Why you can't have an Aeroplane

It's just too expensive

4y ago

If you can afford a car, you can probably afford an aeroplane. Pilots don't like to admit this.

Like cars, many aeroplanes are expensive to buy and maintain. But lots are not. Like cars, you can spend a million quid on an aeroplane. Or a hundred grand. Or ten grand. Or a grand.

Like cars, the million quid one will be excellent in every way, and the thousand quid one will likely be a nerve-wracking shitcrate.

Photo: Ken Meegan

Photo: Ken Meegan

This is the first aeroplane I owned. I was in my mid-20s and had just got my license. I paid £12,000 - or to put it another way, about the same as a lightly-used, allegedly-desirable, diesel hatchback car.

To offset the cost, I bought a very-used, rather-undesirable diesel estate - the grey Volvo you see above. The aeroplane was hangared at a farm, next to a grass airstrip. It shared its home with a beautiful white barn owl which would habitually scatter its unfeasibly dense turds all over the wings.

Entering into uncharted financial territory, I learnt how to follow a service manual and carried out my own maintenance. I filled up with car fuel from jerry cans at half the price of Avgas. If I had been sensible, I could have shared the cost of ownership with a friend. But it was my aeroplane, and I didn't know anyone else that fitted inside it.

The tiny machine took me all over the place - on holiday to France twice, across Ireland for the hell of it, and to the TT races on the Isle of Man (both quicker and for less cost than taking the ferry).

I saw fantastic things, met brilliant people and went to places I could never have imagined existed. It was never technically cheap, but traversing the earth away from the congested tedium of life at ground level was, for me, a privilege at the outer edge of human experience that eclipsed any attempts at financial reasoning. If I had some spare cash to do it, I was doing it.

Flying isn't for everyone, but for some it can become everything. And if you want it enough, there is a way to make it work.

The other thing pilots will never tell you is that good second-hand aeroplanes hold their value well. Three years later I sold mine for exactly the same as I paid for it. The Volvo turned out to be one of the best cars I ever owned, until I drove it through a flood and the auto box stopped working. Then it went to scrap.

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Comments (24)

  • I own a cheap Cherokee 140, Cost £15k by the time we put new radios and a new ARC and Annual on it. But thats not half the story, normal cruise at a tad over 100Kn will burn 28 litres of avgas an hour, £1.85/ltr at base. Most places you go to will charge for landing, normally £15-20 for the small grass or rough places. But Biggin Hill for example is now £50 for a small 2-4 seater! The parking quoted above is way more than I pay, we are north of Newcastle and it;s £180 month in a hangar, outside on the grass is £50/mth. Insurance is £460 per annum, but I have over 1000 hrs. Not sure of the loading for less experience.

    The annual, like an mot, with no big snags will be appx £2500 and the various bits of paper are another £1500 ish. The average Private Pilot will do maybe 100 - 200 hrs per year, so thats 3 50 hr checks at £500. So fixed costs are in the £700/mth area and the asset will not lose much if any money if you keep all the paperwork up to date. Thats £42/hr plus fuel, so £92/hr if you do 200 per year, plus say 150 landings at £17.50 thats another £218/month to add on. So you are looking at over £400/wk for your fun. But as we live on an island it really comes into it's own if you go over the water. I often fly to see friends in Belgium and it is 3 hours each way, from way up north, no ferries and no traffic jams. I can get three adults in and full fuel so it is quite doable for an average guy!

    The average PPL takes around 65 hours to get the licence @ £160 or more per hour for training. Then there's eight, exams, flight tests, books travel to from airfield, many lost days due to weather etc etc. So you won't get change out of £15k before you get your wings. So you will need £30k roughly before you have your own plane and a licence to fly it! Afors.com has been mentioned a very good site, also see planecheck.com and two good forums can be found at pprune.org and Flyer.co.uk for all the latest gossip and info.

      1 year ago
  • Fantastic story James! Where there's a will, there's always a way! Good on you.

      3 years ago
  • Steven Reich, contact your local airfields and see what is on offer. Or try afors.com

      4 years ago
  • are there any plane sharing sites? to find local people to share? I have had this dream for years and it seems now could be the time to take the dive.

      4 years ago
  • Been there done that and still doing it. My first microlight cost 1600 quid and got me through my test and four years of flying. Like the author suggested I now share a plane which makes it far more affordable. After all, every boy needs toys...

      4 years ago