Saturday, April 7, 2018

Flight instructor hopes to get pilot club off the ground

Pilot Joe Beam stands by his Cessna 172. Beam is trying to start a club to so local pilots can pool their resources to buy and share planes and split maintenance costs.


Airplanes are expensive. New planes fresh off the factory floor can go for hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Even older, used models in good condition can cost as much as a new car.

Past that, buyer beware, but regardless of whether a plane is newly minted or has been sitting in a hangar since the dawn of disco, all of them require maintenance and repairs, which can add up fast.

Airplane mechanics aren’t cheap, either.

Of course, you don’t have to own a plane to fly. Pilots can rent planes, but that can cost hundreds of dollars an hour, plus fuel.

“The cost of flying is one of the main reasons why people don’t do it,” Skylane flight instructor Joe Beam said.

Beam is trying to start a flying club at Yeager Airport, which he said could do a lot to help keep pilots flying.

“Flying is something you need to do every so often just to keep your skills up,” he explained.

But because even renting a plane can cost so much, some pilots will cut back on flying. After a while, their skills can decline. They’ll lose confidence, and eventually just decide to let their licenses expire.

Beam said the club would a way for like-minded people to pool their resources.

“It would be a nonprofit organization,” he said.

The way the club would work is that the club would purchase airplanes for the group, which would belong to the club. Members of the club would schedule time with the aircraft and get a steep discount on renting the aircraft.

The flight instructor envisioned a plane that normally rented for $120 an hour could be available for around $70 to $75, depending on the kind of aircraft and the number of people participating in the club.

“Members would buy in at maybe $2,000 or $3,000 and then pay a monthly maintenance fee as club dues,” Beam said.

Club members would decide on what kind of aircraft they wanted the club to own. Some might prefer smaller, less pricey aircraft, while others gravitate toward larger equipment.

Beam said costs would be structured around the kinds of planes people wanted to fly.

“You might have three or four guys who want to fly a Cessna 172, and what they pay could be pooled toward that,” he said. “Others might want a different plane.”

Beam has rented planes for decades and has been flying longer than that.

“I started flying in 1970, got my license right out of college, became an instructor since 1983 or 1984 and have been renting planes out since 1985,” he said. “I’m kind of looking at stepping away from renting planes, and this seemed like a good idea.”

He’s not the only one. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has endorsed the creation of private flying clubs and has guidelines available for starting a club.

“The hope would be that we could start with two airplanes and then maybe add others as more people bought in,” Beam said.

In order for this flying club to work well, Beam said he would need to attract between 25 and 30 pilots to provide the resources to buy the first couple of airplanes.

“With 30 people, we might be able to get three or four planes to start,” he said.

It was too soon to say how large the club might be to start, however. At this point, Beam said he’s just reaching out to local pilots to find out who’s interested.

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.wvgazettemail.com

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