Letters: Buy or rent?

Senior Editor Ian J. Twombly posed the question: should a flight student buy or rent an aircraft? We received quite a response.

July 1, 2013

Buy or Rent?

As a pilot who has owned several airplanes, and as a CFI who has flown with student pilots who owned their own airplanes, I must take issue with this article. To suggest that a student pilot buy an airplane is not only ridiculous, it’s irresponsible.

Six of the seven student-owners I’ve worked with regretted their decision to buy. Most wanted to save money during the training process. This means that they didn’t have the money to buy a quality airplane in the first place. Also, most knew virtually nothing about aircraft ownership before making their purchase. Most of the airplanes had mechanical problems that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to repair and delayed their training by weeks or months.

As an instructor, I worried about the lack of control over the operation of the airplane when I wasn’t there. An FBO can prevent an unauthorized student from flying a rental, but you can’t stop an unauthorized owner. Some felt that ownership qualified them to do their own maintenance without proper supervision—nothing like heading out on a cross-country and having the student-owner mention that he changed his own oil or did a tune-up to get your heart pumping!

I encourage students to buy their own airplanes—after they get their certificates and they learn about the pitfalls of aircraft ownership!

Steve Price
AOPA 546480
Midland, Texas

The best advice I ever received came from the mechanic that performed the prepurchase inspection on the Cherokee 140 I bought 26 years ago. He said don’t ever try to figure out what it costs per hour to operate this thing. I haven’t, and have been happy ever since.

Jay Moyer
AOPA 645716
Corry, Pennsylvania

I looked at the cost of joining a club ($300 initial fee, $350 annual insurance, and $97 an hour wet) and compared it to the cost of ownership. The costs seemed pretty close, but I wanted to be able to fly when I wanted to, and take trips to visit my kids and not worry about getting back. I settled on a 1962 PA–28-160 with a VFR panel, new paint, and the ugliest interior you have ever seen. But it was in excellent mechanical shape and flew well, so I bought it and completed my private in it.

Three years later I have more than 300 hours as PIC and have my instrument rating. I installed a new interior, and upgraded the airplane for IFR—and have kept track of every penny I put into it.

Staying in the club and renting would have cost me more than $38,000. In my own airplane I have invested $23,627 including fuel, maintenance, upgrades, annuals, and insurance. Not only did I make the right decision financially, but I can fly when I want, where I want, and for as long as I want. In my opinion, there is no question: Buy, buy, buy!

Mike Hartz
AOPA 6222010
Arkdale, Wisconsin

Paranoia?

After reading “President’s Position: Paranoia?” I felt the need to express that AOPA is, without a doubt, the organization that will continuously fight for GA rights, but is also the organization that has a global impact on the training industry.

I am a chief pilot at an international flight academy, which trains upwards of 400 foreign pilots a year. These students come here because of the freedom and liberty we have in this country. Because of GA rights in this country, we have the ability to bring a market that is dissolving in other parts of the world, and therefore the ability to create jobs and to grow the pilot community. If Washington, D.C., makes inappropriate decisions, it will mean the end of professional flight academies that cannot endure higher costs and this will limit the ability of other countries to train their pilots. This will have a global impact as schools in the U.S. train thousands of foreign pilots a year. Decisions made in this country will affect the rest of the world .

We need to fight for our freedom to fly, but if in the process we can change the spirits and souls of those foreign students we train every day, maybe some of them will fight for that same freedom when they go back home. General aviation in this country may be taken for granted but it is considered a precious gem for the rest of the world.

Roch Renaudot
AOPA 5419836
Mesa, Arizona

A Tale of Two BiplanesFly Off

I loved the Stearman/Waco fly off (“Fly Off: A Tale of Two Biplanes”). I was fortunate to fly in the Stearman and also the Waco UPF–7. When I talk about the Stearman to my nonpilot friends they ask me, what is a Stearman? I tell them the best way to describe it is “a Harley with wings.” When I saw that same comparison in your article, I had to laugh.

John P. Dainus
AOPA 462899
Fort Myers, Florida

The Waco and Stearman biplanes were designed and built for two entirely different purposes. It’s unfair to compare them.

In March 1943 I had completed five weeks of primary flight training as an aviation cadet and was an upperclassman watching the lowerclassmen make their first solo landings in the Stearman. One approached the airfield too slowly, his airplane stalled, and he dropped at least 40 feet to a three-point landing. The rugged Stearman suffered no damage at all, but the pilot had to be lifted from the cockpit and taken to the medics for treatment of his jammed backbone. Could the beautiful Waco have survived that event?

Barrie S. Davis
AOPA 17369
Zebulon, North Carolina

Waco drivers wear tutus. Why would I want to spend $325,000 for glitz, bling, and eye candy, when I can spend $100,000 for something that is as strong as a manure spreader? Dave Hirschman will look good in the Waco with his Gucci flight suit, leather jacket that is held together with all his outlandish patches, and silk scarf trailing in the wind. Careful, Dave that it does not get wrapped around the rudder and chokes you. I always like your point/counterpoint articles. All in good fun.

Vernon Childers
AOPA 5723570
Moore, Idaho

Errata

While reading the spec sheet on the Cirrus SR22T GTS (“More of a Good Thing”), I looked at the wing loading and power loading figures and said to myself, that cannot be correct. A wing loading of only 11.4 pounds per square feet? So I did the math and sure enough, the two figures were reversed. The wing loading should be 24.8 pounds per square feet and the power loading should be 11.4.

Anthony Dennis Savarese
AOPA 1280977
Elmore, Alabama

Thanks, Mr. Savarese, you are correct.—Ed.

The Resources guide that accompanied “Oh, My Aching Back” should have included Aero-Tow.

We welcome your comments. Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701 or email. Letters may be edited for length and style before publication.

American Champion XtremeHangar Talk

“Will this get used?” asked airshow pilot Greg Koontz about this photo. Koontz plays the big-time shows with an act based on maneuvers an average general aviation pilot can easily master. He uses a Decathlon, and upgraded to the new American Champion Xtreme on the day this photo was taken (Punching and Rolling,” page 50). He has his own aerobatic school on his ranch, seen here, and can teach you to spin, loop, and roll. Photographer Chris Rose and Senior Editor Al Marsh had him captive for a full day to get any type of photograph we needed. Rose had him fly directly above his camera while Marsh snapped this with his iPhone. The photo Rose took is on our table of contents pages (page 1).

“A restoration-sweepstakes project is always a challenge,” says Editor at Large Tom Horne. “But I get to see the airplane go from hag to runway model the way no else does.” “One Pumped Up Panel” (page 66) shows the final results of AOPA’s 1963 Debonair Sweepstakes instrument panel upgrade. “When we first bought the airplane it had five obsolete—and three non-functioning—navigation units,” Horne says. “Today’s Debonair Sweepstakes airplane definitely has a new feel and spirit to it, thanks to the work of Santa Fe Aero Services. Anyone going to EAA Airventure will instantly see what I mean.”