Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

$1,000 Per Month Airplane

An affordable way to own

$500 Per Month?” article [October 2007] was so overwhelming, we decided to take the idea to the next level. " />

1000 per monthSole Ownership
My favorites for sole ownership on $1,000 per month are the Piper Cherokee 180, Cessna 172, Beech Sundowner and Mooney M20C. Each of these is easy to fly, can reasonably carry four adults at 110 to 160 mph, burns about 8 gph, and is known for simplicity of maintenance and fewest age-related “surprises.”

If our budget is $1,000 per month, the payment will be the biggest regular monthly expense item. At today’s interest rates, each $10,000 financed will be approximately $80 per month, so we can spend $45,000 to $50,000. With a decent down payment, let’s assume we’ll be financing $40,000. This will give us a monthly payment of about $320.

The annual will be the next largest amount. All of our choices for sole ownership are fixed gear (except the Mooney, which has a simple and economical manual gear on all pre-1969 models) and have a simple and generally trouble-free 160/180 hp, four-cylinder Lycoming O-320/O-360 engine. There’s nothing particularly complicated about the overall maintenance on any of these airplanes. An annual will reasonably run about $2,500 per year, so we’ll calculate $210 per month for annuals. Also, because things always break, let’s add another $70 per month for rainy-day glitches. Insurance? With a private license, a brief checkout and no accidents, all of these airplanes will run about $130 per month in insurance. Because we’re financing the airplane, insurance will be required by the bank.

So far, we’re at $730. What’s next? Let’s fly our plane! Flying expenses (gas, oil, engine reserves) are called “variable expenses” because the amount you spend each month varies with how much you fly. “Fixed expenses” are the costs you spend every month whether you fly or not, like monthly payment, insurance, annuals and storage.

Any of our favorites listed here will burn about 8 gph and have an engine TBO of 2,000 hours. A replacement overhauled engine will cost approximately $20,000, so we’ll budget $10 hourly for engine reserve and $40 hourly for gas and oil ($5 per gallon), or $50 hourly in actual flying costs.

A private pilot will average 50 hours yearly for recreational flying, or 4.2 hours monthly, so add $210 monthly in gas, oil and engine reserves.

Storage will run, on average, about $50 monthly for tiedown, or $200 monthly for a small T-hangar if you can find one. To stay within budget (though a tiedown isn’t as desirable as a hangar, we have our limits), let’s calculate $50 monthly for tiedown.

How are we doing? To own and fly a four-seat, modern single, we’re spending $990 per month. So, is it possible? Yes!

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