When can you afford an airplane?

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by shinysideup, Nov 13, 2017.

  1. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Just reading about Dick Karl in this month' Flying magazine. He just purchased a Beech Premier. Even though he is well off, you can tell it's a huge jump for him and well at the top of his budget. Like me, it's about making ownership a priority and taking the unexpected "knocks" as they come. I keep doing as long as I can keep affording it...barely.
     
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  2. FormerHangie

    FormerHangie Pattern Altitude

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    I can tell you within $100 that our boat cost $6500 per year all in, if you look at net expenses. From a cash flow standpoint, add $3700 to that figure for the next three years, then it will drop to $4300.
     
  3. jkaduk

    jkaduk Cleared for Takeoff

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    I was the accountant for the partnership I was in. I had no choice in the matter. I actually enjoyed knowing exactly what it cost me.
     
  4. cgrab

    cgrab Line Up and Wait

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    Here's my story, we sold our house and downsized. I had enough to pay for the plane~$40k for a Cardinal and I had an income stream for my military disability. I put the income in a separate account and use it for flying. My expenses are 220 for hangar per month, 650 for insurance, ~500 for owner assisted annual and parts and chemicals. So, about 4k per year before I pay for fuel and fly.
     
  5. paflyer

    paflyer Final Approach

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    Well, he's retired from the med industry so presumable his income isn't what it used to be. He had his PAY1 up for sale a while back (run out engines), guess he sold it. I remember he had a position on a Mustang before they came out that he let go because it was going to be a lot more than the original price (IIRC). Glad to see he's still living the dream, he prob only has a handful of flying years left.
     
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  6. paflyer

    paflyer Final Approach

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    Wow that's cheap all the way around.
     
  7. hindsight2020

    hindsight2020 Pattern Altitude

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    Indeed, he's got me beat on the annual flat rate by a factor of 3x; my hangar is 45 bucks cheaper. Point being, those are pretty much close to carbon copy numbers for my Arrow, hull value included. It's very doable. I don't find those numbers surprising in the least.

    What kills this hobby for most people of working age is the hangar unavailability/unaffordability in the urban cores most jobs and amenities worth having are located around. Big spike in fixed costs that otherwise wouldn't be. I'm not paying 500/mo to hangar a 50K hull though, as a matter of principle. For me it would just mean a tie down; for others however it means not owning at all, which is a shame.

    If I was looking at swinging a 90-100K+ hull value, at that point I'm essentially making a de facto housing choice, and storage has to be baked into the outlay of such a budget-dominating expenditure. A lifestyle choice outright at that point. The only way I'm ever entertaining that much hull is if I can consolidate my housing with the hobby. Otherwise, no way I pay for housing twice just to be 30 to an hour away from the stupid thing..
     
  8. SoCal RV Flyer

    SoCal RV Flyer Cleared for Takeoff

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    Building an experimental can spread the costs out over several years, or a decade. With a Van's plane, you buy a tail kit first, then wings, then fuselage. Purchase avionics last, so you can have the newest and latest in your panel. An Experimental EFIS these days is considerably less than a good set of new steam gauges. A two-car garage is more than enough space for the build (and preferable because you can conveniently work on it a little every day) with final assembly at the hangar.

    Building it is the most satisfying hobby ever; you learn all sorts of new skills, drill through you finger at least once, and when you're done you have a flyable aircraft! Writing a check for a new IO-320-D1A did cause considerable pain, though... Lots of folks go with a used mid-time engine.
     
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  9. shinysideup

    shinysideup Pre-Flight

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    Agree with you on this one... at the closest GA airport to myself (CYKZ, which incidentally is slated to shutdown in the coming years) I was quoted $850/mo for an unheated hangar.
     
  10. GaryV

    GaryV Pre-takeoff checklist

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    When you can afford not only buying the plane and paying the insurance, but also pay for storage, maintenance, and still have enough left to fly it regularly. That time varies by how much you want a plane vs. wanting to be able to do other things.

    I know a guy that loved having a plane so much that he built a small room in his hanger in El Centro, California and lived in it year round with no plumbing, no AC, a microwave, and a toaster oven. He flew the inexpensive experimental he bought nearly every day and was happy as anyone I’ve known. I love owning a plane but not enough to live in a non-air-conditioned hanger in the desert in the summer.

    I also know a guy that could afford to buy a new certified plane and pay all the required expenses, but rarely flew the plane. It also cost enough that it kept his family from doing the kind of trips they had previously enjoyed.

    Finally I know a guy that had the money to buy, insure, and store the plane as well as fly it regularly. Once that was all paid for he couldn’t afford to maintain it properly so he started skimping on maintenance. The plane degraded to the point that he couldn’t fly it anymore and he owed more than he could sell it for.

    Things did not go well for the second two examples so while they had significantly more discretionary income than the first guy, I believe the guy that lived in his hanger could afford the plane much better than the other two. He carefully evaluated all costs and the impact they would have on his lifestyle and made a well informed decision to buy the plane.

    Gary
     
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  11. jonnyjetprop

    jonnyjetprop Line Up and Wait

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    You need only three things:

    You need to buy it. Either cash up front or a down payment and a monthly loan payment.

    You need to operate it. Monthly fixed expenses plus hourly operating costs.

    You need to be able to cover the big "oh dung" moments. My standard is can you come up with, even if it hurts, to cover a firewall forward engine overhaul. Can you generate $25,000? If you own the plane, you can borrow it or finance the plane and have the $25K working for you until you need it.

    The short answer is $20,000 up front, $1500 per month going to the plane plus the ability for the $25,000 will get you into a nice plane.
     
  12. teejayevans

    teejayevans Pattern Altitude

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    If you don’t have the cash to buy the plane, you cannot afford it. The hangar, insurance, maintenance, fuel, database subscriptions, etc will dwarf the cost of the plane over time for average GA planes.
     
  13. FormerHangie

    FormerHangie Pattern Altitude

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    Certainly, hangar costs can be daunting for those of us in a metro area, but it's not just that, it's everything combined. @cgrab has his fixed costs down low, but to reproduce that today, it would probably take a new pilot $50,000 for a Cardinal, and $10,000 - $12,000 for training. That's a lot of years worth of discretionary income for most folks. Then you have to consider what it will cost to keep that airplane up, and occasionally upgrade it, and I would hope 75 -100 hours worth of direct expenses. Sole ownership is not practical for all that many of us.
     
  14. olasek

    olasek Pattern Altitude

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    Glad to see he is flying and able to afford this expensive aluminum. I never understood all the hate mail he was getting - only because he was flying aircraft no one of us can even touch.
     
  15. hindsight2020

    hindsight2020 Pattern Altitude

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    I'm not privy to who this guy is since I don't make it a point to read articles about expensive personal airplanes, but what kind of hate mail are we talking about?
     
  16. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Technically he’s right. It’s a depreciating asset. Even in an up airplane market, you’re flying the hours off of the engine and airframe, and those are hidden costs until it’s either time to sell, or its wrecked and you get a check for the value of the scrap. That’s your worst case scenario and what you budget for.

    Purrrty. My airplane habit keeps my gun collection to something above a few, and somewhere below an arsenal. ;-)

    I’ve met plenty of rational motorsport owners. Most pay cash for those toys. The ones that keep them longer than a couple of years do, anyway. The key is they buy what they want with cash on hand. And many of them trade a lot of sweat equity in working on them or modifying them that’s a lot harder to do in the Aviation world unless you’re building and flying experimental.

    LOL. I like ramen. It’s horrible for you. But I lived on the crap when I was broke and acquired a taste for the occasional pile of fat covered in salt! Hahaha.

    I would. Yes, the numbers are staggering, but the experiences are divine. I’ve spent “stupid money” on a number of other hobbies over the years, and none gives the satisfaction of flying.

    I can tell you where every penny of mine goes for everything. A written budget is a rarity amongst Americans (most estimates out the number of people who write one and use it below 20%). Today with automated transaction importing, it’s incredibly easy compared to the bad old days of dragging receipts home.

    Nothing changes about that feeling of “how much is this costing me per hour” once you own. I’m not sure why you’d think that is something only a renter would feel? You can gas up the airplane and fly it and ignore everything but that credit card transaction at the fuel pump for a month, just like any other bill... but the bills still show up monthly. And then you think about it a little and write the checks.

    Very few people become wealthy by taking out loans. Single digit percentages, from most studies. Nothing about an airplane is an investment. It’s a depreciating asset.

    Businesses can often bridge a cash flow gap with loans when they know where the revenue is coming from to pay the loan back with a generous profit, but individuals buying essentially toys, no loan ever made that cheaper or any additional income to pay back the loan, possible. Except maybe buying a hulk and trading sweat equity and lots of time to rebuild it, let alone the parts costs.

    An example of good debt might be real estate. Single digit interest and perhaps an appreciating asset that can also be rented out to cover costs plus a profit. Or cash flow break even and an appreciating property market. It only works with tiny interest rates on the loan. Larger percentages approaching or exceeding double digits makes the ability to recoup that loss, nearly impossible. Compound interest is a bugger.

    Other life factors nobody has detailed, just asked in generalities...

    What’s your annual income?

    How much personal debt besides your home do you have? Consumer credit. Vehicles. Student loans. What’s the written plan to kill those and how long will it take?

    Do you own a bunch of toys/depreciating assets and what ratio of your annual income do they consist of?

    Do you have three to six months of expenses saved up in cash for your eventual rainy day?

    On top of that, do you have cash on hand in accounts that won’t take a tax penalty to spend them, enough to replace the engine or do other unforeseen major maintenance?

    Are you insurable in the aircraft you want to buy? What’s the monthly cost?

    Besides owning and operating expenses, have you budgeted for continuous (even small) upgrades? What’s your plan when the interior rots out, or the paint starts to look really shabby? Panic or a plan?

    If you have kids, are you putting money away for their education as well as putting a significant amount of money into your own retirement savings? Any investments that will throw enough I
    residual cash to keep your SO in the manner to which they’re accustomed?

    All those things come first before buying an airplane. Family is more important than flying. If you start hurting the family budget with, aviation. It’s time to reassess.
     
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  17. sourdough44

    sourdough44 Cleared for Takeoff

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    Here's another twist to think about. During the older Son's 'formative years' we had the trusty Warrior. Flew it around a bunch for fun, here & there, FL twice. The Son goes off to college, a subset of the often touted medical field. After 6 months of that he says this med stuff doesn't have the right vibe with him. He's now 6 months from graduating from an aviation school, made the switch.

    Just saying, many of us are immersed in aviation, but others don't know how to start. Maybe one is served better having that modest plane while the kids are young, rather than buying once college is over & mostly paid for? Though I believe there is only one way to correctly skin a cat, no one plan is best for all.
     
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  18. bflynn

    bflynn En-Route

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    I completely disagree with this. Just because I don't have 300k of chump change lying around does not mean I cannot come up with $5000 a month to spend on aviation. The two are very different requirements.

    If every owner had to save cash to buy airplanes then we would have far fewer pilots. On the other hands, airplanes would be a lot cheaper.
     
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  19. shinysideup

    shinysideup Pre-Flight

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  20. teejayevans

    teejayevans Pattern Altitude

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    Using your numbers it takes 5 years of saving the $5000 to come up with $300K. I would argue if you don’t have the discipline to save for airplane , you won’t be able to afford it later.
    I was thinking a sub $100K airplane, that all in included would cost $10-15K per year to get it hangared and in good condition. If you’re pushing it by adding a monthly payment, or unexpected repairs, suddenly you can’t afford it. I believe this is why we see planes abandoned on the ramp. The owners hoping to make enough money to fix it. If they were simply tired of flying I would expect they would sell, the fact they don’t tells me they still have a passion for flying.
     
  21. bflynn

    bflynn En-Route

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    I'd argue that it's not correct. If someone has 5k of free cash flow every month, they can make two choices - not fly for 5 years, save 5k every month for 5 years to save up $300,000 and pay cash OR they can finance and pay $1,900 for 20 years and start flying in their new aircraft now. Yes, option 1 is financially more responsible and will cost less over the long haul. Option 2 will provide more enjoyment more quickly. Under both, the person has plenty of money to fly...assuming $1000 in fixed costs, it's enough for either 20 hours/month now or 40 hours/month in 5 years.

    Personally, I'm at an age where saying I'm going to wait 5 years to do something means wasting 25% of my remaining expected life time waiting. Money we can get. Time is limited.

    Regretabbly the cash part is a moot point as I don't have 5k FCF.

    That will depend on the payment. There's a nice looking Mooney C at KFAY that I like for 34k. I can finance that for about $300/month and it costs me $45/month to park it at the closest airport - outside, not in a hangar, it's doable in the southeast even if not ideal. Then on top of that I can add another $1,500 for flying, which gets me 15 hours/month for around 2k/month.

    If my 500 hour engine throws a rod through the case am I screwed? No, not at all because what I spend on flying is not the sum total of everything I have. In addition to putting away roughly $30/hour (out of the $100 cost) for maintenance, I also have a personal emergency fund, home equity, direct loans and other credit that can be accessed if I really needed to.

    So why don't I have a plane? I don't have the time at the moment...isn't it always that way, either time or money. With everything going on, I cannot imaging flying 15 hours a month on top of all that.

    So again - I'll state that "if you can't afford to pay cash (now) then you can't afford to operate the airplane" is an incorrect statement. This is exactly why loans exists.
     
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  22. Stephen Shore

    Stephen Shore Pre-Flight

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    Owning an airplane is actually one of the more financially sane things that I do. It does provide a tangible benefit - transportation - and I even get to charge some of it off to my business. It increases my quality of life and "makes" time. How do you value time?

    Now, if you want to list things that I spend alot of time and money on that are financially "insane":

    Bass Fishing - I have a very expensive Bass boat, it burns alot of gas, and does have maintenance and insurance costs. I catch Bass and throw them back in the water. Twice a year I do go Crappie fishing and do keep them to eat. However, based on price per pound of my investment in those fish, those are very expensive fish fries when I could just as easily go to Sam's and get all the fillets I want for very little cost (although I don't know where you can go to buy Crappie).

    Deer Hunting - I am an avid bow hunter. I don't even want to think about what I spend on hunting. I do eat the deer harvested, however, again using the price per pound for venison, that meat would be more expensive that the most expensive Japanese beef you could buy by a factor of 10.

    No, in my mind, flying and owning an airplane make way more financial sense than any other "hobby" I have. In fact I am depressed now that I wrote all of the above out.
     
  23. paflyer

    paflyer Final Approach

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    And no one knows what the real limit is on time.

    This is primary, and an aspect of life that most people don't consider, especially in an activity like flying where your near-100% health is legally required to exercise it.
     
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  24. Velocity173

    Velocity173 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Don't know I'd call it hate mail but he's gotten a bunch of mail from jealous people who believe he should spend his money on other things than "toys." Even said he should put as much time and effort into treating his patients as he does in his passion for a aviation. Really uncalled for since he was a well known cancer surgeon in the Tampa area. The sad thing is, these people don't realize GA needs people like him just as much as they need the scaled down version like us. Trying to tear down one because of a lofty ownership goal only does harm to the greater good of GA.

    Anyway, his story:

    https://www.flyingmag.com/gear-up-looking-for-new-airplane
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2017
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  25. SoCal RV Flyer

    SoCal RV Flyer Cleared for Takeoff

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    ^This (although I was fortunate..and frugal...enough to save like crazy when I was younger man and was able to buy the parts of my plane outright). But when it's parsed in terms of time left on this earth and doing something you truly enjoy, a loan can make a great deal of sense. When all else fails, leave your debt to the kids! :D:D
     
  26. chartbundle

    chartbundle Line Up and Wait

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    In reality, there's a third choice, which I did for far too long since there were plenty of rentals available. Spend all my spare money renting aircraft and flying and not save very much.

    Now I pay part of that money to the bank for financing and use the rest to operate/maintain the plane.
     
  27. rbridges

    rbridges En-Route

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    I see both sides. I initially financed my plane. Put a good chunk down and paid it off in a few years. It wasn't a strain to pay the loan off, but I didn't want to put a big dent in my liquid assets. I think it's knowing when to draw the line and wait.
     
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  28. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    It doesn’t pass to them, but your other assets will be sold to pay for it. So... indirectly it does... but not directly.
     
  29. cgrab

    cgrab Line Up and Wait

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    One more note, around here a hail storm can pop up anytime and ruin a plane. I consider my hangar cost to be part of my insurance. Another part of it is the ability to do O-A annuals. Without the hangar, my annuals would probably be higher.
     
  30. charheep

    charheep Pre-takeoff checklist

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    This is what I did. Rented for longer than I really wanted to, put a healthy down payment and will pay off the loan as fast as I want or slow as 15 years. I get to fly my plane now. Tomorrow isnt given, and if something were to change, my wife knows who to contact to sell the plane for a reasonable price. And definitely more than what is left on the loan.
     
  31. rbridges

    rbridges En-Route

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    someone made a comment years ago that stuck in my head. you could lose your medical tomorrow and not be able to fly. I understand flying is not a necessity to most people's lives, but I like knowing I got to fly a few years earlier.
     
  32. FormerHangie

    FormerHangie Pattern Altitude

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    There's a lot to be said for living your life while you can enjoy it. I spent a lot of money racing cars as a young man, and that was the time to do it. I'm 60 now, and am not really up for that sort of thing any longer.
     
  33. olasek

    olasek Pattern Altitude

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    I don't see it that way, I think she gives great advice, but her advice is conservative and cautious - she can't be faulted for that. She doesn't allow for flamboyant and seat-of-the-pants decisions which can make life boring, but again, her financial decisions are solid.
     
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  34. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Financial pundits have to tow a line that’s pretty narrow and anti-risk. They’re “giving advice” to millions who may barely understand basic math.

    Sometimes boring is quite nice for folks who grew up poor, always in a panic, too.

    Listening to callers to financial shows is a pastime of mine. Some of the calls you just slap your head and wonder why anyone would think that decision chain was in any way intelligent.

    “Favorite” this week is the wife who called into Dave Ramsey and said her and the husband had bought $90,000 worth of vehicles on a $100,000 annual budget. I can’t even fathom doing that. Never had that “I deserve it” gene if I didn’t work for it.

    What really floors me is that a lender who KNOWS that’s going to be a default, will still make that loan. There’s no mathematical way that works out well for anyone involved. Yeah, they’ll just resell the repossessed car, but there’s costs involved in that.

    For me, the more interesting/informative calls are the retirement questions. Those can get way into the weeds on tax avoidance and other strategic questions and be interesting. But they’re interspersed with the incredibly nuts massive debt calls.

    Debt load and willingness to accept it, is well beyond a normal problem in America. Personally I think it’s a symptom of a mental health epidemic. Narcissism run amok.

    Remember, if you’re making more than $11,000 a year, you’re already in the top 15% of people in terms of worldwide wealth. That’ll humble your butt when you let that sink in.

    Orman also describes her childhood as being quite poor, and it’s really typical for someone who grew up that way not to take much risk once they claw their way to a reasonable income level.

    They’ll gain odd habits too. My stepdad always hoarded food. His teen years were very lean and while he certainly didn’t starve to death, he never liked an empty pantry ever again. Still doesn’t, and he’s pushing the underside of 70. It drove his brother to always have to work harder than everyone else and be the guy with the mansion in L.A., big house, successful construction business, all at the ultimate detriment of driving a lot of family and friends away.

    You ever notice Orman wears the same earrings all the time? I read about it somewhere and it’s supposedly true. She says there’s no point in owning multiple pairs. Those square-ish gold earrings are supposedly the only ones she owns. Whether really true or just part of her schtick nowadays, I don’t know but it was probably once true for sure. I would suspect they’re a part of her “costume” and there’s a spare pair or two around somewhere. But perhaps not.
     
  35. bflynn

    bflynn En-Route

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    Continuing this, if you make more than $34,000, you're a 1%er and the US poverty level is $12,060 for a single person household.

    And despite being way above this, it's funny how the money comes in and goes right back out again.
     
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  36. paflyer

    paflyer Final Approach

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    Orman net worth is at least $10 million, probably a lot more.
     
  37. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Final Approach

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    book sales must be good....

    It's a lot easier to live on a $1M budget....than a $100K.
     
    denverpilot likes this.
  38. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Mark
    FTFY :D
     
    GRG55 likes this.
  39. FlySince9

    FlySince9 Pattern Altitude

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    I'm actually working on my making it to my second million because the first million is too hard to make... :D
     
  40. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Well said V. Reminds me when some were questioning Mulligan for his 206 or Cirrus, forget which, but all it really was is jealousy. His money, his business the way I look at it. Look at those pics Mully puts on here with his wife and kids with big smiles on their faces. Look at the experiences his kids are exposed to and enjoying. That's precious to me, and I'm sure it is for Mully and the Mrs.

    Sure, most of us can't afford a new Cirrus or a jet like the Doc, but they make enough to buy those things. Good for them.
     
    FloridaPilot and Velocity173 like this.