September 1, 2006
By Ian J. Twombly
There's nothing quite like being an aircraft owner. The joy of going out to the airport and visiting your baby, even if not to fly, is a privilege few people can understand. But before diving into the complex world of ownership, make sure it's right for you.
For many of us, the question of whether to own an aircraft comes down to primarily a financial one. Is it cost-effective to buy? What will it cost? How can I predict expenses? These questions are just the beginning of what should be a long list on the road to ownership.
Often pilots in a position to buy their first airplane are either in training or fresh out. They are likely renting from a local flight school or FBO and want to potentially save some money, or perhaps have more flexibility. The decision whether to continue renting or to buy varies based on financial conditions, but AOPA's Pilot Information Center does offer a guideline. "If you rent more than 100 hours a year, buying may save you some money," says PIC Senior Technical Specialist Rodney Martz.
"It's much like the difference between renting an apartment or buying a house," Martz says. "Ownership expenses are much less predictable than those associated with renting." Remember that with aircraft, you are subject to not only the basic maintenance requirements, but also the sometimes-unexpected expenses such as airworthiness directives.
Luckily there are many options when it comes to owning. If money is an issue, consider taking on a partner. AOPA offers a wealth of advice on multiple ownership scenarios through its online guide.
"Also consider joining a flying club," continues Martz. "They are often quite inexpensive, but usually offer more flexibility than traditional rental situations." This is because clubs should be chartered to not make a profit, and the overhead is low. AOPA also offers information on how to operate a club, how to strengthen its financial health, and even how to start from the ground up. The guide can be found online.
Regardless of how you decide to proceed with the ownership decision, AOPA can help. The Pilot Information Center is staffed with a group of professionals who can answer most any question you have relating to ownership. You can reach them from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday.
Answers to frequently asked questions about your AOPA membership
Q: I haven't gone into the members-only section of AOPA Online for a while and have no idea what my password is. What should I do?
A: As long as you've provided your e-mail address to us in the past, all you have to do is attempt to log in, and you'll be provided with the option to have your password e-mailed to that address. Or you can simply call our member services representatives Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. through 6 p.m. Eastern time at 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672) and they'll be glad to help.
Q: I'm not sure that I know all the different benefits I'm entitled to as an AOPA member. What's the best way to get this information?
A: There are two valuable resources that can help you get the most out of your AOPA membership. Visit our Web site and click on the Member Products link in the left column. You'll see detailed information on a wide variety of pilot services, such as financial, insurance, and even aircraft-ownership-related services with plenty of helpful links. You also can call one of our knowledgeable member services representatives. They're our in-house experts on membership programs and services. They can help you take advantage of the ones that are of most value to you.
Q: Can I renew my membership online?
A: Yes, and you'll receive a $2 discount for renewing at our Web site. Just go to our home page and click on My AOPA Membership in the left column and then select Renew Your AOPA Membership. Then follow the instructions and you can easily renew your membership on our secure Web site with your credit card.
Phone: 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672), 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday After hours: Renew your membership, reset your Web password, or enroll in Automatic Annual Renewal using our self-service touch-tone phone option.
Web: Update your personal information, renew your membership, and much more by clicking on My AOPA Membership in the left column of our home page.
Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.
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