Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Dream Big: Buy A Plane

Financing and insurance are the first steps in making your ownership dream come true

No dream stirs a pilot's soul more than that of owning an airplane. From the moment a student starts renting aircraft, the idea of owning one never stops calling. As a pilot gains experience in aviation, their mission becomes clearer, and the kind of aircraft a pilot prefers—from technically advanced to vintage classic— starts to surface. From then on, nothing takes the place of that prodding desire to own an aircraft.

It seems almost obscene to be writing about owning an aircraft in today's climate of half-a-million-dollar price tags. It's no secret that the cost of ownership has risen to the point where sole ownership of a new airplane takes some considerable resources to pull off, or that fewer of us can afford to own an aircraft outright.

Cheap aircraft ownership was one of the chief reasons that aviation flourished after World War II, ushering in what we now refer to as the "Golden Era" of general aviation. In fact, even though I'm a product of the relatively recent 1970s (in GA terms), I remember "For Sale" signs on Piper Cubs and smaller Cessnas in the $3,000 range! When I was in the fourth grade, a neighbor of ours bought an old P-51 Mustang for the outrageous sum of $10,000. Today, that wouldn't buy the warbird's Plexiglas canopy.

Still, aviation ownership is possible. The nature of it has changed—one reason is that flying clubs are starting to flourish—but owning an aircraft is still one of the most rewarding feelings. When I hear pilots complain that "nobody can own an airplane anymore," I point to the dozen or so ads in every issue of Barnstormer or Trade-A-Plane advertising Cessna 140s, Piper Tri-Pacers, Aeroncas and a fistful of others—all for under $20,000. Put four pilots together to buy an aircraft like that, and you've got a dandy, four-gallon-per-hour fun machine that costs less to own than an old Buick. Ownership isn't impossible—it's just not as freewheeling as it once was.

If you have the resources, new aircraft offer an experience that matches (and sometimes beats) the airlines, and we've written about plenty of those in this magazine. We live in an era of 250- knot, fixed-gear piston singles and air- conditioned cruisers that can transport four people a thousand miles in any direction without stopping. On the light- sport front, a hundred grand will put you in a brand-new little sport coupe with great handling and miserly fuel consumption. Throw in an extra $25,000, and the LSA world opens like an oyster, revealing so many different aircraft that it puts Willy Wonka's factory to shame.


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