Purchasing an Airplane – Deciding Your Typical Mission
Purchasing an airplane is often looked at as a daunting task. There are many caveats to be aware of and it is a large transaction that will be taking place. For many passionate aviators, purchasing an airplane is a lifelong dream, for others it is purely a business decision. Regardless of the reason why you are deciding to purchase an airplane, prudence, practicality and careful thought should be at the center of the decision.
The excitement of an airplane that you have always wanted can potentially lead to making an unwise decision when purchasing. One might ask, how do you find the right airplane? How do you ensure that you are making a balanced decision that factors in practicality, cost to operate and level of skill? One excellent way to do so is first deciding your typical mission. Once you know how you will be flying or using your airplane it is easier to narrow down which airplanes will fit the bill and help you avoid impulsive decisions.
Asking yourself the right questions before purchasing a plane
Some typical missions for airplane owners are to build time instead of renting, flying to different locations for business, strictly for fun, commuting and for commercial air transport operations. Within these typical missions are certain factors that must be considered. Some of these questions to ask yourself are what and how much you want to carry? How far do you want to go? How fast do you want to go? Do you need the redundancy of two engines? What level of experience do you have (important for insurance purposes)? How often will you fly and how much do you want to spend?
What will you be carrying and how much?
You may just be carrying your family of 5 and a dog. Your kids may be very young and you may just be flying to visit family or for vacation. On the other hand, you may be carrying industrial equipment for your business to different job sites or to showcase for potential buyers and clients. It is not just about if the airplane can carry the load, but also how the cabin is equipped. Certain airplanes are better for comfortable cross-country flights with the family, whilst others are more suitable for easily loading equipment or cargo. Knowing this will help to narrow down the airplane.
How far do you want to go and how fast do you want to get there?
These two questions go hand in hand. You may need to go far but speed is not a priority. Conversely, you may not need to travel far, but speed is of high importance. These questions influence the decision on what kind of fuel burn you would be comfortable with. Some airplanes are flexible in that they have great range and are fast but can also be flown a lot slower for better economy. Potential buyers with more business interests may need something faster. Even though the fuel burn may be higher, accomplishing business tasks more efficiently would offset the higher cost. Someone who is just flying for more leisure activities may prefer going slower and spending less on fuel since time en route is not a priority.
Do you need the redundancy of two engines?
Airplane engines are more reliable than in the past. With the rise of many high performance small single-engine turboprops and improved maintenance on single-engine piston airplane, the case for acquiring a twin is lower. But then again, the question arises. What is your mission? Will you be flying at night, over and around mountainous terrain or over large bodies of water? In this case, a twin may be the overall safer choice. It is important to note that if considering a twin, it is absolutely imperative that you are proficient at flying a twin. Also, it is recommended that you regularly train with a multi-engine instructor (MEI) in one engine inoperative procedures. Costs will double with a twin, but should you need the extra engine you will have it.
What level of experience do you have?
A private pilot with 60 hours may have the budget, the means and the need for a high performance, long range single pilot jet. That definitely does not mean that he or she will have the level of skill to safely and proficiently fly a jet. The same goes for another airplane. You should be aware of the level of experience you have, your confidence level and how comfortable you are in certain types. A good training program offered by or in partnership with a manufacturer or dealership can help to make you a proficient pilot in the type of airplane you want. Even a knowledgeable certified flight instructor (CFI) can train you so that you are comfortable in the airplane you are looking to purchase. However, insurance companies will demand that you have a certain amount of flight hours or at least possess an instrument rating before they will insure your airplane.
How often will you fly and how much do you want to spend?
The amount you will fly helps in determining how much money you need to put aside every time you fly to cover costs. Your pocketbook or line of credit will have the final say on what you will actually be able to buy. Even still, there are a few things to consider. An older airplane may be cheaper but may require more regular maintenance and may have hidden maintenance discrepancies that will be expensive later on. It is also important to be aware of time between overhauls on engines, props and other life limited parts. Furthermore, you must consider if spare parts will be available and if there are mechanics that can work on your airplane. Some older and rare airplanes have limited spare parts and some mechanics may not be familiar with the airplane.
Getting help with purchasing your plane
Some final things to consider is if you will need the airplane repositioned to your home base and how you intend to do it. If able you can fly it home yourself or for convenience hire a ferry pilot. Buying an airplane can be a highly rewarding experience when done right. Always have an experienced licensed airframe and powerplant mechanic to inspect the airplane for you and consult with experienced pilots who are familiar with the airplane type. A reputable brokerage can alleviate many of the complications that can arise with purchasing an airplane and help to make the whole process smoother. High Performance Aviation helps airplane owners buy the right airplane. Our experts will guide you through a buying action plan to get the perfect airplane. Schedule a call today.
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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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