Several years ago I bought into a flying club; it was one of the few financial decisions I truly regret.
Thankfully, as of today, I’m finally free of the financial and emotional entanglements.
In any event, I learned a very valuable life lesson – be wary of partnerships or financial arrangements which will bind you to the whims of strangers– be it a time share, club, home owners association, start-up, or partnership.
At the time I joined, the Prescott Flying Club was being actively sued because one of the idiot member pilots took off in one of the planes –overloaded, with a tail wind, and wrecked the plane. His passengers were badly hurt and they promptly sued the club.
Additionally, several members simply stopped paying their monthly dues and the club desperately needed to sell the memberships. As a result, I was given the opportunity to buy into the club for $2,500 – “a deal of a lifetime.” Monthly dues would be $105.00, to cover the fixed costs, and the rental rates for the planes was provided. I would be part owner in two hangars and three planes.
I cut a check and immediately made arrangements for a FAA medical. I booked a ground school class to get the IFR written out of the way.
At the medical exam, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes thanks to a failed urine dipstick test. I walked out of the medical exam in shock, followed up with my primary care physician who confirmed I had diabetes.
During the next several months, I submitted more and more information (blood test reports, doctor statements, optometrist statements, etc.) to the FAA and was eventually granted a special issuance medical permit, good for one year.
Next, I needed an instructor for a Biannual Flight Review (BFR) and to sign me off to fly solo. I reached out to several of the Club’s instructors via email. Only one responded, and after several attempts he simply couldn’t find time in his schedule.
Since it was the dead of winter, I didn’t pursue it again until started to warm up.
Wash My Plane B*tch, or Pay the Price
When I joined, I was told that there would be a few “plane washes.” To encourage participation, people who didn’t attend would be charged a “few dollars” to help pay for hotdogs and drinks that will be served during the plane wash.
Turns out, the penalty was $25.
The plane washes were scheduled on the weekends, and I elected to skip all of them because I didn’t want to wash a plane I couldn’t legally fly.
After writing dozens of checks, I decided to put my membership up for sale on the wait list.
On a side note, on average, roughly 60% of any given flying club’s members don’t fly and simply cut checks to subsidize the members who do.
New Management, and The President’s New Cirrus
After nearly a year of being on the “sell list,” the board was taken over by a new more active board.
They wasted no time in making changes. In rapid succession, there was:
- A new logo for the club; and
- New hats with logos; and
- New shirts with logos; and
- A new Facebook page; and
- A new website; and
- A new mobile phone application; and
- A scheduled factory tour of the Cirrus factory in Duluth; and
- Movie nights with the kids…
What. What? Movie night with strangers and their kids? Oh hell no.
The plane washes and all meetings were scheduled for 6 p.m., always on Thursday nights. If I wanted to attend, I would have to leave work early and skip my EE class. Not an appealing option.
When I objected, I was told my options were: a) stop paying and they would repossess my membership and resell it, b) they had someone interested in buying in, for $2k — less than I paid in.
One board member, (who had a relative that worked for Cirrus) managed to schedule a tour of the factory.
Next, an special meeting was scheduled, to look at “options” for replacing one of the planes. The agenda merely mentioned that a discussion of the possible options of what to do.
Since the special meeting was scheduled the night before my EE 201 final exam, I started pestering board members for a proxy form and requesting what votes would be called so I could vote my proxy. That is when I was told that a vote would be held to purchase a Cirrus SR-20.
What? Purchase an SR-20? They are $350k new. That is a lot of cheddar.
When it became obvious that I was going to vote against the purchase, the board member who had previously stated he would be happy to my proxy suddenly became less helpful, stating that he couldn’t — I had to find a proxy to vote for me by myself.
I sent an email to the membership list asking for someone to be my proxy for the meeting and added a snarky comment about I hope they didn’t schedule the meeting to limit participation on the vote for an SR20 and then take a victory tour of the Cirrus factory (they had a tour scheduled on Saturday to walkthrough the factory).
Holy crap. I set off a fire storm. Two board members called me in rapid succession, fuming mad. It turns out that most of the members didn’t know there was going to be a vote. The former president even replied and emphatically said that because this was a special meeting, there could not be a vote. I wasted over 2 hours on the phone talking to irate board members who were pissed that I exposed their plan to secretly ram rod a $150,000 to $250,000 purchase through the club. Assholes.
I found a proxy. That is when I was told that even if I had a proxy, whomever I chose to vote for me, they could change my vote.
When I said I was going to become more active in the club, Dan (the president) suddenly found someone who could buy my membership.
Ultimately, the board’s shenanigans wasn’t necessary; the members that attended voted overwhelmingly to purchase the Cirrus. Dan quickly started sending out “strip tease” photographs, gloating, which I found personally offensive.
The SR20’s rental rate was originally quoted to me as $125 per hour, but I knew they couldn’t make that number work. Once they took delivery, the rental rate was set at $136.50, which I think is still too low. I believe they are going to have to reset the rental rates in January.
Yet Another Plane Crash
In the mean time, another pilot crashed the Arrow when he or she overshot the run way in a gusty crosswind and totaled the plane. Another special meeting was called to “discuss the options.” I think you know where this is going…
A survey was sent out asking how much more the members would be willing to pay per month in dues, in order to buy a “better” plane.
I finally received the check tonight and I have to say that today was a very happy day. I am happy to done with them, and wish the person who purchased my membership has a better experience than I did.