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Thread: operating costs

  1. #1

    Default operating costs

    I am shoping for a small plane like a champ or T craft. My wife is freaking out about the after purchase costs. Can you help me with some numbers. Maybe a per hour cost, and what's included in your per hour cost.One guy I read, said he budgeted 300 $ a month. If he went over, it was there for later. I kind of like that aproach. I would probably be flying about 10 hours a month. I live in Cantwell, so I can't rent a plane, even though I know that is probably cheaper.

    Also, what does it take to burn auto gas?

    And , one more - What are the hours limits for engine rebuilds, and any other mandated maintenance

  2. #2
    Member High Country's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Eagle River, AK


    You asked a lot of questions there with a ton of variables. I will relay what I guy told me once when I asked the same thing. If you have to ask you probably can't afford an airplane.

    There is a lot of truth to that. You can figure a per hour cost using things such as fuel, insurance, maintenance, modifications, airplane payments, etc. and in most cases it will scare you. That's why I don't do it and just make sure my bank account doesn't go to low. Having said that, if you pay for the plane outright and are not going to insure it you operating costs per hour will be lower. A good rule of thumb is every time you fuel divide the fuel cost in half and put that amount away for maintenance.

    Most engines are based off a 2000 hour TBO. It is not mandated as you say and depending on how the engines are treated they can go beyond 2000 hours or may need an overhaul earlier than that.

  3. #3
    Member Float Pilot's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Kachemak Bay Alaska


    Are you thinking about insurance or no? That tends to add up. A couple of my students and former students had insurance for awhile and then dropped it due to cost.
    I have full coverage on mine since I use it for float-ratings and tail-wheel instruction. One of only a couple I might add...

    I bought this current plane outright so no payments. I have a 90 horse that burns 4 to 5 gallons an hour. I can burn car gas or av-gas.

    So I spend $18 to $20 an hour on gas, using the current RIP-OFF prices.

    Plus I have to add the price of my annuals and 100 hour inspections into the mix. You wont need 100 hour inspections, so you could maybe get by with a $500 to $800 annual on a simple plane with you helping.
    If you figure 100 hours a year of flying, that is an additional $5 per hour towards your annual cost.

    Then you have to figure in oil and other goodies. I change mine every 20 to 25 hours in every plane I have ever had. Some cheap folks think is too often, but I save on engine troubles, so it is worth it. That adds about another $1 per hour for oil and maybe another $1 per hour in other items that pop up.

    Now we are up to $27 to $30 per hour, IF you fly 100 hours per year in a 90 horse T-craft, champ, Cessna 150 or J3. If you don't really fly that much, trhen the cost in fuel fgo down, but your maintainence problems do not. In fact a plane that sits and sits is worth a lot less than one that is flown every week.

    Then you have things like charts, headsets, things you break, So you can easily blow another couple-three hundred a year for the first couple of years buying cool stuff.

    As for the original cost, If you maintain your plane in a proper manner the value of the aircraft will not very likey go down. Particularly if you really fly it. A couple years ago I bought a Cessna 150 with a 150 horse engine. ( a real screamer, that my wife loved) It was high time and over TBO by twice. But I only paid $20,000 for it in Las Vegas. I flew it home in 4 days and then used it as an instruction plane for about 24 months. I added a long range tank and some other minor improvements. I flew that plane for 800 hours. Then I sold it to a guy down in the southwest U.S. for $22,000. That guy got his license with it and I have no idea where it is now. It had 3,600 hours on a 0-320 Lycoming when I sold it, but the jugs had been changed a few times and the oil was changed every 20 hours, So it ran great. It took me 3 days to go from Homer to Arizona.

    My very first Cub (years ago) cost me $220 a month in payments plus I was stuck with insurance cost all year. The insurance was about the same per month for the first couple of years. I could have bought two planes.

    If you do not have your own place to tie down or a barn to put it inside-of, then tie down fees or hanger rent can add up. I pay a little over $300 per year in tie -down fees. Which stinks since I am only at the airport half the year. But I am affraid of loosing my spot.

    I try not to pay too much attention to the cost or I would not fly. I used to have a wife who hated my planes and every cent I spent on them. I got rid of her and kept flying. The new wife is much more understanding as the half owner...
    Floatplane,Tailwheel and Firearms Instructor- Dragonfly Aero
    Experimental Hand-Loader, NRA Life Member

  4. #4


    Using autogas is a paperwork exercise, mostly. Your engine AND airframe have to conform. You can go to this website and look up both to see if the STC is available for an aircraft model you are considering: I consider the auto fuel STC a requirement for any aircraft I would own, even if I occasionally have to throw a few gallons of 100LL in there while traveling.

    I've found that it is not useful to track my expenses post-purchase, if I tracked them I'd probably freak out and sell the thing. Certainly the significant other would. Ignorance is bliss I commute from one town to another on the weekends and it is slightly cheaper to fly due to straight line distance, but I am only talking fuel burn here.

  5. #5
    New member
    Join Date
    Dec 2007

    Default operating costs

    These guys are right about operating costs.

    I have a cherry low-time (since complete nose to tail overhaul in 2003) Cessna 180 on EDO 2960s. I bought it last September for $125,000. It was the best one I have seen in two years of looking.

    Since September, I have flown it about 140 hours, and even though it was in great shape when I bought it, choosing to be absolutely meticulous in my maintenance means it costs me money all the time.

    Not including fuel (which runs about 12 gallons/$80 per hour), I have spent perhaps $3000 upgrading seat belts & putting in an HID landing light. I've also easily another $10,000 on parts & labour doing what could be called "regular maintenance" (e.g. new CHT probe, replace exhaust, carb heat repairs, 2 new control cables, new throttle/mix cables, re-certify ELT, cowl flap repairs, new compass, etc).

    I could have gone cheap, and saved a few dollars here & there, but the inevitable conclusion is that aircraft operating costs aren't cheap. In fact, they are so expensive that I don't worry about finding mogas - my 180 has bladder tanks that like 100LL, and bladder tanks are **** expensive to replace. Put another way, $80 an hour for 100LL is a small part of ownership.

    A tube & fabric aircraft on wheels (in a dry climate) is probably cheaper than a salt-water 180 on floats, but unless you're prepared to "do it right" when it comes to maintenance, your aircraft will be worth less /harder to sell when you're broke or ready to upgrade, and in the mean time you will be taking a bigger chance of a mechanical failure to boot.

    My two cents anyway. And would I do it all over again? In a second. I mean, it's just money - if you can afford rent and groceries, then what else are you going to do with it that's this much fun?

    Bill in BC.

  6. #6
    New member
    Join Date
    Jun 2008

    Default hourly costs

    I good rule of thumb for a fixed gear , fixed pitch airplane is twice the cost of fuel. It works and Im with the rest of the crew who wrote in that you really dont want to know every little expense. Otherwise you would never fly it. Divide your house mortgage and expenses by the month and you could probably do better in a motel ! owning an airplane is the coolest off road machine that you could ever get.
    Life is short. Airplane generaly appreciate so just do it and figure out the details later. You wont be sorry.


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