Cost of owning a plane in 2007

Here’s what it cost to own and operate a 1979 Piper Warrior II in Ottawa, Canada in 2007 with 80 hours air time (a bit more flight time, of course). Since the US and Canadian dollars are basically at par now, there’s no need to convert:

Item Total Hourly
Fees: $1,112.51 $13.91
Fuel: $2,945.39 $36.82
Other consumables: $247.79 $3.10
Insurance: $1,458.00 $18.23
Maintenance: $2,437.39 $30.47
Reserves $1,600.00 $20.00
TOTAL: $9,801.08 $122.51

These are real costs, including sales taxes, not the BS costs you hear people throwing around at the airport. Reserves are $20/hour for engine and paint. I also pay about $500/year for charts and recurrent training, but I’d pay the same as a renter, so I don’t count those as ownership costs.

2007 was by far the cheapest year I’ve had with C-FBJO, and also the fewest hours I’ve flown (I’m usually over 100). I was parked at a less expensive airport and used less gas (flying less), but the biggest difference was maintenance — annual maintenance for a small plane like mine can be $2,000 one year and $10,000 the next, depending on what goes wrong (and even the simplest plane has a lot that can go wrong). I’m keeping a nearly 30-year-old plane operating, so stuff wears out and has to be replaced all the time, just as it would with a 30-year-old car; unlike with cars, however, buying a new plane isn’t a solution — I read recently that routine inspection and maintenance for an SR-22 runs $8,000-$10,000, and that’s without any problems coming up.

Fees include tie-down (and required club membership) at my home airport, transient landing and parking fees during trips, and the compulsory $75/year Nav Canada and $27.50 US customs fees. Consumables are oil (mainly), filters, fluids, etc.

When so many of the costs — tie-down fees, insurance, and (most) maintenance — are fixed, I can see the logic in taking one or two partners. You’ll still pay just as much for fuel and engine/paint reserve, but you slash the other overheads. I don’t think I’ll take a partner in C-FBJO at this point, but if I move up to something bigger like a Cherokee Six, I probably won’t try it alone.

So where did this money take me and my passengers (besides the Ottawa area) in 2007? In chronological order, Maniwaki QC, New York City (Teterboro), Drummondville QC, Pembroke ON, Toronto ON (Buttonville), Sault Ste. Marie ON, Toronto ON (City Centre), Brockville ON, Waterloo ON, Toronto ON (Buttonville) again, Sundridge ON, Sault Ste. Marie ON again, Toronto ON (City Centre) again, Burlington VT, Boston MA (Norwood), Alexandria Bay NY (Maxson), New Jersey and New York City (Caldwell), Montreal QC (Trudeau), Baie Comeau QC, Maniwaki QC again, and Burlington VT again. Not all that exciting a year, but it kept the rust off the wings (mine and the plane’s).

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About David Megginson

Scholar, tech guy, Canuck, open-source/data/information zealot, urban pedestrian, language geek, tea drinker, pater familias, red tory, amateur musician, private pilot.
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10 Responses to Cost of owning a plane in 2007

  1. Paul Tomblin says:

    Wow, that’s more expensive than I would have thought. I notice you don’t count any capital costs, so if I had to finance an aircraft it would be even more expensive.

  2. david says:

    Paul: and that’s the best imaginable year — it’s almost always worse because of unplanned maintenance costs (a $2000 radio here, a $500 fitting there, an $800 muffler somewhere else, etc.). On the other hand, if I had two partners, I’d be paying about half that to fly the same 80 hours, so ownership is affordable under the right circumstances. It’s never going to be cheaper than renting.

    On the other hand, it costs about $10K/year to own and operate a car if you count gas, maintenance, insurance, etc. — ditto for a cottage. We have only one car in my family, and count the plane as our second one (and we don’t have a cottage). I walk and take the bus a lot.

  3. Dave Starr says:

    David,

    tahnks so much for posting this. It’s amazing to me that more people don’t post similarly … proibably they are the same folks who say “i’m bored with my blog, nothing to write about’ *smile*

    And thanks much also for posting the destinations of those flights … for Paul and others who somehow think a plane is exspensive, figure out the cost to do all those trips by car (ignoring the time difference) and you’ll see that a fully depreciated aircraft like the Warrior is dirt cheap compared to a car. Most people have no idea what their cars actually cost per year.

    It’s true that David’s table ignore capital cost but consider this … the aircraft is depreciating very, very slowly, if not appreciating … most small 4-seaters have appreciated significantly over time … buying an all metal 4 seater and keeping it decent can actually make money in capitalization terms … pretty hard to do with any other vehicle.

  4. Blake says:

    Interesting.. I’ve always been told that the break even point of renting vs. owning is 100 hours a year.

    Your figures seem to discredit that. Here are the rental rates (wet) for the piper fleet at Toronto Airways:

    Piper Cherokee $134
    Piper Seminole $265
    Piper Archer $137
    Piper Arrow $155
    Piper Seneca $265

  5. david says:

    Dave: you’re right. The main reason planes don’t depreciate is that we pay for a lot of maintenance to keep them airworthy. People with vintage cars do the same thing, but most car owners just let them decline, because roadworthiness standards aren’t as stringent. In Canada, we all also took a one-time 25-33% depreciation hit from the collapsing U.S. dollar, though most Canadian owners haven’t accepted that yet (given the high asking prices in used plane ads).

    Blake: don’t forget that this was my best year financially (and that I gave actual air time instead of the flight time we put in our log books). I’ve a year flying 120+ hours (flight time) where my hourly cost was more like $180, and I’ve already had a couple of expensive repairs this year that will push my hourly up. On the other hand, if you buy a plane with one or two partners to split the fixed costs, you might break even at only 30-50 hours flying. The main difference is that when you own, you can fly when *you* want and keep the plane at a remote airport for a week or longer without penalty. Want to fly a friend to NYC this weekend? What are the chances you could book a rental plane this late?

  6. Viennatech says:

    Hey David, Since C-FROF went out for a mint I’m still looking for a piece of the pie. Maybe your aircraft might not be too “small” for two partners especially if they are willing to follow you up the Cherokee escalator. Certainly would be nice to have someone else that lives close to CYRO to go and pull the wing covers and inject some pre-heat. (nudge, nudge!)

  7. Blake says:

    David, yes.. owning has way more benefits than renting. Especially when there are minimum charges per day if you want to take a plane on an extended rental.

  8. Niss Feiner says:

    I also posted some costs for my Cherokee 140 (C-FUBC). I have one partner so I get to share those costs. I have a pretty detailed breakdown if anyone wants to look through my blog.

    http://www.cfubc.blogspot.com

  9. david says:

    Niss:

    Thanks for the link. Unfortunately, my most recent annual was more like yours. At least I had one cheap one to remember.

  10. Niss Feiner says:

    This years annual wasn’t so bad. I put the report on my blog but I am waiting for the detailed invoice. This was 2nd most expensive (out of three mind you) but it was easier to bear as I was much more involved in the decision making than last time. Last time things were done without my acknowledgment’s and just handed an invoice. This time round my hand was pretty much held and I was told exactly what was being replaced, why, what we could defer, etc.

    Superb work on my AMEs part!

    That said at least you are flying enough to make your maintenance costs worth it! I flew 0hrs last year. This annual could have cost me $500 and would still have been very expensive per hour of flight!

    http://www.cfubc.blogspot.com

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