We put out a call to our readers for their tips on how to save money flying. Here are a few of their responses:
Roy Fassel: Who needs new? What you need is airworthy: 1979 Tomahawk with Sparrowhawk conversion (125hp), two-place, IFR equipped, 125 mph, 5.5-6 gph, 900 hours before TBO. Purchase price (including tax): $14,500. Liability Insurance, no hull (at $14,500 buy another one). Tie-down at Oceanside Municipal Airport (OKB) in Oceanside, Calif., $125 a month. Last annual: $850. New instructor pilot, $20 per hour or trade time in airplane for instruction, he pays for gas. After you get your license, sell or trade your plane for an upgrade.
Craig Baron: If you just want to fly for sheer enjoyment, buy a smaller plane or an ultralight. I have a Challenger 1 Clip Wing and fly for about $15 per hour, oil included. Sure, it does not have all the bells and whistles but I am in the air viewing what 99% of the public never sees — God’s country from above. Heck, the plane was under $5,000 used. You can hardly buy a good used motorcycle for that price. That is frugal flying. The biggest expense is the $2,400 per year hanger rental that is not figured into the $15 number.
Art Johns: All us pilots can save money by sharing expenses on trips. Divide the total cost by the number of people in the plane. Me and three other friends split every expense, including hotel, meals, and every item that came up on a trip from Spartanburg, S.C., to Disney World and back.
Ron Reynolds: First off, we bought planes because they are fun and get us places fast. Fun and fast has never been cheap with any endeavor, whether it be fast cars, motorcycles or boats. That being said, my advice is to stay in the air as long as possible. Throttle to the firewall! Don’t ever land. Saves on tires, landing gear, tie-down fees, hangar fees, inspections, the drive to and from the airport, excuses why you can’t fly. Most of all you won’t be on the ground to check the mailbox for bills or see the cost of flying.
Trying to save money flying is like spending $3 in gas trying to find a station that will only save you a dollar. Just fly! As much and often as you can — we only live once. No fun going slow, planes weren’t invented for that. Stay up as long as you can because you never know when you will be grounded and then you’ll wish you had flown more. Don’t ever land. That’s my advice.
Jim Klick: About 15 years ago (so the numbers may vary), two friends told me they wanted to learn to fly. I helped them find a good C-150, pointed them to an instructor, and they did the rest. One of them earned his private in 50 days and 45 hours. The other one was married, so it took him 180 days and 51 hours. They sold the C-150 for what they paid for it. Their cost, other than fuel and oil, were two sets of tires and a $600 radio repair. One now owns a C-210, the other a Mooney, in which they have added commercial and instrument. I think it can still be done. It requires the right airplane, and the right partner.
Cody Bias: I wrote an eBook on this subject specifically. It’s called the “Low-cost Pilot’s License”. I wrote it two years ago, and everyone who’s read it found it really helpful. When it comes to saving money on flight trading (or just flying in general) there are several places to cut costs:
1. The biggest portion of the costs associated with flying come from the airplane itself. Your options for access to an airplane include renting, buying (either wholly or in part), or joining a flying club. The advantages and disadvantages of each option depend on several factors, but primarily concern how often you fly (the more often you fly, the better buying is when considering the per-hour cost). Other options include buying an aircraft and leasing it to a flight school for rental use when you’re not using it. That will potentially generate some passive income (depending on the deal you make with the flight school), but your airplane is probably going to get beat up quite a bit. If you get clever enough you may be able to form a legal entity (like an LLC) to own the aircraft and either lease it to a flight school; form your own flying club; or have the LLC ownership divided by a group of commercial pilots and work to get a Part 135 operation approved (this is fairly complicated). The point with any of these options is that you could potentially have a tax write-off for a lot of the flying/maintenance/other expenses, because you would be operating as a business instead of just an individual. Obviously, you’d need to do more research before you dived into any of the more complicated arrangements, but there is certainly an opportunity to significantly reduce the cost of an airplane.
2.If you’re in the flight training side of things, the cost cutting opportunities are tremendous. For one, a lot of folks spend tons of money buying learning materials and information products. In reality you can get all the information you need from free government publications (Airplane Flying Handbook, Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, PTS, etc.) at FAA.gov. In fact, that’s where all those $300 “Private Pilot Knowledge Course” DVD packs get the information. Not necessary to buy one, just go to the source yourself. It’s free and in many instances better than the expensive products out there.
Also, another really important aspect of saving costs (with respect to flight training) comes from an efficient training schedule. In other words, if you fly two or three times a week, instead of once a month, you are likely to retain a lot more information. As a result you will dramatically reduce the total amount of flight time/flight instruction (and money) it takes to complete your training.
Victor Nazarian: Fly for the U. S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. You can get yourself and your plane approved to fly under orders, get some valuable training and flight time and serve alongside fellow auxiliary and active duty Coast Guardsmen. The Coast Guard Auxiliary is the only branch of the services where you can turn down orders and you cannot be called up into service away from home. The downside, it’s unpaid except for getting reimbursed for fuel, maintenance and a few other things. For me it’s been a great experience and a great way to get some stick time for free. I got such good training I was able to get a better job in “real” life.
Douglas Manuel: Donate your flight time to a 501(c)3 charitable organization (there are many but a couple are Angel Flight and Pilot-N-Paws). It is good for them and your soul and takes some of the sting away from your wallet.
Gary Soucy: Do your own oil changes, keep your plane clean and waxed, lean the engine and pull back on the throttle a little, you don’t need to be at the red line all the time. Also have it fixed now before it causes more problems.
Ray Steinmeyer: Be careful about the leaning part, though. Unless you fly hundreds of hours a year this item won’t save you much in relation to your total investment in your love for flying. However, if done incorrectly, it can end up costing you a bundle.
Chuck LaMonica: Owning an airplane is very similar to owning a boat. There are only two days of tangible pleasure. The day of purchase and the day you sell. So..rental is the most economical way to fly.
Len Assante: Managed, shared ownership is a way to cut the costs and hassles of aircraft ownership dramatically. Sharing means reduced costs, and professionally managed means all the tasks associated with ownership are taken care of.