Owning your own airplane is empowering. You have the ability to go where you want to go, whenever you want to go. But as any owner will tell you, having your own aircraft is also expensive. Between insurance, fuel, maintenance, and hangar space, the costs can add up quickly. However, with a little creativity, you can still enjoy the freedom of flight while keeping your expenses in check. Here are a few ways to make flying more affordable:
Join a Flying Club
Joining a flying club can help you reduce the costs of flying and become more immersed in the aviation community. If you’re learning to fly or looking to add an additional rating, consider taking flight lessons through a club, which can be more cost-effective than a traditional flight school. If you already own an airplane, think about joining a type club. You’ll gain a better understanding of your aircraft and experience a greater sense of community with pilots who share your interests. Type clubs can also provide helpful access to parts and specific products for your airplane that might be difficult to locate otherwise.
Become a Volunteer Pilot
Volunteering your time and talent as a pilot can be a rewarding way to build more flight time while supporting a worthwhile cause. There are plenty of charitable organizations looking for volunteer pilots, and the out-of-pocket expenses for such trips are usually tax deductible. If you’re interested in learning more about opportunities for volunteer pilots, check out the Volunteer Pilots Network, an online resource that connects GA pilots with organizations around the country.
Share the Costs
One of the best ways to save money in aircraft ownership is by entering a co-ownership arrangement. Typically, co-ownerships consist of two to four people who split all the direct and operating expenses of aircraft ownership, as well as the responsibilities. While co-ownership is an appealing money-saving alternative to full aircraft ownership, it is not without its challenges. It’s important to choose co-owners with matching goals and flying habits to avoid disagreements down the road. The AOPA recommends creating a list of “ground rules” for each co-owner to follow and working with a legal professional to draft an official agreement.
Learn Preventative Maintenance
Want to save money and keep your aircraft operating in the best condition possible? Learn how to perform some basic preventative maintenance tasks. The FAA lists a number of preventative maintenance duties that pilots can do on their own, including changing the oil, changing tires, replacing a battery, replacing and cleaning spark plugs, and more. Not only will do-it-yourself maintenance save some money and time at the repair shop, but it’s also a valuable learning experience that will allow you to get to know your airplane even better. When you are proactive about preventative maintenance, you can identify any emerging problems before they turn into bigger (and more expensive) repairs. Before starting any maintenance projects, be sure to check CFR 14, Part 43 and Part 91 to verify what you can and cannot do to your aircraft. You can find the CFRs online at www.ecfr.gov.