Revcounter 399: High Flyer
Should you reach for the sky? Maybe not
There’s a 1970 C3 Corvette in the shed at Chateau Guido at the moment. However it’s not mine, but the property of daughter number 1 and her sometimes baffled new husband. We’re minding it while they build their own shed, which (I’m delighted to report) will be big enough to move in to when spouse Ms M Snr finally works out what I’m really like.
Back to the Chevrolet. It’s a nice thing: British racing green, a light tan interior, with a 350 in the snout bolted up to an auto. It’s the last of the chrome bumpers and cost – if I remember right – about $40k. Just as an aside, they decided to spend the dough on this, rather than on the wedding, which I think you’ll agree is a far better use of money.
And speaking of using money, as I view the deeply-wounded personal bank account, I can’t help but wonder if I ever spend my hard-earned wisely. Like many of you, I have a few cars and bikes floating around, but have long been tempted to buy an aircraft. Have flown them for years, but never made that big financial leap.
Back in 1970, that Corvette would have set you back around US$6000 on the road, compared to US$14,000 for a Piper Cherokee/Warrior (the aircraft in the pic) of the same year. At the moment, a really good used Piper (with fresh engine and prop) of that age will cost around $70,000. So you could argue there hasn’t been a monumental shift in relative values.
But here’s the catch, the plane costs an absolute bomb to run. Think a minimum of $200 an hour if you own it, more if you hire it. Every 2000 hours, you’re up for somewhere in the region of $30k for a major engine and prop rebuild. And then there’s the rooting about.
The car? Easy. Sign the log book, turn the key and (hopefully) it goes. The plane? Plan the trip the night before. On the joyous day you put the notifications in, check out the aircraft (this is all after you’ve had to drive to the airport!), then finally, after a quick chat with the tower, you’re away. Assuming the weather is good. For most of us, lots of low cloud means lots of standing around on the ground and talking about the weather.
To be fair, the rewards of flying are great, but they’d want to be, given that you’re just tearing up money. Yes, there are collectible aircraft, but they’re mostly financially out of reach of us mere mortals. In some respects the situation is worse when you look at the new equivalents. A 2017 Corvette will set you back around US$60k on the road at the moment, while a basic Piper is heading closer to the US$300k mark. Ouch.
So if you ever look up at a passing aircraft with more than a tinge of envy, don’t feel too bad. There’s a chance you’re having more fun, for a whole lot less money. Of course one decent lottery win will see me beating down the door or the nearest plane dealer...
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