Club Spotlight: The Monmouth Area Flying Club’s Secrets of Being Big and Successful

Conventional wisdom would say if you had a club with 150 members and multiple planes, you must be doing something right. But that doesn’t mean the club should rest on its laurels. In fact, it might be a good time to take stock to make sure the club is clear on what the future looks like, and that might mean making changes. 

The Monmouth Area Flying Club (MAFC) with its 160 members and six aircraft based at Lakewood Airport (N12) in New Jersey is one of two large clubs on the field. The other is the Jersey Aero Club (JAC), which also has six planes and about 140 members. Founded in 1938, JAC is the oldest flying club in the state.

MAFC began as the Fort Monmouth Army Flying Club. The Army owned a plane and there were about 20 members. Membership was restricted to military personnel or civilian Department of Defense employees. However, changes in military policy led to the club being dissolved.

A few members independently reformed the club as the Monmouth Area Flying Club in 1985 with a Cherokee 180 and soon added a Cessna 152. Initially the club operated at what was then known as Allaire Airport, now called Monmouth County Executive Airport (BLM). Membership was still limited to military and Defense Department personnel, as well as employees of Bell Laboratories until 1995, when the club moved to Marlboro Airport and opened membership to anyone. The club moved to its current location at Lakewood Airport in 2002 when Marlboro closed.

Over the years, the MAFC membership grew, and the fleet expanded.  In early 2020, there was a change in leadership on the Board of Trustees including the election of a new president, Joe Bonacci. With new leadership came a few changes, including reaching out to the Jersey Aero Club to see how the two clubs might work together, as well as a fresh look at MAFC’s finances.

Add Expertise to Leadership

When looking at best practices for a flying club, regular elections and term limits for officers help provide opportunities for members to serve in leadership roles and contribute to running the club. While MAFC did not impose term limits, it was fortunate that several of its new board members had expertise in many key positions, such as finance, web site management, aircraft maintenance, safety, operations, membership intake and aircraft crews.

“We have a cross section of individuals who are very skilled in various areas,” Activities Director Charles Burke said. In all honesty, if we had to pay these people for what they do, we would be in bankruptcy within a month!”

In fact, the club has two treasurers and an assistant treasurer that comprise a finance team. One of the first things the new leadership took on was to do a deep dive analysis of financial reports.

“It wasn’t that anything was wrong,” Charles said. “But once we started to analyze plane usage on a more detailed level, we realized that the Cessna 150s were losing money. It was kind of an evolution of discovery.”

With a clearer understanding of the aircraft finances, the club made two major changes. The first was readjusting the fleet. It sold the two Cessna 152s it owned and replaced them with a Cessna 172. Today the club operates four Cessna 172s, a Piper Archer and a Piper Arrow. 

The club also changed from a wet hourly rate to a dry rate. “We were a wet rate club for years,” Charles said. “But with the fluctuation in aviation fuel prices, we had to scrap it. It’s now set up so the base rate fluctuates as a function of utility.”

Rates are Hobbs time, dry and the club adjusts the rates on a regular basis. It had been done quarterly, and they’re talking about readjusting rates every two months. The idea is that if an aircraft flies more, it is generating more income, so the base rate can be reduced while still ensuring costs are being covered and reserves are being built up.

MAFC uses Flight Circle for its online scheduler and management tool (see June 2020 Club Connector), which gives the club the ability to track usage and data on a day-to-day basis. When doing its financial analysis, the financial team looked at the information from Flight Circle and factored in the historical maintenance data on each plane. “We actually found out we were underestimating the value of some aircraft,” Charles said.

No Secrets

All of this information is shared with members. The financial team “came up with numbers that are not only seen by the board, but every member,” Charles said. “We share everything.”

Transparency is another key to the successful operation of a large club. All of MAFC’s officers provide detailed PowerPoint reports at monthly meetings. The minutes of the meetings are available on the club’s web site, as well as a host of other documents.

“The philosophy is everything is available to members either on Flight Circle or the club’s website or both,” Charles said. “All of the minutes…you have them word for word, they are highly detailed. Everything is accessible. There are no secrets.”

In addition to the club’s Bylaws and Rules and Regulations, other documents available online include links to avionics manuals, aircraft specific checklists, FAA manuals, monthly newsletters dating back to 2012, and a probationary member guide.

Understanding Members

There is a Membership Officer and an Assistant Membership Officer who help new members with the on-boarding process. The club has a comprehensive orientation package containing important reference and guidance materials for new members and a mentor is assigned who will help them get acclimated to the club. New members are required to complete at least two special activities and attend a total of six meeting during the year.

Among the documents given to new members is a 12-page handbook that has everything members need to know about the club. It includes contact information for club officers and key positions, where to find aircraft keys and other supplies, fueling practices for each aircraft, as well information on the airport and many other things.

One of the advantages of a structured on-boarding process with a mentor is the ability to get to know new members so the club can serve their needs. The club’s philosophy is “We are here to serve the members,” Charles said. “The members are not here for our benefit.”

Lakewood has a large Orthodox Jewish community, and there are 20 to 25 club members who are Jewish. The club takes into account the differences in religious beliefs and working schedules of its members when planning meetings and events. 

Because the club has a group of Orthodox Jews who fly and the numbers are growing, the monthly meetings are split with every third meeting on a Sunday, rather than a Saturday when Jews observe the Sabbath. Each year, MAFC also holds two plane washes, called “rub-and-scrubs.” One is held in the spring on a Saturday and the other one is in the fall on a Sunday.

“We’re really trying to stay attuned to the members and their individual needs,” Charles said.

One of the little things the club does to let the members know they are appreciated is sending a birthday card to everyone in the month of their birthday. “We try to make sure the people, what we call the software of the club, are just as important as the hardware of the club,” Charles said.

Activities for All

To keep members engaged, the club has a variety of activities, including many that involve members who no longer fly. This summer the club hosted a “Movie on the Runway” night. They didn’t actually set up on the runway, but they did watch Top Gun Maverick under the stars and a full moon next to the club’s trailer/office while some aircraft were doing take offs and landings.

Other events that are open to all members have included a tour of United Airline’s repair center at Newark Airport (EWR), as well as tours of the current Newark tower and the original Art Deco terminal building built in 1935. The original terminal has a glass cupola on top that served as the control tower back in the days that aviation legends Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, and Wiley Post flew out of Newark.

Like most clubs, MAFC hosts speakers and safety seminars. Charles tries to schedule topics that are seasonal. For instance, Lakewood has banner towers, so in the spring he’ll host a conversation, so members understand how the banner towers operate and how to safely share the airspace with them. 

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is about 20 miles west of Lakewood, so the club has invited personnel from the base to do a presentation about the military aircraft flying in the area. In the winter, the club typically hosts a presentation about cold weather operations.

For most of the speakers and events MAFC hosts, they invite the Jersey Aero Club members, which helps build a connection between the clubs.  At first attendance from the other club was fairly small but it has grown over time—and Jersey Aero Club has invited MAFC to participate in events it hosts, like going to a local minor league baseball game. 

MAFC also has resources that encourage members to fly and stay proficient. Charles created The Book of Routes, a collection of 15 courses with multiple segments that offers members a way to practice various forms of navigation or flying in different types of airspace (see this month’s Resource Spotlight). For members who may want to fly directly to a destination, the club maintains two lists of $100 Hamburger restaurants—one specifically for airports in New Jersey and the other for airports in five neighboring states.

Over 40 years, the Monmouth Area Flying Club has grown from a club with two planes and about 20 members to a club with six planes and 160 members. It’s recent and future success can be attributed to providing opportunities for new leadership and identifying members with expertise in a variety of areas to serve on the board. Reviewing the club’s finances, which is always good to do on a periodic basis, led to changes in the fleet and financial structures to help ensure the club’s continued success for years to come. But equally important is the club’s commitment to its members and making information available to everyone.

“What it really comes down to is treating your members, especially volunteers as if they were employees – you pay them,” Charles said. “You pay them not in money, but in gratitude and respect.”



Monmouth Area Flying Club


Lakewood Airport (N12)

Lakewood, NJ



Year formed



1973 Piper Arrow ($85/hr)

1976 Piper Archer ($79/hr)

2005 Cessna 172S ($93/hr)

1971 Cessna 172L ($77/hr)

1975 Cessna 172M ($77/hr)

1975 Cessna 172N ($83/hr)


Rates are Hobbs time, dry.

Registration fee

$1,300 buy in

Monthly dues

$50 per month




Flight Circle

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