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.
The route to fulfillment of a dream took this helicopter school owner to a destination he didn’t expect.
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 that most of our readers, like me, took flying lessons after the first couple of try-out flights because it was just plain fun. Who can forget the first solo, first long cross-country, private pilot check ride, and first passengers?
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.
One of the pluses of owning your own aircraft is you have the opportunity to really get to know the machine, its characteristics, and its quirks. The operative word here is “opportunity.” Just because you own the aircraft doesn’t automatically mean you will be any more aware of its operating parameters than a rental aircraft. You must be willing and able to take advantage of the ownership opportunity and put forth the effort.
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.
When looking to buy a used airplane, the usual route is to scan trade papers, magazines, classifieds, etc., for the initial search.
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.
The twin-turbine Bell 412 helicopter I fly for Baptist Hospital in North Carolina sucks a lot of Jet-A. This is why when we land at FBOs, the line crews have big smiles.