How much $/hr to operate SuperCub



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  • How much $/hr to operate SuperCub

    I am considering buying a pa18. I will be using it for personal transportation, but may also sub out for some bush work.

    What is the cost to operate/maintain per hour? (LESS FUEL)

  • #2
    You really need to know more, and then it would only be a WAG.

    Factors include how much use per year, how good of shape the plane is in, and how you are going to use it.

    Fixed costs like Annual Inspections, Tiedown, Insurance, and amortization for engine and airframe overhauls factor into the hourly cost. Periodic maintenance can be higher for hard use (holes in fabric, bent gear, prop dings, etc) and can go really high (bent wings, struts, tearing gear out).

    But here are some numbers

    Annual $500/year for well maintained plane
    Insurance $2,200 - $5,000 year based on pilot experience, floats or wheels
    Tiedown $800 year
    Periodic Maintenance $400 every 100 hours
    Unexpected Maintenance - Who knows ?? $500 - $5,000 year

    Hourly costs based on 100 hours per year

    Fixed costs from above $44-$117/hr
    Engine Reserves $15/hour ($25k every 1,800 hours, could be more $$)
    Airframe Reserves $33/hour ($50k every 15 years, based on 100hr fly/year)

    Total $92-$165 per hour based on those numbers

    Scary.... If you defer the reserves, it will catch up with you if you are going to keep the plane, or you will loose value if you go to sell it.

    If I was going to shotgun it, I would have said $50-$100/ hour, but my numbers above show that looks a little low


    • #3

      I would think flyboy's number are ok for a recreation pilot. But I dont know what your meaning when you talk about subbing out. For commercial part 135 use you can at least double the cost and it would have to have all the mod's like the 2K pound mod. Don't think you gave enough information. I know I would not let some joe blow use my $80,000 dollar cub.



      • #4
        Thanks Flyboy and Terry
        Point taken
        I am familiar with recreation costs in lower 48, ak bush is my question.

        For simplicity and to be on the conservative side, lets just assume that:

        1. I would fly all 250 hr/yr on wheels from 600 ft strips flying hunters commercially in various parts of ak. Flown heavy and hard, but not recklessly
        2. A mid time plane, not new, but not completely rode hard and put away wet either.

        What is the going rate for a transporter with a supercub?


        • #5
          Well, the cost depends on how often and how bad you bend it. Who flies from 600' strips anyway? If strips are that long why use a cub? Its a pretty safe bet that any 600' strip is over hunted and only a city slicker would want to go there. 400' is huge for a cub, 300 is normal operations if loaded and they get shorter. Thats why we use cubs, and yep, we bend an occasional prop, gear, tail, it just goes with the trade. Ive got more then 10K hours with a cub strapped to my butt and I can tell ya that if hourly operations cost is figured on fuel, oil and annuals like its done in the lower 48, you are going to have a surprise or two when its time to look at the bottom line. Cub pilots dont usually fly recklessly, they just keep trying to tighten up their personal envelope and they pay to play.


          • #6
            Grizzly 1

            Originally posted by goosepilot View Post
            I am considering buying a pa18. I will be using it for personal transportation, but may also sub out for some bush work.

            What is the cost to operate/maintain per hour? (LESS FUEL)
            SUPER CUB's answer says it all, and he's exactly right. Those 600-ft strips are for something other than Super Cubs. Better figure that 300-ft is around the maximum strip length you'll be using, if you're doing any serious outback fliying. And that the "strips" may be on the beach, on a sand or gravel bar, or on a ridgeline somewhere above the trees.


            • #7
              Stick to the question please

              Maybe my first sentence in my last post and my original question was a little unclear.

              I know what it costs to operate a cub in the lower 48.

              What does it cost to operate one off the shortest, roughest i*******ble AK "strips"?

              Its just a simple economic business type question. I realize everyone operates differently and degree of damage will vary, but it didn't take anywhere near the 5K hrs ag I have for me to figure what my average cost was.



              • #8
                Goose Pilot,

                The silence must be defening... its cuz what you are asking does not relate to our reality, Alaska is just different. I know, you dont think so, but it is, and ya really have no idea at all how we operate or what the variables can be. All honest mistakes because if you are a goose driver you dont know cubs. And if you are an ag-cub driver it does not relate to Bush flying. We hold ag-pilots in high regard, but they arn't bush pilots and we that fly the bush dont regard ourselves as ag-pilots.

                So here are the questioins you need to answer.
                Is your cub going to be 150 160 180 or 200 HP?
                Are you burning 100LL or mo-gas?
                Where do you intend to fly out of? Fuel can vary from just under $4. a gal. to $15 or $18 a gal.
                Is your cub Alaska ready for bush work? If not, expect to add $10 grand or more of mods, and $20s not impossible.

                What does it cost to operate one off the shortest, roughest i*******ble AK "strips"?

                I doubt you have the imagination necessary for this one...and its pilot specific. One mans shortest roughest i*******ble is another mans piece of cake. 150' strips with rocks the size of water mellons are not uncommon. Landing on water with tires and ending up on less then 100' of river bar or beach is not unheard of. Landing uphill on 45 degree slopes and 7' wide ridges, not that uncommon in some circles. Go ahead and toss in 35 knot cross winds on "the Penn" and "on the chain" to add interest to soft beaches, logs and sloping sand. Whats it cost to recover a cub 800 miles from a road and factor that into an hourly cost? If you play this game you are going to trip from time to time and thats got to be factored in. And insurance? How many Alaska hours do you have and in what? It makes a big difference. Operating on salt water? Factor in replacing those longerons, on rocks and gravel in the mountains, what does it cost for new cover on that tail every year or two? We keep horizontals and rudders in stock on the hangar wall, bore props standing in the corner, spare tail springs and rudder horns handy under the cot... for short notice needs... those are costs that vary. You ask an impossible question. It costs what it costs, you arent going to argue about the cost of a helicopter when your cub is broken and sitting below high tide line. You make the call, pay to play, and get back to work. Up here we ain't to smart with all that, we just fix it and fly it until we are completely broke and momma runs off with someone that doesn't fly.

                Dont be ashamed about only having 5K hours, everyone has to start somewhere


                • #9
                  Supercub Pilot you said what I was going to, but held off on. I think many people from outside do not really realize what we are doing here when we are "working a Cub". There are no plaura of 600' strips right in the middle of an African-amount of wild game herds in Alaska. Like you said we wouldn't need Cubs for that anyway. Paying hunters normally are on short schedules, with high expectations, and are not into long hikes. See game here, expect to be landed here. So you gotta find how.

                  To get into to doing what people are doing with Cubs here is not done in a short time, it is a learning experience over many years and many hours. People who try to ramp that up, wind up with bent up planes. We all have paid our dues, and bent things working into to it. Those in a big rush to be Gods answer to a bush pilot usually get slowed down when they total a few planes. Their pocketbook starts throttling their egos.

                  So the costs: No more than "non-alaska" operating costs to the value of your entire plane plus liability of hurting someone else, each time you go out...... No way to break it into an hour, a season or a career.

                  33 years doing it, and still learning here....

                  PS: Just looked at my 31" Bushweels and I may only get two seasons out of them as they got cut to crap last year... kerchink $3,300


                  • #10
                    Well thanks, your getting closer to answering my question. I am all ears for any words of wisdom, but I would prefer you didn't make assumptions about me when you don't know me.

                    I know there are a million different ways to slice the pie, but bottom line is what does it cost you? I don't care who you are or what your financial situation is, I can't believe you don't have a ballpark figure as to what your costs are.

                    As far as ego, I am probably the least ego driven pilot around. I don't want to get into a verbal comparison of abilities. Talk is cheap. Most ag pilots I know that have "I fly low" on their license plates etc, are the worst examples of an good ag pilot. I know my abilities and my ability to learn and to be able to get the job done and I will leave it at that.

                    Just confirmed today that I will in fact be working in Ak this fall, so educate me.

                    Thanks again


                    • #11
                      Goose pilot,
                      you didnt give us one word, not one, describing where you will fly. Umiat fuel will be about $15. Duth fuel a lot less. What kind of fuel.

                      So, whats it cost to operate for an hour up here....

                      I will answer that exactly as soon as you answer the following question for me.

                      "How long is a string?"

                      That question is exactly as valid as yours.... We that fly cubs dont do it based on hourly expense.... in 35 years I never once calculated hourly expense. Whats the hourly cost of driving your car? ... I bet you never calculated it. Our aircraft are our cars... we drive them, we fix them, and we complain about how much it costs as we get into them and go fly them again. I fly more then I drive... my car is only good to get me to the airfield.

                      Talk to the airtaxi guys about the cost of driving a Beaver, they probably know. Few airtaxis drive cubs any more..... a few of those that do have so much experience they rarely bend them and the rest will only go into those 600 foot strips with them...or 500. The rest of us use a cub for utility and hunting. Who are "The rest of us?" Weekend warriors that use their cubs to go to the cabin and to go hunting in August and September, (they dont care about hourly costs).... Professional Hunters that use their cubs in unimaginable places and conditions, and they dont care about hourly costs either, they simply have a job to do and that is to put their clients into strips that most of the weekenders wont attempt. Their ability is what keeps them in business and keeps their strips free of resident tentage.

                      Sorry we are so darned ignorant.


                      • #12

                        My first post asked for costs, LESS FUEL.

                        I get paid by the hour plus fuel on every type of flying I do. It doesn't matter how you figure it , tach time goes in the log book and total money spent divided by hours gives you cost per hour.

                        I don't know too many cars that have tachs. I guess some of the new Chevys trucks have an hour meter though. I do however know cost per mile, an annual repair cost, and annual fuel expense and total miles. Maybe I'm anal, but I know what my expenses are in everything I do.

                        If your curious, I'll tell you what the costs are by the end of the year. After a couple hundred hours of flying hunters and another 50 or so personally hunting.

                        Hopefully I will have time to drop in and visit with you as we move to our second location after the Fairbanks hunts.

                        Have a good day


                        • #13

                          I guess you are not getting our point. What it costs me, SuperCub Driver or ANYONE else up here is not a relevant number for what it might cost YOU. This is not meant to be a slight on you or your abilities, just the facts. Everyone operates at different locations, with different risks, and with different abilities. And there is always stuff that gets you regardless how good or careful that you are. I have seen guides wreck 3 cubs in a week, and I have seen some people with cubs do nothing to them between rebuilds. It just depends.

                          There are just to many variables, particularly with those breaking into real bush flying. Most years I just pay annual, 100 hour inspections and normal operating expenses. But as I was learning 30 years ago there were lots more "incidental" costs, and every difficult off-airport operation has risks for more of those. I have broken tailwheels, bent gear, bent longerons, bent props, wacked little trees, flipped upside down and damaged wings. In one five year period I recovered tail feathers every other year as they were taking rocks out of the types of strips I was operating during that period. Things like bears ripping your plane up while you are away from it, windstorms that I have seen total 30 cubs in an hour are common place. Like SuperCub said, we just take our lumps, pay the bill and go flying.

                          FYI, for the last 10 years since a $90,000 complete "made new" rebuild, excluding upgrades done at my choice, I spend probably $50/hour dry based on 150 hours that I usually fly. But like I said at the end of my last post, my new set of $3,300 Bushwheels may have to be replaced in two years, and I need to recover my tail feathers as they are too patched up to patch anymore on the undersides. So those items alone is $5,000 that smears into only 150 hours. Just price of the game. If you want a number, figure $100/hour and hope you don't ball it up. Add $45/hour for paying for that $90,000 rebuild every 2,000 hours. Don't quote me if it doesn't work out that way for you.
                          Last edited by flyboy; 04-28-2007, 20:53.


                          • #14
                            Now that's what I'm after. I fully understand every pilot, plane, and operating conditions are different. If a few people list their specific sitiuations and costs, then I can determine a range of costs, weaks points to watch for, spare parts to keep close, etc. Its just a place to start, its how I like to get prepared.


                            • #15
                              add a lot to the above expenses if you dont run bushwheels, bore prop, dodge beefed up tail, heavey duty gear, heavy duty short struts /Cabain V. I would tell you my hourly costs if I could....Ive never once calculated it out because in my trade it really doesn't matter. Whats a log book?


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