Keys to a successful group
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.
FINDING A GROUP
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.
STARTING A GROUP
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...