Buying into Sport Flying

It won’t be long after you begin flying rented airplanes at your local airport that you decide you might like to buy one to call your own. You’ll put aside a little bit each month and skimp a bit on the entertainment budget, and before long you’ll have enough for a down payment on a little weekend fly-about.

Be prepared for sticker shock. Even a 25-year-old Cessna 172, a relatively low-power, low-speed airplane with few, if any, frills and options, will run you $55,000 or more if it’s in good condition—and there’s too much at stake to buy an airplane in less than good condition.

If you want to get a bit more sporty by buying into a trim, sleek Mooney, be ready to shell out $90,000 or more for a 20-year-old model. If you want to buy a new Mooney, the company’s latest M20R Ovation, you’ll have to slap down $407,000 just to fly if off the lot, and that’s before you start paying for insurance, maintenance, more fees and fuel, all of which can cost thousands of dollars a year.

Wish somebody else would pick up the huge up-front cost while you just enjoy the flying? Somebody has, of course—the fixed-base operator at your airport with an airplane rental business. My advice, and probably the advice of any responsible financial planner, would be to rent your plane rather than buy one. The per-hour cost to rent is lower simply because the airplane will get used far more than you can possibly fly it yourself, and someone else is dealing with the hassle of federal registration, record keeping, and so forth.

Rent, my friends, and happy flying!

The Least You Need to Know

► Learning to fly can be costly, but there are ways to cut expenses while remain* ing safe.

>• Get the best ground training and flight instructors you can dffotd.

Take advantage of any extra training options your flight school offers, such as spin training.

>■ Unless you have an extra hundred thousand bucks lying around, you’re better off renting your plane than buying.