The numbers speak for themselves. Our well equipped “steam gauge” Cessna 172 is billed at $121 per Tach hour wet. Contrast that to a typical flight-school/FBO rate of around $140 per Hobbs hour wet. Typically, an hour of Tach time is about 1.2 hours of Hobbs time, so the savings will be nearly $50 per actual hour flown.
A quick weekend trip to Martha’s Vineyard might cost you $340 in one of our C172—N6338F. The same trip would cost $500 with an FBO plane (assuming that they would even rent you a plane for the weekend). And we haven’t even figured in daily minima. Figure in a typical 5 hour minimum-per-day, and the FBO might charge you $1,400.
Or suppose you wanted to enhance your training by pursuing an instrument rating. The minimum training requirement for an instrument rating is 40 hours. Training for that instrument rating with PFC might cost you $3,800 compared to $5,600 with a typical flight school. But most people take more time to become fully proficient. If it takes you 60 hours, the difference might be $4,650 vs. $8,400.
And that is just for the aircraft. Our club approved CFIs charge market rates (typically $40-50 an hour), which is typically significantly less than the hourly rate of instructors charged by flight schools. After all, our instructors don’t have to worry about things like paying for fancy office space or support staff. And you get the satisfaction of knowing that every dollar that you pay goes into the pocket of the instructor—the person who actually earned it.
How can we do this? First of all, we are a not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to make flying as affordable as possible to our members. We don’t aim to turn a profit, and charge only what it actually costs to maintain a well-equipped, well-maintained, and safe fleet. Second, we all pay what we charge, so we all work hard to keep those costs as low as possible. Almost all of the work (with the exception of actual maintenance) of keeping a fleet like ours running efficiently is done in-house. Everything—researching upgrades, establishing good working relationships with maintenance shops, shopping for insurance, billing and financial management, keeping our GPSs up to date, ordering supplies, doing the yearly wash and wax, etc.—is done by member volunteers. Third, we have zero overhead—no staff, no fancy offices, no benefits or retirement accounts to fund—just the actual cost of flying our fleet.