The Personal Benefits of Aircraft Ownership
Some errands had me out and about early on a Sunday morning not too long ago. My chosen route took me past a local strip mall and I saw something that took me back a few years; it was a kid taking the first steps in learning to drive.
Mom had taken her son to an empty parking lot to give him some experience with low-speed steering and to get a feel for the pedals on the floor. It was a pretty standard scene for an American teenager, but one thing troubled me: this lesson was taking place in a fairly new Ford Expedition.
While it’s possible that the truck belonged to the son, it’s far more likely that it was a family vehicle. He’ll learn to drive in it. He might even take his driving test with it. But then the time will come for him to buy his own car, or maybe he’ll get a car for his 16th birthday. Either way, one thing is certain: he’ll need to re-learn the dynamics of driving all over again in what will most likely be a significantly smaller vehicle.
This got me thinking about the benefits of learning in your own vehicle and, of course, I started thinking about how that translates to learning to fly. There are a lot of benefits to owning your own plane, not the least of which is the ability to learn in your own aircraft.
Safe execution of flight maneuvers requires the ability to predict how your aircraft is going to react. And, just as no two cars drive the same way; even if they’re the same model, no two aircraft fly exactly the same way either. Factor in differences in instrument placement between manufacturers, differences in the various aircraft control surfaces, aircraft weight distribution and balance, and engine power, and what you have is a completely different experience in executing a maneuver in one aircraft versus another.
Repeating an exercise in your own aircraft mitigates this. And, when the time comes for real-world execution of the lessons you’ve learned, you already know exactly how the aircraft is going to respond. This can impact your comfort, but more importantly, can also impact your safety.
There are, of course, other benefits to aircraft ownership. Convenience and the freedom to fly where and when you want are at the top of the list.
It’s hard not to recognize the convenience of having your own plane at an airport that is ready to go whenever you are. Rather than dealing with the hassle of securing and booking a rental, owning your own plane allows you to fly at a moment’s notice. You don’t have to worry about delays or unavailable inventory. You don’t have to worry about scheduling or whether a rental facility is open. You simply make the decision that you’re going to fly today and you get in your plane.
No Airport Terminals or Security Lines
The ability to travel long distances without worrying about airport terminal or security aggravation is another benefit of owning your own plane. We’ve all arrived at an airport two (or more!) hours before a flight to ensure that we find a parking spot, find our terminal, get our bags checked, and endure security before the final boarding call. Imagine arriving at the airport, putting your bags in the plane, and taking off, all within minutes. This is flight on demand and it is exactly what happens when you have your own plane waiting for you. There are no passengers to bump into. There are no gate agents demanding a hundred dollars for that extra bag. There are no TSA agents waiting for you to take off your shoes. It is simply you and your plane.
And it is pure bliss.
Go Where Others Can’t
There are only so many places that you can land a 737. Your choices are greatly expanded when you are flying your own plane. Municipal airports, fields, frozen landing strips, and even bodies of water become potential landing sites when you’re in something small, light, and free of the limits of airline/airport agreements and restrictions. You have the freedom to go where you want, when you want.
Sure, you could still fly to the large airport and taxi to general aviation parking. But instead, why not fly to the small municipal airport that is hours closer to your destination? Why not fly to a remote airstrip along a river and spend a day in the woods rather than driving for hours to reach a camping destination?
You are not bound by roads. You’re not bound by distance, geographic obstacles, or double-digit speed limits. You are free to use the skies as your highway and any suitable landing site as your exit. Go explore.
Finding your first aircraft is easy when you know where to look.
Once you’ve decided to buy your own plane, you have a lot of decisions to make. What models do you want to look at? How much do you want to spend? How far are you willing to travel to get the plane that you want?
You also need to take the aircraft’s history, maintenance records, and seller into account. At High Performance Aviation, we assist buyers in finding the right airplane for their needs. https://www.flyhpa.com/services/aircraft-sales-and-acquisitions/aircraft-for-sale/
I sometimes wonder what it must have felt like to be one of the first car owners; to look outside and see the key to a whole new world of exploration sitting there waiting to be driven. I imagine it felt a lot like knowing that your plane is there, always waiting for you to start the engine and apply the throttle.
What will your destination be?
How it Started
One of my best friends in high school, (Doug Gray) was a private pilot. He offered to take me up for a flight in a 1967 Cessna 150, N6228S. We took off from Calhoun, Georgia, and he took me on a scenic tour of the area, I was hooked. I later found out that my English teacher, (Jan Haluska) was also a flight instructor and the school was offering a ground school course the next year, which he taught, along with flight training with the goal of becoming a private pilot. I managed to talk my dad into funding the training, at the time the total cost was right around $500. Cessna 150 rental rates where $12 an hour, and the 172 we used for cross country was $15 an hour including fuel.
It started August of 1977. The fall semester rolls around, and I am enrolled in ground school, and if memory serves me, we met twice a week. First came the paperwork for my student pilot certificate, which at the time was included with the 3rd class medical. I loved ground school, especially learning navigation, plotting courses on the sectional, again this was before iPads and GPS, so we did a lot of dead reckoning and VOR navigation for cross countries. At the end of the course, I made an 83% on the Private Pilot written exam, remember this was before we had the question-and-answer books that on future test I would consume before taking a written.
The fun really began on August 22, 1977, it was my first flight. To my surprise we used the same Cessna 150, N6228S that my friend Doug Gray had taken me for a ride in. The Cessna 150 had a standard VFR instrument panel, with one NAV/COM, and one VOR CDI. No intercom, so no headset, at the time I didn’t know what I was missing. I didn’t get my first headset until I started my instrument training in 2003. I was a big guy, I was 6’ 4” and weighed 245 lbs. but I do not remember being uncomfortable in the 150 even with the instructor in the right seat.
First flight lasted .8 hours, and we accomplished orentation, shallow turns, stability, and effects of flight controls. Over the next few months we added steep 720’s, slow flight, stalls, turns around a point, S-turns, emergencies, landings, (short field, soft field and normal).
At this point I want to talk about a training experience that still stands out. We were close to solo and were practicing takeoffs and landings. Turning base to final Jan got very upset at the way I was cross controlling the aircraft. Cross control is when you are in, say a left turn, and use opposite rudder to line the nose up with the runway. So, he had me depart the pattern and head east to the practice area, and climbing up to 5500 feet MSL, he had me slow down to just above stalling speed, start a left shallow turn and add right rudder. As the airplane stalled I had the strangest sensation, no roller coaster has ever come close, instead of blue sky in the windscreen I was looking at brown ground, and as far as I could tell we were upside down, through the terror of the moment Jan talked me out of the spin, controls neutral, oposite rudder, pull slowly out of the dive. As we leveled off he asked me what altitude we were at, as I remember it was around 2,800 feet MSL. Then he asked me what would happen if I experenced this on base to final in the traffic pattern. The answer was obvious, I would be a pile of wreckage off the end of the runway with a very short-lived aviation career. Needless to say this cured my cross-control tendencies.
Another training event the sticks out in my mind was the first time we did takeoffs and landings at the High School runway. The runway was 1,500 feet long, not sure of the width, but it seems like we had about 5 feet on each side of the wheels when on the center line of the runway. Landing from the south you also had to go between a cutout in the trees to be able to stop in time on the runway. After getting confortable landing here every runway since seemed huge. I remember landing at Chattanooga (KCHA) on a night cross country and commenting to Jan, that I felt like I could of landed sideways on the runway, it felt that large.
Very soon after this I started wearing old shirts to all my flight lessons, the reason for this occurred on February 8, 1978. The lesson that day was stalls, takeoffs and Landing. As we were taxing back in Jan told me it was time for my first solo. I was very excited, and after some last minute advice from Jan, including watch for floating on landing the plane will be light with him not in the right seat, complete 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop. It was a blast, and at the end of my shirt was shorter in the back because Jan cut the tail out of it signed and dated my solo [an aviation tradition]. Total flight time accumulated on the day of my solo was 18.1 hours. I was now officially a pilot with solo priveleges.
In my next article I start cross country training, when Jan decided that it would be best accomplished this in the 172. Checking out in N5970R was like moving into a 747, this started a love affair with one of my faviriote planes to date. Since this time I have flown over 900 hours in many different models of the 172 and feel like I am stepping into an old friend every time.
More about Randy here: https://www.flyhpa.com/team/randy-delong/
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