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Thread: True cost to own

  1. #1
    Moderator LuJon's Avatar
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    Default True cost to own

    I am working on the "budget" and a 5 year plan of sorts... I am hoping to start learning to fly in the next year and I guess I have a dream of being able to take off when I want and go fishing along some gravel bar with NO CROWD! That said I know there are many unforseen expenses involved in airplane ownership even if the initial cost is less than my F150... I still havn't been up in a champ (read thread "Champ of strip") but from what I have heard it should fit my 6'5" 245lb frame . The initial cost seems down right reasonable for a champ. An auto gas STC may even make me be able to afford to put gas in it from time to time... What have you all experianced as far as the true cost to own one of those flying contraptions?

  2. #2
    Member alaskamace's Avatar
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    Talking

    As my dad used to say, an arplane is just a hole in the sky that you pour money in.
    ..."Tolerance is the virtue of a man without convictions." - G.K. Chesterton

  3. #3
    Member BobK's Avatar
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    Default

    Your post was like deja-vu for me...

    I got my private ticket this summer in a Champ that I bought. Originally I had my heart set on a Cessna 170B, but financially I couldn't swing it. I found this Champ here in town this summer, and have been having an absolute blast with it ! I'm 6'4" and about 200lbs, and it fits just fine. Plenty of headroom, and my knees aren't anywhere near the dash.

    As far as off-airport, it does pretty good. As long as you remember that it isn't a SuperCub, you'll be just fine. I have a 108hp engine, bigger fuel tanks, 26" tires, and VG's on mine. Having only gotten my license this fall, I haven't played too much on gravel bars, etc, but I anticipate that next summer will be filled with fishing trips to remote locations for plenty of practice. As soon as we get some more snow up here, I'll be throwing the skis on, and learning how to play in the snow !

    Budget wise, it is a bite to fly a plane. But as it has been said numerous times, on many forums, its all about what you want and what you need. I sold my snowmachine and toned down my vacation schedule in order to get my plane. The initial cost isn't bad, its the ongoing costs that scare me. $60 for tie-down, $150 for insurance, $100 for annual funds, $200 for payment, etc... It adds up quick, and that doesn't count fuel ! I did choose to insure my plane, which many don't. I thought it would be a good idea to do so, at least till I got my license. Now that I have it, I plan on keeping the insurance unless finances get really tight.

    Good luck ! Let me know if you have anymore questions about Champs.

    Hasta ~

    Bob K.
    Anchorage, AK

  4. #4
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    Default Rule #1 Don't add up the costs!!!!

    Here are a couple of the generic expenses as they apply to me:

    After you have had the aircraft a couple of years the expenses become known ahead of time and can be budgeted for... new brakes, struts, tires, motor, glass, spinner, covers, VG's, etc.

    When I bought mine about 5 yrs ago my mechanic told me to expect to pay about another 10% of the purchase cost in unexpected stuff right away.

    Buying used parts can be a way to save money, but I've bought used and then had to turn around and buy new because it turns out it wasn't such a good deal. I would have been money ahead to buy new to begin with. There is a happy medium.

    Insurance is the way to go. When the plane is wrecked the investment is gone. I don't have insurance.

    Figure fuel costs. I fly recreationally and 100 hours a year is the most I've done. And I feel like I fly a bunch. Most of the hours are April through November. 150hp 0320 burns 8-9 gallons an hour. $2700 a year with auto gas at $3 a gallon. When you leave home the gas gets much more expensive, especially off of the road system. I figure gas is the cheapest part of having an airplane. If you are going to invest the time and money into owning an airplane you may as well be flying it.

    Oil has gotten very expensive. In the few years I've been flying it has doubled. I figure about $30 an oil change 5-6 times a year. Plus you'll burn some oil between changes.... at least $200 a year in oil.

    Strut XRay- $50 a strut.... every other year.

    Mags every 500 hours.... I think $200+

    Annual will run $500-$1500 depending on the mechanic and what you need. Some can get much, much more expensive. My first couple annuals were my most expensive.

    Odds and ends... more tools, jacks, preheaters, lots of jerry cans, funnel siphon, headsets($$$$), survival gear, nuts, bolts, washers, gas caps, safety wire, fabric, glue, paint, tie down, plastic owl to scare away the revens......

    When I'm working on it I'm cussing the darn thing and considering selling it.
    A few moments in the air and you wonder why you waited so long to buy one.


    JB

  5. #5
    Member Toddler's Avatar
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    Exactly what JB said!!!!

    I figure $400/ month is what I put away as my budget. That does not include gas or bank note (I donít have one). One thing that nobody has mentioned is a fuel tank for your truck. You can buy gas almost a full dollar cheaper from Suburban Propane than if you buy it at the airfield. I put on 135 hours last year and felt like I was in the air all of the time.

    Drew

  6. #6
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    Default Hard to calculate, but a lot!

    You ask a difficult question - the short answer is that it all depends on how you calculate it. The long answer follows.

    In August, I took my float rating on the British Columbia coast. I didn't pick the cheapest guy, I picked the guy with the best maintained aircraft that I was likely to own one day (a nicely equipped 180), and the outfit everyone had nice things to say about.

    His hourly rate for training? $375. I could have saved a hundred dollars an hour by going with another firm's 172, but then that firm lost its 172 to a crash shortly after I got my rating. And I would have had to wait a month or two for a slot, and so by the time of the crash, I would have been half-done my rating. Or worse, it could have been me in the crash. All three occupants died at the scene.

    Long story short, my instructor told me he's losing money if he unties the plane for less than $300 an hour, all things considered. That was August.

    So I did the math and bought my own 180 float plane, the best-maintained example I could find. It cost me $125,000.

    Then I had a trusted mechanic go over it thoroughly with a complete 100-hour commercial inspection.

    Fixing all the little details (there's always something, and I had my guy be extra-picky), plus installing new BAS shoulder restraints, cost me close to $10,000 before I took it on my first ride. That was September.

    Then I flew it for 25 hours, and it was time for an oil change. There were a few ongoing squaks to iron out, and the bill was about $1000. That was October.

    Then I flew it for another 25 hours, and decided to upgrade the oil filter, so I could go 50 hours between oil changes. Out of an abundance of caution, I also decided to do a 50-hour commercial inspection (hey, it's a "new" plane, and all the bugs should shake out in 50 hours, right?). I haven't seen the bill yet, but a plane doesn't go into the shop for less than $1000. If it costs $2000, I won't have a heart attack.

    So, that's three months, two oil changes, and 50 hours of use. I've spent more than $10,000 on maintenance, and this was on the best aircraft I have been able to find in two years of looking.

    Oh, and I spent $5000 for a year's worth of full-coverage insurance.

    $15,000 divided by 50 hours equals $300 per hour. Or exactly what my instructor quoted - except I have forgotten about fuel!

    Fuel is pretty steady at around $75 an hour, no matter what kind of flying I'm doing, or at what altitude.

    Of course, I'll fly more as the year goes on, so that $5000 insurance premium will be spread out over 12 months, instead of three.

    But then my 400-hour engine will have 500, or 600 hours on it, and in three years time, my $7000 propellor will be due for an overhaul.

    Oh, and the floats will need some work in a year or two (this is a salt-water aircraft). Figure $20,000 to replace the barrels with newly overhauled ones, or maybe a third of that to just keep them in good working order.

    So, all in all, $300 an hour seems about right for a Cessna 180 float plane. There are surely other, cheaper planes out there (hint: they have tricycle wheels, fixed-pitch propellors, O-320 or O-200 engines, and burn half the fuel), but even with all those "savings", you might get lucky and only spend half or two thirds of what I spend on my 180.

    In case you think this is an extraordinary case, my mechanic and instructor both think I got a very good deal on the purchase, and although they admit that I am very concientious in my maintenance (I have to be, I'm an aviation lawyer, and I see planes crash all the time due to "deferred maintenance"), they say I'm probably saving money in the long run, compared to the "guy who can't afford to fly" and tries to save a few pennies here & there, at the expense of keeping the plane up.

    One of the mechanics I spoke with owns a plain-jane day-VFR Cessna 150. He is licensed to fix it himself, and he can usually scrounge whatever part he needs from somewhere. And I'm pretty sure he doesn't insure the hull. He wouldn't dream of flying anything else.

    My two cents, anyway. Ask me in nine months, and I'll tell you what the rest of the year cost me...


    Bill

  7. #7
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    Default Hard to calculate, but a lot!

    You ask a difficult question - the short answer is that it all depends on how you calculate it. The long answer follows.

    In August, I took my float rating on the British Columbia coast. I didn't pick the cheapest guy, I picked the guy with the best maintained aircraft that I was likely to own one day (a nicely equipped 180), and the outfit everyone had nice things to say about.

    His hourly rate for training? $375. I could have saved a hundred dollars an hour by going with another firm's 172, but then that firm lost its 172 to a crash shortly after I got my rating. And I would have had to wait a month or two for a slot, and so by the time of the crash, I would have been half-done my rating. Or worse, it could have been me in the crash. All three occupants died at the scene.

    Long story short, my instructor told me he's losing money if he unties the plane for less than $300 an hour, all things considered. That was August.

    So I did the math and bought my own 180 float plane, the best-maintained example I could find. It cost me $125,000.

    Then I had a trusted mechanic go over it thoroughly with a complete 100-hour commercial inspection.

    Fixing all the little details (there's always something, and I had my guy be extra-picky), plus installing new BAS shoulder restraints, cost me close to $10,000 before I took it on my first ride. That was September.

    Then I flew it for 25 hours, and it was time for an oil change. There were a few ongoing squaks to iron out, and the bill was about $1000. That was October.

    Then I flew it for another 25 hours, and decided to upgrade the oil filter, so I could go 50 hours between oil changes. Out of an abundance of caution, I also decided to do a 50-hour commercial inspection (hey, it's a "new" plane, and all the bugs should shake out in 50 hours, right?). I haven't seen the bill yet, but a plane doesn't go into the shop for less than $1000. If it costs $2000, I won't have a heart attack.

    So, that's three months, two oil changes, and 50 hours of use. I've spent more than $10,000 on maintenance, and this was on the best aircraft I have been able to find in two years of looking.

    Oh, and I spent $5000 for a year's worth of full-coverage insurance.

    $15,000 divided by 50 hours equals $300 per hour. Or exactly what my instructor quoted - except I have forgotten about fuel!

    Fuel is pretty steady at around $75 an hour, no matter what kind of flying I'm doing, or at what altitude.

    Of course, I'll fly more as the year goes on, so that $5000 insurance premium will be spread out over 12 months, instead of three.

    But then my 400-hour engine will have 500, or 600 hours on it, and in three years time, my $7000 propellor will be due for an overhaul.

    Oh, and the floats will need some work in a year or two (this is a salt-water aircraft). Figure $20,000 to replace the barrels with newly overhauled ones, or maybe a third of that to just keep them in good working order.

    So, all in all, $300 an hour seems about right for a Cessna 180 float plane. There are surely other, cheaper planes out there (hint: they have tricycle wheels, fixed-pitch propellors, O-320 or O-200 engines, and burn half the fuel), but even with all those "savings", you might get lucky and only spend half or two thirds of what I spend on my 180.

    In case you think this is an extraordinary case, my mechanic and instructor both think I got a very good deal on the purchase, and although they admit that I am very concientious in my maintenance (I have to be, I'm an aviation lawyer, and I see planes crash all the time due to "deferred maintenance"), they say I'm probably saving money in the long run, compared to the "guy who can't afford to fly" and tries to save a few pennies here & there, at the expense of keeping the plane up.

    One of the mechanics I spoke with owns a plain-jane day-VFR Cessna 150. He is licensed to fix it himself, and he can usually scrounge whatever part he needs from somewhere. And I'm pretty sure he doesn't insure the hull. He wouldn't dream of flying anything else.

    My two cents, anyway. Ask me in nine months, and I'll tell you what the rest of the year cost me...


    Bill

  8. #8
    Mark
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    Quote Originally Posted by alaskamace View Post
    As my dad used to say, an arplane is just a hole in the sky that you pour money in.
    Yup. And a boat is a hole in the water that you pour money in,

    an atv is a hole in the mud you pour money in,

    a pickup is a hole in the pavement you pour money in,

    a home is a hole in the ground you pour money in,

    a wife is a hole in the bed you pour money in,

    etc, etc, etc.......................

  9. #9

    Default

    Another short answer is, I know rich men that own airplanes and I know poor men who owns airplanes. And often they are the same exact model.

    What it sometimes boils down to is: It isn't how much you earn, or your budget (though you certainly should have one if you are going to do this) but how interested and passionate are you about doing it? That will guide how much you are willing to spend!

    I own my own plane. I know pilots who make three times the amount I do who constantly grouse that they will never afford to own their own. This, while they drive new trucks and have 40 inch big screen TVs and share a fractional condo on Maui.

    Where are your priorities? If you want an airplane you will find a way to afford it, I promise you.

  10. #10
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    Default If you want it, you will find a way

    Alaskaflyer is right - I had to trade in my diesel truck and sell the Harley, and work a lot harder, but all that is worth it every time I skim those west coast waters. Priorities, priorities. Besides, who needs a Mexico holiday when you can fish a lake no one has fished in years?

    There are planes for every budget: the corrollory to the law of "diminishing returns" is that, if you can live with an aircraft with 70% or 80% or 90% of the performance of your "dream" aircraft, it costs only half as much to buy, maintain, and fuel. If you get a basic aircraft, it might only cost a third of a "full load" aircraft, and you still have the same view out the window.

  11. #11
    New member mechek's Avatar
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    Default you can do it.

    I was telling an old time pilot friend a while back that it's hard to justify owning an airplane. He said, "Wrong, it's hard to justify not owning an airplane" I believe he is right.

    What I suggest is to buy the most well maintained a/c your budget will allow. You are better off buying a clean, moderately priced plane, such as a Piper Pacer, than a tired Super Cub.

    Remember, the purchase price of an a/c is just the entry fee. Set up a separate bank account for a/c maintenance and make it a priority to add a few dollars every month.

    Bush flying is the ultimate adventure.

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