Like many of you I opted to own an aircraft because I wanted to fly more often, more safely, and more comfortably than was possible via rentals or flying club membership. I spent a fair amount of time researching various aspects of aircraft ownership and concluded that it was possible to do this at a cost competitive with renting if I flew at least 150-200 hr/year. I am on the SR22 waiting list and as many of you know about 10 months ago I brought home a modified/refurbished C182, a 260se/stol. The point of this is NOT to compare airplanes, but rather to solicit comparative perspectives on aircraft ownership.
It has not been all beer and skittles.
The plane was down for two months last summer while the crankshaft was replaced in its TCM “Fool’s Gold Medallion Engine” as per AD.
Insurance costs went up 60% from 2000 to 2001, and I had to shop extensively to find equivalent coverage even for 60% more. I am not a low time pilot (1000+ hr, IFR, no accidents/incidents). This amounted to an instantaneous $10/hr increase in flying costs, even spread out over 200 hr. Fuel of course went up 20-30% too. These things are true for us all I’m sure, and they are irritating but manageable.
The real stunner has been maintenance. Not cost–which is high at $75-$85/hr shop rate–so much as availability. I anticipated the cost, although perhaps not how many hr any particular item may take to fix. However, even for the most minor of things to be fixed, there is regularly a 1-2 week wait just to get in to a maintenance shop here at PAO, even before any work is started. A recent example: my plane’s encoder needed fixing in February (1.5 week wait, then 4-5 days to fix it) and now requires replacement (the fix didn’t “take”): another week’s wait and still counting. Extrapolating my current experience over a one year period predicts 1.5-2 months’ downtime annually for maintenance–unacceptable for me. While a new Cirrus (we hope) won’t have as many minor maintenance needs, still it is likely that I would have to take it to MRY or SCK where there are Cirrus Service Centers. Because of work and family demands it is not practical for me to take the time to fly the plane out of the SF Bay Area each time it needs minor maintenance.
The net outcome is that for me, living where I do, this experience has in aggregate pushed aircraft ownership to the very outermost edge of the “value” equation. As much as I love to fly, the hassle/annoyance of repeated delays is adding up fast in the “negative” column. What is other people’s experience? Am I just unlucky this first 10 months? Will a new Cirrus be significantly less demanding for maintenance? Any advice will be appreciated.