Buying Your First Plane
It’s an issue practically all of us must address at one time or another. Virtually every pilot—student, private, commercial or ATP—dreams of owning an airplane.
In most cases, the first question a pilot must answer is the obvious one: How much money are you willing to spend on an airplane? In the majority of cases, this will be a finite number that will make the selection process easier. In others, a prospective buyer may be willing to spend as much as he or she needs to buy the airplane he or she wants. One way or another, a smart purchase, like a small fight, begins with gathering all the important information.
Should You Buy Or Continue To Rent?
All pilots are entitled to do whatever they wish with their money, but there are some issues to address before considering the purchase of an airplane if you’re determined to be logical about the decision. First, how many hours a year do you expect to fly? Look back on your rental experience, and honestly assess your flights. Were rental airplanes readily available when you needed them? Were the aircraft in reasonably decent condition? Would your flying habits change if you were operating your own airplane?
If you rent less than 50 hours a year, or roughly an hour a week, some guidelines suggest owning an airplane may be financially unwise. At a wet rental rate of $120 an hour for a Skyhawk, that’s only $6,000 a year. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy, but it may not make financial sense. Do you really think you can own and operate an airplane for $500 a month?
Logic doesn’t always apply, however, nor should it, whether you’re considering buying an airplane, sports car, motorcycle or boat. Years ago, I purchased a twin-engine, 27-foot, Sea Ray Sundancer cabin cruiser and kept it for five years, using it perhaps 10 to 20 hours a month at the most. One day, I sat down with a calculator to figure out the expenses on an hourly basis. I turned off the calculator after a few minutes. It was obvious I was spending hundreds of dollars an hour for the occasional privilege of speeding back and forth to Catalina Island, Calif., with friends. It was my money and my choice, but the actual costs were sobering.