Is affordable flying really out of reach?

Ron, the blogger behind the House of Rapp blog, has written a lengthy and informative post about affordable flying that is well worth reading by pilots and would-be pilots alike. Ron began his post by pointing out some startling flying statistics:

In 1980, the decennial census counted 226,545,805 people in the United States. That same year, the FAA reported more than 827,000 of those folks held pilot certificates. That’s about one out of every 300 people.

By the end of 2009, the U.S. population had climbed to nearly 30% to 307,000,000 while the pilot count had dropped by 25% to 594,000. Today less than one out out of every 500 Americans is a pilot.

And while explanations for the shrinking general aviation community have included everything from stepped up security at airports and increased litigation risks to even blaming flight instructors for high student pilot dropout rates, Ron concluded its due to the economy and the costs involved with flying.

However, Ron then wrote extensively about ways a pilot can lower their costs through partnerships and flying clubs. Moreover, he pointed out that you should not completely write-off owning your own aircraft because in a recent AOPA Online article, author Alton Marsh listed the following ten aircraft that you can purchase for less than $20,000:

  1. 1980 Piper Tomahawk
  2. 1953 Piper TriPacer
  3. 1961 Piper Colt
  4. 1961 Ercoupe
  5. 1972 Cessna 150
  6. 1946 Cessna 120
  7. 1946 Cessna 140
  8. 1946 Luscombe 8A
  9. 1946 Aeronca 11BC Super Chief
  10. 1946 Taylorcraft

With a typical 20 year aircraft loan, Ron pointed out that you could own a $20,000 aircraft for around $130 a month. Of course, maintenance and maintenance costs will always be a big question mark and an older aircraft may end up having a maintenance problem that will cost more to fix than the aircraft itself is worth.

Nevertheless, Ron’s point is simple: Flying will never be cheap but it can be affordable.

4 Responses to Is affordable flying really out of reach?

  1. Brad September 28, 2011 at 12:42 #

    I think this is a simple case of "it's the economy, stupid." Flying costs money, and often quite a bit. I'm an avid aviation fan, and I'd love to be working on getting a PPL, but I lost my job and can't seem to get a new one. Now, when I get working again, I need to rebuild some savings, pay off student loans, try to put a little into an IRA… where is the room for some flight time? Not to mention that buying a nearly 70-year-old aircraft in the future is not something I plan on doing. Can you imagine trying to get a skittish girl or friend up in one of those? Not happening.

  2. Dave Colgate October 3, 2011 at 18:06 #

    I've recently been talking to a friend in the Air Training Corps who has a PPL, but can no longer afford to fly. We've come to the agreement that we would time share, halving the costs. He gets to fly and stay current, I get to go flying and build my hours in the air.


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