Owning an Aircraft

Owning an Aircraft is a wonderful dream but is full of pitfalls for the unwary. Unless you purchase new from a manufacturer, you are exposed to the risks of the second-hand market. And even then you have to be sure you’re ready for the overall cost of ownership — finance (possibly), insurance (definitely), annual and ongoing maintenance (definitely), hangarage/parking, and so on.

Therefore you may prefer to hold off buying, and either (a) hire an aircraft from a flight school (once you have your PPL) and accept the higher per-hour cost (at least £150/hour); or (b) join a group, where the aircraft group is registered as the owner and you are listed as one of the members, and purchase a share (say £5-10,000 for a 1/5th share).

Usually there is someone running the group who has a vast amount of experience in doing so, and all you’ll have to do is pay a monthly fee into the group funds (say £100-200/month) and in return your hourly cost will be far lower (say £100/hr “wet” – meaning including fuel). Fuel tends to be signed for “on account” at your home airfield or accounted for on spreadsheets using receipts if you have to fuel up elsewhere. Meanwhile booking is easily done on a shares booking platform, such as Shlott.

Finding an Aircraft

It’s always best to start with a flying school and start to learn about General Aviation flying. Alternatively you may have a friend with an aircraft and start that way, but you’ll need to have an air experience flight to start off — for many it all starts with a Flight Voucher they are given for a birthday present, for example.

You will soon meet others at the airfield who fly privately or who are training, and discussions may well turn to buying a share in an aircraft, or even owning one yourself.

As mentioned above, it may be better not to bite off more than you can chew. While there are some who buy an aircraft and then learn to fly in it (using an instructor from a flight school), most tend to do their training first at the flight school and then buy into a group-share.

However, if and when you have decided to purchase an aircraft it may be best to engage someone who can help with that process — there are many agents who buy and sell aircraft. They advertise in magazines such as GA Buyer Europe, Flyer, Pilot, AOPA UK, Light Aviation (the LAA magazine) or online – either at the websites of these magazines or on specialised listing sites.

In the US it is common for owner-pilots to buy in at the light end (a Piper PA-28 or Cessna 172, for example) and gradually upgrade, as they obtain additional flying qualifications and ratings and gain experience. For example an Instrument Rating, a Multi-Engine (MEP) Class Rating, and so on. There are even light jets for owner-pilots such as the Eclipse or Cirrus Vision Jet. Having revolutionised single-engine piston flying with its SR20 and SR22 series, Cirrus has raised the bar for private pilots — although if you have the financial resources to buy this kind of aircraft you may also consider single-engine turboprops such as the TBM, from French company Daher.

Of course, beyond that “the sky’s the limit” if you have the financial resources; John Travolta famously flies his own Boeing 747, while Bruce Dickinson famously flew his band Iron Maiden in a 747. And there are numerous other examples of owner-pilots, some of whom also own their own airstrip (airfield).