Why Buy?

Why buy? Why would I want to spend, at a minimum, the price of a nice house in Illinios for a crochety mechanical contraption?


Practical, safety, and emotional reasons. And, 4 years after I first wrote this, a 4th reason, being a human while traveling.

First, practical. I expect to be flying a lot in the future, and going far. My partner Karen and I have a house in Mexico, and I'd like to be able to fly down to stay instead of taking airline seats. Renting an aircraft for that length of trip, paying 2 flight hours a day for it to sit on the ground, just doesn't make sense, so we'll get something. And for the last 3 years I've been flying between my home in Boise, ID (KBOI) and my work in the Silicon Valley (KRHV) every week, often in my own airplane.

And even in short term, if I'm going to continue to fly it makes more monetary sense to buy. Not total monetary sense, that would be not flying at all, an absurdly un-economical hobby to begin with. But I've already taken $900 weekend trips with rentals, like to keep that money in my own aircraft.

But (by my math) if I cross 14 hours of flying a month, I can buy an airplane for (roughly) the same monthly cost as renting. And add in the long trips and it balances well. So as long as I expect to continue to fly regularly (and even more so as I pursue advanced ratings) this makes practical sense.

Second, safety: Two levels of safety, the first the most important

Owning an airplane creates the reaction of familiarity. In an emergency, I do not want to have to remember if I'm in 26024 or 4313G to remember which autopilot is installed and how to engage it. Or where the radio panel is. Or a great many smaller details. The safety of having the same controls always at hand, drilled well into the deep memory of your mind and muscles, checklists absolutely commited to memory, is very very important. I want that level of safety.

Second is maintenance safety. This is somewhat double-edged. Rental aircraft (in my experience) are maintained pretty damned well. But they get ridden hard, over and over, by people who aren't committed to treating the airplane with the most respect. Catch a rental between 100 hour inspections and you can be suprised (I have been) by squawks that resulted from poor flying behaviour. Also, knowing what's broken before you even leave your house makes for smarter flying decisions.

Third, it's Mine. There is an intagible about mine-ness. If it's my airplane, I'm going to know it very well, I'm going to learn it so we both fit together very well. This is more than safety, this is taking care of a thing, and having the thing take care of you in return. Knowing how this one airplane will fly: On warm days, cold days, damp days, blustry days. Knowing exactly how the angle of my arm feels when I want to crank over to a 30 degree bank.

Cleaning it up so it shines inside and out, and looks like it wants to leap into the sky.

Forth, Being a Human while travelling. A really important aspect of owning your own airplane only becomes clear after you've bought one and flown for a while.
The difference between flying commercial and flying your own airplane is staggering once you get used to it. Lets think about a few aspects of that.

  • You can carry what you want. Forget obvious things like easily carrying a hunting knife or rifle. What about two bottles of wine? Unless you want to check a bag and trust your wine bottles to baggage handlers, you cannot bring those bottles as carry-on. They're liquid, and absurdly enough you couldn't bring more than 3 ounces of wine. With your own airplane you don't even think about what might make it through security or not, you put what you want in your airplane.
  • Wasted time. I travel a lot, at least twice a week, commercial or my airplane. When I fly commercial I have to guaruntee I'm going to waste an hour because I have to go early for security screening. On my normal 459 mile flight back and forth from San Jose to Boise every weekend I've done the math; It takes an identical amount of time to fly myself vs. go commercial on good days, when you factor in the added time you need to pad in for security. The commercial flight times are in fact usually longer total travel time because of bad traffic on the ground at the airport and botched departure times .
  • Scheduling and crowding. AIrlines are being squeezed by fuel prices (as are private pilots), and their response is to reduce schedules and pack planes full. Good economic sense for them, but turns you the passenger into a unit of commerce to them, and schedules are getting worse and worse. With your own plane you go when you want.
  • You can ask questions. In the current climate you as a passenger had better not ask any questions or express displeasrue with security, the counter staff, the airplane staff, or anyone else. Raise any noise (even if justified) and you can be bounced off the plane or out of the airport with no recourse. With your own plane ATC expects you to ask questions, and expects you to be an active, trusted, partner in the flying business.

Not waxing too nostalgic, but Commercial airline travel did used to be more fun, and used to be an experience. It's now packing passengers in smelly aluminum tubes and insuring that they waste time, shut the heck up, and take it.

So that's why I'm going to buy. We haven't decided if we'll get a big Ravenware R painted on the tail yet.

Next: Finding the airplane.

back questions or comments: email me