No Worries With iFly
Shared access and exceptional member care make flying a cinch
I was introduced to a new kind of flying at an open house in Long Beach, Calif. Erik Lindbergh, grandson of Charles Lindbergh and cofounder of iFly, spoke of the “world’s first exclusive aero club,” a membership-only venture that provides shared access to technologically advanced aircraft and high-end customer service. Having recently earned my private license, I typically rent airplanes (and envy friends who own theirs). But iFly’s program was intriguing, so I decided to check it out.
What’s An Aero Club?
iFly isn’t about rentals, ownership or fractional ownership; nor is it your standard flying club. Instead, pilots pay a membership fee for hassle-free access to a fleet of identical, state-of-the-art, high-performance aircraft at different locations. Maintenance, repairs, insurance and cleaning are taken care of; a member needs only to show up.
Unlike whole or fractional ownership, shared access means no unpredictable costs; nor is there a residual value risk at the end of contract disposal. “I originally wanted to purchase an airplane,” says iFly member Dean Shold. “But when I ran the numbers, iFly made sense based on how much I was flying.” Furthermore, the company’s four-to-one member-to-aircraft ratio guarantees greater availability than what most shared-ownership programs can offer. “Each time I’ve requested a plane, I’ve gotten one,” notes Shold. “It’s always clean and ready to go at a nice FBO, where my family can relax and watch TV while I do flight planning. The convenience is amazing.” iFly has developed touch-screen kiosks that automate the check-in process by allowing pilots to swipe an ID card and retrieve the aircraft key.
The company’s aircraft of choice is the 310 hp Columbia 350, equipped with a Garmin G1000 glass-panel system. “We selected the Columbia 350 because it represents the modern aircraft,” explains Lindbergh. “It has so much capability in terms of situational awareness, with total integration of traffic, weather and terrain.” Shold agrees: “The more I learn about the Columbia 350, the more versatile I realize it is. The G1000, climate control and speedbrakes make it extremely user-friendly.”