Magic Formula? — No, but educated guesswork is required to figure hourly operating costs

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.

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Flying versus driving

When you see the statement, “Flying versus Driving”, what is your first thought? For most, the obvious comparisons of time, fun, and convenience of general aviation flying to the alternative of driving probably come to mind first. But this time my intention is different. I want to discuss the mechanics of flying and suggest that all too often, pilots stop “flying” their aircraft and fall into a mode of just “driving” their aircraft. Go sit in view of a general aviation runway for an hour or so and you’ll see what I mean.

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Operating cost confusion — Know your numbers because it is a most important factor when you buy a plane.

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.

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Keeper — When you find a plane that fits, make it perfect and keep it.

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.

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Just for fun

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?

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Bird bath

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.

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Mindsets — The perceived value of used airplanes is changing

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.

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