Your frugal flight mission

Professional pilots have flight missions. A commercial pilot’s flight mission is to safely fly a specific aircraft with an identified weight to an explicit destination on schedule. Law enforcement pilots perform missions that involve highway surveillance and speed monitoring. NASA has specific flight missions and procedures to make sure its expensive flights have a purpose and expected outcome.

Private pilots also have flight missions, though their goals and descriptions are less formal.

Even so, all flights should have a mission — especially those by frugal pilots who are looking for the greatest value for each aviation dollar spent. [Read more…]

Frugal pilots join the club

1963 Beechcraft Model 23 by FlugKerl2 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

One of my original 10 Tips for Frugal Pilots two years ago was “Learn from smarter pilots.”

No matter what you fly or where, there’s someone nearby who knows more about aviation than you do.

Unsolicited advice can be annoying, but finding smart pilots who can teach without lecturing is an opportunity to improve your skills — and lower your flying costs — without having to depend on just your experiences and your pocketbook. [Read more…]

Frugal pilots vs. aircraft mechanics

My last column on aircraft maintenance that can be performed by aircraft owners in Canada, but not the U.S., stirred up a lively discussion online.

Reader Greg Wilson summarized it best, noting that the owner of a U.S. standard category aircraft can maintain the aircraft, refurbish or overhaul all or part of the plane, install certified parts, install or replace many instruments or avionics, modify the aircraft (within limits), and even rebuild an aircraft out of service — as long as it is under the supervision and signed off by an FAA-licensed A&P/IA mechanic.

“Finding a mechanic to work with you may take time, especially if you want to do a lot of changes,” he wrote. “Give the mechanic time to trust your abilities and you will be amazed at what an owner can do.” [Read more…]

Frugal pilots KISS: Keep it safe and simple

It is great to be a part of the general aviation community where pilots share their ideas to help each other with knowledge and kindness. I especially like to see the many helpful frugal tips offered online from readers of my column. They add their own proven experiences that helped them fly more while spending less.

For example, many readers have responded with information on their own tax laws after last month’s tip on Reducing Taxes. Thanks to everyone who has contributed. Keep your frugal tips coming. Email me at [Read more…]

Calling all frugal pilots: What are your secrets?

Dan's plane, "Goofy," taking off from the Willits Municipal Airport ( which I manage. It's the most fun you can have without a prescription! ;-)

Frugal pilots aren’t cheap or unsafe. Their buying and flying decisions are based on getting the greatest value for each aviation dollar spent, not on squeezing every dollar until Washington yelps.

Frugal pilots aren’t poor. They may or may not be financially rich, but they do know the significance of money and that a dollar saved wisely can be a dollar spent on more avgas or iPhones or retirement.

Frugal pilots aren’t alone. There are many thousands of us who fly comfortably within a budget for a variety of good reasons: To go somewhere, to go nowhere, to see the world from above, to discover ourselves, to share recreation, to overcome fears, and/or to build an aviation career.

At my airport, I hear many stories from grinning pilots who started out mowing lawns, washing airplanes, or taking on a second job to afford flying lessons. Over the years, these veteran pilots have logged thousands of hours in their owned or co-owned aircraft by being frugal — and safe.

What are their secrets?

[Read more…]

Crafting a flying club agreement

Many thousands of frugal pilots continue to fly because of flying clubs. These clubs typically include a wide variety of pilots and at least two aircraft, bringing down the price of going up by sharing the costs of plane ownership and operation.

Just as there are many types of pilots, there are many ways flying club agreements can be structured to meet the needs of a nest of persnickety pilots and aircraft owners. [Read more…]

Flying club basics

Sharing your wings is a big decision. The goal is to reduce the costs to gain the greatest benefits from flying. Exactly what, how, and why you share your wings offers so many variations and opportunities that there is no single solution.

Previously in The Frugal Pilot, we’ve covered the basics of deciding whether a co-ownership or partnership fits you, then offered ideas on how to write up a workable agreement for sharing. The third option, starting or joining a flying club, offers even more options — and potential problems. Let’s take a closer look.

[Read more…]