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Thread: Neophyte is adding up the numbers

  1. #1
    Member ChugiakTinkerer's Avatar
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    Default Neophyte is adding up the numbers

    I'm disregarding Mr. Pid's advice in another thread and am trying to get a feel for what it costs to own and operate a small aircraft. We've got a remote property that is accessible on floats in the summer, and skis or snowmachine in the winter. I'm going through this exercise because I'm just a few years from retirement, and if the wife and I get the flying bug I need to know if it's something that will be affordable at retirement, or if it will take One More Year (or more) to bank enough funds.

    So here's a simple sketch of what I think it takes to buy a seat at the table:

    Code:
    One time costs:
    Aircraft (ideally 4 seat, low hours SMOH)   $30K
    Floats (eventually)                     $15K
    Overhaul, if needed                     $25K
    
    Fixed annual costs:
    Annual inspection             $1200
    Insurance                     $1500
    Tie-down                      $1500
    Service & minor repairs       $2000
    Fees                          $500
    Etc (makes the math easy)     $300
    
    Hourly costs:
    Fuel      $55
    Oil       $3
    My numbers are fuzzy at this point, as it's a big question mark as to whether we'll get into flying and if so what plane we would want. I'm hoping to get some input if anyone sees a cost category that I'm overlooking, or if my estimates are grossly out of whack.

    For 100 hours a year, I'm guesstimating operating costs at $128 per hour. At 200 hours it drops to $93 per hour and at 50 hours it jumps to $198. This would be for something like a C-172, PA-22 or similar. I've only started drinking from the fire hose of research on this, but I realize my wants may drive the level of performance and cost up to the next level.

    Is my guessing even close to what folks are paying for the pleasure of flying in AK?

  2. #2

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    Most 30 grand (4 seat) aircraft can carry about 800lbs max. So with fuel 200 lbs and stuff 100-200 lbs it makes it a 2 person aircraft. If you really want to carry 4 people and fuel you are talking 100-150 grand base cost. Insurance for a cessna 180 on floats is around 4,000 dollars with high time pilots. I learned to fly in a Pacer, bought it and took all my training in it. Insurance for a new pilot is about 5 grand. I flew without 400 hours without any until I got my cub. You can get just liability but did not think of it at the time. Low hours SMOH means very little!!! MOH has several meaning to a lot of people. If you are going to fly skis you will want a taildragger not a nose wheel aircraft. Your price above is not bad if you are willing to fly with two maybe three people in a plane with poor paint and minimum working flight instruments (which is what a lot of pilots do!!!) you are getting close. Buy the plane to fit the mission is the key. Buy a beater 20-30 grand and spend another 10-15 grand learning to fly. Then you will know what you want. You might decide it is not for you (sell the plane) or it is worth working another year or so. The pacer cost me the money listed above in 4 years easy. BUT!! I flew 400 hours and would do it again in a heartbeat!!!! Fixed annual cost for a plane is around 20 grand a year for your mission. Because a retired guy should be flying 200 hours a year!!
    DENNY

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    Member ChugiakTinkerer's Avatar
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    Thanks for your insight Denny, I appreciate the reality check.

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    one item you may want to include in your calculations is your training costs. your private license, tailwheel endorsement, and float rating will be your initial training costs.

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    I can't think of many 'true-four-place' planes that you can swap between floats, wheels and skiis and cost only $30K...
    old maules maybe (scary), Aeronca Sedan (scarce). Right off the bat, you have underbid this process...

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    Quote Originally Posted by pipercub View Post
    I can't think of many 'true-four-place' planes that you can swap between floats, wheels and skis and cost only $30K...
    old maules maybe (scary), Aeronca Sedan (scarce). Right off the bat, you have underbid this process...
    You're right in that the plane I may ultimately want can't be had for $30K. A capable training plane certainly can, and I'm getting on board with the idea of buying a trainer first and getting lots of hours on that before getting the aircraft that is more mission appropriate.

    I should add that I'm not wanting or needing to fly 4 adults. The majority of flying would my wife and I, the dog, and travel/survival gear. Occasionally three adults. A trainer plane may not be capable of that, but raising the purchase price a bit I see many craft that have a useful load of ~ 1,000 lbs. Looking around TradeAPlane and Controller I see Stinson 108s for under $40K, and a couple of C-170 for well under that.

    If I go the trainer plane route, perhaps with a C-172 for the lower initial insurance cost, my wife and I can learn to fly while taking our time figuring out which craft would best suit our needs. I'm guessing the C-180 will win out, and if we're patient we may find one for around $60K.

    At any rate, the purchase price of the aircraft isn't as much of a concern as the annual operating costs. A well cared for and maintained plane should hold its value. But for my budgeting purposes, I'm going to assume $40K to purchase a plane and $20K annual operating costs. I'm sure there's a few ways to make those costs lower, and LOTS of ways for them to go up. At this stage this is still a planning exercise, but I have something to work with in running my retirement budget calculations.

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    I'm not sure I'd ignore Mr. Pid's advice over on the other thread, but...

    - The concept of buying a beater to learn if flying is for you is one good alternative.....but what if you find that you like flying, but can't afford a replacement / other plane once you have the beater? Think about buying a beater you can live with.
    - The $20k/year seems about right, but some of the numbers leading up to it seem low. After I spent $XXXXXX on a rebuild, I had the cheapest annual ever on the PA-12 the next year: $1300.
    - Even for liability only, the insurance amount seems low, but I'll admit to not researching it, just going off gut feel.
    - For any plane, be cognizant of "legal" useful load: this is often ignored (and IMO, that's not necessarily catastrophic) but useful load tends to get pretty small when considering what it has to cover (fuel, pax, bags, dog, survival gear, etc)
    - Many pilots do fly a craft with crappy exterior and minimal flight instruments....but it's getting a bit more problematic to do (the minimal instruments part) if one doesn't want to be noticeably limited either in where or when one can fly.
    - As noted, taildragger is vastly preferred for ski ops for both practical and other reasons (I met a friend with a 182 on skis....he landed on the same lake I did, but it just looked funny )
    - Very much a personal preference thing, but (as someone else posted), you'll find some Maule's in or close to the price range you're looking at. My BIL (owns a M-5) took me up and we put his Maule through it's paces. I'll admit I'm spoiled by the -12 and I'll readily admit that there are lots of Maules doing some amazing flying, but I could never get used to the slow flight / stall characteristics of the Maule and simply wouldn't be able to use it as an off-airport plane. To each his own, but if your research points you towards a Maule, I'd carefully consider that choice.
    Back in AK

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    Member ChugiakTinkerer's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing your perspective. It can't hurt to plan on $25K operating expenses, after all the point is to figure how much longer I need to work to afford a new passion. Lowballing that seems counter-productive.

    Quote Originally Posted by pa12drvr View Post
    I'm not sure I'd ignore Mr. Pid's advice over on the other thread, but...

    - The concept of buying a beater to learn if flying is for you is one good alternative.....but what if you find that you like flying, but can't afford a replacement / other plane once you have the beater? Think about buying a beater you can live with.
    ...
    It's a puzzle trying to anticipate how this will all play out when the plan is to take up flying after I quit the job. If it turns out I should have had a bigger pot of aviation money it's a little late when I've already cashed out. Going back to work might be an option, as well as just working one more year and banking as much as I can. I'm planning a long retirement, not so much because I expect to live beyond 90 but because I want my wife to live comfortably after I move on. That means there will be some flex in the budget, so when the perfect C-180 (or Maule, or ...) is available I'm willing to eat beans and rice for a few years in order to make it mine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChugiakTinkerer View Post
    Thanks for sharing your perspective. It can't hurt to plan on $25K operating expenses, after all the point is to figure how much longer I need to work to afford a new passion. Lowballing that seems counter-productive.



    It's a puzzle trying to anticipate how this will all play out when the plan is to take up flying after I quit the job. If it turns out I should have had a bigger pot of aviation money it's a little late when I've already cashed out. Going back to work might be an option, as well as just working one more year and banking as much as I can. I'm planning a long retirement, not so much because I expect to live beyond 90 but because I want my wife to live comfortably after I move on. That means there will be some flex in the budget, so when the perfect C-180 (or Maule, or ...) is available I'm willing to eat beans and rice for a few years in order to make it mine.
    Not the question you asked but, FWIW, something to consider. I retired in 2016...wife is still working since she made a commitment to her CEO to see things through until. She and I got blessed /lucky and have X.X multiple of the $$ we thought we'd have at retirement. BUT....having had two paychecks for a long time, it has become darn near impossible to bring myself (or for her to bring herself) to make major capital expenditures now that we only have 1 paycheck (even though that's generous and more than sufficient to cover any capex without dipping into retirement funds).

    It's a mental thing, but FWIW, I'd advise making your capital purchases (even for toys) before retiring. Regardless of the affordability or cost being the same, there's a lot less mental stress making the purchase will money is still coming in.....at least that's been my experience.
    Back in AK

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    My typing my not be so great since my house computer is down. A $40,000 c172 will carry 800 to 900 pounds on wheels. And while they look funny, they are ok on skis. Three big skis givelots of floatation. But, c172 are only good for two folks and gear while on floats. They simple to maintain and fly. Plus there are more 172s out there than anything else. ..'...The Aeronca Sedans are easy to fly, and with a 180 horse they are a very good float plane. Their legal gross can be a problem for pilots like me who deal with business requirements. A C180 is not practical as an occasional flyer due to cost. On floats many180s are weight limited by the time you load enough fuel to go someplace. So you end up back with two people and gear. Many people end up buying too much plane. Plus many people are overly optimistic about how much their spouse will really want to fly with them. My wife lied for years to make me happy. She actually does not like flying at all. My buddy had huge wife so he bought a 6 place aircraft. Then his kids decided he was not cool and they stopped going along. Then his wife did not go either. But he could not afford the 15 gallons an hour just for himself. So he flew around in my old Cub while his big
    Piper rotted away on the ramp.
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  11. #11

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    Your budget looks generally realistic. Probably more realistic than most of us were when we started. But I would agree with Float Pilot...the rocket ship STOL machine that you will get talked into may not be the best solution. Smaller airplanes fly more hours for the same money. Pilots that fly more hours are more tuned up. If you are on a limited budget, be careful not to get an airplane that pushes you to the edge of being able to afford to fly.
    14 Days to Alaska
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    Thanks both for chiming in. The $ per hour is something I need to keep in mind. My basic mission I foresee will be hauling myself, my wife, the dog, and a few supplies to the cabin. I think I'd like the option of carrying two adults plus myself. I'm unfortunately not a small man, so something around 1,000 lbs useful load seems the best option. I won't need to go fast, and I don't plan to go landing on mountaintops. Something that can land us on our lake summer or winter would likely fulfill our needs.

    Probably the best thing to do now is keep chugging along, but maybe dip our toes in the water sooner rather than later. That will help us figure out if we're both gung-ho about flying, or just in love with the romanticism of it.

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    They say airspeed and money are the two things needed for flying. I ended up finally buying a 1966 Cessna 150 to complete my flight training as renting got expensive. My plan is to become a flight instructor after retiring from the military. Then the 150 will be perfect for training students. I'll upgrade one of these days to a capable airplane for off airport use. Had to settle for a beater to get in the game and have enjoyed it tremendously. It's the difference between being grounded and flying for me.
    "In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks." John Muir

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    What Graying says is very true. Actually flying the crappyist looking plane in the world is much better than sitting on the ground while dreaming about owning a 100,000 dollar aircraft. While planning, there is weight, legal weight and then there is cabin space. Some big folks just cannot fit in certain planes and actually operate the controls. I am only 6' 1" and about 215 pounds. I barely fit into some planes. A 180 or 185 is not any wider than A 172. Just a little taller and loner inside. Maules are tight like a sports car. Sedans are huge as are 182s after a certain year. A Cessna 205, the parent of the 206, is an often overlooked plane. They haula BUNCH of weight and have room. A Piper Cherokee six with big tires will haul all sorts of weight and gear.dor some reason they are affordable. As for waiting too long, every day that you age is a little more reflex's lost. You cannot buy back time,once it is gone,it is gone for good.
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    I hate typing on my phone. Home office still a mess.
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    The one thing that you can't put value on is how cool you are when you own one though.

    I wouldn't do it different for the world. So what if me and the kids have to trap mice to eat? It's not that big of deal that we have to buy on sale potatoes just to make ends meet.

    In all reality, owning a plane is expensive. We pay about $500 a year for tie down and probably on average about $1300 with owner assisted annuals. I also spend about $2000 a year on average in upgrades here and there. Other than that it's about $1500 a year on insurance and then just gas in the tank.

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    So I've been researching further, and it looks like my mission requirements are limiting the options to a small range of aircraft. With full fuel and floats, I'd like to have at least 600 lbs of capacity. The 170 with a C-145 on EDO 2000s looks to be the absolute minimum, and would have a payload in the neighborhood of 578 lbs. The next best, by my slip-shod research, are the Stinson 108, the Maule M-4-220, Maule MX-7-180, a Cessna 172/180 conversion, and the C-205/206. Most of those are priced from $50K to $80K on up. The exception is the Stinson 108. At stock it meets my mission requirements and looks to be available in various condition starting around $30K.

    The Aeronca Sedan looks like a truly sweet a/c, but it's stock performance just doesn't meet my needs. At least on paper. A conversion with a 180 hp would probably be perfect for how I think I will want to fly.

    Anyhow, this is all dreaming and scheming. Need to learn to crawl first.

  18. #18

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    Can you build a strip at the Cabin and so away with the floats?? Just how big is this lake?
    DENNY

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    Aha! Now I just need to get a dozer and make it happen.

    The lake is about a mile across. My property climbs up from the lake to a level area on top. I'd have to check it for sure, but looking at my topo map I could put a runway up top about 800' long into the prevailing wind.

    That's a whole lot of room to play with...

    Thanks Denny, now another set of gears are spinning away in my head.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChugiakTinkerer View Post
    Aha! Now I just need to get a dozer and make it happen.

    The lake is about a mile across. My property climbs up from the lake to a level area on top. I'd have to check it for sure, but looking at my topo map I could put a runway up top about 800' long into the prevailing wind.
    That's a whole lot of room to play with...
    Thanks Denny, now another set of gears are spinning away in my head.

    CT,
    I know how to run one of them thar dozers. Let me know when u get it out there. Signed...your neighbor.
    Your sarcasm is way, waaaayyyyyyyy more sarcastic than mine!

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