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Sunday, 18 December 2011

Crunchin' numbers

I started this blog, because when I was trying to decide how and where I would goo try to get my PPL (Private Pilot's License), I could not find any information on how people decided on flight schools, shared ownership or not, flying clubs, and what not. That lack of information inspired me to write down my own considerations, to serve as a basis for others finding themselves in a similar situation. Of course, this is all specific to my situation, and every situation is different, so your choices will probably end up to be different ones, but it's the thought process that counts, along with some hard numbers.

You probably have read in my previous posts what my decision has become, but in order to better oversee the thought process, I have gathered the most important numbers and calculations that have lead to my decision in this post. You can consider this to be a summary thus far.

First off, a couple of statements that are applicable to my situation, and that play a role in my decisions. Of course, my situation is unique, and therefore other parameters will apply for other people.
I live in Haarlem, and spend most of my weekends in the northern "Veluwe", at a camping near Vierhouten. So mij first choice airport is Lelystad airport (EHLE). About 1 hours drive from Haarlem, and only half an hour from Vierhouten. Second choice would be Teuge (EHTE), which also has a paved runway. Teuge is just as far away from the camping as Lelystad, but about half an hour further away if I come from Haarlem. With all the expansion plans of Lelystad airport, Teuge might become a good alternative... Hilversum (EHHV) is smack in the middle of Haarlem and Vierhouten, so in that sense a good alternative. But Hilversum only has grass runways (3 of them!), which reduces the flyability somewhat.
My home situation is as follows: married, no children, one dog. So if we were to go away on a flying holiday, the dog would need to have a good address to stay, because I don't like the idea of exposing my dog to hours of unprotected noise. My wife is not as passionate about flying as I am. So in practice we will not be going away for more that a weekend every now and then (once or twice a year). I will be mostly flyin on my own, or for a local "tour around the church" with the wife, friends, colleagues. A two-seater plane will then do, in most cases. Should I want to fly a four seater, then I could do a check-out, and rent one.
I have accepted that flight school costs an enormous amount of money as a one-time cost. We agreed that that would be one of our savings goals, andd that the order of magnitude would be €15,000.=. After getting my license, I intend to put €200.= per month aside, and use that to pay for my actual flying after I get the L in my PPL. So that amount needs to be adequate to at least keep my license valid. I also want to keep a more or less continuous spread n my flying hours, so I will want to be able to fly 12 hours a year at least (and not just in the second year of a 2-year period).

With the above as a basis, I made myself an Excel sheet, to  collect and analyse all the data as I gathered them. I created a dropdown box to choose from all possible "configurations", and all relevant numbers are then automatically crunched to an overall PPL course cost, and the money required to fly the amount of hours needed to keep the license valid (or any other number; it's a spreadsheet ;) ). This way, I could quickly compare all my options with a given set of rules.
The sheet can be downloaded from here:
Remember: values are entered over a one year period, in 2011; Prices change over time, and they usually only go up... Feel free to use, modify, share the sheet as you please, but don't come crying to me if the result is not what you hoped for ;)

I included a fixed number for education material (books, exams, headset, charts, medical, etc.), which I estimated to be €2,500.=. This is in principle independent of the flightschool or aircraft choice. And for as far as there is a difference, it will fall within the inaccuracy of the estimation.
For landing fees, I made a guestimated average for week- and weekend landings, and local and overland landings. I am assuming that I will try to fly once a week, and usually during weekends. I work 5 days a week, so for weekday flying, I'll need to take the day off. With an estimated 50 hours needed, it will probably take me 2 years, given that the airplane, FI, and myself need to be available at the same time, and the weather has to cooperate a bit (I already have a bad reputation in that area). That also means that for the total PPL course pricee, I have taken al yearly costs with an amount of 2.

I had pretty soon drawn the conclusion that a shared ownership model would be a good thing, because it will start paying itself back during the course already. Some pay themselves back fully during the course. That initially reduced my number of options to 4, with the PA-28 shared ownership being only available for licenced pilots. So I actually only considered three.
The AT-3 shared ownership construction at "Zelf Vliegen" costs an initial fee of €7,500,=, a yearly fee of €600,=, resulting in an hourly rate of €38,= ex. VAT (€45.22 inc. VAT). However, after a half year had past since my initial contact, and the Zelf Vliegen Website had been fully renewed, there was no mention of a shared ownership construction for the AT-3 on the site anymore. So I asked about that, and so far (some three months now) I did not get an answer. I kinda lost the faith in that company to just send them that amount of money.
The DA-20 shared ownership construction has ben around for some 10 years already, and has proven it's worth. For an initial fee of €3850,=, and €453.= per year, you get to fly for €60,- per hour. This is the financially best option, since the hourly rate is the main contributor to the total PPL cost, and the most important factor in calculating the number of hours I can maximally fly for my €200.= per month. This one will pay for itself during the course, and have you flying cheaper afterwards :)
The A210 shared ownership construction costs an initial fee of €3,200.= (depending on the number of shares that will eventually be sold, and the time in which these will be attracted this number can rise to €4,150.=  max.), and does not have a yearly fee. The yearly contriubution as a flying member of KLM Aeroclub (€265.=) comes back to the shareholders, because part of the hourly rate is reserved for writing off the airplane (linear depreciation over ten years to 1/3 of the original airplane value), and gets refunded to the shareholders. Also, the plane can be flown by other KLM Aeroclub members, but at a higher rate. The difference gets refunded to the shareholders too (proportional to the number of shares). The hourly rate of €105 sounds steep, but it is the actual flying time, which compares to €95.= per hour block time for a one hour flight. Still significantly more than the hourly rate of the DA-20, though.

So for me, the choice came down to the DA-20 and A210 shared ownership construction. Purely based on the numbers, I should have chosen for the DA-20, yet I chose for the A210.
The break-even point between the two lays at around 10 hours a year (based on €105.==/h for the A210; with €95.=/h, that number would be 13), because of the lack of a yearly fee. For €200.=/month, you fly 19 hours DA-20, or 16 hours A210. Assuming 50 hours needed to complete the PPL course, the course cost for the DA-20 would be €15,600,=, and for the A21 €17,000.= (including both initial fees).  Yes, that's a lot of money. But if I am going to spend such an amount, I might as well spend a little more for, in my opinion, a lot more plane. The A210 will be a brand new plane, doing 120 KIAS (as opposed to 100 KIAS for the DA-20), and it will be fitted with a Garmin G500 glass cockpit. I find that very appealing. Also, I have been to the KLM Aeroclub three times now, and like that a lot. That's also important, of cause.

All in all maybe a boring bit of text, but it is the essence of why I started this blog: to collect and share information for others that find themselves in a similar situation as myself. I by no means want to pretend that I own the truth, or that my version of the truth is the only correct one. Situations are different for everyone. I only hope to have shed some light on how I got to this decisive point. Also, I hope that the numbers are useful to anybody, or even only the spreadsheet. Use it to your own advantage, and modify as you see fit!
If the above link does not work anymore, please use the contact form to request your own fresh copy :)

Now that the moment is there, and the choice is made, it's only a matter of time and money before I can actually start my PPL course. I expect that I will need another year of saving, before I can actually start full swing with my practical flying course.. In the mean time, I hope to still experience some more flying adventures, of which I will of course post reports here.

Until then!  Happy new year :)

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