Plane & Pilot
Monday, October 1, 2007

$500 Per Month?

You can own an airplane on a budget

500 per monthI’ve always believed that everyone can own an airplane. Indeed, I’ve noticed that many of the people who are now jetting around in Gulfstreams or Challengers got started in Champs, Cubs, Stinsons, Cessna 150s, Cherokee 140s or similar entry-level airplanes.

Beechcraft and Cessna have always recognized that they could build and sell two-place Beech Sports and C-152s, even if at a loss, because the pilots who learned today would return in the future for something bigger and more expensive, hopefully all the way up to a King Air or Citation.

Flying is a great utility for some, a great therapy for others, and both utility and therapy for most pilots. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience owning their own bird. It’s always there for you, you don’t have to “schedule” it ahead or risk not having it on short notice when suddenly there’s a beautiful day and you have the need to fly. You know who’s been flying it and how it’s maintained, and most importantly, it’s yours. Large or small, owning your own airplane is a proud accomplishment and a great feeling.

Plane & Pilot Editor Jeff Berlin is dedicated to the future of aviation like very few people in this industry. I think, recently, he must have come back from lunch at an airport café after overhearing once too often, someone complain about how flying is now “just a rich man’s game.” All pilots have heard this, and personally, I cringe when I hear it. Sure, if you’re talking about a new Gulfstream V at $40 million, you’re right, but is that really flying?

Flying, to most of us, is still what you can see at 3,500 feet. It’s being aloft just as the sun comes up on a crystal-clear dawn, or crossing farms and small towns at 120 knots. Or making a perfect landing with passengers on board. Or attending a great Saturday fly-in and enjoying the camaraderie of like-minded aviators. Flying is knowing that no matter how bad your day is on the ground, at 3,000 feet everything’s fine. That’s flying.

Flying is a great utility for some, a great therapy for others, and both utility and therapy for most pilots.

Meanwhile, back on terra firma, Jeff came back to the Plane & Pilot offices energized with the determination of a man on a mission. He called me and asked, “Can a beginning pilot, or average guy on a budget, or first-time airplane owner, really still afford an airplane?”

“Yes, I think so,“ I answered.

“Can an average guy own a decent airplane for $500 per month?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. Probably.” I rolled the math around in my head quickly. “Yes, I think so,” I said confidently.


Add Comment