On Buying An Airplane, Part II

When it comes to operating your own airplane, you have to keep a few things in mind. First, airplanes are not cheap, but if you are going to do more flying than usual, which is to say more than seven or so hours per month, it might be cheaper to own the airplane than to rent.

There are several pros and cons to both sides of this argument. For the aircraft owner, here are a few pros:

1.  No scheduling conflicts – if you own the airplane and no one else has rights to it, you can pull the key out of your pocket and fly whenever and wherever you wish – all the time.

2.  As the owner, you know no one will mistreat the airplane to the point of damaging it.

3.  Flying the same airplane constantly really allows you to come to know the airplane. If there are any mechanical anomalies, you will recognize them right away.

4.  You will become very comfortable with the “feel” of the airplane (in short order).

5.  By assisting in the maintenance and annual inspections, you will truly come to learn about the type of airplane you own. You will in short, become an expert.

Now, as well as the pros are good, here are the cons:

1.  You have to pay all the bills.

2.  If you fly the airplane roughly and damage it, you will pay for all the repairs.

3.  If the engine suffers a major catastrophic event, you could be out of the flying business for a while if you have to save enough money to cover the repair.

4.  You will be solely responsible for the inspections and airworthiness of the airplane.

5.  All the cleaning, washing, and waxing will fall squarely on your shoulders (you can’t imagine how large a small airplane can become while washing and waxing…).

So, there is an incomplete list of the pros and cons of ownership. For the rental pilot, keep in mind one of the major headaches is scheduling the airplane, and then there is the issue of the “daily minimum.”

Most FBOs charge a minimum daily rental time. In other words, this is the number of hours they expect to rent the airplane per day. If you take the airplane to a destination two hours away and want to keep the airplane for five days, you may think you are going to pay for four hours of rental time. Then when you return, you are surprised to find a bill for 15 hours of flight time. For an airplane that rents for $120 an hour, this can be too expensive. Ralph the Rental Pilot might expect a $480 rental bill on return, only to find his actual total closer to $1800.

Paying for the minimum daily rental time is one of the most aggravating aspects of renting airplanes. This alone can make owning an airplane worthwhile. Unfortunately, there remain the other associated costs of ownership.

Which aren’t cheap!


©2013 J. Clark

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