I know that this sounds like a slippery slope argument, and that’s because it is. Sometimes, you see, slippery slopes really are slippery slopes.
A Cockpit of One’s Own
As you might be aware, I’m a big fan of sharing airplanes, not because of any underlying philosophical problem with whole ownership but because it seems to me that, given the economic realities of the times we live in, sharing the costs associated with owning an airplane makes a lot of sense. It lets people either get into airplane ownership, period, or it lets them own a lot more airplane than they otherwise would have been able to afford.
For years I’ve been flying shared airplanes, first with a terrific flying club, Three Wing, out of Sikorsky Memorial (KBDR) in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and then with AirShares, a shared ownership operation based in Atlanta with locations around the country, including in White Plains, New York, (KHPN) where I had my share. After my move to Texas in 2004, I was a partner in an airplane, a great Cherokee Six, before moving back to shared ownership with PlaneSmart, another shared ownership company that, like AirShares, is growing, with sites around the South, including in Austin (KAUS), where I had my share.
The shared ownership concept is great. For a fraction of the cost of the airplane, you get a share, usually between 75 and 150 hours a year, and the company takes care of the airplane for you. You pretty much stay proficient and show up and fly when you want. Well, when the airplane is available, that is. While the availability of the shared airplanes with all of my experiences was very good overall, there were limits to how long I could keep it at any one time and how many total days per year I could keep the airplane parked away from home.
No matter how you look at it, there’s no denying that it’s not really your airplane, at least not all of it. I’d occasionally take the Cirrus for a week or eight days, and with the PA-32, it was an even more flexible arrangement. But when it came right down to it, there was always somebody waiting for the airplane back at home. So if I ever felt like staying an extra day or two with the family in southern Utah, or taking a side trip on the way home from south Florida to stop and see friends in Nashville, Tennessee, well, it just wasn’t an option. The airplane had to get back.
When it’s your airplane and your airplane alone, that isn’t a consideration. Even if you don’t get to or don’t want to stay a couple of extra days, it’s a really nice thing to know you could if you wanted to.
When it comes to flying for business, as I do a lot, whole ownership offers the kind of flexibility that sharing an airplane doesn’t. You can leave at a moment’s notice, stay on the road for as long as you need to, and then jump right back in it a few days later and go somewhere else. It takes the edge that flying a business aircraft gives you to begin with and sharpens it.
While I remain a proponent of the shared ownership model and a fan of the two largest light-airplane companies, I think I finally get why their growth has been a great deal slower than I for years predicted it would be. The secret couldn’t be any simpler. People just like having an airplane they can call their own.
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