The Hokie Flying Club in Blacksburg, Virginia, reached out to AOPA because it is investigating various billing models and tools to better facilitate their billing. One operational piece that seems a little unique is that the club charges members 2 hours of flight time in advance each month. This is to encourage pilots to remain active and utilize the club resources. Each member is able to bank a total of 8 hours before time is forfeited.
The club wanted to know if there are any other clubs that operate in a similar way and may have been successful in automating this process through a web based scheduling or billing platform? AOPA Sr. Director, Pilot Community Development Les Smith posted the question on the AOPA Facebook Flying Club page. Below are some of the responses from other clubs:
Jamie Beckett What an interesting method of encouraging club members to remain active and current. I've heard of a couple clubs doing this, but it doesn't seem to be a common scenario. I'll certainly bring the option up to the board of directors at Central Florida Flying Club. Even at just one hour per month, with the ability to bank hours, that might be an interesting way to go.
Christopher L. Freeze Concord Flying Club in California - when I was a member - did do a "flight credit" with a small portion of the monthly dues. And I do mean small ($10/month credit out of $97/month in dues)... It 'was' enough to get some off the couch to get in a flight monthly.
Scott Carter Definitely a great way to encourage pilots to keep the aircraft flying and also maintain currency and proficiency! As we all know, aircraft and pilots that fly more tend to be happier, lol.
Angelo Perez We are contemplating the same kind of incentive where monthly dues go toward credits for flying (with a 3/6 month carry-over expiration). For those that do have this kind of incentive, what system are you using to track all of this for the members? Seems like it can get messy with a club that has say 20-40 members. I suppose an excel spreadsheet would work but hoping there may be a systems/process that can be adapted from elsewhere to ease the "number-crunching" of all the debts/credits.
Dean Frail At the Essex Flying Club we do just that. The foundation of the club is currency and safety. It is a "use it or lose it" proposition. Hours (2.5/month) are ONLY banked when there are extenuating circumstances such as prolonged serviceability issues with the (currently) only aircraft. We also break the year down into two month blocks, so members have 2 months to "fly off" a total of 5 hours before they forfeit any of their time. We use Flight Circle as our scheduling piece but as yet have not come up with a real easy automated way to keep track of the hours without the use of a spreadsheet to help. We have been talking with the folks at Flight Circle to see if they can add the "use it or lose it" component to their system. If you would like to discuss more, please message me and we can discuss more. We are a limited membership club (10) and currently all slots are filled with an extensive wait list, so please understand that we currently cannot accept any more names, so do not message me for a slot. (www.essexflyingclub.org)
Steve Canfield We do this with the 907th Flight Squadron flying club at KDYL. Members pay a monthly fee which includes 2 hours of flight time, plus covers fixed costs (insurance, hangar, etc). Hours which are not used roll into the next month. It works pretty well, but one caveat - if you have different types of airplanes (and thus different hourly rates), you'll need to account for that. Also, thanks to things like fuel costs, hourly rates do sometimes change, so you'll need a way of accounting for that too. In our case, members get the dollar equivalent. For example, to keep things simple assume plane rents for $100/hour, and a member doesn't fly in October. That means they have 2 hours rolled to November. However, if we increased the hourly rate to $110/hour starting November 1, then instead of 2 hours of credit, they really have $200 of credit, or 1.818 hours of credit. So our treasurer does the conversions when reporting. Our club lets members bank as many hours as they want, but they forfeit them if they leave the club (we have a separate bylaw which regulates flight currency).
Dale Williams We used to charge a hour a month and bank it if you didn't use it with a max of 3 hours banked before you would start loosing that hour.
Created headaches when trying to track. When I took over that position in the club I pushed to change that 1 hour minimum. We track our hours in a log book in the airplane then at end of month I take the log and do the billing.
I created a spreadsheet I use to enter hours and generate monthly invoices.
David G. Bitts I bill the same way at Aerovalley Flying Club. Billing for hours flown previous cycle. Maintaining on a spreadsheet to email screen grabs and followup with Chase quick pay.
Les Smith Dale, thanks for your response including How you managed the bank. Others, thanks as well for your response. Has anyone found an easy to use system solution, such as a feature in an on-line scheduling tool that would do this? I like the fact that Flight Circle is willing to at least talk about it, as Dean describes. Would like to hear from anyone else on this topic. Thanks!
John Banks Connecticut Flyers charges one hour a month, plus a fixed operating expense. Use it or loose it.
Christopher Cordero Great idea to charge a monthly minimum. Thanks for sharing
Colin Maitland CCF in Madison WI has a $50 flight credit if you fly at least once per month, and stay current on your account.
Josh Bowser Flight Circle here - we are exploring options to add this now. We already keep up with charges, payments, balances, and recurring membership dues, so some automated function for monthly minimums or flying credit should be straight forward. Great ideas!