Here's a Free Airplane, Just Start a Club to Fly it!

Let's be honest: as pilots, we're kind of cheap. We'd all love to fly more...if only someone would give us a free airplane to do that flying in, right? Luckily for us, there are a few organizations out there that hold airplane giveaway sweepstakes every year. The AOPA always gets huge corporate sponsorship to create a very special refurbished aircraft. The EAA comes up with something fun and unique each year. In my opinion, it's worth maintaining a membership with each organization just for a shot at whatever they're giving away that year.

Another option is Sporty's Pilot Shop, which tends to offer an aircraft that's fun and accessible to any pilot. Any good pilot can find something to order from Sporty's every year to secure an entry.

If one-in-tens-or-hundreds-of-thousands seems like long odds to you, look for organizations like Wings of Hope. They're a great cause and they only sell 3000 raffle tickets for their annual aircraft raffle. At $50 each those offer pretty decent odds.

The problem with all of these is that they're just games of chance...a math tax targeted to seduce a group of extra vulnerable people (us cheap pilots.) Wouldn't it be nice if there was a sweepstakes that took into account what an amazing pilot each of us is in deciding who wins?

Well, as is often the case, the AOPA is here for the rescue. They're doing an extra sweepstakes this year: they're giving away one of their Reimagined C-150s to a flying club. Not part of a club? Don't worry. It's free to enter and a qualifying club can win even if it's just a "club in formation."

I suppose I should mention that this isn't limited to "new" clubs either. Almost any existing flying club should also be submitting an application for this contest as well. You've already done most of the legwork and what club wouldn't benefit from the addition of an updated, fun, economical aircraft?

Check out the official giveaway website for the full rules, but here's a summary.

Your club must:

  • Have at least 4 members.
  • Have bylaws. (Drafts are acceptable. AOPA has free samples of bylaws here.)
  • Have an insurance quote from AOPA insurance. (Free)
  • Be listed in AOPA's flying club directory. (Listing as a "club in formation" is fine. It's free to list.)
  • Fill out the online application. (Free, but do it right the first time. You only get to submit one per flying club.)

According to their website, the winner will be selected based at least in part on the quality of their flying club's plan/application. That means it isn't entirely chance that'll determine if you win. Finally, a contest that requires more than just luck!

The way I see it. There's no reason for any of us to not enter this contest. If nothing else, it's acceptable to enter under the premise of: "If we win your airplane, we're going to form a flying club and here's what it'll look like." In my experience most pilots are social enough that each of us knows at least three other people we'd enjoy sharing an airplane with. The ratio of payoff to time investment required to submit an application is so large, I can't imagine why any of us wouldn't want to do it. I'm planning on entering, and I'll even help you out by documenting my progress. I may not give away all the details of my application...this is a competition after all...but I hope that by sharing as much as I can about the process you'll be able to see how easy it is.

So, why is AOPA doing this? Altruism? Basically, yes. The AOPA exists to promote General Aviation. I wrote an article last December about a collection of free flying club resources that the AOPA has put together to encourage people to form flying clubs. They figure that having more flying clubs will help make GA more accessible and encourage pilots to fly. (I think they're right.) If nothing else, I think this "contest" is a clever ploy to get us to look at their free resources for starting and supporting a flying club. I suspect they're hoping that when we actually look into it we'll realize how easy and realistic it is to form a club. Maybe some of the "club in formation" entrants will get excited enough about this idea to go out and find an aircraft and start flying, whether they win the yellow C-150 or not. Pretty clever manipulation, huh? I don't know about you, but I don't mind being manipulated like this one bit...I say manipulate away!

In case you haven't heard about the project, the Reimagined C-150 is a joint effort by AOPA and Aviat Aircraft. They find old C-150s and C-152s, refurbish and update them, and sell them for about the cost of a brand-new LSA. They're hoping to make a great, affordable aircraft attractive to GA pilots and new students. It's not speedy or sexy and it won't carry much, but who cares? The 150/152 is a great airplane. It's cheap enough to enjoy an afternoon of flying and it's a great trainer. It really would be a great flying club airplane.

AOPA and others are fighting hard to get 3rd Class Medial reform passed by Congress. it's taking a long time, but I'm confident their efforts will succeed. When they do, you won't even need a medical to fly this Reimagined C-150. Just like flying an LSA, as long as you have a valid driver's license you'll be medically good to go.

Are you excited yet? Good! Now, grab three friends and get to work on your application. Good luck to us all!