Part 1 of a 3-part series on the AirShares Elite small-airplane fractional ownership program, here on flyingmag.com.
Last year I did a long-term evaluation of a small-airplane fractional ownership program run by OurPlane. During the nine-month period, I was for all intents and purposes an OurPlane owner, flying a new Cessna 182 along with the rest of its part owners. In short, the experience was a good one, and it confirmed my suspicion that fractionals could be a big part of airplane ownership in the future. As I discussed in that series of articles, the basic concept, if it can be successfully executed, makes a lot of sense, as it allows pilots like me who couldn't afford an entire new airplane to get into the game. It also lets people for whom the money isn't the deciding factor get less than a whole airplane and have it professionally managed in the process.
This month we begin a long-term evaluation of another small-airplane fractional provider, AirShares Elite, which has a different approach to the business than OurPlane. Headquartered in Atlanta (PDK), AirShares sells fractional ownership in just one airplane type, the Cirrus SR22 high-performance single. Instead of buying an entire, nicely equipped SR22 for around $375,000, AirShares Elite customers can buy just a part of the airplane, anywhere from one-eighth to one-half. (For people who need more than that, a whole airplane makes better sense.) Then they can let AirShares take care of all of the management details, which is arguably the best part of the program. Currently, AirShares has locations in Atlanta, New York, Birmingham and Chicago, and it plans to continue its expansion. It has an agreement to purchase 25 SR22s; it has already taken delivery of 13, and it plans to accept the rest over the next 12 to 18 months.
What are the advantages of owning a fraction of an airplane versus buying the whole enchilada? To run the risk of stating the obvious, it's cheaper. Of course, you're getting less airplane, but that's precisely the point. You don't have to be around aviation long to figure out an entire airplane is simply too much airplane for most pilots, many of whom are lucky to fly 100 hours a year. With fractionals, you pay for only as much airplane as you need. (There are other advantages, but more on them later.)
Buying a share in a new airplane is a lot more expensive than renting an airplane. It's not really a fair comparison, though, as it's nearly impossible to find a rental airplane even remotely as nice as a new SR22. Even if you can, the restrictions and requirements generally placed on renting such airplanes, such as minimum daily charges, weekend and overnight fees and long checkouts, can be prohibitive. And if that airplane goes out of the rental fleet-and there are a lot of potential reasons it might-you're out of luck and you need to start the process over, if you can find another suitable aircraft. So while renting an airplane of some kind is certainly an option for most pilots, renting a really nice, never mind new, airplane, isn't.
As I said, a share of a brand-new airplane isn't cheap. It costs $60,000 for a one-eighth share in a nicely outfitted SR22. The airplane comes with dual Garmin 430s, Stormscope, Skywatch traffic, a two-axis S-Tec 55X autopilot with altitude preselect, a Sandel electronic HSI and more. On top of that equity cost, every month eighth-share owners pay a management fee of $675. (Fees vary by region, from around $650 to $750 per month.) It also costs approximately $60 an hour to fly, which pays for fuel and oil. The company says that ownership is equivalent to buying a "luxury" automobile. After you pay the monthly and hourly fees, that might be a stretch, but not by much, and there's no doubt that the AirShare's approach is far cheaper than a whole airplane.