Frequently Asked Questions, Club Bylaws and Operational Rules


What does the acronym RFTS stand for?

Some of the more romantically inclined of us insist that it means "Reach for the Stars." Sadly, this is just not so. The name actually comes from a Boeing project which involved two of the founding members. RFTS was Boeing-speak for the "Radio Frequency Target Simulator" which was a device for testing air-to-air missile guidance systems without actually shooting anything.

How much does it cost to learn to fly?

It depends a great deal upon the student and their availability to fly often. The minimum time required by the FAA to earn a Private Pilot's license is 40 hour of flight time, the national average is variously reported as between 65 and 90 hours. (The time to earn a Sport Pilot's license is about half of that.) Usually, students who can fly at least one a week will take less time than those who spread out their flight time. A license can be earned in as little as 6 weeks but most students at our club take about a year. A brand new student joining RFTS can expect to pay at least $7000 to earn a Private Pilot certificate. Here is a break down of that estimate:
Private Pilot
20 hours in a Cessna 172 with an instructor (includes pre and post flight instruction)$2400
20 solo flight hours, tax included$2158
Ground school (prices vary)$ 400
Flight physical (prices vary)$ 200
Flight test (prices vary)$ 450
Club dues for 12 months (currently $60 /month)$ 720
Club one-time initiation fee$ 500
Miscellaneous books and supplies$ 100

Sport Pilot
10 hours in a Cessna Skycatcher with an instructor (includes pre and post-flight )$1090
10 solo hours, tax included$ 961
Ground school$ 400
Flight physical$ 0
Flight test$ 450
Club dues, Club initiation fee & misc. books and supplies (as above)$1320
Estimated total$4221
See also: Recreational Pilots and Sport Pilots.

What is a "recreational pilot certificate?"

A recreational pilot certificate is similar to a private pilot certificate, though it carries certain restrictions. The advantage is that it take less time to earn (as little as 30 hours) and is therefore cheaper than a private pilot certificate. However, a recreational pilot may only fly single engine aircraft having four or fewer seats, and then only in daylight and good weather. Also, a recreational pilot may only carry one passenger at a time and may not fly beyond 50 miles from the airport where training was taken. The good news is that all time logged as a recreational pilot can be applied toward higher ratings.

What is a "sport pilot certificate?"

A sport pilot certificate takes even less time to obtain than a recreational pilot's certificate, though of course it carries even more restrictions. It can be earned in as little as 20 hours, and you do not necessarily need a medical certificate to get it, provided you have a valid driver's license. As with recreational pilots, all time logged as a sport pilot can be applied toward higher ratings. For more information, see "Becoming a Sport Pilot."

What is the difference between a "pilot's license" and a "pilot certificate?"

Nothing really. Although technically pilots earn certificates, not licenses, it amounts to the same thing.

How old do you have to be to learn to fly?

You can begin taking lessons at any age. However, you must be at least 16 to solo (fly by yourself) and 17 to become a pilot.

Are club members insured?

All club members are insured while flying club aircraft at no additional charge. Members who want to increase their coverage are encouraged to do so by obtaining their own supplemental insurance.

How many members does the club have?

For insurance reasons, as well as to maintain a reasonable availability of aircraft, the club is currently limited to 30 members.

What are "wet" rates?

Airplanes are typically rented by the hour at either a "wet" or "dry" rate. A wet rate includes the cost of fuel and oil. Dry rates require the renter to purchase the fuel and oil seperately. All RFTS aircraft are rented at wet rates.

Winch operating instructions

The gentle slope of the pavement outside of our hangars helps to keep the rain water out, but it can also make getting the airplanes back inside surprisingly difficult. Using the hangar mounted electric winch to tow the aircraft back saves wear and tear on both you and the airplane.
  1. Unplug or turn off battery charger before use.
  2. Release winch clutch by turning knob counter clockwise.
  3. Pull winch cable forward so that the cable-hook is no farther than the white paint spot at the front of the hangar.
  4. Engage winch clutch by turning knob clockwise until tight.
  5. Attach cable extension hook to the tail tie-down ring.
  6. Ensure that the rudder is lined up with the red-painted stud on the rear wall of the hangar.
  7. Use the remote control to energize the winch. It will slowly pull the plane into the hangar.
  8. Important!  Stop the winch as soon as the nose wheel is past the hangar lip to avoid damaging the winch.
  9. Push the plane back to the chocks by hand and secure aircraft.
  10. Remove the cable from the tie-down ring.
  11. Turn on or plug in the battery charger.

Does the club charge sales tax?

Yes. Even though the club is not for profit, Washington State law still requires us to collect sales tax on aircraft rental and instruction.