July 1, 2011
By Dave Hirschman
The biggest barrier to aircraft ownership has always been cost, and AOPA intends to lower that tall obstacle through the AOPA Aircraft Partnership Program (AAPP).
The new AOPA online service is like a timeshare arrangement for potential aircraft partners. By bringing thousands of aircraft buyers and sellers together on the web, AAPP will help them search for each other across geographic areas, as well as provide online tools for buying, financing, insuring, scheduling, and maintaining partnership aircraft.
Registering and searching AAPP listings is free, and placing online share-for-sale listings will carry $10 monthly fees for AOPA members. Thousands of buyers and sellers are in the system, and many have already used the information to fulfill their dreams of aircraft ownership.
“Our purpose in doing this is simply to get more people flying more often,” said Woody Cahall, AOPA vice president for aviation services. “Instead of blindly putting up notices on airport bulletin boards, those who take part in AAPP will get turn-key solutions for finding, forming, and operating successful aircraft partnerships.”
David Kruger, a Texas general aviation pilot and online business expert, is collaborating with AOPA in developing AAPP software and services.
Kruger is fond of pointing out that aircraft ownership shouldn’t cost more than a bass boat, and since the vast majority of the GA fleet is underutilized, sharing aircraft and their associated costs makes financial sense. Most aircraft owners fly fewer than 100 hours a year—and each year is comprised of 8,766 hours—so there’s the potential for those aircraft to fly a great deal more. More flying reduces hourly costs and avoids maintenance problems caused by disuse, and pilots who band together are able to buy more capable airplanes than they could justify owning individually.
Kruger says young people are pioneering shared ownership and driving the growth of online services such as Zipcar, a web-based car rental service. And GA pilots who want to fly for both business and recreation can own shares in a variety of aircraft through partnerships.
“They can get access to an IFR airplane for business travel,” Cahall said, “as well as a partnership in a Cub for flying on weekends.”
The AAPP online registration form asks detailed questions about the type, cost, and geographic areas in which participants are looking for aircraft as well as their price range, flight ratings, and planned usage. The questions are designed to give potential partners an accurate picture of their possible future co-owners to ensure the greatest compatibility. AOPA also is planning to provide online templates for aircraft partnership agreements and other important documents.
“We think we can get 20,000 people to register for AAPP in the first year—and that would be an excellent start,” Cahall said. “A growing community will help lower the financial threshold for aircraft ownership, allow more people to fly more often, and strengthen GA.”
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