Friday, April 25, 2008

Buying: To Rent or Own a Plane

After getting your pilot certificate or probably before that, most pilots start dreaming about owning their own plane. But that does not always make sense. It sure does sound cool to say you own a plane instead of rent one. And if you have the money just laying around, then maybe the decision is easy. For me, it was a little tough, and it went through phases.

Renting and Cross Country Trips

Initially, I thought about it since I wanted to go on trips. I wanted to be able to go on a long weekend or a week long trip. But most places will let you do that if you rent a minimum average amount per day. In a lot of cases, this works out. On my recent trip to Carlsbad, I flew 9.6 hours round trip. I think that a lot of places have a minimum of 2-3 hours per day. So that would allow you to stay 3-4 full days and come back on the 4th or 5th day depending on the policy. On trips I have flown to California, I have flown 16 hours round trip which would alow for 5 or 8 full days. When renting, you have to book this trip way in advance and possibly use non-training aircraft. But it is still usually doable.

Of course, in your own plane this is not a problem. If you are in a partnership, it depends on your partners and how many you have.

Renting and Spur of the Moment

The other item that I thought about was the desire to rent spur of the moment. If it is a nice day, it would be nice to go fly. Sometimes it is not predictable. If you get checked out in higher performance airplanes, sometimes this gets a little easier since they are not used as much for training.

Of course, in your own plane this is not a problem. If you are in a partnership, it depends on your partners and how many you have.

Rental Aircraft Types

Selection of aircraft and overall availability is very important. Some places I have rented have old planes that are not well equipped with avionics and not as nicely maintained. On the other hand, I have rented from some places where they have new aircraft that are maintained very well at a good price. I really like things like nice avionics, so this was important to me long term. If I could find close by planes like at McAir Aviation, I would be set. But this good a fleet list is not common.

It can be nice to have different types of aircraft to rent. If you are by yourself, you can go for the C152. If you are taking the family a C182 or C206. This is not possible when you own.

If you own your own airplane, it will be the same size no matter how many passengers you take. On the positive note, since you are flying the same plane every time, you become very familiar with it. You can leave the headsets and other items in the plane. A nice convenience.

Aircraft Location

Location of the planes is important. There are airports all over, but is the one with the good rentals the one that is close? For me, I ended up moving to a place with an airport 5 minutes away, but the good rentals 45 minutes away. This ended up being a deciding factor for me.

Rental vs Owning Cost

In order to make owning cost effective, you do need to fly a number of hours. Even then, it is not that cheap. This past year, my C182P cost $85/hour with normal maintenance and 150 hours of flying. I do have a hangar that amounts equates to $20/hour of that cost. With some extra maintenance and GPS upgrades, the cost really went up to $125/hour. That is with the plane owned without a loan; if I included interest, it might add another $30/hour to total $155/hour. So the rental seems a lot more reasonable especially if you do not fly 150 hours a year.

At least, planes do not lose value to much. In the past, they gained value, but recently they are going down in value. But not like a car. I think planes retain value reasonably well due to new airplanes still being much more expensive than used ones and required annual maintenance keep used planes in good condition.

Once you have made the commitment to own, each hour of flying is cheaper, so you fly more. This is nice. It keeps you more current and you experience more flying...

Maintenance when you own your own plane is a plus and minus. I now try to do some owner approved maintenance and owner assisted annuals. So I know how my plane works better and what condition it is kept. But it does take time.

My decision

Location and ease of use combined with nice avionics made the decision for me. Since I was living and working 5 minutes from an airport, this was a key airport to use for me. But the rentals were not as good as I would like long term. I found a plane I really enjoy, and I have been flying it consistently (even over lunch time sometimes).

Which plane to buy... That is for another day.


1 comment:

Lilia Dyal said...

One factor that does have to be considered in renting or owning a plane is the cost. Firstly, you should determine the purpose of the plane. For example, if you have a business and travelling is part of it, owning a plane and maintaining it can be a more reasonable investment than spending on rent every time you travel. If the cost of maintaining it once a month is reasonable than renting once or twice a week, then owning a plane can save a lot of money for you and your business.