For most people buying their first airplane can be ranked in conjunction with buying your dream home, getting married or name any other significant event in your life. Buying your first airplane means the completion of a dream. One of the greatest highlights of my career is seeing a first time buyer act like a 6 year old on Christmas morning when I hand him or her keys to their new airplane.
The thought of purchasing an airplane can seem daunting. After all, only 1 in 100 people in the U.S. have a pilots license, much less own an airplane. For those looking for an adventure to a far off land, a 100 dollar hamburger or a business tool to be more productive, rest assured that purchasing an airplane isn’t rocket science, it’s “plane science” which is a whole lot easier so lets begin.
This article will present a step by step process to make your dream come true. Step number 1; make sure your spouse or significant other is on board. I firmly believe that this is the biggest dream killer. If you pass step one (lucky you), then step two is to take inventory of what you are looking to accomplish. What is your mission? Is it to take your wife and kids on a 100 mile trip to the coast on a sunny day or do you often find yourself needing to be in a business meeting three states away and the weather is usually marginal? Here is the key, purchase the airplane that meets your mission at least 80% of the time. Don’t by a six place airplane if 90% of the time it is just you and your wife flying. The extra gas, aircraft cost, insurance, and maintenance of purchasing the extra seats you won’t be using will more than pay for the rentals of the times when you do need the extra seat. The same can be said for buying an airplane to fly you from New York to Florida twice a year. If you are a low time or student pilot, call an aircraft insurance agent to help determine what airplanes you can safely fly. If you are just learning to fly, don’t expect to be flying a King Air any time soon.
Along with determining your mission, determine how much a year you are willing to set aside for an airplane. The purchase price is just one piece of the pie. You will have to do research and find out how much a hangar or tie-down costs at your local airport as well as fuel and shop rates for oil changes and annuals. If you plan on buying a used airplane, set aside money for unscheduled repair bills, and a pre-buy inspection. A good rule of thumb that I have heard from mechanics is budget the price of the annual to cover the unscheduled repair bills. Also, the monthly cost to keep all available subscriptions on a glass cockpit is often overlooked and can run over 100 dollars month. Don’t forget that if you keep your airplane for a long time, you will have to eventually pay for an engine overhaul.
Now that you have determined your mission and know how many premium Starbucks coffees you must forgo to afford your next love (I mean airplane), it is time to begin the search process. A great place to gather information is by attending large aircraft expos such as Oshkosh or Sun N Fun. It never hurts to ask around the local FBO or spend some quality time on the internet searching airplanes. Asking an aircraft broker or sales representative would result in several airplanes to meet your mission and price.