Keys to a suc­cess­ful group

Pilot - - BEYOND THE PPL -

There should be some means of as­sess­ing a po­ten­tial mem­ber’s skills, so it helps if a fly­ing in­struc­tor is one of the share­hold­ers. If not, most groups em­ploy one−or a par­tic­u­larly ex­pe­ri­enced mem­ber−to vet new­com­ers. Some­one with suit­able skills should man­age the book­keep­ing side of things. This can be quite time-con­sum­ing as it cov­ers keep­ing track of mem­bers’ monthly pay­ments and fly­ing hours’ bills, pay­ing hangar/park­ing costs, main­te­nance bills, or­gan­is­ing in­sur­ance and so on.

Some­one−per­haps the same book­keeper−also needs to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for track­ing when the air­craft is due its fifty-hour or sim­i­lar checks, or an­nual main­te­nance, ar­rang­ing this, and man­ag­ing rel­e­vant pa­per­work. It helps if an en­gi­neer is a mem­ber; some groups I have en­coun­tered al­low one free mem­ber­ship and fly­ing in re­turn for main­tain­ing the air­craft. Mem­bers should be fa­mil­iar with air­craft air­frame and en­gine con­struc­tion and able−for in­stance−to de­tect early signs of trou­ble. They should also know how to min­imise wear and tear by care with the throt­tle, when taxy­ing, brak­ing etc. Ide­ally, most mem­bers should fly a sim­i­lar num­ber of hours, although in prac­tice that rarely seems to hap­pen. Fi­nally, it helps no end if group mem­bers are so­cia­ble and en­joy fly­ing with oth­ers, go­ing out for meals to­gether and so on. Some groups don’t stop at one air­craft, they co-own sev­eral. Now that is suc­cess.


Shares in some of the best groups are not ad­ver­tised; they sell by word of mouth. No won­der, given the im­por­tance of ev­ery­one get­ting on with ev­ery­one else. Some like to vet their mem­bers but if there isn’t any­one known to the group, an ad­ver­tise­ment ap­pears in the back of Pi­lot, which is−of course−the best place to look. Also, the club no­tice­boards at all your nearby air­fields, Light Avi­a­tion (for which you will have to join the LAA) and sev­eral web­sites. Don’t ne­glect to ask ev­ery­one you come across if there are any good groups they know of that might sell a share.


Al­ter­na­tively you can start your own group, as I did with a Pitts and later a Stampe. I al­ready had both aero­planes, but it’s not un­heard of for the group to be founded with­out an aero­plane and then ac­quire one. In this lat­ter case, the group needs to trust the judge­ment of the mem­ber en­trusted with buy­ing an air­craft− or agree how the de­ci­sion will be made.


There is a dif­fer­ent type of group, ba­si­cally where the co-own­ers aren’t friends, and it’s purely a busi­ness ar­range­ment. This seems to work well when ev­ery­one con­cerned has plenty of money and all sup­port ser­vices are con­tracted out to pro­fes­sion­als. Typ­i­cally the syn­di­cate is based around a light jet, tur­bo­prop or low-hours twin. The group is ad­min­is­tered by a char­ter com­pany, or some other com­mer­cial or­gan­i­sa­tion, charg­ing hand­somely for look­ing af­ter ev­ery­thing. Mem­bers wouldn’t dream of clean­ing the aero­plane, or even emp­ty­ing the ash trays, let alone con­cern­ing them­selves with main­te­nance and CAA pa­per­work. Some mem­bers of the syn­di­cate may not even be pi­lots, hir­ing aerial chauf­feurs as needed.

Some groups op­er­at­ing top-end mi­cro­lights un­der the aus­pices of a mi­cro­light fly­ing club have a sim­i­lar busi­ness ar­range­ment feel about them− and it seems to work well.

Who bet­ter to teach the Ed­i­tor farm strip fly­ing skills in the fam­ily Cub ‘Papa Delta’ than his fa­ther and co-owner, Pip White­man, por­trayed in this film-cam­era era selfie...

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