Tow plane thoughts…
We have had the continuing challenge of having a viable tow plane through all the years that Sky Soaring has existed. We became spoiled by having the Bird Dog for 30+ years. It did thousands of tows and always came back to life when we gave it the TLC it desired. That included at least two major overhauls that I can recall. Following the Bird Dog era we had some difficult time with tow planes that were not a durable or reliable. Our flying suffered. It seems that in the Pawnee we have a good reliable tow plane. It will be nice to return to those earlier times.
About 15 years ago and at the encouragement of our treasurer at the time we began squirreling away money from each tow for the eventual overhaul. That worked well. Our philosophy was that our dues paid for the field and the gliders. Those were relatively stable expenses. Our tow fees paid for the tow plane which was a variable expense… more tows, more maintenance. That philosophy worked well.
On the subject of a special assessment… One of pluses of being a member of Sky Soaring as compared to other flying clubs is that in their entire history – about 48 years – they have never had a special assessment. To potential member as well as current members, that is an important point. We survived on the income from our performance and participation. It would be a shame to ruin that record.
Will having a first special assessment chase some members away or discourage others from joining Sky Soaring? I suspect that, as some have suggested, it will be a factor. Not all who wish to fly can afford to have an unexpected assessment. In the past we have worked to provide good flying at reasonable prices.
A special assessment of $400 would effectively increase the cost for a member who does 20 tows a year by $20 per tow. Ouch. It would also increase the first year dues for a new member by $400.
On the subject of borrowing from members for the cost of a major for the Pawnee, we have done that many times. I have loaned money to Sky Soaring a number of times and have always been paid back. Up until we wanted to bring the mortgage in house, the loans were always done interest free by members that appreciated being a member of the club. More recently loans for the mortgage, the winch, and the tow plane purchase, we have offer a modest interest. Yet we have a record of members stepping up interest free to support our operation.
Through the years being a member of Sky Soaring has been a pleasure. It has always been a gathering of friends. We tried to be sensitive to each other and each did our part to keep us flying. We were never short on having members pitch in whether financially or by sweat labor. We took pride in being a part of the soaring happening. It has happily not been a business, but our board accepted the responsibility of managing our financial responsibilities. Hopefully the future financial challenges can be met with the grace of our former boards. As a group of flying friends we will continue to support our club. I hope the hangar continues to be a clubhouse where friends meet.