What a wonderful question! On the journey from “good to great”, a flying club would do well to review its values and practices on a regular basis. It would make sense to include this in the recommended bylaw review and strategic planning session, every 24-months or so (calendar months, of course).
To help this along, the AOPA Flying Clubs Team has created a “Standards, Values and Best Practices” document, that, as it sounds, outlines the standards for clubs to be enrolled as an AOPA Network Club, suggests some values to which a well-run club could aspire, and then presents some best practices that support those values.
Let’s be clear, though. We are not trying to tell you how to run your club, and we recognize that every club should be unique in ways that define its background and culture. Rather, based on years of experience and, to date, that we have helped more than 160 new clubs (to date) get their flying start, we “know a thing or two, because we’ve seen a thing or two”, and we’d like to share this with you.
We are careful to word the values and best practices as suggestions—as goals that clubs could work towards—rather than rules and regulations. How you establish your club rules and operations is, to a degree, up to you, but as we have mentioned many times in Club Connector, whilst not “regulated” as such in the FARs, flying clubs and their members most definitely do need to comply with rules and behaviors expected by the FAA and by airport operators—after all, following the rules is at the very core of best practices. These rules are found in an array of FAA Orders, Amendments, Directors’ Determinations, Letters of Interpretation, etc. and cover everything from fundamental operating behaviors (non-commercial), using club aircraft for training, the 100-hour inspection question, expectations for clubs to lease aircraft (from someone), and more. You’ll find links to Club Connector and documents that dig into many of these rules at the end of this article.
Many airports publish their own rules and regulations for flying clubs (and other tenants), which are usually extracts from FAA Order 5190.6B (section 10.6 “Flying Clubs). Airports may also add rules depending upon local conditions, but none should ever break from the cardinal obligations of non-exclusivity and fair play to all users and tenants. Whilst all publicly funded airports will definitely know about FAA Order 5190.6B, “The Airport Compliance Manual”, many, surprisingly, do not know about the Amendment, which is a really important document for flying clubs, as it clarifies the rules for the compensation of CFIs and A&Ps, and makes it quite clear that flying clubs should not “hold-out” to the general public, and most definitely should not be advertising flight instruction, learn-to-fly-with-us, provide discovery flights, etc. If you have any questions about this, please contact the AOPA Flying Clubs Team.
In the “Standards, Values and Best Practices” document we look at these traits of a well-run club: Equality; Accountability; Cooperation; Safety; Camaraderie; Community; Participation. Rather regurgitate in its entirety, we’ll instead steer you towards two of these topics that will keep your club humming and keep it on the right side of the FAA, IRS, airport manager, and your insurance company.
Nothing yells “good club” as loudly as one that has a strong safety culture. We talk a lot about this in the Flying Clubs Workshops (more coming in early 2021), and we mean much more than just talking about it. We are striving for high levels of proficiency for all members, and we strongly advocate using the FAA WINGS program (see WINGS for Clubs, in the later list) as the basis of your safety culture.
By the way, be clear that this is not the same as currency (recency) which is a regulatory requirement placed on every airman. Clubs should not be tempted take on responsibility for members’ currency, by, for example, mandating 12-month flight reviews or otherwise “second guessing” the FARs, as this could place some unintended liability consequences on the club.
So, strive for proficiency. Fly lots, but not the same hour over and over again. Use the WINGS program for flight activities, so members fly and learn from a CFI at least 3 times a year, rather than the chore of the 24-calendar month flight review. Oh…and if all club members follow the program, you will be in a good position to negotiate a discount on your next insurance premium.
Here are some recommended safety best practices:
All flying clubs should strive to be good neighbors to other organizations at the airport and to the wider community. Clubs should work to cultivate strong relationships with flight schools, FBOs, and airport authorities, and never offer, or advertise, any type of service that might present unfair competition to commercial operators. Social events represent a good way to bring members, friends of the club, families, other airport tenants and interested prospective members together. Through outreach and conduct, flying clubs should work to cultivate an atmosphere of community and awareness of general aviation.
Here are some recommended best practices for community involvement:
As promised, here are some links to documents, Club Connector and Flying Clubs Radio editions that provide a lot more detail on topics that should be considered as best practices for well run, successful flying clubs:
Well, that should keep you busy! As always, please do contact Steve and Drew if you have any flying club questions: [email protected]