This column is for the optimists — those rare individuals who read the same tea leaves as everyone else, but see an entirely different future. They see potential. They recognize opportunities.
Yet they are the very same folks who squeeze a dollar until it squeals, resist opening their wallets unless it’s absolutely necessary, and keep their credit card frozen in a block of ice in their kitchen freezer.
I am an undeniably optimistic cheapskate. Welcome to my world.
I am also a pilot and an aircraft owner. But remember, I’m a cheapskate. A tightwad. A penny pincher extraordinaire. So cutting the cost of my aeronautical exploits down to size is a big deal. It’s necessary, in fact.
If I want to get in the air now and then, I have to wrestle the costs to the ground, beat them severely, and come away with a victory that would earn Ebenezer Scrooge’s respect.
Here’s my deal as it stands right now. I spend a good deal of my free time in a large executive hangar that includes two man doors and a full span bifold door on the front. The space inside houses two airplanes and includes a reasonably well appointed restroom in the back corner.
There is a gas grill that can be moved outside when the urge to cook out arises. A full-size refrigerator is on hand, filled with various beverages, condiments, and an assortment of snack foods. There is a 42-inch television, connected to a DVD player, and a 110-inch wide screen installed on a frame for projecting movies when friends come over. Plans for a tiki bar have been drawn up and a 7-foot tall plastic palm tree marks the spot where it will sit.
This is my real life scenario. It’s my happy place. You’ll find me there often. But because I’m so unimaginably tight with a dollar, I honestly thought I would never be able to afford a set-up like this. Yet I can.
In fact, all that I’ve described — the hangar, the refrigerator, the grill, and so on and so forth — costs me a whopping $55 per month. Total. That’s it.
For comparison purposes, my aviation fun zone is less expensive than most of the monthly expenses I incur. My telephone bill is higher than $55 per month. The internet service at my house comes with a larger bill. And although I’m afraid to calculate the exact cost, I’m pretty sure the tally for my daily coffee excursions exceeds what I pay each month to have that hangar available to me 24/7 at my local airport.
Admittedly, I don’t get to fly all I want for $55 per month. That would be silly. Nobody could make that math work out. In truth, I pay $600 per year to have access to the aircraft. Last year I paid it in a lump sum, although I have the option of spreading it out over 12 monthly payments of $50 each.
That’s not so painful, is it? I certainly don’t think so. I know people who pay more than $600 per month for a hangar. I pay that for an entire year’s access to aircraft I really enjoy flying.
So if we combine the two costs I’ve shared with you, I have access to that big beautiful hangar and all its amenities, as well as the availability of aircraft, for a grand total of $1,260 per year, or $105 per month. That’s $3.45 per day in exchange for all that amazing aeronautical fun — less than the cost of a burger and a Coke.
Of course there is one more component to this financial accounting. The hourly cost of the aircraft in flight. Ah ha, you pessimists who snuck through security and read this far just knew there was a catch hidden somewhere in all this happy talk. This is where the real money comes in. All that other stuff was smoke and mirrors, just festive hyperbole from a blabbermouth. You knew it.
The C-172 I fly costs $94 per hour, wet. But as I established early on, I’m as cheap as cheap can be. So I don’t pay $94 per hour to fly the C-172. I pay half that, $47 per hour. Yes, that’s right. I fly a Cessna 172 that I really, truly like, and I fly it for $47 dollars per hour, wet.
Because I’m an honest man I will admit, there is a trick to getting the price down that low. But because I’m a friendly man, I’ll tell you what that trick is: I fly with a friend.
Actually I fly with any one of several friends. They pay the other half of the bill and have the exact same reaction I do. We’re having a great time, flying often, and paying rock-bottom prices to do it.
These costs are all real. This story is entirely true. These are the actual rates I pay to fly, as do a number of my friends. Because you see, we chose to band together and share the cost of flying. We formed and operate a flying club.
Which means we get to have a bigger hangar than we could afford individually, we get to have access to aircraft we couldn’t justify owning on our own, we have a clubhouse to hang out in and friends to hang out with, whenever we want to.
And we get to fly for a price that would have been considered attractive even 20 years ago.
That’s my story. Belonging to a flying club made all the difference for me. Wanna make it your story too?
Cheapskates unite! It works.