Flying is about to get a lot more expensive

Over the last couple of years, the membership of the flying club has reduced by 25%. Maintenance is more expensive as ridiculous lawsuits have forced parts manufacturers and mechanics to spend more on lawyers and insurance, and stupid TSA rules have constrained our flying and our access to planes and airports and added expenses. Fuel costs have spiraled higher and higher. And IFR flying we practically requires an approach capable GPS, which we’ve only added to one of our planes. We’ve tried to reduce costs by selling one of our planes.

Also in that time, it’s become more expensive and harder to insure complex six seater aircraft. When this first became and issue, we had 12 people flying our Lance and 3 people considering moving up, and the insurance company only wanted to write a policy with 8 named pilots on it. We decided that the best way to pare that “Lance list” down a bit was to put a small “Lance Surcharge” for the people who wanted to be on the list. Unfortunately, even with the small surcharge we imposed, the list immediately dropped down to 7 people, and over time it’s dropped to 5.

A couple of weeks ago we re-ran the numbers, and the numbers told us two things:

  • The monthly dues needed to be raised
  • The small “Lance Surcharge” is not enough to cover all the expenses of the Lance.

In the past, all members of the club have carried the expenses of all the planes, because the planes were club assets. But with only 5 people allowed to fly the plane, it seems that it’s only fair to put more of the onus on the costs of that plane on those people. And the awful truth is that if you put all the onus on those 5 people, one or more might drop off the Lance list, and then the costs will be spread among 4 people, or 3 people. And then there is the issue of the ancient engine – the Lance’s engine is way over TBO, and will probably need replacing within the year, and that’s going to cost around $35,000.

We haven’t actually figured out what to do, but in the mean time we’ve increased the normal monthly dues by $20 and doubled the Lance Surcharge. And we’re putting the Lance up for sale to see if there is any interest.

Then there is the issue of the other flying club. I wrote about them before. Their current “Lance List” has 5 or 6 people on it, and their monthly fees plus “Lance Surcharge” ends up being double what our current fees are. If we make our Lance Surcharge close to what it would take to actually support the aircraft, it would get pretty close to their total fees. And for our money, we’re getting a worse Lance – theirs has an almost new engine, and a Garmin 530W GPS. If I’m going to pay that sort of money, I want to get the best Lance I can get for the money.

Sigh. I wish good load hauling aircraft weren’t rarer than hens teeth. If only we could get a decent Cherokee 6 for a decent price. The 6 has the roominess and load hauling ability of a Lance, but without retractable gear. That means you lose some speed, but you gain insurability, and lower maintenance costs. Even better, because it would be insurable without a named pilot policy, we wouldn’t need a separate list and surcharge for it. But Piper didn’t make very many of them, and the ones that are out there are selling for $40,000 more than an equivalent Lance for those very reasons.