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 the case of airplanes, remember that in many instances, it may be unlikely you’ll be able to afford to buy one as nice as those you’ve rented. Most pilots rent four-seat, fixed-gear singles, typically Skyhawks, Skylanes and Cherokees, and buying the same late models may be beyond the means of the average, middle-class aviator who is looking for a flying recreational vehicle. If you can afford to buy the same model, it may be 15 or 20 years older than your rentals.
For that reason, many pilots who formerly rented a four-seater, even a two-plus-two, may wind up buying a two-place machine with less performance, range and cabin comfort. That may not be as bad as it sounds, considering that most pilots fly with two seats more than they need anyway. A four-place airplane makes an excellent “two passengers plus all the baggage you could possibly want” machine, and that’s exactly the way most are operated.
You’ll obviously need to make a realistic assessment of operating and maintenance costs. Will you rent a tiedown or keep the airplane in a hangar? Will you insure the aircraft and, if so, will you buy straight liability or full-hull coverage? Will you hire out maintenance or attempt to do most of the periodic work yourself? Are you ready to take on the sometimes expensive and time-consuming task of maintaining an airplane as opposed to merely renting aircraft by the hour with no further obligations?
Choosing The Model
Let’s say you’ve waded through all the issues above and decided you’re ready to buy. The next question is, what model should your entry-level machine be? Do you really need four seats or will two suffice? What’s your typical mission profile— half-hour hops for a hamburger on weekends or long-distance flights for business and pleasure?
Much of the time, pilots will zero in on a particular model or concentrate on two or three possible candidates. Even if the goal is to become an owner at an absolute minimum cost, there are more choices than you might imagine.