The Austin, Texas-based Chandelle Flying Club, founded in 1981 with a Cessna 152, was created specifically to provide its members with “convenient means for flying at the most economical rates.”
The club currently has 28 members, said Beaux Graham, who sits on its board of directors and serves as maintenance officer for the club’s Cessna Cardinal. Chandelle is a not-for-profit corporation registered in Texas. The club owns the aircraft and its assets; each member buys a share in the corporation so the person owns a proportional interest in the club’s assets.
The business of the club is directed by a four-member board of directors, who are elected annually. Day-to-day operations are overseen by the officers, a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, and maintenance officers, who are all also elected annually.
Chandelle Flying Club has three aircraft in its fleet: a 1976 PA-28-151 Warrior, which was upgraded to a 160-horsepower engine; a 1978 PA-28-181 Archer; and a 1971 Cessna 177RG Cardinal RG, said Graham.
In a bid to keep flying costs low, Graham said the club offers members a unique benefit. “We are based at [Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (KAUS)], which has the most expensive fuel in the area,” he said. “We calculate a wet rate based on the KAUS fuel price. If you buy fuel off station at a lower rate and submit the receipt to the club treasurer, you are credited at the higher KAUS rate.”
This means the actual hourly rate can be reduced by between $10 and $20 an hour, said Graham. The billed aircraft rates, tach and wet, are $94 an hour for the Warrior, $101 an hour for the Archer, and $120 for the Cardinal, he added.
Club dues of $127 a month cover fixed costs such as hangar, insurance, annual inspections, and some maintenance, said Graham. “The hourly aircraft rates cover fuel, oil, engine overhaul fund, and maintenance,” he said.
New equipment or upgrades are approved by the membership and paid for with additional assessments to be paid within six or 12 months, depending on the size of the assessment, said Graham. “[In 2013], we replaced the interior of our Archer and added a graphic engine monitor to the Cardinal. This year we'll be replacing the interior of the Cardinal and upgrading the IFR GPS,” he said.
The club’s social events mostly revolve around aircraft maintenance, said Graham. “We perform as much maintenance as owners are legally permitted to do. We encourage as many members as possible to show up and get their hands dirty in owner assisted annuals on our three planes,” he said. “Removing the interior, the cowling, all the inspection covers and peering into the innards of our planes in order to replace filters, spark plugs, brake pads and other items gives us all a much greater knowledge of how our planes actually work.”
For those forming a flying club, be very clear about what the focus of the club is going to be, Graham advised. “What kind of flying are the members interested in? Low, slow, and local fair-weather flying? Competitive aerobatics? High, fast, and coast to coast in all kinds of weather? General purpose, light IFR, rarely more than 250 nm from home?” he asked “If you're forming a club, it makes choosing the right first aircraft much easier when there is a common goal instead of just buying whatever is available at your home field and trying to form a club around it.”
Once an airplane is chosen, do research, said Graham. “There are type clubs for all of them and they are priceless sources of knowledge. Many will have a pre-purchase checklist that could save you from buying a plane that needs an expensive repair or is the model with a design flaw that was eventually fixed,” he said. “In the end, we’re all in it for the love of flying. The financial and social benefits of being in a flying club far outweigh the inconveniences of sharing.”