Question About Owning an Airplane


New Member
Hey guys,

I don't know how many aircraft owners there are here, or who might know anything about owning an airplane, but today a thought came across my mind. I just finished my instrument rating not too long ago, and I'm thinking that a good way to build time (approx 100 hrs) toward the commercial certificate would be to buy an inexpensive airplane such as a Cessna 152. I figure with the job I have now, I can probably afford to pay for fuel, oil, storage, insurance, and other operating expenses. Then when I get done, I could sell the airplane and get most of the money back that I paid for it.

But one thing that's really having me reconsider is that when I talked to my instructor today, he said that I'd have a big problem if my engine crapped out and had to be replaced or something like that (engines cost around 20 grand from what I recall). So basically I have to decide whether or not its worth the risk.

Does this sound plausable? Anyone know of anything else I should consider? I realize I need a retractable gear plane for the commercial training itself, and I can't fly a 152 IFR, but I imagine I'd have the plane up for sale by the time I started my commercial training.

Thanks for any input!
Why can't you fly IFR in a 152? I just put a Garmin 430 IFR GPS in my 152 and plan on doing IFR training in it.

Your idea of buying a plane to build time is a good one. A new engine shouldn't cost more than 12K. To buy a plane for the commercial is gonna cost a lot and you'll have more plane than you need when your done. I'd say get a 152 to build time and instruct in when you get your CFI. Rent a complex for your commercial like everyone else.

you should be able to get an O-235 for a 152 for about 12k, and figure at least 3k more for removal installation and all the other things that you will have to do when you change engines. I have had two overhauls, both ran about 14k for anO-360 done at a no name shop in St Louis ( needed to replace the cylanders two years later
), and 20K for the other one at mattituck, included total overhaul of all the accesories.
If it flies , floats or ..... it is cheaper to rent thant to buy, just kidding you know someone had to say it. I only wish that when I decided to do this flying thing that I would have bought my own airplane, it would have saved a bunch of money in the long run. I used to operate a full panel IFR equiped 152. Another option for you to consider is joining the Civil Air Patrol, alot of cheap if not free flying. I've never been a member but have a few friends that are really involved with it and they have built time from private to commerciall / CFI doing "missions" ie:flying for free. There are some "hoops" to jump through as you have to pass thier checkrides but that should only make you a better pilot. If you do buy you may want to consider doing a lease back, allowing an FBO to rent out your airplane when you are not using it, could help defray some of the expense.
If you do buy you may want to consider doing a lease back, allowing an FBO to rent out your airplane when you are not using it, could help defray some of the expense.

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Yeah, from what I've heard, this is the way to go. You have to check with the specific FBO for details, but it usually seems to work out pretty happy for both sides. You could also look into doing a partnership.

Also, you may want to sit down and figure out the operating cost per hour for a few different airplanes. A 172 probably wouldn't be much more than a 152, for instance.

I think its something like:

(Engine cost/TBO) + (Fuel Cost/Fuel Burn) + (Yearly Insurance/Est. Hrs. per Year) + (Yearly Storage/Est. hrs. per year) + (whatever other regular expenses) = Op. Cost

and then add in a little bit for things like inspections, unexepected maintenance, etc.
Run away screaming!

Seriously, though, ownership is great overall. We own a PA-23 (a twin) and it takes three of us (father, brother and I) to keep it up and running. However, in the long run it is saving us money and earning us very valuable flight time (I just passed 240 multi engine hours this past weekend out of a TT of roughly 290) so it should work out in the end.

No matter how much paper-planning you do it will never give you an accurate cost. Things come up that you just can't plan for (like a cracked vertical stabilizer spar) and then there is the "it's my plane and I want it done right" factor. Meaning, yeah, you might be able to put a bottom of the line radio in it for 2k but when it comes down to it you'll more than likely put in the 5k model with all the bells and whistles because, well, it's your plane and it's only 3k more.

Ownership will completely change your standards of what "expensive' means.

Another thing to consider is that while your shceduling problems will all but disappear - it's your aircraft and if you want to fly at 3:35 a.m., you can - you have to remember that it's your airplane. Meaning when MX problems come up you are stuck with waiting out the repairs because you can't just go to the next aircraft on the line like a renter can.

Overall ownership is the way to go (and if I ever get on my feet I'm going to buy a little Tri-pacer, or Luscombe or some such for my own personal use) and it does offer a lot of benefits. There are also a lot of drawbacks but in the end, as long as you know it's expensive as hell going in to it you'll probably enjoy it.

In your specific case you could hold on to the aircraft and use to instruct out of when you get your CFI (insurance on a 152, Tri-PAcer etc won't be too steep).

And speaking of a Tri-Pacer you may want to look into one. A friend just picked one up here in PHX (high prices, and from Barron Thomas no less) for 17k in pristine shape with 1,000+ hours left on the engine. It's about the size of a 172, 4 seater but weighs far less and has 150-160hp in it. Nice little performer and it's fabric covered which means ease of maintanence. My dad built a lot of hours in his Tri-Pacer (it's a Piper).
I am going to go the 152 route myself. Less expensive maintenance, great lease-back plane, and simplicity make it my choice to purchase while I build time toward commercial.
Be careful with leasebacks. Most of the time they only benefit the FBO (leasing the aircraft). They rarely break even for the aircraft owner and hardley ever turn any kind of profit. Just FYI.
I owned a 150 for a couple of years. Look for one with a low or mid time engine, then sell it before it gets close to TBO.

Also keep a fund for maintenance. Even if you don't have to pay for an overhaul, you'll need to pay for annuals and any problems that might pop up.

Remember, the more complex aircraft you buy, the more things that can go wrong with it. Stick with what you absolutely need. Will those extra two seats in the back be used enough to justify the extra cost? If you are building time, do you really need the speed and cost of a retrac?

And you can get an IFR certified 150. I had one.