) an equal share. We will depend on that to pay the note on our aircraft. Not sure how we'd handle payments being turned on and off as people travel or go to and from school, which is why I asked the question. Our current structure is once you're in, you're in. If you leave, you sell your share. I think once we have the foundation - our charter members - family memberships would be an option. Subsequent memberships - "second generation" memberships - will give us some freedom and more options and flexibility - while still being able to treat everyone fairly.

Marc Epner‪ We have a great policy in our non equity club. Students only pay monthly dues when they fly our airplanes. So if they come home for winter break, and fly a plane, we add the monthly dues in that month. That keeps our insurance policy intact, the student happy, and the family intact. We love it.

Bob Buchner‪ Ernie Kelly you can make whatever rules/agreements that you want. But I would imagine that anyone who buys in as an equity member will need to make their equal portion of P&I payments which builds up their share value. As for the remaining monthly dues, you can decide if you want to allow non-equity member classifications and also what type of discounts or monthly dues waiver that you would like to offer family members, students, snowbirds, social friends, etc. We ourselves don't charge monthly dues to anyone that is out of town or unable to fly for lengthy periods, they only become "active" members when they are in-town and/or resume flying. Your budget would of course have to plan accordingly.

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