As a kid who grew up with the new math, I learned early on to look at numbers in new and different ways. So I was well prepared, it seems, to take an objective look at a different model of small aircraft ownership, fractionals.
The idea behind fractional ownership is to give the airplane's many owners the impression that each one of them owns the whole darn thing spinner to tail. They also get red carpet treatment from day one with few worries about the everyday concerns that can haunt traditional whole-airplane owners, like surprise annual bills. Just pay and fly. Who wouldn't like the sound of that kind of math problem?
In September, I gave our readers some background about our long-term test of the OurPlane fractional shares program for small airplanes. My major question was, and remains, would this, could this arrangement work? After living with the plan for a few months now, I'm getting to the point where I can form an opinion on it, and it's mostly good news.
My share is in a Cessna Skylane, not an old ratty one that's been around the patch a few thousand times too many, but a brand spanking new model, a 182T loaded with leather seats and a high-end avionics package that includes a multifunction display and a two-axis autopilot with altitude preselect.
I've been looking at buying an airplane for some time now, but the numbers never added up. Renting just made more sense for me and my growing family, because the kind of airplane I could afford, if I owned the whole thing, was less airplane than I wanted and needed. Renting, however, was no fun. It was cheaper than owning, yes, but the downsides were many and real. The airplanes were well traveled, there were often unresolved squawks, plus I needed to be proficient in several airplane and avionics types. These were all problems that would be solved outright with a fractional share.
My biggest fear, however, and I share this with just about everybody else who looks at these programs, was that the airplane wouldn't be available enough. I was ready for it not to be available sometimes, but not a lot. I mean, I would still be spending serious money for my share; I expected some serious usage in return.