Buying your own plane for training

Sport aviation is growing rapidly. But the new sport pilot / light-sport aircraft rules are still a mystery to many flight schools and instructors. To locate a flight school offering sport pilot training and/or light-sport aircraft rentals, click on the "Flight School And Rental Finder" tab above. This is a great place to share ideas on learning to fly, flight schools, costs and anything else related to training.

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rcpilot
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Location: Mastic, NY

Buying your own plane for training

Postby rcpilot » Sun Aug 09, 2015 3:46 pm

I want to post this in the hopes that others will see what I’ve done and not be discouraged in pursuing sport pilot training.

So at the tender age of 55 I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream of learning to fly. Back when the sport pilot cert came out I thought that would be the ideal way to go. Early on of course there weren't many planes available to train in. As that changed of course life got in the way but now I was ready. The first thing I did was buy the Gleim sport pilot kit. I wanted to see what I was getting into and this would be needed anyway. Unfortunately, the reality was that despite living in an aviation rich environment, there was only one flight school that offered sport pilot training. Conveniently it was about 2 blocks from my house so normally this would be an ideal situation. However, their apparently once mighty fleet of LSAs had now dwindled down to a single Cessna Skycatcher. I was politely told I was too heavy (then 260#) for that plane. I'd have to lose at least 25# to have a reasonable shot at training in it. Of course I was told to consider private pilot, it's just twice the hours and costs. It didn't make sense to me since I knew most of my flying will be by myself and I'm just looking to fly for fun and maybe short trips. So while the dieting began in earnest, I started to look around for alternatives. I was willing to travel a short distance for training. I also looked for a private instructor who maybe had a plane I could train in. I live on Long Island and I found 3 schools in CT that would be about a 1 hour drive and 1+ hour ferry ride. Of the three schools I found, one no longer offered it, the second had a 210# weight limit (that would take a Bobby Sands diet to reach) but the 3rd did have a Remos and a 250# limit. It would be an expensive proposition since the Remos was more expensive to rent and the ferry ride alone was $30 each way (if I took my motorcycle). I could find nothing in NJ (not that they don't exist, I just couldn't find them). I joined EAA and contacted the local chapter president to see if he knew of anyone. He made inquiries but no luck. I did get much very valuable information from him though.

After much thought it occurred to me that I might be better off just getting my own LSA. After all, the Skycatcher was the only plane for rent within 2 hours of where I lived. Having my own plane might make it easier to find an instructor and then I'd be able to fly when I wanted. Much research went into the fixed cost of operating my own plane as well as what models might suit my needs. It became clear that unless I wanted a 1940's era plane like an Ercoupe, I was going to have to get an E-LSA. The S-LSAs were just too pricey for me. And of course the plane would have to have a useful load North of 500#.

So I scoured the Internet, sites like Barnstormers, Trade-a-plane and others. Looked at what was available and researched those models. Sadly, most of the planes that might be of interest were located on the other side of the country. The cost of going there to look at the plane and then have it ferried back were just prohibitive. I finally zeroed in on a model, the Zenith CH601. It was by all accounts an easy plane to fly, had a good useful load and most were in my price range. The engines used in the planes I saw varied from Lycomings to Corvair. I wanted to find one with a Rotax engine because I knew them to be reliable, easy and relatively inexpensive to service. Other things I looked for was a radio, mode c transponder(my intent is to get the class B, C and D airspace endorsement) and anything else was gravy. I located 2 possible candidates, one in PA and one in NJ. The PA one was pending sale but the NJ plane was up for grabs. My mom happens to live about 45 minutes from where the plane was based so on a weekend visit I took some time to go have a look at the plane.
The seller arranged to have a CFI take me up in the plane. We actually had an extensive ground lesson (he explained the plane to me in detail; we did a pre-flight inspection and an extensive w/b). It was good to see that with the 150# instructor, me now at 250# and 18 gallons of fuel we were still under max weight. It was a hot, humid day and the density altitude was around 1800' but we stilled climbed out at 500 fpm. The instructor demonstrated the nimble qualities of the plane and let me take the controls doing some shallow and steep turns, climbs descents and straight and level (well as best as I could with getting bumped around with the thermals). He also guided me through the landing. Well, I was sold on the plane. I made the seller an offer and he accepted. Now just to get insurance and financing. The first thing I learned was don't try to buy an airplane during AirVenture week (unless perhaps you're at AirVenture). As a student pilot trying to get insurance for your own plane is difficult and expensive. As an AOPA member, I decided to go through them for financing. That was a mistake. We weren't talking big money here but they have a one size fits all approach and it quickly became apparent that getting financing on and E-LSA was going to be more difficult than it should be. After submitting all kinds of paperwork, a week later the bank could still not tell me if it would give me the money I was asking for because they needed to determine what they thought the plane was worth. So I went online and in 2 hours got approved for a personal loan for the amount I needed at 1.5% less than what the bank was offering and no closing costs. While I was waiting for all of this I made sure the flight school would train me in my own plane. They had to negotiate a bit with the insurance company but got them to allow the CFI to train me after he has 5 solo hours in my plane. I also had to arrange a pre-buy inspection. The A&P I chose was familiar with both the aircraft and the engine. He gave me a very thorough walk through of both the airframe and the Rotax 912. Not that I’m going to do it myself anytime soon, he explained how to change the oil and how to burp the engine before checking the oil.

Ok, so insurance, financing and CFI lined up, now I just needed to arrange delivery. The seller was very good and willing to fly the plane to its new home base (HWV) at his expense. So while he was making those arrangements, I bought the accessories I needed. It was going to be tied down outside so I needed tie downs, canopy cover, wheel chocks, a headset(not included in the sale), etc. Got all that done and the seller called me with a delivery date. Two days later I was off to the airport to rent my tie down and wait for the plane. It arrived on time with a Bonanza following behind to fly the seller and his pilot back home. I tied the plane down, took care of the paperwork with the seller and it was finally mine.
Now the fun begins. Monday I go to the local FSDO to get my student certificate. I also need to have the schools mechanic give an OK on the plane and then the CFI will start flying off his 5 hours. Finally, I will be able to start my lessons.

I will update this periodically regarding my progress.

SportPilot
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Re: Buying your own plane for training

Postby SportPilot » Sun Aug 09, 2015 4:03 pm

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Last edited by SportPilot on Thu Aug 20, 2015 10:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

Wm.Ince
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Re: Buying your own plane for training

Postby Wm.Ince » Sun Aug 09, 2015 6:00 pm

Congratulations and enjoy your new toy! 8)
Bill Ince
CTSW
Retired Heavy Equipment Operator

chavycha
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Re: Buying your own plane for training

Postby chavycha » Sun Aug 09, 2015 10:53 pm

Good on ya! Enjoy the ride!

I know a few people who have purchased airplanes before they started training (or very early on in their training). It works well for some, and not for others. Hope you're the 'some'!
Scott K. :: A bunch of silly letters
Disclaimer :: Listen to me at your own risk. These are just my opinions...

cimmaronjim
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Re: Buying your own plane for training

Postby cimmaronjim » Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:55 pm

Excellent decision. I wish I could afford a 2 place.

As far as Private pilot, it may not be exactly twice the hours or twice the cost, but it's not a bad thing to start with sport regardless. With with your own plane, you could train at a cost of $100 less per hour over renting, so even if your sport hours aren't transferable, you will get 40 more hours training at a very reasonable cost to advance to PPL one day.

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FastEddieB
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Re: Buying your own plane for training

Postby FastEddieB » Mon Aug 10, 2015 6:28 am

cimmaronjim wrote:With with your own plane, you could train at a cost of $100 less per hour over renting...


I think that's probably way off.

Over the course of a year, once he takes all his fixed and variable costs, adds them together and divides by the number of hours flown, that number may be a bit less per hour than renting.*

But $100 less? No way, unless his local renter has a $100/hr profit margin. I think Prof Shuch can shed some light on the real profit margin that flight schools look for or achieve when renting out planes.

In any case, none of this is meant as an argument against ownership - I encourage it. But it's best to be realistic.

And congratulations to rcpilot. To quote Lou Reed, "It's the beginning of a great adventure"!


*In a given year, with something like hose changes or ignition module replacement costs or whatever, it could easily be more than renting. But it's hard to put a price on the joy of aircraft ownership.
Fast Eddie B.
Sky Arrow 600 E-LSA • N467SA
CFI, CFII, CFIME
FastEddieB@mac.com

rcpilot
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Re: Buying your own plane for training

Postby rcpilot » Mon Aug 10, 2015 6:42 am

I'm pretty sure it's going to be about the same cost as renting barring any major repair issues. Fortunately this past Spring the fuel tanks had been removed and resealed. It was an expensive job.

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MrMorden
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Re: Buying your own plane for training

Postby MrMorden » Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:45 am

If the airplane in question is a 601XL, just make sure it has had the wing structure updates done (what some call the "601XL-B" updates). If you have to do them yourself, it will cost about $5k. And the airframe is, honestly and IMO, unsafe without that work done. The 601HD and 601HDS have a different wing and don't have the problem. There is a reason the 601XLs tend to be priced so attractively, compared to other types.

As for costs, all in your costs will probably not be hugely different. The big advantage to owning is that the airplane is entirely on your schedule. If you want to fly 4 hours one day, or make an overnight trip as part of your cross country requirements, all you need is a willing CFI. You don't have to schedule around other renters.

The big eye opener for me in airplane ownership expenses was taxes. It depends on your state, but I was forced to pay 7% of the purchase price as state sales tax, PLUS I have to pay about 1.2% of the airplane's value (not purchase price, but what the County *decides* my plane is worth, which is always more than actual market value). I did my research before the sale and knew the taxes were coming, but damn it hurts to write those checks. :lol:
Andy Walker
Athens, GA
Sport Pilot ASEL, LSRI
2007 Flight Design CTSW E-LSA

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dstclair
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Re: Buying your own plane for training

Postby dstclair » Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:00 am

The big eye opener for me in airplane ownership expenses was taxes. It depends on your state, but I was forced to pay 7% of the purchase price as state sales tax, PLUS I have to pay about 1.2% of the airplane's value (not purchase price, but what the County *decides* my plane is worth, which is always more than actual market value). I did my research before the sale and knew the taxes were coming, but damn it hurts to write those checks. :lol:

Typically sales tax doesn't apply when buying products from individuals vs. businesses/dealers (YMMV). Just curious, did you buy from an aircraft dealer so,hence, you had to pay sales tax or did you have to pay a use tax to state of GA?
dave

cimmaronjim
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Re: Buying your own plane for training

Postby cimmaronjim » Mon Aug 10, 2015 9:26 am

Yeah, forgot about the embedded costs. You can tell I'm not an owner.

3Dreaming
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Re: Buying your own plane for training

Postby 3Dreaming » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:24 am

dstclair wrote:
The big eye opener for me in airplane ownership expenses was taxes. It depends on your state, but I was forced to pay 7% of the purchase price as state sales tax, PLUS I have to pay about 1.2% of the airplane's value (not purchase price, but what the County *decides* my plane is worth, which is always more than actual market value). I did my research before the sale and knew the taxes were coming, but damn it hurts to write those checks. :lol:

Typically sales tax doesn't apply when buying products from individuals vs. businesses/dealers (YMMV). Just curious, did you buy from an aircraft dealer so,hence, you had to pay sales tax or did you have to pay a use tax to state of GA?


In Illinois it is 6.25% on the purchase of any aircraft whether from a individual or dealer. If it is a gift they will still charge sales tax on fair market value. There are a couple exceptions, but not very many. A dealer has 18 months before the tax is due. If they don't sell the airplane then they have to pay the tax too. The tax is also on where the airplane is based, not where it is registered,
While not as bad as the annual property tax we do have to pay $20 every 2 years to register the airplane in the state

Nomore767
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Re: Buying your own plane for training

Postby Nomore767 » Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:30 am

In SC the sales tax is a flat $300.

The property tax is due later this year but they asked me what the 'fair market value was' and though some guys around here will say " Um yeah $15k" I did honestly give them a fair market value and they've not questioned it yet.
If they did , from talking with them in our county, they're pretty clueless as to getting a BlueBook comparable value on their own and they have no clue as to anything about small airplanes.

Jim Stewart
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Re: Buying your own plane for training

Postby Jim Stewart » Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:09 pm

As someone who purchased a new 2006 CTSW as a zero time pilot, all I can say is "you're committed".

Having your own plane is a great thing, and I don't regret doing it. In my case, hangar and personal tax costs were way higher than I'd imagined. OTOH, by owning my own plane and sharing hangar space with a great CFII, I got most of my instructor time free.

Have fun. When it gets frustrating, which it will, be sure to come here and talk about it. We've all been through it.
PP-ASEL, Flight Design CTSW owner.

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FastEddieB
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Re: Buying your own plane for training

Postby FastEddieB » Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:43 pm

Jim Stewart wrote:As someone who purchased a new 2006 CTSW as a zero time pilot, all I can say is "you're committed".



Or he should be! :lol:
Fast Eddie B.
Sky Arrow 600 E-LSA • N467SA
CFI, CFII, CFIME
FastEddieB@mac.com

Jim Stewart
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Re: Buying your own plane for training

Postby Jim Stewart » Mon Aug 10, 2015 4:46 pm

FastEddieB wrote:
Jim Stewart wrote:As someone who purchased a new 2006 CTSW as a zero time pilot, all I can say is "you're committed".



Or he should be! :lol:


That too...
PP-ASEL, Flight Design CTSW owner.


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