Question number 2, flying new versus flying used, was a gimme. I figured that as long as I had good access to it, owning a new airplane would beat the heck out of renting the kinds of old war horses you generally see in the fleet-if you rent, you know what I mean. Still, I underestimated the benefits of flying new. The 2002 Skylane, my 2002 Skylane, with its perfect paint job, plush leather seating and that indescribable new airplane smell, gave me an immediate and dramatic improvement in the quality of my flying life. It had other charms, too, most notably its high-end Bendix/King avionics stack, with a multifunction display, autopilot with altitude preselect and Stormscope. For a guy who for the past seven years had been renting airplanes, many of which soldiered on with missing or "collared" systems, not to mention the interiors, a new airplane was an incredible treat. It was also, I think, a real upgrade in safety.
Of course, none of these theoretical benefits do much for you if you can't get into your airplane when you want to. So the first big question-Can you split a Skylane eight ways?-is critical.
While it doesn't answer the question directly, let me start by saying that for all practical purposes I felt like the sole owner of the airplane, which is exactly the way OurPlane intended it. Although I flew with seven co-owners for the last five months of the evaluation (fewer before that point), during that time, I met another owner only once, when he showed up to take the airplane as I was returning it. The point is, when I showed up at the airport for my airplane, it was there, freshly pulled out of the hanger, clean inside and out, avionics working and no signs of use by any of the other owners. Virtual sole-ownership.
When it came to scheduling the airplane, my experience wasn't perfect, but then again, OurPlane doesn't claim it will be. I did fail to get the airplane when I wanted it on a couple of occasions. Both times were on short notice, once when Mac needed a ride to retrieve his airplane from the repair shop down in Maryland, and another time when the weather was beautiful and I just felt like going up and refamiliarizing myself with the airplane. In both cases, somebody else had the airplane scheduled first, and that's all there was to it. I made other plans. That happens with wholly owned airplanes, too, albeit for other reasons.
Otherwise, I flew the airplane pretty much when I wanted to, often reserving it just the day before for a day trip. I flew it for training, for regional, day-long business trips, for recreational jaunts and for week-long forays. In short, I was able to get the airplane more often and more easily than I had ever hoped.