TV doctors bark this sharp-elbowed warning before they shock a restive heart back to a regular rhythm. It is also the warning pilots issue to bystanders before they energize an airplane’s air processer. Seemingly disassociated warnings, several days ago the Winnebago Flying Club united them by offering to resuscitate my flat-lined flying career and increase the active pilot population by one. (Hey, every one counts these days.)
Like uncounted thousands of pilots of my generation, I surrendered the left seat in the past decade because there just wasn’t enough money left at month’s end to pursue something I do for fun. Family obligations, like food and a warm, dry place to live, and two kids in college, with child support on top of tuition, books, and board, have first dibs on an unpredictable freelance income.
Counting the days to their graduation coincides with my 60th birthday and the financial preparations that will sustain me in my dotage. A realist, I was resigned to spend the rest of my life on the ground and looking up whenever an airplane flew overhead. When I learned that the flying club was accepting new members, looking at the numbers made my heart jump.
Flying clubs have always been a viable option for affordable flight, and a decade ago I belonged to this club, which has called Wittman Regional Airport home for roughly 30 years. It was the last time I flew regularly; I left the club when it replaced its Cessna 172 with a Piper Archer II, in which my oversize frame is an effective control lock. With another 172, it was worth a look, and I now wish that I’d kept tabs on the club over the years.
Even in my financial situation, it’s doable. The fees are unchanged! A one-time $150 membership fee and $30 monthly dues. The Cessna, certified for IFR and sporting a new Garmin 430 and audio panel goes for $79 an hour wet? That can’t be right. Similar airplanes in the area cost well north of $100, so I called the president, one of the club’s four CFIs.
Yup, the numbers are current, says Tim Lemke. The club is not-for-profit, and the rental rate pays for gas and maintenance reserves. The monthly dues cover the fixed expenses. For more than two years it was $75 an hour, but the club had to up when avgas surpassed the $5 mark, and they may have to up it again later this year if avgas price predictions come true.
Still, it’s doable, if I cut back on my cigar and single-malt budget, and that seems like a fair trade to me. And there is the additional benefits of the Winnebago Flying Club’s monthly meetings, which include a safety program, social activity, or plane wash after the business meeting.
Membership is still a year off for me, for that is when my youngest graduates. But given the rate at which time now passes, that isn’t long at all, given the destination’s rewards. If you’re like me, believing your flying days are done, don’t repeat my mistake of assuming a club’s costs are still beyond your means. Check them out. It may resuscitate your aerial desires. – Scott Spangler