It's an old question: can fractional ownership work for small airplanes? Over the last 30 years or so, it's been tried numerous times. Sure, the terminology has changed, from "rent-a-plane," to "time-shares," to today's "fractional ownership," but the concept has remained essentially the same. Take an airplane and split its purchase price among several owners, who then pay an additional fee to have someone take care of the scheduling, maintenance and what have you. When they want it, the owners just book the airplane; if they get it, great; if they don't, too bad.
All in all, it sounds like a reasonable plan, but in the past, it hasn't worked. Still, the times have changed, and along with them, so have the economics of small airplane ownership. Today, as we all know, it costs more than ever to afford an airplane, so maybe given the constraints, pilots will be willing to accept some limitations on their ownership to get into a new airplane. Indeed, given this new environment, a handful of startup companies have launched sharing plans. Do they work? Can they work? We wanted to find out.
For our test we hooked up with OurPlane, a company with offices in London, Ontario, Canada, and Buffalo that has been developing a North American fractional fleet since 1998. It currently has more than 80 owners. The company has one or more airplanes in a number of locations, including Palo Alto and San Diego, California, Toronto, Las Vegas, and Oxford, Connecticut. Several more locations are on their way.
OurPlane sells shares in Cessna Skylanes, Piper Archer IIIs and Cirrus SR20s and will be introducing several new models soon, including the Cirrus SR22 and the Bonanza A-36, and it plans to move up to twins and even turbines eventually.
My share is in a 2002 Cessna 182 Skylane based at Oxford, Connecticut. Since my airplane had already been acquired, I was in it and flying in about two weeks. Owners who are getting into the first airplane at a location may have to wait a couple of months for OurPlane to take delivery of the new airplane and initiate the program.