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Buying first plane

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Buying first plane

Old 20th Apr 2014, 22:42
  #1 (permalink)  
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Join Date: Mar 2014
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Buying first plane

I'm looking to buy my first plane and I can use some advice/sparring partner.

My main mission is fun flying, $100 burgers, day trips in the weekend, etc. Because we have 2 big dogs and busy jobs we'll probably not use it for long cross country vacations across Europe (at most once a year for 1 to 3 weeks if/when we find a home for the dogs).

I'm a low hour PPL holder with experience on the Cessna 150/152/172. In most cases 2 seats will be fine as we don't have kids (yet). Four seats would be nice of course but it makes things much more expensive.

I also want to be able to rent it out to others (friends or perhaps the local flying club). Not to earn a living of it, but to share the fixed costs a bit. That means no experimentals but EASA certified planes only. I also don't have time to do all maintenance myself so I'm happy with paying someone else to do it.

I've considered shared ownership but when things don't work out in the group (I've heard some horror stories) I want to be in control and veto people from using my plane. Call me bossy but I like to be in control

So the first planes that come to mind are the ones I've trained in: 150/152/172. I also know a Robin ATL that's for sale. My home field is a bit short (630m) so I need to be comfortable using it there. Low wing planes usually need more runway than high wings, so I haven't looked at most low wing competitors (Piper etc). I did a test flight in a Tecnam p2002 but found the cockpit too small (not enough headroom, I bumped my head on the canopy a few times).

From a financial perspective I don't want too big an investment. So no 100k euro for a new CS-LSA. The cost of capital investment (5% interest and deprecation) will buy me a lot of fuel and maintenance for an older plane. And if I can happily afford flying, I'll be flying it more often instead of only paying the fixed costs.

For fixed costs I calculated the following per year:
- hangar: 4k (actual cost at home field 5 minutes drive away)
- insurance: 1k to 3k
- maintenance: 2k to 5k

So that's between 7k and 12k per year, depending on the type of plane.

Hourly I budget the following:
- fuel: mogas at 2 euro/liter (between 13 liter for Robin ATL and 36 liter for 172)
- engine fund: 10 euro
- other maintenance/tires/oil/etc: 10 euro

The Robin would be the most economical, followed by the 150/152. The reason I also consider the 172 is because I find it more comfortable than a 150/152 and I think it's easier to rent it out (much more all round capabilities, everybody can fly it) so my fixed costs will be compensated more, leaving me with a much more capable aircraft for only a higher hourly cost. On the other hand the initial investment is also higher. The Robin will be 10-15k, a decent 150/152 can be found for 20-30k, while a decent 172 starts at 40k.

The Cessna's can be maintained by everyone, while the Robin is a bit exclusive. Its JPX engine only has 1000 hours TBO compared to 2400 for a 152 and the JPX only has a single ignition... The range and speed of the Robin is also the lowest. You get what you pay for BTW, does anyone know what a JPX overhaul costs?

I know I can easily afford the Robin. The 150/152 will also be no problem. The 172 is still doable but of course much more expensive. But when I want to tour for a day I'll be happy to have the speed, range and luxury of a 172.

So... these are my thoughts on the situation. I'm sure you can give me some good advice, or at least ask the questions I overlooked. Just writing this post has already helped me reflect on my own thoughts
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 00:10
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Join Date: Sep 2006
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My rule has always been to stretch and go for something I can grow into and that can serve my needs down the road as well. The SID's for the Cessnas in Europe are going to be a problem you'll have to deal with, but everything else speaks in favour of them. They're easy to maintain, easy to rent out or put in a flying club and they're solid machines. In that case I'd go for a 172 - if you want to fly 2 people with luggage, you'll need a 4 place aircraft. 2 place can't actually load up and have much useful range at the same time.

But for the money you're willing to spend, I'd also look into an older fixed gear 182. They're great performers and have much more room than the 172. An older Bonanza is also an option. Solid planes. Have you looked at the Grumman AA5's? A lot of bang for the buck.

Last edited by AdamFrisch; 21st Apr 2014 at 02:46.
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 00:26
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Join Date: Jan 1999
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What you will want in a year !

Forget the ATL & C150/152 they will not be what you will want to fly in a years time as your flying horizon expands and any C152 worth owning will be too expensive as it has become the only game in town for those who are not going for the DA40 as a primary trainer.

As you intend to keep it in a hangar have you considered the Robin DR 400 ? It is a very nice aircraft to fly and will lift a lot of weight for the horsepower off a short runway and cruise 10-15 KTS faster than the American equivalent metal aircraft.

For the private user I would look for a DR400-140B ( a 160 HP aircraft without the wing tanks) a DR400-160 or DR400-180. The 140B & 160 are the most economical to run and only give away a few KTS in cruise speed to the 180 but the payload of the 180 is better.

The big problem is that any aircraft that you buy cheap will cost you a fortune in maintenance and a well refurbished aircraft will cost a lot but the maintenance costs are predictable for the next ten years.

I do know of a DR400-140B that is being rebuilt at the moment and will be for sale shortly that I could recommend.

I would point out that I have no financial interest in this aircraft apart from being paid for signing the B1 release to service and as such am very happy with the work that has been carried out.
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 01:47
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Join Date: Apr 2012
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I would second the commentary by A&C. For most of us, an aircraft is a pretty big investment in terms of cash, time and energy. Buying something you're going to be happy with for a few years has a lot going for it. Either that, or get something very simple and resolve to just enjoy it, regardless of limitations. My first aircraft was a C150 and, despite all the negatives one could write down, it took me all around eastern Australia, in reliable and cheap 'style'.

I'm not an expert on the Eu market but with a spend of euro40k, I'd be a bit concerned that you're under-estimating the maintenance costs of what would likely be old and/or relatively high-time Cessnas. SIDS is a really important thing to consider and, leaving aside the regulatory mandates, there are quite a few nasty surprises turning up in aircraft which look OK during regular inspections. Also on the maintenance issue, you need to check carefully the maintenance you can yourself actually perform, for a given class of operations. But perhaps you meant standard pilot maintenance items, which is fair enough.

You could certainly do a lot worse than consider a DR400. Although I'm pretty tall, these days my Sunday bug smasher is a P2002JF, which I bought second hand. With the seat correctly adjusted I'm just about OK, and am better off than in e.g. a Mooney. The only reason I mention it is that the economics of the higher capital investment, versus much lower operational and maintenance costs, swung the balance to the newer aircraft, at least in Australia and for the simple flying life.

You won't get anything for nothing in the aircraft ownership game: lower capital equals more operational and maintenance, and vice-versa. Providing you go in with your eyes open and without too much optimism bias, you can work with any scenario. For example, we did not grudge spending quite a bit of money on a lovely PA24-250 but you also need to be OK with the time and energy investment as well. Good luck with your selection.

Last edited by tecman; 21st Apr 2014 at 03:06.
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 07:28
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Thanks for the replies so far.

I'm aware of the SID inspections, and if it's necessary for safe flight (which I suspect it really is) then so be it. Preferrably they've already been done of course.

I haven't really considered a DR400 yet. How does the maintenance compare to a ATL or Cessna?

As I mentioned, for most of my flying 2 seats is good enough, and we usually don't need the extra baggage space. The 2 extra seats would mainly be a bigger advantage for renting it out. A 182 is in that sence too much plane compared to a 172 and too expensive. Avgas is 3 euro/liter, mogas "only" 2.

For annual fixed costs my estimates are around 10k. These are largely independent of the type, but maintenance can be a tricky one. That's why I really want a good pre buy inspection.

As I can't look into the future I don't know what my flying behavior will become. I do know that I want to own a plane, this has always been a dream and I can afford it even without renting it out if I don't get surprise maintenance of 10k each year on top of my estimated fixed costs. Once or twice can happen, but at some point if it keeps being a maintenance drain then the fun will stop. A $100 burger can easily become a $1000 burger that way.

What's the short field performance of a DR400-140B? And what would the initial purchase cost be for a good one?
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 08:26
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DR400

The DR400 will lift more payload than a PA28 with the same engine, it will fly about 10-15 KTS faster and do this from a runway about a third shorter.

The 140B is not quite a versatile as a 160 with the same engine as the 160 has two wing tanks (40lts) and a centre tank (110lts) the 140B has the centre tank and another under the baggage bay ( 50 lts). The result of this is slightly shorter range and more critical loading of the rear seats due to C of G issues.

As your intention is to use the aircraft mostly for two people this should not be an issue but if you fill the rear seats the effective endurance is cut to 2.5 hours ( with a 45 min reserve ) from 4 hours with the tank under the baggage bay full.

You can expect to cruse at 120 kt IAS.

The aircraft I know about has a zero time engine and prop, the airframe is like new but I think it will bust your budget for buying an aircraft however it is likely to be cheaper over the first ten years of ownership.
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 09:37
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Cruise speed is not really important for me. I fly because I like flying, not because I want my burger sooner That's why I'm not dismissing the ATL and 150/152, as they fit my current mission. I don't know if I should factor in an unknown future mission as well.

My first car also didn't run 240+ on the German Autobahn, but I have many good memories of it (also of it breaking down a lot).

Many people who have owned the ATL and 150 have been very happy with it due to the friendlier economics.
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 10:22
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Friendly Economics ?

Owning a 20-30 K C152 is unlikely to provide a maintenance budget that you are looking for............ I know I own two of them ! They are used in a long term lease to a training company and both have just been through the SID's at a cost of around 20k, these aircraft were always considered by my customers to be good clean aircraft so it is anybody's guess what an average C152 will cost to maintain properly even if you only do the SID's items that are critical to flight safety.

So to get an average C152 to a state at which it will meet your annual maintenance budget it will cost around 45K and another 25K to put a zero time engine in it.

Or you can look at this particular DR400-140B, it will meet your annual maintenance budget for the next ten years, is a much more capable aircraft and I am guessing will cost around 80K, the economics are such that it is worth borrowing the extra money as it will be cheaper in the long run than taking a gamble on an airframe that may have hidden problems.

Unless training is your mission the C152 is not for you because that is all it does well, you will find that you will want to do more than just fly locally and you may also find that your dogs will fit in the back seats of the DR400 !
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 10:39
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just a heads up on the roller coaster ride.

when you are contemplating buying you will have moments when the factors pointing to a successful purchase all seem to click together and provide a state of euphoria that the purchase will be the best you can imagine.

then some doubt will creep in. you will start to feel some doubt and eventually convince yourself that the idea is the worst thing that you could have ever contemplated.

then you'll realise that you are being somewhat pessimistic and you will start to re-evaluate the purchase with some optimism.

when you are in the middle of this it will be quite an emotional roller coaster ride as you alternate between doubt and confidence.

take your time.
there will always be another aircraft that comes available if you miss out on this current one.

the only consolation I can give you is that your second and third aeroplanes will involve less of a roller coaster ride.
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 11:18
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Cruise speed is not really important for me.
That's what I thought, too, when I bought my microlight. Cruising at 80 kts, I have now found that speed is not only important to get your burger sooner, it also determines your maximum range and fuel burn for a given distance.

Take Prague for just an example: at 80 kts I can barely do it in one day, if the morning haze lifts early enough. With a 120 kts cruiser I could depart just before noon and still easily make it - and burn 33% less fuel too. Added advantage: one less intermediate stop - more savings on time and fuel. Cruise speed IS important, especially if flying VFR only.
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 11:31
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Ha! dubbleyew eight I recognise that! It goes with any big purchase.

Don't rent to a club/school. It is the worst of both worlds. The aircraft is booked when you want it and on the other hand you will be concerned about talking it away when it could be earning money. Some renters are incredibly thick when it comes to looking after an aircraft.

I understand your feelings about a group however it really is a good compromise. All the groups I have been involved with had a principal who was the origional purchaser and shares were then sold. The principal still had the last say.

Pick a common type to prevent months of down time and surprise expense. The Cessna SID is less of an issue now as in most countries it is not compulsory. It is however a great bargaining tool.

The other guys here have offered some good advice. I agree with A and C and Adam that you should look ahead as you can outgrow an aeroplane very quickly.

Finally, you mentioned that you were not concerned with speed. Please do consider this if you intend to go anywhere. A 90 knot aeroplane may sound OK. Remember a 20 knot wind on the surface will be much stronger at altitude and may prevent you from getting home the same day.

D.O.
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 11:31
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and you may also find that your dogs will fit in the back seats of the DR400
They are both golden retrievers, 30-35kg each... and they are young (1 year and 3 years) and *very* enthusiastic and energetic. I don't think they are good flying companions, especially in a low wing fabric covered plane

@dubbleyew eight: I'm definitely not in a hurry. I'm already keeping my eyes open for over a year now to see the turnaround time of the different ads on all the known websites. And yes, I recognize the emotional question "is it all worth it?", and every time I look up into the sky on a nice day with bits of cumulus floating by I say: I wish I had a plane I could take up right now, knowing it's waiting for me in the hangar which is a 5 minutes drive away (no rentals there) instead of driving an hour to the next field finding all planes already booked for the next week or so. That's the most valuable aspect of ownership to me: it's available when you want it.

Ownership is expensive, I'm aware of that. But I'm not a big fan of borrowing too much money for it, and I don't have a spare 80k lying around. So my plan was to start small with something I can easily afford, and if my mission changes, well, that's something I'll have to deal with then, not now. But I didn't suspect the SID inspections were 20k either (10k at most). All the information on different internet forums suggest a yearly budget of 10-15k for insurance/hangar/maintenance for a simple small plane. Next to that an hourly reserve fund for engine overhauls, oil, and the regular wear and tear due to usage.

Break even compared to rental is suggested at 150 hours a year. I don't necessarily need to break even, as the availability is worth it in my opinion. I do expect to fly about 75-100 hours a year.

BTW, rental at the field an hour away of a 152 is 175 euros an hour. An old 172 is rented for 220 an hour or so. The flying club (20 minutes further) is 50 euro/hour cheaper, but usually overbooked and you can't easily take it away for a day (while only flying 2 hours). Anything cheaper and better available is at least 1,5 hours drive away, that's 3 hours round trip just to get to the airport. My home field is 5 minutes driving, so I'm much more likely to go up there and go fly on a nice day.

@Jan: I don't have plans to fly VFR to Prague. I want to give my dogs some attention as well while I'm not working. Overnight stays are rare due to the dogs. A higher cruise speed and better range does allow to go further on a single leg, that's a good point.
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 11:51
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pirke own something interesting.
just because you own an aeroplane doesn't mean you can't still hire one if the desire is there.

I have owned a homebuilt Wittman W8 Tailwind for about 15 years now.
I've never found it boring to fly.
I cruise at about 120 knots on 21.5 litres per hour behind an old Continental O-200. (brilliant engine)

In australia we don't have the stupidity of mandatory insurance so my flying costs are pretty well fuel and oil costs. all in about $aus55 per hour.
annual maintenance I just do and accept whatever the cost is.
as an owner you don't have to be stuffed with amortisations if you don't want.

hangarage is the saving of an aeroplane. I have had people tell me that it isn't worth the cost but hangarage will slow the deterioration and keep the aeroplane dry. over time water or condensation is the greatest slow deteriorator an aeroplane will be exposed to.

it is actually worthwhile owning an aeroplane.
if you ever get bored a trip down to the airfield to talk to friends and polish the prop is good balm for the soul.
your fellow pilots are often your best friends.
just keep on looking. a good one will come up eventually.

btw a single seat homebuilt is really great for doing the biennial flight review in.

btw I would never take dogs flying. they have very sensitive hearing and the aircraft noise would be like battering them with a baseball bat all flight.
if you love your dogs just don't do it.
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 11:52
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Many good things noted already, so I do add only a little bit from my own experience. If you already are well trained on the Cessnas, I would advice to go Cessna. They are cheap, widely spread and when enroute, you will always find somebody able to help you.

First, forget the Cessna 15x, because you spend 75% of the money for a 172 at only 50% usability. Good mid-time 172s you will get for about 35+-k Euros.
Second, Cessna SIDs are troublesome, but Cessna was only the first to release such programs for older planes. Due to regulations all other manufacturer must follow on the "aging planes" rules.
Third, some maintenance organisations will rip your pocket empty for SID. Calculate between 3.500 and 5.000 Euros for a 172, plus things which might be found to fix. If your maintenance org does offer you a 15-20k estimate for the inspection, go for Hungary, Czech or Poland - there are some pretty good mechanics doing a great job on little money. BTW: my complete SID was about 6.000 Euros in Germany for a C172, including minor corrosion protection.
Forth, the SIDs are a good thing and even my Reims C172 had some surprises, we would never have found without the inspection. There was no dangerous area found, but a couple of things to fix now to get the plane ready for another 40 years. If you know corrosion is monitored, your feeling on the plane is better.

I am flying an old O-300 with about 27l/h Mogas STC and do derive a TCO cost monitoring. At 100h per year I have total costs monitored at about 190 Euros/h, with all buying depreciation, avionics upgrade to GNS430 and SID included.
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 12:25
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Chicken house

The SID's inspections can be done for 5 K but the rectification of the defects found can't !
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 14:33
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I am flying an old O-300 with about 27l/h Mogas STC and do derive a TCO cost monitoring. At 100h per year I have total costs monitored at about 190 Euros/h, with all buying depreciation, avionics upgrade to GNS430 and SID included.
This is within my budget. If I can fly a nice 4 seat C172 for that money, I'm happy. Unfortunately, most 172's I see for sale at the regular website don't give me the confidence of a good deal. I suspect people who own a good maintained plane are not very willing to part with it without asking a very steep purchase price. I haven't seen any good mid-time 172 with SID done for 35k.
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 16:41
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You say you want an EASA aircraft so that you can rent it out to offset costs.
But they tend to be more expensive than Annex 2 for similar performance.
So what about something like a Jodel? Good short field performance, available as 2 seater, 2+2 or full 4 seater, all for a fraction of the price of a span can. Or am I talking out of my fundemental
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 17:02
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Trouble is with Jodels/Robins etc is they they really need keeping in a shed. I have nothing against them, indeed I think the DR400 is a superb aircraft.
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 17:17
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Keeping things in a shed

I have found that you pay for Hangarage one way or the other, you have the option of keeping it in the shed and out of the weather this cuts the maintenance bills.

Or park the aircraft outside and have the extra depreciation and maintenance that goes with leaving the aircraft out in all weathers.

There is no easy answer but keeping an aircraft outside is not the free ride in might seem, the DR400 or any other wooden aircraft will not give you the option of keeping it outside however over five to ten years of cost of ownership it is not the problem it might at first seem.
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Old 21st Apr 2014, 17:35
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Yes, can't argue with that it's just that hangerage isn't always an option at some places and you have to tie them down whether you want to or not.
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