Buying a plane for building hours

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Dawson Muth, Sep 18, 2021.

  1. Dawson Muth

    Dawson Muth Filing Flight Plan

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    So I'm currently working on my PPL. My friend/instructor wants me to buy an airplane for building hours. And quite frankly so do I. It seems like it could save me a bit of money if I am building hours in it. He drives a beater car and owns two airplanes. I also drive a beater car and have no bills. (I am lucky enough to live with my parents for now until I enlist in the air national guard). If I were to finance a 25,000 airplane, that would be my only bill/ monthly expense besides disney+. I make about 2k$ a month after taxes. I am considering buying because this might be the only time in my life I can afford to finance an airplane.

    After talking around to some of my friends it seems there are two camps to owning an airplane, A: just rent because it is less risk/ responsibility or B: Just buy the damn airplane, it's been the best decision of my life.

    If I think about my debt to income ratio I have about 800 dollars a month to comfortably spend on an airplane (including operating costs). If I end up with a monthly payment of 500$, that leaves me with 300$ to spend on maintenance, fuel, and unexpected repairs. And I would still have enough income to live my normal life and go out to eat and do fun stuff/ or even to save for a reserve in case I need to afford major repairs.

    I know I am not thinking of absolutely everything, but I know I've always been the type of person to own my own stuff and not rent. I did the same thing with my baritone saxophone in High School. Instead of renting/ borrowing the school's baritone, I spent 2500$ on a really nice vintage Conn Baritone Saxophone that I was able to call my own (Now valued at over $5K), make my own repairs to, and not have to worry about anyone else using it. Obviously, an airplane is a big difference, but I would like to hear some opinions on my situation. I think it would be a good way to build credit, learn to take care of an airplane's systems, and build hours, and It seems like it might be worth the risk from where I am standing.

    I plan to be at my parents another 2 years at least to finish out my apprenticeship at Pilatus, and then even after that, I'm hoping my housing (or most of my housing/rooming fees) would be paid for by the guard. If I did get to the point where I needed to afford an apartment I could always just sell the plane and pay off the loan right? Assuming the aircraft sells for around the same price I paid?

    Idk let me know what ya'll think because ultimately everyone on here has more experience than me in life and even aviation so I'd like to know, am I thinking of pretty much everything? Am I overthinking it possibly?
     
  2. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route

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    I think with $2k/mo income, you should not buy an airplane.
     
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  3. Daleandee

    Daleandee Pattern Altitude

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    Lots of pilots have done just that ... buy a plane, put some training hours on it and sell it for about what they paid for it. I believe you already have the answer you are looking for ..

    SOGOTI -
     
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  4. TommyG

    TommyG Pattern Altitude

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    If you found a $25k airplane, it will proceed a lot of work. Finding a bank to finance the plane might be another obstacle. Not to come off negative, but your outlook seems a bit naive. You really shou,d get out there and see what ownerships really costs. Insurance, tie down, planned MX, unplanned MX to name a few things.
     
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  5. Eldorado

    Eldorado Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I agree as well, rent. Might cost a little more, but way less risk. I would never finance a toy, vacation, hobby.
     
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  6. chemgeek

    chemgeek Pattern Altitude

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    Owning an airplane will cost to operate about the same as renting. Plus you have to capitalize the purchase price. If you can't afford that level of expense, you are not financially capable of owning. Plane ownership is mostly about convenience and known safety, not cost savings. TBH, if you can't afford to pay cash for the airplane, and have sufficient income to cover operation costs without eroding other financial commitments like retirement funds, then you are likely not ready to own. It's really easy to drop $1000 in a flash for almost any non-routine repair, not to mention periodic upgrades. Ownership is highly rewarding, but is not cheap.
     
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  7. Dawson Muth

    Dawson Muth Filing Flight Plan

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    Is there a good way to do this other than just talking around? Would it be smart to ask someone selling an airplane in my price range their yearly cost of ownership? I know tie down is 50$ a month at my airport, not sure about insurance but from ballpark numbers I'm guessing around 1200 annually, but I am unsure about planned maintenance. With unplanned maintenance though could I just save a little bit each month as a reserve for unplanned stuff?
     
  8. Dawson Muth

    Dawson Muth Filing Flight Plan

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    I agree it probably is way less risk, however I do have one objection to your response haha. For me this is no hobby. I plan to make this my career in the air national guard so I want to build as many hours as possible before applying for a pilot slot.
     
  9. Albany Tom

    Albany Tom Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    This. With the sax, you could likely afford whatever the most expensive replacement part was, out of pocket, and fix it yourself. If you were stuck, you could still borrow the school's horn. With the plane, if any little thing breaks, you're going to have to go out of pocket on that. It's easy to predict getting into a situation where the plane can't be flown, and you have the choice of deferring your flying until you can afford to repair it, or deferring the repair while you simultaneously rent and pay an airplane payment.

    You seem unusually financially savvy for your age. If you put a lot of hours on it, buying can be cheaper than renting, but I wouldn't rent unless you have enough cash lying around to to handle repairs.
     
  10. Dawson Muth

    Dawson Muth Filing Flight Plan

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    Well thank you sir :). I guess it is just because I have done lots of research/crunched some basic numbers and put in lots of thought (because this kind of thing excites me). It also helps my dad is an accountant so I've learned a few things over the years I guess.

    Anyways I agree with what you and most of the other people are saying. I think the big question here is after I pay my monthly loan payment, would I have enough to cover repair costs and stay safe. I do have 11K saved up at the moment (most of which will go towards flight school right now), but I should still have some saved up if I were to buy an airplane after getting my PPL. Obviously no one can predict unexpected repairs, but roughly how much extra wiggle room/reserve would I need to be safe if a major unexpected repair came along? And would it work to save up the extra money I don't spend each month and put it towards that?
     
  11. Albany Tom

    Albany Tom Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    Great that you have some money for repairs. As to how much is reasonable, I think you have to do that calculation. It's all dependent on the aircraft, it's history, and whatever the typical problems are with whatever it is. Sounds like a risk based financial calculation that you're well suited to. If there's a way for you to do owner-assisted repairs that could make it more reasonable, too.

    I might be in the minority here, but if the numbers make sense, I can see it making sense.
     
  12. MooneyDriver78

    MooneyDriver78 En-Route

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    You didn’t mention number of hours per year you plan on flying.
    Let’s assume it’s 200 hours or about 4 hours a week. So something like a 152 will probably average around 8 gallons per hour…$5 per gallon….5*8*200=$8000/year fuel costs.
    That blows your budget…add in oil, maintenance including annuals, tie down fees, insurance….
     
  13. Magman

    Magman Pre-takeoff checklist

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    What is your job description and type aircraft flown where you plan to enlist?

    Do you have college? You may want to check if there is an Aero Club on base.

    They were very common in the past as rates were ridiculously low.
     
  14. tawood

    tawood En-Route

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    When I was young (I'm not anymore) I bought an airplane, not to build up hours like you plan but just to fly, as I loved flying and hated the idea of rentals. But one thing I was good at was saving. I saved for 2 years, then got my pilot's license, and bought a plane a week after getting my license, paying cash. You mention the "$25,000 plane", well, that's what I paid in 1993...so if I did it in 1993 (and while living in my own home, not with mom and dad), why can't you? I've owned numerous planes through the years, and I've always saved and paid cash. It really cuts down on the aircraft expense when done this way, and its what I'd suggest for you....
     
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  15. somorris

    somorris Pattern Altitude

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    Quite a few people have done what you want to do, Dawson, and came out smelling like a rose. Others have had to rebuild an engine at their first annual. Nobody really knows. It is actually more about risk than money. I can tell you most likely you will fly less renting than if you own. A lot of folks who rent airplanes will require you pay a minimum daily rate say if you decide to fly to Oshkosh next year and spend a week camping. There are spreadsheets available that folks have developed with which you can try different scenarios to get an idea of ownership costs, including setting aside reserves for maintenance. I don't fly 200 hours per year, only around 50 or so, and my cost, all in, is in the neighborhood of $5,000 a year. Why not talk to your CFI who owns two airplanes and see if he will sell you half interest in one of them?
     
  16. Huckster79

    Huckster79 Pattern Altitude

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    Oh I think it could be done but have to put some time in up front! Finding right bird, an affordable Open T hangar maybe, a good prebuy..find a nice $15,000 taylorcraft or similar, one just sold on my field for that… nothin fancy but it flies…
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2021
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  17. Huckster79

    Huckster79 Pattern Altitude

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    On the surface I’d agree… but how many folks that make $10k a month have less than $2k left for discretionary spending? Lots have payments right up to the 10 darn near…
     
  18. Robert Gee

    Robert Gee Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Lol, ask your friend/instructor go in as partner if he thinks it's such a good idea
     
  19. MountainDude

    MountainDude Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    Is partnership or club a possibility? Those give you inexpensive access to planes without the risk of multi AMU unexpected expenses. I was in a 3 person partnership for 10 years and paid 1/3 of the maintenance, but flew 90% of the plane hours.
     
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  20. brcase

    brcase Pattern Altitude

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    To be fair a 150/152 is probably more like 6 gal/hr. So probably 5*6*200=$6000 for fuel. You already stated insurance and tie down will probably be about $1800. You will probably be doing good if maintenance is under $2000/yr. so we are already up just under $10000/yr. for 200/hrs of flying or about $50/hr Which is a very good rate. A club locally rents their 152 for $71/hr as I recall. They of course are probably setting aside about $15/hr for an engine overhaul, which if you do the same puts you at about $65/hr. They also set aside a bit for periodic Avionics repairs and upgrades. They have been flying that 152 for nearly 45 years, I did my PPL checkride in it in 1988, So I think they have figured out what it really costs to fly it, and they own it outright, they paid it off long ago. Also on top of the $50-65/hr is your mouthly loan payment on it.

    The secret is that very few places renting airplanes actually make money doing so. They mostly just keep their mechanics and instructors employed and provide a service to pilots. Your advantage will be you are not paying commercial insurance rates or for a building to operate out of.

    Your problem will be that a $25,000 airplane will let you build hours, but will be of limited use for your instrument rating. And that $50-65/hr is best case scenerio, the $71 with our local club is an almost no risk rate. Buying a plane is a gamble, you will find pilots that hit the jackpot and got a trouble free airplane they either kept or sold for what they paid for it or more, you will find nearly as many that had to buy a new engine at 1st annual. Or even just needed a $2000 Cylinder and was down for 3 or more months while scheduling shop time and sourcing a new one.

    As has been said renting is safe and often the cheapest way. Owning is nice with it works well and you can afford to do so. One other point about buying for training is the learning curve is doubled. Now not only are you learning how to fly, you are learning how to maintain and own an airplane, everything from scheduling, Maintenance, to Parking, to Preheating, Defrosting, fueling, to maintaining paperwork and insurance. All things most renters don’t have to deal with.

    Brian
    CFIIG/ASEL
     
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  21. Lndwarrior

    Lndwarrior Line Up and Wait

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    Dude

    You are young.

    Buy the plane.

    Things have a way of working out.

    You'll have an adventure with it that you will remember for the rest of your life.

    Making life decisions based purely on finances is no way to live.

    You will never regret following your passion!
     
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  22. Huckster79

    Huckster79 Pattern Altitude

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    you got some great points for OP… especially the young factor… that is a big one… ya can push the envelope a bit more without a significant other and a brood of kiddos…
     
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  23. RussR

    RussR Pattern Altitude

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    Oh man I may get flamed for this, but:

    If I had an adult child living with me still, rent free, who was seriously considering buying an airplane with their spare income.... Well let's just say that if they have enough money to buy an airplane, they have enough money to move out on their own.

    Having supportive parents is great. But at some point it becomes taking advantage of their generosity. Whether this crosses that line or not is of course dependent on the individual family dynamics, of which nobody knows but you.
     
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  24. Randomskylane

    Randomskylane Pre-Flight

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    Find a club plane or start your own club with the cfi with too many planes.

    Nothing worse than owning a plane you can’t fly because (see prior posts for a thousand reasons like required wing spar testing) money.
     
  25. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Priorities dude, priorities.

    Plus, think about it - rent free can swing both ways.
     
  26. Crashnburn

    Crashnburn Cleared for Takeoff

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    At a bare minimum, wait until you’ve soloed. Essentially, learn to land in someone else’s plane.

    I’m working on my SPL, but the pre-solo basics are the same. According to other POA’ers, aircraft ownership is a learning experience as much as getting your PPL. You probably want to wait to learn about ownership until you have your PPL.

    While you’re training, for every dollar you spend on renting the plane, put a dollar in your plane fund. Don’t even think about buying until you have the down payment plus about 1/3rd of the purchase price in savings. That’s your emergency reserve.
    I’ve heard maintenance is about the same as fuel cost, so put the price of a gallon of fuel into your reserves for every gallon you put into the plane after you buy one.
    Ideally you get a plane that will take you through IFR and Commercial, so you’re talking more than $25K, most likely. If you can find one, Liberty XLs would do the trick for about 5 GPH. They’ll run $75K and up. Try to get the Vanguard edition. Search this site for more information. It is an orphan, but there’s an active owners group.
     
  27. Half Fast

    Half Fast Final Approach

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    I’ve recently purchased my first plane. Apart from the financial considerations (which I believe you are underestimating), consider the task loading which ownership will entail. There is at least as much to learn about buying, owning, and maintaining a plane as there is to learn about flying one. Do you really want that extra burden?

    My advice is to concentrate on flying right now and leave airplane ownership for later.
     
  28. RyanShort1

    RyanShort1 En-Route

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    If I could go back in time, and find something like the Luscombe I'm flying now, it would definitely have been a good way to go.
     
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  29. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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    If you can pay cash? Maybe it makes sense. Finance it? No way. All it takes is one big maintenance hit to put you financially upside down for several years. I remember how it felt when I bought my second airplane, had the first one sold, and the first one blew an engine. The only guarantee in aviation is it’ll cost more than you thought.
     
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  30. iamtheari

    iamtheari Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    There are few things worse than making monthly payments on a broken toy that you can’t play with and can’t afford to fix.
     
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  31. Albany Tom

    Albany Tom Line Up and Wait PoA Supporter

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    Sure...but if it's not a toy, but rather a tool used as part of a building a career, the math could be different. It's either finance or rent for most people. I do agree that there should be a budget for unexpected repairs, though.
     
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  32. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    Owning an airplane means you have an expensive paperweight should the mill take a dump without the resources to fix it.
     
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  33. iamtheari

    iamtheari Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Assuming you fly a lot of hours and are talking long-term averages, renting costs more than owning but the added cost pays for eliminating uncertainty about what the next hour will cost. I can fly my little plane for $45/hour (gas and topping up the oil) most hours, but occasionally the next hour will cost a lot more. For example, every 50 hours, the next hour costs an additional $75 to change the oil. Every 12 months, the next hour costs several thousand dollars between insurance, GPS databases, IFR checks when due, and the annual inspection (cheaper for me since I built the plane but still not likely to be free).

    When you rent, the next hour always costs about the same as the prior hour, and that predictability is worth a lot.
     
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  34. kep5niner

    kep5niner Pre-takeoff checklist

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    OP - if you're already joining the Air Guard, let Uncle Sam train you how to fly. Even if you're just now enlisting, do your time, make a good name for yourself, get your degree (that the Guard should help / completely pay for) and go be a pilot in the AF. They're hurting for pilots - all branches are. If they weed you out and you can't hack it, maybe that's a good indication that flying is not for you. It's most certainly not for everybody.
     
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  35. Daleandee

    Daleandee Pattern Altitude

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    I find that to be true about life in general. At this moment the bike is at the shop ...
     
  36. T Bird

    T Bird Filing Flight Plan

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    100% agree with this.

    If you're planning to fly for the military why are you trying to build hours? The military doesn't really want you to have a ton of civilian flying time as they'll essentially try to undo all that teaching and teach you their way anyways.

    If you're only applying for an Air Guard slot, I understand wanting more ratings to look better on the application but really all you need is the private, strong test scores and to do well in the interviews. Adding an instrument rating, CFI, Multi-Engine, etc. is all nice and fine but it's really diminishing returns after the private and not really necessary at all for getting into flying with the Guard. If it's a career for you, why not look at AD too?

    I wouldn't try to justify it as being a career move if your goal is military. It makes sense as a career move if you're trying to build time for airlines but you don't need to build time for the military, let them train you and on their dime.

    If it's more that you want the experience of owning your own plane and all the adventure, learning, etc. that comes with it, then by all means go for it. But if your main focus is just getting a flying gig with the military I think there would be better things to focus your time/money on.
     
  37. T Bird

    T Bird Filing Flight Plan

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    OP, do you already have a college degree?
     
  38. DFH65

    DFH65 Pattern Altitude

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    I own a "cheap" airplane a 57 172. My partner and I paid less than what you are talking about financing but I see planes all the time in the same condition as ours with the same hours for sale in the ball park you are talking about or higher. I still think, and most people have said, we got a screaming deal. Having said that. First annual 2 cylinders. Second annual a cylinder. Tires and many other misc. parts. Based on my calculation and they are loosey goosey it cost us about 100-$120 and hour to fly and we do most of the work ourselves under the supervision of an A&P IA. That does not include any engine reserve. We plan to IRAN it till it won't IRAN no more then either pony up for a used engine, rebuild ours, sell the plane for parts or sell it as a project to someone. Honestly if we had to pay for the work on our plane and kept a reserve it would be cheaper to rent. Having said that, having it available whenever I want and not having to ask anyone or schedule beyond letting my co-owner know is priceless.

    Get a partner, or buy something like an Aeronca Chief. Simple and cheap. You won't get anywhere fast but if you are up there to build hours who cares.


    ETA: As they say the more you fly the cheaper each hour gets. Or the first hour is really expensive and after that it isn't bad at all.
     
  39. Rich Holt

    Rich Holt Pre-Flight

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    This cannot be understated.
     
  40. Robert Gee

    Robert Gee Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Join up while you're young and able, even if you're an overweight pacifist.
    I had a friend that was a Naval aviator candidate, didn't quite make the grade in FWs so they sent him into helos and he got his wings. Things that make you go hmmm. Met a Marine that failed his carrier qualifications so, as he said, they sent him to a rifle company. (I dont really believe this)