Why you can't have an Aeroplane

2y 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

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 (23)
  • Fantastic story James! Where there's a will, there's always a way! Good on you.

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

    2 years ago


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