Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How To Keep Flying?

I've been struggling with my aviation "career" as it were for some time now. Not counting my excursion with Tim a couple of weeks ago, I've been taking about one flight every two months since my awesome trip to Santa Barbara. Those flights have been (a) a bay tour, (b) a VFR practice ride, and (c) last night, a VFR set of practice approaches, which was awesome and I will write about eventually (I meant to write about it today, but I guess that's not what was on my mind).

The struggle is based on time and money. I've posted about this before (with an environmental angle that basically ends up being implicit in the "money" part of my current struggle), and got some excellent suggestions: Get done with instruction. Find a cheaper way to fly (someone suggested an RV-3, and I've actually looked into it, but (a) don't want to build, (b) don't trust other builders, (c) want a real IFR capable airplane). Well, I've finished with my instrument rating (nearly a year ago!), and while I miss my instructor, it does make things financially easier. I also bought a house, and between the depreciation on the house and the collapse of all my investments (I know, me and the rest of the country), I'm even more worried about money (I know, me and the rest of the country).

So, I've started a budget. Turns out I can afford to fly a little bit. I need to be targeted in how I do it, because with the way I'm doing it now (renting 172SPs to do practice approaches), I feel simultaneously stagnant and rusty -- both bad things for a pilot. I want to get my commercial license, and continue the path toward becoming a CFI. But I need to do it in a way that's cost efficient, and that requires research and planning, and that requires time, which is at a premium right now.

I also think that if I do it right, owning my own airplane might actually hold down costs to some degree. Here's my thought: Get two-three other pilots (that might be the hardest part of this), buy an efficient airplane (current thought is a Mooney M20J). Over the time that I have it, the airplane itself is not likely to depreciate much. The hourly costs (fuel, engine/maint fund...) would be quite low, and while the ongoing (periodic/monthly/annual) costs, like tie-down, inspections, etc would be split between the owners. Insurance is a bigger question, but would be somewhat offset by not having to be a club member (currently costing me $100/mo for two clubs...gotta quit one or the other!).

Anyway, enough mulling for this morning, there's work to be least last night I discovered I'm still not SO rusty, and the "holding pattern" I'm in can continue for a little longer (though I do need to make the practice more frequent), as long as I set my personal minimums appropriately.


Colin said...

For the sort of flying you are doing, a C-152 would work. There are a bunch out there which are IFR capable (and you don't fly a lot of hard IFR, just up and down through a thousand feet of fog).

I would try to find one of those you can buy into. A friend here in Santa Monica bought into a Tiger for $20,000. He pays $15 an hour plus the gas. That's impossible to beat. His $20,000 is tied up, but as he pointed out it did a lot better than it would have done in the market during the same period.

You could also hang around the airport more and make friends with pilots. There are quite a few who would be happy to have a safety pilot who was willing to go up with them (like your friend). And if you offered to pay for the gas you could probably swap seats on the way home.

Ian Reddoch said...

Most interesting about this is the part between getting the commercial license and becoming a CFI. That and the thought that if you're going to sink $20k into something, the actual amount should be long-since forgotten before the subject of engagement rings comes up in any casual conversation . . .