Plane & Pilot
Monday, October 1, 2007

$500 Per Month?

You can own an airplane on a budget

Most really good mechanics are busy and understaffed, and might welcome this assistance, provided you stay out of their way and don’t become a pest. In this case, you’re literally the helper, not the client, and your job is to make his life easier, not more burdensome. Do exactly what he says, don’t distract him with a lot of small talk or general questions, and the arrangement should work out fine.

A reasonable annual, on a typical all-metal airplane in our category, with no serious problems, will be around $1,200, or for budget purposes, $100 per month. Owner-assisted annuals generally run about $600 plus any unusual or extraordinary items.

As careful as we are, things break between annuals. it’s often cheaper to fix things as they come up, rather than to let them go and become bigger, more expensive problems.

Additionally, many owners enjoy the hands-on “bonding” experience of working with their airplanes. If you’re a hard worker and enjoy being around airplanes, you might even find an opportunity to work part-time for a busy mechanic and generate some additional income to totally swap out or at least partially reduce your own maintenance expenses.

How are we doing? Is airplane ownership for $500 monthly a reality? The tally so far: $315 per month. We now own an airplane, we’re prudently insuring our investment and we have estimated the annual required maintenance expense. What’s next?

Storage: Where Are We Keeping It?
Hangar and tiedown expenses can hugely vary. If we’re on a budget, it’s not going to work to keep our airplane at a fancy big-name FBO with complimentary limo service and freshly baked cookies. Besides, who wants to breathe in all those jet fumes as you await the active runway behind an endless line of corporate jets?

Rural airports are more fun and a lot cheaper. At smaller airports, there’s typically a friendly spirit of cooperation and camaraderie among all the flyers. You can probably even find a water spigot and hose where you can wash your own airplane on Saturdays, or do some minor “tinkering.” The costs for tiedowns at the smaller, fun, good-spirited airports are about $50 per month. Hangars are generally a fraction of the cost of a big-city airport. Because we’re on a budget, one of the advantages of an all-metal airplane is that it can be kept outdoors. It’s not ideal, and a hangar is preferred, but sunshades will help protect the glass and upholstery from the UV rays. Check out some of the outlying fields in your area to see which seems the most fun and best-suited.

We’re now at $365 per month. This is looking better and better. Have we forgotten anything? Yes.


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