Why PFC — Affordable

A Weekend Trip to Martha’s Vineyard
  PFC FBO
Aircraft Time $360 $450
Daily Minimum $0 $1,050
Total $360 $1,500
Instrument Rating
  40 Hrs 60 Hrs
PFC $4,900 $7,400
FBO $6,000 $9,000
Savings $1,100 $1,600

We all learned to fly because we had visions of going places beyond where our cars could comfortably take us. We wanted to avoid the hassle of lines at airports or traffic on the roads. We didn’t like being treated like so much cattle herded into uncomfortable seats and forced to eat bad food. Above all, we wanted the freedom to go where we want when we want. We all want to own our own planes someday, and if pressed many of our members would probably confess to that very desire. In fact, many of our members do move on to sole ownership (or a smaller partnership) after gaining much valuable experience at PFC. But most of us are probably unprepared for the demands of sole ownership.

First, there are the financial realities. Obviously acquiring an aircraft is a significant financial outlay. And then, there are the unavoidable fixed costs—the costs of an annual inspection, insurance, and tie downs, just to mention the obvious examples. Then there is maintenance, both routine and unforeseen. And if you want to keep the aircraft flying for the long term, you have to plan for the inevitable—engine overhaul at TBO, avionics upgrades/replacements, etc. Divide that by the relatively small number of hours many of us can devote to flying, and the cost-per-hour becomes astronomical. In fact, we were saddened but not particularly surprised to learn in a recent Aviation Consumer article that some small partnerships choose to sacrifice long-run reliability of their aircraft in order to lower their hourly rates.

Add to that the actual effort involved in maintaining an aircraft. We need to shop for insurance. Each squawk needs to be identified, investigated and repaired. Relationships have to be built with reputable and reliable mechanics. IFR legal GPSs have to be updated every 28 days. Annuals and other service have to be arranged, and the aircraft delivered to the maintenance shop. We need to investigate new technologies as they become available (WAAS, ELTs, in-flight weather, ADS-B, etc.). And we need to constantly worry about making sure that our aircraft is both safe and legal.

It’s enough to drive anyone batty. (In fact, some of our members are “recovering sole owners.”)

At PFC, both the financial and labor demands of aircraft ownership are shared among equal partners. We all contribute to the task of operating our fleet. New members quickly learn from the knowledge and experience of our older members. Some members have acquired a great deal of expertise in a particular area of aircraft ownership, and they are eager to share their knowledge with the membership. In addition, we can draw upon a large network of alumni, many of whom have moved on to owning their own aircraft. So even if you see yourself owning your own aircraft in a few years, PFC is a great place to learn the ins-and-outs of ownership.

In addition, having access to multiple aircraft improves dispatch reliability. If one airplane needs to be taken off-line for service, there are still other aircraft available to serve the needs of our membership. In fact, several of our members own aircraft, but choose to stay in the club for times when their own aircraft are unavailable.

At FBOs and flight schools, planes to rent are often unavailable precisely when we want to fly (a long weekend over the summer). Most FBOs/flight-schools impose stiff daily minima as they make their money only when the planes are actually flying. They don’t like it when we take a plane and just park it at our destination for a long weekend. Even if we manage to secure a plane, the wear from all those student pilots banging around in them is apparent. We all recall what it was like in the days when we were students, right? Many rental aircraft with advanced avionics lack XM weather subscriptions or functioning autopilots; Useful tools for those long cross country flights that we want to take.

So, how can PFC offer this?

  • 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 and well-maintained fleet in an airport near to New York City.
  • We all pay what we charge, so we all work hard to keep those costs as low as possible. 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 GPS equipment up to date, ordering supplies, washing and waxing, etc.—is done by member volunteers.
  • We have zero overhead—no staff, no fancy offices, no benefits or retirement accounts to fund—just the actual costs of flying our fleet. Therefore, there are no daily minima, and members may reserve an aircraft for up to 12 consecutive days at a time (including one weekend).
  • We limit the ratio of active members per airplane to ensure excellent availability. Even in peak flying season (the summer months), only a couple of weeks of advance planning is all that is usually required to make sure that you have a plane for that weekend getaway. Often, same day bookings are possible. We use Schedule Master to automatically manage reservations. Up to four reservations are permitted per member with no penalties for cancellations and the ability to reserve as far ahead as you want.
  • Our membership takes good care of our fleet, and our maintenance team works hard to ensure excellent dispatch reliability. No renters or student pilots are abusing our aircraft, only joint owners who recognize the need to take good care of what we jointly own.

For less than the monthly cost to insure a personal aircraft, each member’s dues collectively pay for insurance, annuals, tie downs, gps and xm weather updates, periodic repainting and more on a fleet of club aircraft.

Our aircraft hourly rates pay for fuel, oil, maintenance and also include hourly accruals for engine, propeller and interior reserves. We plan ahead to ensure our aircraft remain ready to fly without costly surprises.

We know you might be asking, “In a flying club, what are the odds I can get an airplane when I want one?” You can check things out for yorself, so feel free to inquire about seeing our reservation system. Booking a couple of weeks ahead is generally all that is required to get a specific date during the busiest times of year. Plus, members can hold multiple reservations at a time.

At PFC, we are truly free to go where we want when we want within the bounds of our ability as pilots and the capabilities of our aircraft. And lest you wonder just how far a Cessna can really go, our 182’s have been used for public benefit work in Haiti and a cross country flight to California.

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