If your flying budget is tight — like mine — there are many ways to cut your flying costs without spending a lot of money. You can borrow, rent, trade or barter for some of the things you need.
Not everything aviation can be exchanged this way, but there are some — and each can save you money to buy more fun-fuel.
Rent or Borrow
Let’s start the list with aircraft. Many frugal pilots determine that they just don’t fly enough to justify buying a plane for flying 1% of a year — about 80 hours. Renting makes much more sense, especially if they can get a discount by pre-paying for aircraft time, called “blocks.” Ask your aircraft rental resource about this.
Other frugal pilots get enough flight hours to own, but still want to fly something different once in awhile: A four-seater for a family trip, an IFR aircraft to stay current, a tail-dragger or aerobatic aircraft just for fun. In many cases, an owner of one of these aircraft could be talked into letting you borrow their wings, as long as you meet their skill requirements and maybe trade time in your aircraft or trade for another asset.
I’ve been approached by a number of aircraft owners who will let me fly their wings for the price of fuel and a promise to keep the dirty side down. There’s a check-out ride involved, but you may know a few pilots who will let you borrow.
You have a wide variety of assets besides cash. These assets can be traded for what you want. For example, you can exchange your goods or services for someone else’s goods or services. That’s called bartering. It’s similar to a cash transaction without the cash.
The most obvious place to start a trade is by listing what you have that you can trade. Then make a list of what aviation things — aircraft, flight time, parts, fuel, services — you need.
Finally, begin looking at your aviation buddies as folks who have what you need and need what you have. For example, a student pilot who builds websites as a job traded a flight school for a new website in exchange for instruction. Another pilot traded a used car for an annual inspection. One pilot traded hangar rent for airport repairs.
Barter and Trade Resources
If you’ve never done much bartering or trading, you may be surprised at how much is being done. The U.S. barter economy is estimated at over $12 billion — yes, that’s with a b — a year. No currency exchanges hands. In tough economic times, that number goes up.
Here are some resources for getting into the barter-and-trade economy with your aviation needs.
GeneralAviationNews.com and the print version of GAN include many classified ads with the word “trade” in them. Trade up, trade down.
Trade-A-Plane.com includes numerous aircraft available for trade. In most cases, the trade is asset-for-asset rather than service-for-asset.
GoSwap.org is an online property barter site that includes land, houses, cars, boats, aircraft and other larger assets. There is a fee for listing, but you can read the search results for free and look for something you want.
TradeAway.com is a listing service for barter transactions, including transportation (cars, motorcycles, aircraft).
Craigslist.org is the grand-daddy of whatever-you-got transactions. It one of the top 50 websites in the world! Select the edition for your area and search for “aircraft” and “trade” or “barter” and be amazed. Also, be careful. Because it is so popular, it has been abused and there are numerous scams. Remember: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Even bigger than Craigslist is eBay.com. At any given time, more than 500 million items are for sale on eBay, including aircraft, parts, books and avionics. I purchased my Cessna 150 via eBay! And there are 128 million buyers and sellers using the system.
Barter and trade are not so easy on eBay, but it is a good resource for selling assets you don’t need and getting good old cash for them.
One caveat: Barter and trade transactions are subject to taxation, just like cash transactions. U.S. laws say that such transactions are supposed to be reported to the IRS on Form 1099-B, Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions. Your state or municipality may have similar requirements.
Here’s a good option for the frugal pilot: Consider bartering or trading the next time you reach for your flying wallet. Fly more and spend less.