What Would You Buy Your Airplane for the Holidays?

Dreaming is fun; at least until the credit card comes out.

man flying on dollar bill
Because it's your airplane.Murat Giray Kaya

Like a lot of aircraft owners, I have my list of airplane expenses divided into 'gotta-do' and 'wanna-do' items. And also like a lot of owners, I schedule annual inspections during the winter. So the holiday season is when I start revisiting the improvements I'd like to make on my venerable V-tail Bonanza. I won't bore you with my lengthy list of wanna-do stuff; but suffice to say, the gotta-do list has done a good job of monopolizing most of my budget for the past several years.

It's still fun to dream, however, and with enough rationalization, I can manage to nudge some of my wish list into my 'mandatory for safety-of-flight' category. Kind of like a kid who convinces his parents that he JUST HAS to have X-Box Kinect.

Of course, our holiday toys are all about adding utility and practicality to our airplanes. If we only had tip tanks, or that upgraded autopilot, we'd be able to safely complete soooo many more of those family/business-critical missions. And how can we live with that faded, threadbare interior or the cracking paint surface for another year?

One vital tip: don't be sidetracked by spurious warnings that "you won't get your money back for that." Makes about as much sense as: "You'll shoot your eye out!" For a while, used airplane values actually did rise year after year, but the economic crisis has taken care of that nonsense. Now we're back to the real-world reasons for creating your dream flying machine - because you want to fly it.

For my money (of which there is precious little), the influx of electronic avionics displays and processors will re-introduce a time when most of the value of an airplane could be added up in the panel. It was that way back in the 70s and 80s, when the cost of a fresh suite of flip-flop radios and perhaps one of those RNAV units - even a loran! - would easily outstrip the book value of the rest of the airplane. People did it back then; and they should do it now. Except now, we can add so much more capability - with synthetic vision, moving maps, terrain warning, traffic, weather, engine monitoring, and about 829 other things I can't think of right now. Even an airframe eligible for AARP membership is still a mystical magic carpet that, unlike a flush stock portfolio, allows us - to FLY. So let's make the most of them all, and give them the best we can bring ourselves to afford; not because we think we'll get it back someday.

But because it's your airplane.