Good evening, I'm new to this forum, as well as flying, so please excuse me if this has been addressed before.... I am nearing the end of my ppl in the uk and I'm starting to think about buying my first plane. I initially thought this would be out of my reach, financially, but after looking on various plane sales web sites I'm encouraged by what I've found and I'd now like to ask if it is as possible as it first seems. I'm looking at 'older' 4 seat aircraft that can get me from The UK to my family home in the north of France. Currently I get home once a month, but I'm hoping that having my own plane could make it possible for me to get back more often (I work here in UK). is it realistic for me to fly such a distance (400nm each way) regularly given my (shallow) depth of experience, bearing in mind the channel crossing? Is it realistic for me to expect that I can buy a plane for 20k ish, and spend 10k pa on maintenance/upkeep (insurance, hangarage (local grass farm strip, or small airfield - I have lots near me), c of a, servicing, parts, etc) with a preferable (but not fixed) ceiling of, say 15k - excl. Fuel and landing fees? I'm sorry if I sound naive, but I've searched these forums and others, and, again at first glance, it seems possible, but I'd really appreciate any advice I can get at this early stage. I've looked at syndicates, but I don't think I'd get the flexibility that I need. I've been told by my instructor that a 2 seater wouldn't make for a comfortable regular ride, hence the 4 seater stipulation, plus I'd love to be able to take my wife and children up, eventually. - however primarily my aspirations are based around getting me home more often, and at little notice. For what it's worth, I've loved my flying experiences while working through my ppl, and hope that realising this long term dream can also provide a practical solution to to my family separation problem. Thank you in advance of any responses!
My opinion,the weather could play havoc,having to leave aircraft in France or vice-versa and then go by commercial. If it was me,I'd fly commercial back and forth to France,probabaly a lot cheaper and more reliable. Then join a syndicate for flying privately. Lister
Ours costs: Insurance 1400 GBP/pa Hangarage 3000 GBP/pa (Own private bay, we sublet half to recoup half the cost) Annual maintenance: 1800 GBP/pa Incidentals: 500 GBP/pa TOTAL: 6700 pa less 1500 due the hangar = 5200 GBP/pa
Fuel burn is 32 lph on average at 95kts.
Be careful about buying a cheap aeroplane though and make sure you get it checked out properly. The last thing you want to do is fork out 20k for an aeroplane and then have to find another 20k to get it airworthy! Our one had some major corrosion problems found in the wings during the annual in 2004/5, and so we had the choice or scrapping it, or spending 40k on it to rennovate it. We dug deep and paid the 40k (well someone else paid 8k for the paint job ), bought new wings, and had the thing stripped and rebuilt and now it is good as new. Not something you want to do more than once....
I dont think you are going to be able to purchase a four seat aircraft for £20K and then not expect to spend a considerable sum on essential maintenance. A much more realistic budget would be around £60K. The difference would be well spent after a couple of years with the bills that would go with the £20K alternative.
As to the flying so much depends on you. Realistically for much of the year without an IR (or at least an IMCr to help through UK airspace) the weather will play havoc with your plans. However if you can be really flexible you have a chance. In the winter that could mean several days at a time delay outbound and inbound. An IR will solve some of those problems (not all) but add at least another £10K for training.
It really should be a great idea and I would love to say it is realistic. With a £60K + aircraft some further training and the willingness to pick up a few unexpected maintenance bills it is a lot more realistic.
You really dont want to be "commuting" across what can be a pretty hostile stretch of water with family if you doubt your aircraft or your own ability.
Much depends on your work schedule. As a typical Monday-Friday 9-17 worker you'll be lucky if you can fly over to France for one weekend per month AND be sure to be back in your office on Monday morning.
If you do go for it, consider registering and basing the plane in France. I'm sure 't will be a lot less of administration and probably taxes and insurance might be cheaper too. OTOH France has nothing like the IMCR which might well be important to you.
I dont think you are going to be able to purchase a four seat aircraft for £20K and then not expect to spend a considerable sum on essential maintenance.
That is not entirely true.
Ok you won't get a de-iced 200kt IFR capable machine, I grant you, but you CAN get a decent aeroplane which won't cost an arm and a leg to operate. Whether or not it is suitable for 400nm trips depends on the person. Time to spare, go by air, I'd certainly rather fly 400 miles at 100 kts than drive 500 miles in a car! If there was any sort of time contraint though I wouldn't go VFR.
There are plenty of decent 4 seat aeroplanes around in the 20k's....prices have dropped like a stone recently.
Many heads are still mentally in the price range of where aircraft were in the mid-2000's. It's changed dramatically since then. Back then it used to be that if you bought an airplane with a run out engine for 20K, put a new engine on it that cost 20K, you could turn around and sell the whole thing for 40K. This won't happen these days. Hell, you could even get finance on engines - try that now.
There are tons of bargains to be had, here and abroad. It's a buyer's market.
I just bought a twin, in annual, with a kosher pre-buy inspection, good shape, no corrosion, with 300hrs left before TBO on each engine for $38,500. They used to be 80-100K not that many years ago.
Just to make sure I understand what you are trying to do;
You want to fly yourself from somewhere in England to somewhere in northern France a distance of about 400nm (So say Carlisle to Bernay?) a better idea of the locations would help with the advice!
You want to do it once a month or more.
You have a budget of 20k for the aircraft and 10k per year maintenance (max 15k)
Your instructor has advised against a 2 seater - wouldn't make for a comfortable regular ride
You would like to take the wife and children up, eventually.
First point I would make is that I fly a 2 seater all over and do not have a ride problem. This may expand your choice as very few aircraft with 4 seats are 4 seaters!
What you want to do is entirely possible provided you enjoy flying sufficiently to do it. You are talking a 4 hour flight, which is most peoples limit. I would rather fly two legs but that will take longer. In summer you should be able to make the trip 2 or 3 weekends a month, in winter probably once every 2 months. In the height of summer you could easily fly down on a Friday evening without much bother. A PA28-140 would probably do it has 4 seats but is at best a 2+2. There are some nice ones about for 18k ish you would probably hit the 15k in maint in the first year, but less than 10k average after that. Increasing your budget to 30k and assuming 10k less in maint over 5 years would greatly expand your options.
I've been quite involved in finding an airplane for myself so I can give you a few ideas.
As you are new to flying, you have two main possibilities. You can go the way of a conventional 4 seater with fix pitch prop and gear, or you can say you'll do some more training after your PPL and get a retracable with variable pitch prop or something in between.
20k (Sterling) will buy you quite a bit of airplane these days.
So we are talking 400 NM, 4 seats and regular flights to/from. I agree, the route details would help slightly. Looking at flying regularly 4 hour legs, I'd have to generally say an autopilot with altitude hold will be of an advantage.
Obvious first airplane to mention: Piper Cherokee 140 or 180. There are several around, many of them can be negotiated down to this kind of money. The main difference between the two is power and therefore weight and range.
The Cherokee 140 usually sports a 150 hp engine. 90-100 kts cruise. Range with 45 mins reserve is around 550 NM, so plenty for your trip. But: With full tanks a Cherokee 140 will carry around 220 kgs payload. That is 2 people max plus a few bags. Many 140's do not sport a baggage area. I regard it as a 2-seat with baggage plane for people who have time to spare
The Cherokee 180 will carry 4 people of normal growth and has a baggage compartment. It will cruise at around 110 to 120 kts with the same fuel quantity, but higher flow. Therefore range is less than in the 140, namely 500 NM (all ranges with 45' reserve.)
There are several in your price range, some of which in the UK. Most are high time airplanes, ex flight school, but they will do the job.
The Cherokees have the distinct advantage of being about as basic as it gets and very widely spread. Meaning, you can get maintenance on almost any airfield and there are thousands of them around. They are relatively slow, but steady and nice planes.
Cessna 172 is the next contender, they are usually a bit more expensive and early models might have a problem with the 400 NM range. I only have performance data for an E model, which has just 400 NM range, with about 250 kgs of payload (full fuel). Again, some older models may fit your price range. What applies to the Cherokee applies to the Cessna. Common, easy to fly, just about anyone can fix them and they fly at about 100 kts too.
If you want to be a bit faster but still stay in the fixed gear, fixed prop range, you should have a look at the Grumman Cheetah or Tiger. Even tough at the moment I don't see any right at your limit price, they do offer a bit more performance.
The Cheetah is roughly the same as the Cherokee 140 in terms of payload and has the same engine. It comes in 2 variants where fuel capacity is concerned, you'll want the 52 USG version. That one will travel faster (according to the books), up to 115-120 kt at the same fuel flow and quantity as the Cherokee 140 will, but 15 to 20 kts faster. Consequently, the range is larger and your 400 NM flight will take 3:30 rather than 4:something.
The Tiger is the 180 HP version of the Cheetah, more power, more payload, more speed (up to 130 kt at a good flow) still ample of range for you. Your 400 NM will take even less time at the same consumption of the PA 28-180.
The Grummans will need to get used to, they are definitly not as easy to fly as the Cherokees but manageable with some training. Right now, there are not too many available in that range but that may change.
Outside the box of pure beginner planes, I'd suggest to look at the Mooneys pre the 201. Right now, there are one or two Model "C" which might be negotiable into your price range. Now they do have retracable gear and variable pitch prop and they cruise at around 130-140 kts at 8-10 GPH. That is again pulling off another 30 minutes off your flight time, giving you a 3 hour flight approximately. Maintenance costs may be slightly higher, but they are the most economical planes in terms of cost/range/speed. I do own a "C" Mooney myself and I have to say that they are a world apart in terms of bang for buck then a Cherokee 180, let alone a 140. However, payload is limited, also around 260 kgs with full tanks, so ideally a 2 seater with baggage.
And then there is something in between.
I've been looking at the Robin HR 100 for a long time, as it is a plane which has fixed gear, variable prop and a huge range. There are several around, some which may fit your price range. They are all metal, will cruise 120-130 kts and will fly up to 1200 NM without refuelling. That means, you can buy cheap avgas wherever you find it and then fly on and on and on For your 400 NM trip, it an easily carry 4 plus bags (with fuel load to match the trip) with 2 on board you can still fly from the South of England to Spain non stop.
Finally, a small hint on speed vs cost.
I have been doing a lot of research during my shopping phase (which took 3 years) and have found that in terms of rotation cost, meaning the cost of a from-to-return flight over a distance, speed will more than compensate the higher per hour running cost of let's say a Mooney vs a Cherokee 140. I found that the Cherokee with its 100 kts and 7-8 GPH will be more expensive to fly over a 400 - 500 NM rotation than the Mooney, which has a much higher per hour cost but due to the speed will be more economical.
Also, a very common beginner's mistake is to buy the plane one trains with. I did that, Cessna 150 in my case, and it was fine the first several hours, but it never ever was a travel plane. One day you will grow out and then you'll want something better and faster. Maybe you should consider this in your choice of planes. Budget, as I said, is at the moment in your favour, lots of planes for few money.
I've just arrived in France after a terrible drive that started last night (shortly after posting) and included a ferry delay, a blowout (car tyre), and several accidents that slowed down traffic (due to the high winds). I realise things are unlikely to be 'plane sailing' with an aircraft, but a 9 hour drive is proving exhausting. Early this morning I picked up the new pilot magazine that features two articles on the subject of buying cheap. One by a seemingly objective reported, the other by the guy that owns/runs 'just plane trading'. Both articles were very informative, as were the comments I've received from you all. I think, to summarise, it's going to be a gamble. I could end up lucky and buy an older plane that will run and run with little expensive problems on an airframe with high hours, and an engine 'on condition' or if I'm lucky, with some hours left in her. Or, I get unlucky, pay my 20k and throw 150% of that at it in the first year, followed by my entire budget for the next few years until I get bored (or more likely the wife puts her foot down) and sell it for a fraction of the cost. It seems I can hedge my bets by following some 'buyers rules' and take an engineer with me, but he may not see everything without a strip down, so I could still get burned... Hmm. I realise now that whatever the practicality of me using this to solve my commuting problem, I'll probably end up buying something. I clearly need to become much more well informed on the subject, then I'll roll the dice. I was interested to hear about the person who suggested a 2 seater would make for a not entirely uncomfortable ride, and the several comments that seemed hopeful that such an undertaking could/should be possible. - I'd like to reference usernames, but I didn't note them before hitting reply. I've been following the price of planes for the last year or so and I've noticed cheaper ones coming available of late, but I didn't know if they were rust buckets or real flyers. Currently just plane trading have a piper pa22-135 (from 1954!!!) for 15k, with a TT of 3033 and engine hours at 767. Last month they had a piper pa28-190 (1967) TT 10620, eng 1880. These adverts baffle me, as they seem great value, but I worry about my naivety. I'm going to look to buy in 3-4 months, which will give me a little more time to get up to speed and to watch the Market. I'll also do some serious thinking about exactly what I'll want to do with it on a weekly basis, in addition to my aspirations of using it to get home. In the mean time, I'd appreciate any advice I can get from you all. Here's a bit more about me, to answer some earlier questions: I'm a very keen golfer - so trips to Scotland play a regular role in my spare time; I'm a management consultant (okay, I can hear you all hissing.), so I can be flexible about working hours; I would love to take my wife and two of my (small/young) children away for short trips, if space/experience/comfort permit; I intend to do 90% of my flying alone; I hope to do instruments and night quals immediately after my ppl; My purchase budget of approximate. 20k is fixed, and my annual budget of an absolute max of 20k is fixed (although I hope this isn't entirely required); I am in my late 30s (in case you're wondering); My eldest son is 14 and has started lessons in France. He hopes to be a commercial pilot one day, so I would love for him to be able to share the plane with me once he gets to 17(assuming he passes his ppl); I am based in Sheffield, but work anywhere between London and Yorkshire/midlands; and, My home is in Normandy (near mont SM). That's about all there is to know. Again, I'm incredibly grateful for the comments posted so far, both sobering and encouraging, and I hope you're enclined to post more. Now for 18 hours with the family before I have to leave again!
I see several things you need to consider. And I do feel that you are extremely insecure in this. I am going to try to address some points.
- plane magazine adds are often outdated by the time they make print. Have a look on the Internet. Planecheck or Avbuyer will give you a much broader choice and more up to date ads.
- You say to buy in a few months. Well, in that case, you will need to start a project right now, gathering the facts, figures and match the plane to the mission. If you don't, you will end up with a buy which won't satisfy you even after the first several flights. It should NOT be a gamble, as long as you feel it is, keep away. As I wrote, it took me THREE YEARS to come up with a solution which satisfied me and I used to trade planes for a living years and years ago....
- You mention you will eventually do your IR. Great, but then do NOT go with a plane which is not an IR platform. Ideally, get one which is IFR certified now, as getting it certified later can be very expensive. However, IFR for 20k is not going to happen. 50k upwards is more likely, a fully de-iced aircraft will set you back more than that.
- You mention Scotland and France. The UK generally and Scotland in particular are quite often IMC/IFR with ice and other nice things. A plane which can deal with that will ideally be a twin with full de-ice. Yes, a single without de-ice can do the job some times of the year, but you'll still be driving and sitting around like on needles if it's unclear if you can fly back or not. Or kill yourself on the way to that all importand and life changing meeting back home... Unless you fly a heavy duty IFR plane, MUST and flying do not go together. Just to give you an idea: Out of about 30 trips I planned last year (VFR), TWO did actually happen. The route I bought the plane for was last summer not flyable for more than maybe 3-4 days in comfortable VFR. IFR, maybe 15-20 trips might have worked out (non de-iced, non-turbo, single engine). Given the weather conditions yesterday, no VFR plane could have made that trip, nor many "light IFR" (no de-ice, Single engine) planes. Yesterday's weather was sufficient to ask for a fully de-iced twin.
- Golfing, if you have to take your whole baggage, you'll need a bigger airplane than most we mentioned. Family and golf equipment would mean an available payload of no less than 400 kgs, realistically, if you don't want to be the one telling the wife that it's ok that you carry a 100lb golf bag but she has to do with a 10 lb suitcase to go to Scotland.
Looking at your last post, I'd strongly suggest to revisit your budget or to wait for the ideal plane to come along at the price you can afford, but that won't happen in 2 months.
You are concerned about ending up with a flying wreck. That does not have to happen, but it can. A few things to look out for:
- Engine: On condition is a much higher risk of a massive investment than if the engine has reasonable time left to TBO. Learn about the time limits and other necessary parameters. Those airplane adds are like marriage adds, in code and often misleading. You will need help to learn how that works. Aim for at least 500 - 600 hours before TBO. If you can get more, so much the better. Same goes for the propeller.
- Avionic: See that you can get the most you can for your money and make sure (if you aspire IFR) that what is in there is IFR certifyable.
- Maintenance: Have an expert go through the records and do a pre-buy inspection. I can't help you with contacts in the UK, but maybe someone else can here.
For what you have in mind, in my experience and opinion you won't get happy with a Cherokee or any other basic trainer/traveller plane for long. You should seriously consider going for a true travel machine, with speed, space and capability. The cheapest available planes of this sort will be things like the pre- J Mooneys (C, E, G or F), Piper Arrows (which carry more than a Mooney but are more expensive to operate), Cessna 182 or alike. They are not de-iced, but they are stable IFR platforms. For serious IFR, we are talking upwards of a Piper Seneca.
And then something else.
You mention your wife might "put her foot down". Before you even consider buying, make sure your wife is 100% behind you. More people than I care for have had to take the decision "my plane or my wife" sooner or later in the game. Unless she backs you and also the consequences of your buy without a doubt or anxieties, either convice her or stop the project.
Good advice about getting family etc support for one's flying
Re prices, yes you can buy a working 4-seater plane for £20k but it will still be a relative wreck.
Somebody who knows what they are looking for (in engineering terms) can get great buys but a novice is just likely to get shafted. I've seen some awful stuff for sale (a friend was looking recently). If one is new to this game, it's best to not buy at the bottom of the quality scale. £30k will get something a lot better. But you need spare money after that for "suprises"; say another £10k.
For serious IFR, we are talking upwards of a Piper Seneca.
There are very capable IFR singles, but all way out of this man's price range.
The last thing I would recommend someone new to this to buy would be a twin. Loads of money p*****g out on operating costs.
Thanks again for the advice. I mentioned in my last message that I'm going to eventually (sooner rather than later, I hope) get my instrument rating. I'd considered the prices of such a platform, and didn't expect this to be it. Yes, I may outgrow my first plane eventually, but surely it's more important for me to embark on this mission and upgrade slowly over time rather than wait indefinitely..? My trips to Scotland are ALL in fair weather. I start in late April and finish my season in October. My bag weighs 23kg (BA regularly weigh it!), and I travel alone. I'd just need length afforded by a fold down passenger seat, so I hope this isn't going to be a problem. On the marital side of things... Yes, something I'll have to keep a close eye on. She's bought in for now, but that could change if I spent a sum on a money pit that stayed hangered and out of service year after year. With the advice I've received thus far I was starting to think that a 140 is the way to go. If it works out I could eventually gift it to my son and move on to something IMC capable/more complex in a few years. Having got some hours up, and experience. I'll keep watching this thread when I get back to the uk (tomorrow) - from a pc, rather than my phone!
I would recommend spending the next 12 months getting your IR. Then decide which plane. It will really open your eyes up to the reality of what you are proposing. (Short notice 400nm commute with reasonable dispatch rate.) And strangely will be cheaper in the long run, as you will avoid making a big mistake buying the wrong plane / avionics. And avionics are important, particularly BRNAV compliance. A great source of information is the ppl/ir forum :- PPL/IR Europe - Home
You are probably a bit short on budget, but things change in life. For what it is worth, I would go with a PA-24 Comanche. International Comanche Society
Re prices, yes you can buy a working 4-seater plane for £20k but it will still be a relative wreck.
Again it depends on what 'class' of aeroplane one is going for.
Example - our aeroplane is 'worth' about 25k. It was completely rebuilt in 2005, completely corrosion free, nice paint job, leather interior, 600 hrs on the engine, top condition and well maintained with no expense spared. Being a Simple SEP it is relatively cheap to maintain and run.
It is really worth 40k to us as an aeroplane but the market doesn't support that and so if we decided to sell it the price has to be right, which is 25k in our case. So for 25k you can get a decent 4 seater, semi-aerobatic, good useful load of 350kg, good STOL performance, great vis, reasonable cruise speed and burn. Not great for IFR I admit as the wing loading is too low and makes for an uncomfortable ride in turbulent IMC but you could shoot an approach with the right avionics if you wanted to. I've flown it around for the past half decade and been all over the place in it and had some great fun. It is also extemely safe to get experience in as it doesn't bite.
I'd certainly take someone with experience along with you when you look at aircraft and even consider getting a survey done to prevent any unexpected surprises!
Re prices, yes you can buy a working 4-seater plane for £20k but it will still be a relative wreck.
I really do not think that is true anymore. There is a PA28 140 in my area that has been lovingly looked after, has new ish interior (leather), a lot of engine life left and good paint that has been for sale for 12 months. No it will not be cheap to maintain as it is a c of a aircraft and quite old but it is far from a wreck. It has reasonable avionics and would be capable of light duty IFR ideal for a first aircraft if you can afford the upkeep which the numbers above would easily cover.
Regarding 2 seaters, I fly this to Europe and Scotland etc two up;
It is a superior touring machine compered to my old AA5B or DR400-160 for a PPL with no IR who does not need 4 seats, but it is way outside your price range and given your mission I would not recommend anything similar. However a 2 seat Robin might work and if you keep it on an F reg it could save you some money. I would look at your first aircraft as a stepping stone. Many student PPLs aspire to an IR, but only about 1% of European PPLs have one! If you go for a PA28-140 type machine and save any maintenance money left over from your pot, in 3 or 4 years you will have the money and experience to make the next step.