As we take to the skies, one thing is certain: we will eventually hear some interesting stuff over the electronic airwaves.
As July rolled around this year, so did another chance to host a regional fly-in for Cardinal owners. The North Carolina event has taken on more of a training emphasis and it’s gratifying to see how many owners traveled great distances to partake. People came from as far away as Oakland, Calif., Tulsa, Okla., and the northeast this year for ground and/or flight recurrent training and safety seminars. A lot of training took place in the three days of the fly-in, meaning it took me another three days to catch up on all the paperwork.
As a result of my recent columns about cost of operation, I was asked if I had a “magic formula” for my calculating those costs. No, there is no magic formula. Certainly some “educated guesswork” has to be employed where specific numbers are not available, but there is nothing magic about it. So, for this issue, I will share my chart for determining actual or anticipated cost of operation.
In my April column, I addressed the dilemma many inexperienced aircraft purchasers encounter when they consider only the purchase price of a used plane but not the associated operating costs that go along with it. The trap, as stated in my article, is that for an arbitrary $50,000 purchase price, a buyer could obtain either a 1977 Cessna 172 or a 1960 Cessna 210. Each would have about the same airframe time, half of the engine time used up since overhaul, and decent but not state-of–the–art avionics. The point was that the purchase price is an attractive lure for the 210, with all its extra room, speed, load carrying ability and climb. But what hurts so many owners is the considerable amount of extra money it takes to run one of these bigger, older, higher performance singles, or even twins.
In addition to literally hundreds of airplane sales transactions I have been involved with over the past 28 years, my current 1974 Cardinal RG is the 17th aircraft I have personally owned. A couple of airplanes (a ’69 Cardinal and a ’75 310R) I owned less than a year. These were bought with the plan of refurbishing and then reselling, although I flew them some during the process.
I suspect many of the aviators who will venture to Lakeland for this year’s Sun ’n Fun might have “airplane hunting” on their agenda. Hey, everybody wants to own an airplane, but many pilots are still in the dreaming stages. There are those, however, who have reached a point where they can afford to buy their own.
As a Cessna C177 Cardinal RG owner, I belong to a “type-club” called Cardinal Flyers Online. As the name implies, the organization depends heavily on the benefits of the Internet, although the organization’s reach is far greater. One of the major attractions of membership is the near daily e-mail digest that acts as a forum for the membership to discuss a multitude of issues regarding Cardinals.
The single most consistent mistake I see first-time owners make is that they buy too much airplane. Learning about airplane buying should be like learning about airplane flying. For example, let’s say you know that your goal is to be the pilot of a corporate, twin-engine airplane. You still go to school and learn to fly in a small single engine plane. Then, as you gain experience, you can move up to the twin. Yes, I realize that you could learn right off the bat in the twin, but only the most affluent could afford that. And not withstanding money, it would also be a formidable undertaking to use that approach.
Ask someone what comes to mind when the state of Texas is mentioned and the answers will surely be varied: Cowboys (both real and football players), Dallas (both the city and former TV show), the Alamo, cattle, oil, you choose.
The final part of my series on upgrading the avionics in my Cardinal RG is elsewhere in this issue. For as many aircraft as I have owned over the past 27 years, this was my first experience in a complete avionics upgrade for myself and, as you may recall, the decision to part with the cash and who got the cash didn’t come quickly. But it was one of those aircraft ownership experiences that I feel truly blessed for being capable of accomplishing.