# Understanding maintenance cost?

#### Vince R

##### Pre-takeoff checklist
First, I'm new here...nice to meet all of you!

My flying career has been about begging, borrowing and renting aircraft for the last 25 years, but now I'm finally taking the plunge and shopping for my own. At my age (mid-50's), I want to buy my "forever airplane", get as proficient as I can in it, and live with it till I get too old to fly safely anymore.

Anyway, where I'm mostly stuck is budgeting for maintenance...totally clear on all the other costs of ownership, but the MX crapshoot scares me. A Cirrus owner friend has had the bad luck to have two \$25K annuals in the last five years - he went into ownership thinking to spend \$8-10K/year, so this hurts. I've researched, spoke to owners, mechanics, etc till my head hurts and I have to admit that it's probably not possible to predict MX cost on a particular used airplane with confidence.

Best idea I have so far relies on the Conklin & de Decker variable cost numbers so that I can say "type A is likely to be X% more/less than type B". I divide the hourly MX cost by the cruise speed of the airplane to get MX cost per NM so I can compare airplanes having different performance...here's what I get when I do this math for the aircraft I'm considering:
• Cessna/Columbia 350 - 0.89
• SR22 G2 - 0.95
• Mooney Ovation - 0.97
• Cessna 182S (this is what I'm flying now) - 1.03
• Bonanza F33/A36 - 1.27
If my "standard mission" is a 500NM trip and I fly it 20 times a year (10,000 miles), I'd put fewer hours on the faster planes than the slower ones, and my MX cost would range from \$8900 in the Cessna 350 to \$12,700 in the Bo. First question - does this seem like a reasonable way to compare MX cost across different aircraft and do the relative costs above sound reasonable?

Of course, these are probably long-term average numbers that vary quite a bit year to year. My friend has his SR22 five years now, and his cost has been \$25K, \$8K, \$4K, \$25K, \$8K - an average of \$14K/year. This sequence has a standard deviation of about 9, suggesting that cost from \$5K to \$23K might be expected.

I'm sure if we looked at a handful of similar SR22's, the 5-year averages would be different - and this is my second question. If we were to take a group of similar aircraft (same make, model, equipment, age, condition, etc) under similar usage patterns (hours flown, pilot technique, maintenance philosophy, etc) and track MX cost over the long term, what do you think the variance would be...are they all roughly similar over a long interval, or would some just be inherently much more expensive than others - and if so, why?

Thanks in advance for any opinions!

Maintenance is the biggest unknown cost. Its usually expressed in dollars per hour, not dollars per mile. A general rule is maintenance is the about the same as fuel burn. So if you burn 10 gallons at 4/gallon, thats 40 dollars an hour.
For a 172 Id say 20 to 40 and hour. 182 would be more like 25 to 50. Cirrus's tend to be more.

FIXED COSTS:
Annual
Hangar or tiedown
Insurance
Annual

HOURLY COSTS:
Fuel
Maintenance
Engine reserve (depreciation)

Good luck!

Seems like I'm frequently seeing posts by non-owners worried about costs if they buy...and I guess it's understandable to "fear the unknown". But thing is, us owners never really know what big expense may be lurking ahead at our next annual either. And I think you can't really worry too much about the money if you own as it takes away from enjoying ownership.
I own a relatively inexpensive-to-maintain PA28. I budget a couple thousand for a "normal" annual, and have\$10k put aside for an"expensive" annual. If I get hit with a "really expensive" annual...we'll, I may have to borrow, or park the plane a few months. But I don't worry about it I guess. Unfortunately I think those that make budgets before buying and create figures trying to predict what most likely is unknown actually shouldn't own because they worry too much about the money to enjoy it.

Why are the Cirrus that much more in Mx costs?

I like Tim's way of thinking... create and maintain a big reserve for the things, a few dollars per flight hour to the savings account for the routine and small unexpecteds, but be be appropriately prepared for the monster such as an engine.

And all in all, keep within your personal budget so you can pay for the daily necessities, fund the retirement account AND enjoy them \$300 burgers and pancakes and BBQ.

If they are turbo they have that expense. They have a lot of complicated avionics. They have a chute that has to be repacked. They have a lot of repairs. They are more than a 182. Maybe not that much more than a 210 though.

Why are the Cirrus that much more in Mx costs?
Dig around in the archives for various Mike Busch articles. He frequently uses the experiences of Cirrus owners as examples of how they pay too much and if they would follow his Savvy Method, they would save a good amount.

Why are the Cirrus that much more in Mx costs?
TSIO-550-K. Only slightly less reliable than a Rotax 2-stroke. It's never a small thing like one cylinder. It's six cylinders and a cam, etc..

Dig around in the archives for various Mike Busch articles. He frequently uses the experiences of Cirrus owners as examples of how they pay too much and if they would follow his Savvy Method, they would save a good amount.

Thanks....I figured it was somthing like that.

Dig around in the archives for various Mike Busch articles. He frequently uses the experiences of Cirrus owners as examples of how they pay too much and if they would follow his Savvy Method, they would save a good amount.
What Mike won't tell you is, that many of these new aircraft must be maintained IAW their TCDS notes making it mandatory to do what the Airworthiness Limitations state, by the Book the manufacturer wrote. So, when you do it Mike Busch's way you'll have an unairworthy aircraft.

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TSIO-550-K. Only slightly less reliable than a Rotax 2-stroke.
I'm sure that's a joke, but have you ever read the warnings that Rotax gives with their 2 stroke engines?

Have you seen the invoices for these annuals? I'm going through a similar analysis (forming new partnership coming from DA-40 and vintage Mooney, going to 90's Mooney/early TKS-equipped SR22) with TKS. Assuming that he had a good year and the base annual cost is \$4k (already high), I suspect that he's including major items that most would budget outside of the annual inspection (chute, rocket, top overhauls, prop overhauls), and/or there was substantial deferred maintenance at purchase.

We're budgeting \$8k/year plus chute and major overhaul expenses.

What Mike won't tell you is, that many of these new aircraft must be maintained IAW their TSDC notes making it mandatory to do what the Airworthiness Limitations state, by the Book the manufacturer wrote. So, when you do it Mike Busch's way you'll have an unairworthy aircraft.

What are TSDC notes?

And aren't airworthiness limitations mandatory anyway?

What are TCDS notes?

And aren't airworthiness limitations mandatory anyway?
I corrected my typing Mistake, it's Type Certificate & Data Sheet.
Most new aircraft (newer) aircraft certified under FAR part 21 will have them, most of the older CAR 3 certified will not..

now know there are exceptions.
I forget when it started, (I'm too lazy to look it up) but all new STC must have Instructions for Continued airworthiness included in the instructions. Same for field approvals.
Depending upon equipment installed you may have ICAs to comply with on appliances at annual time on any aircraft.
The one most common ,, Batteries. all new batteries come with ICAs in a little booklet on how to test at EVERY annual or inspections required in part 91.
Next most common one is the prop, New props come with an owner's manual that contain the ICAs for that make and model.
Buying a new Aircraft? best check for mandatory maintenance.

I'm sure that's a joke, but have you ever read the warnings that Rotax gives with their 2 stroke engines?
I thought RoTax came with a First aid kit as the primary appliance.

I believe TCDS's are available for all aircraft. From a J3 to a 747. No TCDS, no C of A issued (for a production aircraft anyway). Also for engines and props.

I think the OP would be well advised to talk directly with someone who can advise him about this subject matter better than what you will find on the net. While Mike Busch is not the end all and be all in aircraft maintenance, he certainly does have a track record.

Here's how I understand maintenance cost:

Something breaks, I fix it.

The most important thing for your maintenance cost is the A&P you use. Good A&P is worth it's weight in gold. Bad one will take you to the cleaners. There are more bad ones than good ones out there.

I've flown a couple thousand hours in front of Rotax 2-strokes, never had an engine out.
I can't say that about my O-360.
Dave

I corrected my typing Mistake, it's Type Certificate & Data Sheet.
Most new aircraft (newer) aircraft certified under FAR part 21 will have them, most of the older CAR 3 certified will not..

now know there are exceptions.
I forget when it started, (I'm too lazy to look it up) but all new STC must have Instructions for Continued airworthiness included in the instructions. Same for field approvals.
Depending upon equipment installed you may have ICAs to comply with on appliances at annual time on any aircraft.
The one most common ,, Batteries. all new batteries come with ICAs in a little booklet on how to test at EVERY annual or inspections required in part 91.
Next most common one is the prop, New props come with an owner's manual that contain the ICAs for that make and model.
Buying a new Aircraft? best check for mandatory maintenance.

Most STC & Field Approvals don't contain ICAs that change the maintenance program. For CAR 3 Part 23 an overwhelming majority of them say "on condition" or "recommended inspection" and similar language. That changes a little when looking at Part 25 aircraft, say around 50% of them contain ICAs with an airworthiness limitation. In Part 25 aircraft that airworthiness limitation is typically related to an antenna or coaxial feed thru doubler installation on the pressure vessel and sets an interval for NDT via high frequency eddy current inspection for cracking.

A couple examples on CAR 3 / Part 23 STC ICA that contains an Airworthiness Limitation would be the BRS airframe parachute STC (parachute system overhaul times) and the new Garmin G5 STC (airworthiness limitation is the standby battery capacity check).

How Cirrus owners are coming out with such high costs revolves around chapter 5-10 Overhaul & Replacement Schedule, these either mirror or tell you to see the appliance manufacturer's ICA, service centers are gonna squawk those items whether or not legally mandatory by FAA regulation. http://3sierradelta.com/wordpress/wp-content/files/Airplane/Cirrus SR22 Maintenance Manual thru_rev_1.pdf

If manufacturer's could make overhaul & replacement / inspection times legally mandatory at-will there would be no need for FAA approved airworthiness limitations (or airworthiness directives)

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Maintenance is only expensive if you do it. (Boy is that going to get me in trouble)

The most important thing for your maintenance cost is the A&P you use. Good A&P is worth it's weight in gold. Bad one will take you to the cleaners. There are more bad ones than good ones out there.

I agree with this, I have a great mechanic and he has taught me allot and I am able to do owner assisted annuals which cuts the cost.

I think the ADS-B mandate should play in any plane purchase plans. I too bought my first and last airplane at the same time like the OP is considering. It had all the avionics I wanted and was simple and easy to use. However, now that the mandate is approaching I'm looking at a panel upgrade and I will probably spend half of what the plane cost me to begin with for the new panel.

Putting \$\$ aside for Mx or engine reserves is about as effective as reading tea leaves to judge the weather.

For me, I average a little under 2k per annual, and normally that also invloves me polishing something, installing some toys, balancing something, or other non essential stuff, this is in a complex 300HP IFR plane.

The big factors, being mechanically savy, doing owner MX, knowing how YOUR plane runs pres, temp etc and nipping any odd stuff/snags in the bud before they become expensive problems, owner assist annuals, buying your own parts, being part of owner groups, and using a APIA, not a FBO, this will result in a better kept plane for way less money.

I agree with this, I have a great mechanic and he has taught me allot and I am able to do owner assisted annuals which cuts the cost.

IMHO, owner-assisted maintenance (included in that is finding a good A&P willing to work with you) is the #1 way to keep aircraft ownership costs under control. The best way to lose your shirt in ownership is to toss the keys to a fancy repair station and tell them to call you when it's done. That's where most of the stories of \$20k annuals on \$75k airplanes come from.

If you're on any sort of budget, the best things you can do for yourself are to learn all you possibly can about how your airplane's systems work (buy and study the mx manuals, learn to read the parts catalog, take it apart and look at everything), learn to turn a wrench, and learn to source your own parts (this one can actually be more critical than the others). On the whole, these flying machines aren't hard to work on. Yes, certain tasks take specialized skills, but many tasks are relatively simple and straightforward. Frequently half the battle is just figuring out how to contort your arm/hand/body/head so you can get to (and see) what you need to change. If you're capable of changing the oil in your car, you're capable of doing a fair amount of the physical work on the plane.

Thanks for all the input so far...

I definitely have a fear of the unknown over maintenance cost. I' willing to take the risk on things like sudden expensive AD's or mandates like ADS-B - I just don't want to regret my choice because I overlooked data that might have steered me to something better. I might opt for an airplane that goes 10 knots slower if the fuel burn is a few gallons per hour less or if the insurance expense were dramatically lower...that would be a false economy if the maintenance cost on the slower airplane happened to be more.

I did run across Mike Busch...read his book and traded a few emails with him. Whether you agree or disagree with his philosophy, certainly feels like his service is worth the price just for the advice. Someone above pointed out the importance of having a good A&P...as a new owner, I feel at a disadvantage here, so something like Mike's service sounds like a way to level the playing field a bit. Are there other firms out there that do similar maintenance management on single engine pistons?

If an FBO can rent (say) a 182 for a certain price and make a profit, I'm feeling that over the long haul, my hourly cost can't be much higher than the FBO's hourly rate. Does this sound valid?

Also,

> Why are the Cirrus that much more in Mx costs?

In my friend's case, there were a few culprits. One of the bigger was that his aircraft is an Avidyne, and his PFD and MFD both suddenly failed and required replacement. The other big dollar item was a surprise at his first annual - he took it to a Cirrus service center and they found a lot of stuff the prior owner had neglected. This is a whole other topic for me because it suggests it can be difficult to know what you're getting into, even with a thorough pre-buy inspection.

IMHO, owner-assisted maintenance (included in that is finding a good A&P willing to work with you) is the #1 way to keep aircraft ownership costs under control. The best way to lose your shirt in ownership is to toss the keys to a fancy repair station and tell them to call you when it's done. That's where most of the stories of \$20k annuals on \$75k airplanes come from.

If you're on any sort of budget, the best things you can do for yourself are to learn all you possibly can about how your airplane's systems work (buy and study the mx manuals, learn to read the parts catalog, take it apart and look at everything), learn to turn a wrench, and learn to source your own parts (this one can actually be more critical than the others). On the whole, these flying machines aren't hard to work on. Yes, certain tasks take specialized skills, but many tasks are relatively simple and straightforward. Frequently half the battle is just figuring out how to contort your arm/hand/body/head so you can get to (and see) what you need to change. If you're capable of changing the oil in your car, you're capable of doing a fair amount of the physical work on the plane.

Definitely agree with all of this - it's all under what I think of as optimizing the total cost of ownership and I agree 100% that by being an informed and involved owner (and flying it properly, of course), I can do a lot to keep cost down.

At my stage, what I'm more worried about is making the initial choice of aircraft in an informed way. For example, it might come down to choosing between a Mooney and a Bonanza, or maybe an SR22 versus a Cessna 400. Performance, fuel burn, insurance rates - all that stuff is easy to compare. Which will cost more over time in maintenance is much more challenging.

...
In my friend's case, there were a few culprits. One of the bigger was that... he took it to a Cirrus service center...

Fixed it for you.

A good prebuy will really prevent tons of expense, keep in mind a proper prebuy should be above the level of inspection the plane would see on a annual.

And before a prebuy you should test fly the plane against the book numbers, stall it (really shows rigging issues), take it through its paces, test every piece of avionics, shoot a couple approaches, etc.

Ive seen some "service centers" play the "oh man, that old owner really didn't take care of this plane", quite often that's the same type of lead up as you'd see with a female customer dropping a car off at a show where the service rep says "ya know if you don't run winter air in the tires it can cause lots of problems", half the time it's code for you have money and don't know about this machine, bend over and I'll grab some KY out of my tool box, baby needs a new pair of shoes!!

Lots of times this occurs with a non aviation non mechanical professional type, rolling in for the first time in a semi expensive plane and a "call me when it's done" mindset.

Using one mechanic, who takes ownership for his MX, being right there with him working on the plane, learning more about the plane, that makes a huuuge difference, believe it or not lots of non rich folks own and maintain very nice airplanes, and that is how they do it.

Definitely agree with all of this - it's all under what I think of as optimizing the total cost of ownership and I agree 100% that by being an informed and involved owner (and flying it properly, of course), I can do a lot to keep cost down.

At my stage, what I'm more worried about is making the initial choice of aircraft in an informed way. For example, it might come down to choosing between a Mooney and a Bonanza, or maybe an SR22 versus a Cessna 400. Performance, fuel burn, insurance rates - all that stuff is easy to compare. Which will cost more over time in maintenance is much more challenging.

Stick with the mooney or a Bo, going to be a better bang for the buck and less mx

Definitely agree with all of this - it's all under what I think of as optimizing the total cost of ownership and I agree 100% that by being an informed and involved owner (and flying it properly, of course), I can do a lot to keep cost down.

At my stage, what I'm more worried about is making the initial choice of aircraft in an informed way. For example, it might come down to choosing between a Mooney and a Bonanza, or maybe an SR22 versus a Cessna 400. Performance, fuel burn, insurance rates - all that stuff is easy to compare. Which will cost more over time in maintenance is much more challenging.

Picking between makes/models based on perceived maintenance costs is no more effective than asking the magic 8-ball. All things being equal (in other words, you start with a good specimen), a Mooney and a Bonanza, in the long run, will cost the same to maintain. Same with an SR22 and a Cessna 400 (save for the chute repack costs).

If I were in your shoes, I would jump onto the type club forums of the aircraft you are serious about and ask the same question. You would likely get better information, since most of the people there would be flying the aircraft you are considering. It would be worth the effort and cost, even if you had to join the type club to get the information. The type club membership costs are usually very reasonable for the amount of information there.

Some good points here on how to manage the costs; #1 is being involved, informed, and proactive. Still not going to be cheap, and every plane has its weaknesses.

Putting \$\$ aside for Mx or engine reserves is about as effective as reading tea leaves to judge the weather.

I don't understand what you're trying to say. Don't save for future repairs because you don't know what they're going to cost?

I get that YOUR costs are low. But I know that one of MY concerns is not being able to fly because I don't have have \$5000 on hand to drop on a left handed fuel outflow regulator port decoupler or whatever. So in my airplane budgeting, I set aside money for future maintenance. The worst that happens is that I have saved up some money, it is still my money. At some future point I may look at it and say "gosh, I think 20k is enough to have saved", so I might stop.

TSIO-550-K. Only slightly less reliable than a Rotax 2-stroke. It's never a small thing like one cylinder. It's six cylinders and a cam, etc..
Fixed it for you.

A good prebuy will really prevent tons of expense, keep in mind a proper prebuy should be above the level of inspection the plane would see on a annual.

And before a prebuy you should test fly the plane against the book numbers, stall it (really shows rigging issues), take it through its paces, test every piece of avionics, shoot a couple approaches, etc.

Ive seen some "service centers" play the "oh man, that old owner really didn't take care of this plane", quite often that's the same type of lead up as you'd see with a female customer dropping a car off at a show where the service rep says "ya know if you don't run winter air in the tires it can cause lots of problems", half the time it's code for you have money and don't know about this machine, bend over and I'll grab some KY out of my tool box, baby needs a new pair of shoes!!

Lots of times this occurs with a non aviation non mechanical professional type, rolling in for the first time in a semi expensive plane and a "call me when it's done" mindset.

Using one mechanic, who takes ownership for his MX, being right there with him working on the plane, learning more about the plane, that makes a huuuge difference, believe it or not lots of non rich folks own and maintain very nice airplanes, and that is how they do it.

I did that one time in my life for a Jeep I had.

I learned that lesson.

I don't understand what you're trying to say. Don't save for future repairs because you don't know what they're going to cost?

I get that YOUR costs are low. But I know that one of MY concerns is not being able to fly because I don't have have \$5000 on hand to drop on a left handed fuel outflow regulator port decoupler or whatever. So in my airplane budgeting, I set aside money for future maintenance. The worst that happens is that I have saved up some money, it is still my money. At some future point I may look at it and say "gosh, I think 20k is enough to have saved", so I might stop.
Different strokes for different folks. Budgeting for worst case is a valid approach, but ties up your money and you may still under estimate. Adjusting your finances when an issue arises allows for more flexible lifestyle, but could put you in a bind. If you have enough money, an unexpected 10\$k bill might not be a big deal.

I bought a Cardinal for the following reasons: it was a Cessna which I had been flying for years, It was low to the ground so my wife could get in, It had an O-320 and with the STC I can put mogas in to run cheaper. It had the necessary avionics. I didn't really care that I was flying 110 knots instead of 150 or that I couldn't put four 250 pounds guys in it with their hunting gear. In fact, I took out the back seat to reduce the insurance rates and to make room for camping gear and the dogs. I spend more each year on the hangar than I spend on all the other expenses combined.

Picking between makes/models based on perceived maintenance costs is no more effective than asking the magic 8-ball. All things being equal (in other words, you start with a good specimen), a Mooney and a Bonanza, in the long run, will cost the same to maintain. Same with an SR22 and a Cessna 400 (save for the chute repack costs).

This is an interesting point and I'll be first to admit that I lack the experience to offer a definitive answer...there are certainly large parts of an airplane that probably cost about the same whether Mooney or Beechcraft - replacing an IO-550 seems roughly the same no matter what airframe it's bolted to. Same for avionics and so forth, so there's definitely something to the point that over a long period of time, similar aircraft from different vendors tend to cost about the same.

Still, I read a story in one of the various aviation magazines (sorry - forget which) about replacing the door latch on an A36 Bonanza. The author mentioned that Beech gets about \$2200 (!) for a new replacement part. Out of curiosity, I asked the mechanic at my FBO what the similar part costs on a Piper Saratoga - he said it's about a third as much as the Bo. In the maintenance hanger at the airport where I fly is a TB-21...it's been there three months for lack of a seat rail and bracket (apparently this simple repair is outrageously expensive). Then I wonder about, for instance, the Commander 114's...great comfortable airplanes, but the few owners I've spoken to tell me horror stories about maintenance cost now that the manufacturer is no longer around. A mechanic I know tells me avionics repairs on Mooneys run 10-20% more than similar aircraft because the panels tend to be tight to work on. Point is, seeing such disparity in parts, availability and so on makes it hard for me to believe that over the long haul, it's a wash.

The other thing that has me thinking is an experience I had at a former employer. We owned a Gulfstream, and we outsourced the maintenance to a third-party for a fixed payment over several years. This tells me that some company was able to inspect the aircraft and predict maintenance cost well enough to get into a binding contract. Clearly, *they* have something more effective than a magic 8-ball, else they wouldn't be in business, no? Why can't I know the same thing for a light aircraft?

Here's how I understand maintenance cost:

Something breaks, I fix it.

The most important thing for your maintenance cost is the A&P you use. Good A&P is worth it's weight in gold. Bad one will take you to the cleaners. There are more bad ones than good ones out there.

I'm going to have to disagree with that statement... at least with anything this OP is searching for.

Current gold price is \$1200/toz=1200*14.583=\$17499/lb=17499*(mythical 170lb person)=\$2,974,932... With a more likely 250lb person... \$4,374,900

I'd take the gold!

This is an interesting point and I'll be first to admit that I lack the experience to offer a definitive answer...there are certainly large parts of an airplane that probably cost about the same whether Mooney or Beechcraft - replacing an IO-550 seems roughly the same no matter what airframe it's bolted to. Same for avionics and so forth, so there's definitely something to the point that over a long period of time, similar aircraft from different vendors tend to cost about the same.

Still, I read a story in one of the various aviation magazines (sorry - forget which) about replacing the door latch on an A36 Bonanza. The author mentioned that Beech gets about \$2200 (!) for a new replacement part. Out of curiosity, I asked the mechanic at my FBO what the similar part costs on a Piper Saratoga - he said it's about a third as much as the Bo. In the maintenance hanger at the airport where I fly is a TB-21...it's been there three months for lack of a seat rail and bracket (apparently this simple repair is outrageously expensive). Then I wonder about, for instance, the Commander 114's...great comfortable airplanes, but the few owners I've spoken to tell me horror stories about maintenance cost now that the manufacturer is no longer around. A mechanic I know tells me avionics repairs on Mooneys run 10-20% more than similar aircraft because the panels tend to be tight to work on. Point is, seeing such disparity in parts, availability and so on makes it hard for me to believe that over the long haul, it's a wash.

The other thing that has me thinking is an experience I had at a former employer. We owned a Gulfstream, and we outsourced the maintenance to a third-party for a fixed payment over several years. This tells me that some company was able to inspect the aircraft and predict maintenance cost well enough to get into a binding contract. Clearly, *they* have something more effective than a magic 8-ball, else they wouldn't be in business, no? Why can't I know the same thing for a light aircraft?

If you're buying new parts, from the factory, you're going to be hosed either way. In any event, every manufacturer has parts the prices of which will stop your heart. While the door latch on the PA32 may be cheaper, I guarantee you there are other parts on the 'Toga that are cheaper for the Bo, etc. Which is why, in the long run, it's going to be roughly a wash for any complex, high performance single. Same with Mooney avionics work; while the avionics will cost more, there are other areas that will be cheaper. They all have their easy spots and their hard spots, but ultimately they wash.

But who in god's name buys new parts from the factory? Very few. Aftermarket parts, NOS parts, used parts, etc. are where you save your money.

Business jet maintenance programs are a different animal entirely. For one, many of them have a "true up" if and when you exit the program. If they've paid out more than you've paid in, you write a check for the balance. You pay one way or another. Additionally, maintenance on a business jet is much more predictable because many parts are absolutely replaced on a time or calendar basis, not on condition like in small airplanes. Way more expensive, but also way more predictable.

In the flying club I was in, our Debonair was the cheapest thing we had maintenance-wise. We spent a ton keeping the simple fixed gear airplanes going (172, Tiger), but the Deb just proudly hummed along with little attention.

Just to give an example of factory parts prices and where you can "save". The wingtip light covers for a Cessna (so just the hand-sized piece of metal that shields the nav light) costs \$493 each. Guess what a shop quoted me for wingtip strobe light install... Yep. \$1,133.90 in parts (2*493 and they mark them up by 15%), and almost \$500 in labor. (I've got the strobe parts).

I bought a pair of covers for \$50, and my A&P charged me \$180 for the labor. So instead of \$1700, I paid \$250 (I paid for lunch too). That's how bad aircraft maintenance can be, if you aren't actively involved in it. And that's how cheap it can be, if you are.

Maintenance is only expensive if you do it. (Boy is that going to get me in trouble)
It should be less expensive if YOU do it.

Just to give an example of factory parts prices and where you can "save". The wingtip light covers for a Cessna (so just the hand-sized piece of metal that shields the nav light) costs \$493 each. Guess what a shop quoted me for wingtip strobe light install... Yep. \$1,133.90 in parts (2*493 and they mark them up by 15%), and almost \$500 in labor. (I've got the strobe parts).

I bought a pair of covers for \$50, and my A&P charged me \$180 for the labor. So instead of \$1700, I paid \$250 (I paid for lunch too). That's how bad aircraft maintenance can be, if you aren't actively involved in it. And that's how cheap it can be, if you are.

So how do mere newbies learn this skill, other than trial and error?