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Friday, 3 June 2011

The ways to Rome

This summer, I want to go for a test flight. Assuming I only have the money for one flight, I want to make the most of it. So, if possible, I would like to make that flight with the school of which I now think I will join to follow my PPL course.

In general, I have three options:
1) Rent a plane and Flight Instructor directly from a flight school
2) Join a flying club that also provides PPL courses
3) Enter into a shared ownership construction that allows PPL training

Flight School?

Renting a plane plus Flight Instructor (FI) directly from a flight school is the simplest, most straight forward way. But it is also the most expensive. Benefit is, that most flying schools have a range of airplane types you can fly on, so that you can mix 2-seaters and 4-seaters throughout the course. After getting the PPL, I can rent a plane with that same school, or with any other renting agency (which then usually requires a checkout flight on that particular plane)

Singles and Twins (S&T) is the cheaper one in terms of hourly rates (which accounts for the biggest sum of money needed for a PPL) and does not seem to have too many "hidden costs". The building itself looks noticeably cheaper than the LLS building next door, but that does not necessarily have to say anything about the quality of the material, instruction, and service, of cause. It's just a first impression. S&T has a relatively large and varied fleet.

LLS offers shortened courses in the USA and/or South Africa, together with CPL, IR, ATPL courses and conversions. I am not looking for any of that, because I want to take the time for my course. I regard the training itself to be an adventure already. And there will be no commercial flying for me (my eyes are borderline class 1 medical already, so that's just waiting for my license to be revoked on lack of a class 1 medical; PPL requires a class 2 medical). But the website and building breathe a more warm atmosphere than S&T. I think I will feel more "at home" sooner, with LLS. So I will not cross them off my list just yet (also to have a competitor for S&T).

"Zelf Vliegen" (name of the company; is Dutch for "Fly yourself") rents Ultralights and Very Light Aircraft (VLA's). VLA's are a good alternative to the 2-seaters such as the Cessna C150, but less expensive to rent. VLA's go at a rate of about €100,= to €120,= per hour.

Flying Club?

The idea of joining a flying club appeals to me more and more, thinking about my PPL future. Maybe I should not think that far ahead, but once I get my PPL (I am pretty sure I'll pass someday; it's more a matter of when than if), I think it would be nice to hang around with like-minded people, exchange experiences, and fly together every now and then. Short term disadvantage is the yearly contribution in the order of magnitude of €200,= to €300,= per year, which makes it not something to just try out, and after two months decide to go for another club.
Most flying clubs offer the possibility to do the PPL course on club planes with a club instructor, which usually means a little less money is involved
But the main reason for joining a flying club would be for the interaction with other club mambers, sharing experiences, do some club flights together, share social events.

KLM AeroClub has a solid name. Their fleet consists of 2 C172's, and a PA-28, so 4-seaters only. Nothing wrong with that, but slightly more expensive than 2-seaters. I find it hard to find insider experiences on the web. All member-specific sites are blocked for non-members, and on public sites you don't find much of what's going on "inside" the club.

Flying Club Flevo has a more open architecture. From the many travel reports I can taste a gentle atmosphere with enthousiastic people. Their fleet consists of all Pipers: 1 Tomahawk (2-seater), and three PA-28 Cadets. On occasions of club fly-ins, additional aircraft are rented on a regular basis

Shared ownership?

By participating in a shared ownership scheme (or better said: buy a right-of-use with a foundation or association that owns a specific aircraft) the purchase price is devided up amongst the participants. This leaves the fixed cost (hangarage, ensurance) for a fixed amout per year to be equally divided, and the hourly rate then only consists of fuel costs plus an hourly rate for wear and tear parts (engine overhaul every 2000 hours, new prop every 1500 hours, 100 hour inspection, etc.). After getting over the initial downpayment, the lower hourly rate remains, also after the PPL course, which is of cause a good stimulant to build and maintain proficiency.
Some of these shared ownership constructions specifically state that the plane is not to be used for training. Others advertise with their cheap rates to lure PPL wannabees like myself.

At Lelystad, I have found 4 possibilities to join a shared ownership.

Diamond Flyers offers either a participation in a Diamond DA-20 (2-seater) , or a Diamond DA-40 (4-seater). They also offer a similar construction for a Diamond Dimona, but I am not interested in a Touring Motor Glider (TMG). Both types have their own association, with 2 DA-20s, and 3 DA-40s in their fleet respectively. It was kind of hard to obtain pricing data on the Diamond Flyers associations, but here's what I found: the initial investment for a DA-20 share would ne €4000,=, for a DA-40 €15000,=. The source of this data seems reliable, but the info is already dated somewhat. Both have a yearly fee of €400,= to €500,= (sources are a bit vague on that number as well), and the resulting ourly rate would then be €60,= for a DA-20, and €80,= to €90,= for the D-40.
Based on the same principle is the Association Piper Pilots, which operates a PA-28 Archer, which, against an initial investment of €4500,=, and a yearly contribution of €525,= per year, wil have you fly the plane at an hourly rate of €90,=.
Finally, I found a participation of an Aero AT-3 at "Zelf Vliegen". For a fixed amount of €7500,= you can fly against an hourly rate of €38,=. There was no mention on the site of a fixed fee.

The €15000,= for a DA-40 share is just simply too much for me at this time. That's about the amount I thought of spending on my entire PPL course. With €100,= difference in the hourly rate, one would need to have flown 150 hours before the investment starts to pay off. I know: the share is transferable, so you won't "loose" the money, but it is "out of pocket" money. The share's value will fluctuate with the value of the fleet, and if you look at second had prices of airplanes, you'll find that a new plane depreciates at abour 50% per 10 years (until it starts to be come a classic, and gains value acc. to state). For my decision now, I'l just consider my out of pocket money. Whatever I may get back for it is my luck at that time.

The PA-28 of Piper Pilots is remarkably cheaper to "step in", while the operational costs are comparable to the DA-40. That can only mean that there are more shares per plane, which might affect the plane's availability. Other than the initial payment, the costs are comparable to the DA-40, which is more or less to be expected (they are both 4-seaters, with similar operational costs). The only draw back here is that they require a PPL, so this would be something for after I get the little green paper only.

The DA-20 share sounds much more attractive. €4000,= at once, €500,= per year, €60,= per hour. There are 2 planes per 40 participants, which makes availability better than 1 plane per 20 participants.

The AT-3 share just sounds to good to be true, ... , so it probably is! Flying at €38,= an hour barely covers the fuel costs, I think, and the fixed costs are not mentioned anywhere. So who will cover the hangarage, motor overhaul / replacement, prop wear, etc.? It did get me curious, though. So I should just pay them a visit, and find out.


I am inclined to go for shared ownership. The hourly rate after getting my PPL being the main reason. The DA-40 is well over budget for me. I would have to save up for way too long, just to make the initial payment before I could start flying. The Piper is off limits until I get my PPL first. So it would then mean a 2-seater anyway. The AT-3 share sounds too good to be true, and the DA-20 share is a good contestant
As a second choice, I would go for the club life :) VCF sounds like the most friendly place to be, KLM AC sounds reliable, and the few responses I found from "inside" do sound positive. So it's undecided there, for now.
Should I choose for a straight-out renting scheme, then Singles and Twins are top of my list, over LLS. It's not only because of price, but also because I got them recommended twice by people who should know. After that, I could well go for the Piper Pilots share.

Let's first have a chat with offerers of shares...

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