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Is ownership worth it?

Some may have seen my recent posts that I just acquired my first airplane a few months ago, a 1980 Socata TB-10. I originally got my pilot’s license in the US in 2000, followed by my IR in 2002, moved to the Netherlands in 2017 and finally completed the EASA PPL conversion last year. I am currently in process of the IR conversion. I’d been thinking about buying an airplane for many years, but for a variety of reasons had never taken the plunge.

Last year I started thinking about it again in earnest, and tried my best to imagine what kind of flying I would do if I could just drive to the field at any time and pick up the airplane, or not have to worry about per day costs if I want to travel somewhere for an extended period. Initially I had my eye on a high performance retract (looking at TB-20s, Bonanzas, etc.), but decided that I should keep it simple for my first airplane and see how it goes. After much research I decided I wanted a 5-seat TB-10 with an autopilot and set out in search of one.

For months I looked at every TB-10 that appeared on the usual sites, and few had the combination of low to mid-time engine (I didn’t want to deal with an OH out of the gate) and 5 seats with autopilot. In the end I settled on one located in Romania with a low time engine overhauled in 2016, but in need of paint, an avionics upgrade, and a few deferred maintenance items. After arranging an inspection and negotiating the sale, I flew her back at the end of February.

Now two and a half months later, the airplane has spent most of its time in the shop dealing with the various issues, plus adding a 530W and FlightStream 210. I made one short trip to Zeeland and another to Ameland, but otherwise I’ve flown less than I would have had I been renting at the club. Last week I went to pick up the plane after 6 weeks in the shop, and it was a train wreck of problems. Yesterday I finally flew it home, but I still have outstanding issues that will require me to return in a few weeks when the requisite parts arrive. I also know I’m facing 4-6 weeks of downtime for transferring to PH reg and 2 months or so for painting later this year. The paint is worse than I thought, so I’m sort of embarrassed about the condition, which hurts the whole “pride of ownership” bit.

I keep telling myself that once all this is sorted I’ll have a nice traveling machine that I’m proud of, and that it will all be worth it. I had anticipated that this would not be a cheap project, and that part is frankly not a big deal as I have bought well within a comfortable budget. But I had not foreseen how much downtime would be involved, and I’m really hoping this is just the up front tax of buying an older airplane in need of work. I’d love to hear from other more experienced owners on this topic. Do I need to prepare myself for regular downtime, or is it normal to deal with this in the first year?

EHRD, Netherlands

hi dutch_flyer

One thing about aircraft acquisition is to have a proper pre-buy inspection made. Not sure how the inspection was made on yours, but it should have helped to assess the needs of your future pride and joy in costs and downtime.
On the other hand, once all the mods/repairs will be done, you will have a nice flying machine, tailored to you. The TB-10 ought to be a pretty reliable mount, and you can expect only little downtime, fingers crossed These will be mainly dependant as to how much you’ll be flying… on the TB-10 count a day downtime for a 50h, 2-3 days for a 100h or annual inspection.

Enjoy your bird!

PS
Is ownership worth it? IMHO you need to fly a minimum of 50h annually to make it worth owning your own aeroplane…

Last Edited by Dan at 08 May 09:46
ain't the Destination, but the Journey
LSZF, Switzerland

The frustrating bit is having good aircraft availability, it’s all 100% yours, even when it’s grounded or gone tech !

Some will say it’s part of the fun & pride, I am sure you will enjoy it when it’s back in the air

In rental, if aircraft is not available you have another one…

Last Edited by Ibra at 08 May 09:44
Paris/Essex, France/UK, United Kingdom

Hello there,

well, many people dread the “first annual” after purchase and with a reason. You on the other hand have taken on a project, that you knew would be a project. So I’d say it is quite normal what you experience, even though the times seem a bit long. But that can vary. Most important is that you are comfortably within your budget still.

Once this is all sorted, things should improve massively. I own a 1965 Mooney. It’s usual down time is very limited: 2 days for the Annual, 1 day for a 50 hrs check (if necessary) and in the average one week for unforseen things per year. I own it since 2010. I’ve had two major downtimes: Engine overhaul (about 6 weeks) and major Avionic upgrade (2 months). Other than that, we hardly ever had more than the prescribed downtime. It can happen sometimes that parts need sourcing which you did not expect: therefore I plan a week for the annual to get some leeway.

A lot hangs on how you plan your maintenance. Me, I try to put it in Winter or other times I know i won’t fly much. If you also keep a good watch and pre-order parts you will need (i.e you know that a part is going to need replacing in the next annual but not just now) helps tremendously as sourcing parts can be time consuming.

You might want to consider putting of the painting until next winter for instance or to see if a good polishing doesn’t do wonders. I did that a few years back and looking at the pictures of your plane, I would strongly consider a good polish plus micro-sealing the paint, both of which can be done in a day. So you get the use in summer and can get the plane sorted in the months of murk and slush, when you don’t fly anyway much. Same goes for non-essential maintenance which is everything you don’t need to do NOW but only when it is convenient. How urgent is the transfer to PH? Plan it together with the repaint? Can it last until you don’t need the plane for a while and why does it take that long? EASA to EASA?

Other than that, downtimes should not be excessive. Once you get the plane to where you want it to be, maintenance should be routine and plannable.

Have fun. I certainly never have looked back. If I was not an owner, I would have stopped flying a long time ago. Having the plane still is my major motivation to keep going despite many roadblocks I’ve had outside of aviation in recent years.

Last Edited by Mooney_Driver at 08 May 10:04
LSZH(work) LSZF (GA base), Switzerland

I bought my plane in October last year. It had all avionics I wanted already installed – lacking only an advanced autopilot, which I may or may not install whenever I find what I am looking for. I would not have bought the plane without avionics.

I had 4 days of downtime, incredibly short, when local authorities made the change in registration. Thumbs up for the LBA in Germany.

I had not a single major issue so far, and had it available practically any day. There are minor issues which I am aware of, but nothing preventing flight.

Now I’ll be starting first annual inspection soon, but no surprises here.

As always it depends on the plans. My highest priority was not to have any sleeping dragon in maintenance. However, I think I’ve been lucky too, so far.

Germany

Ownership is definitely worth every penny

Let’s list some advantages of ownership (syndicate or outright):

  • You know who else has been messing with it
  • Can go on longer trips e.g. abroad, without silly minimum daily billing requirements
  • Can get a much more capable aircraft
  • Can get an aircraft which is not commonly available on self fly hire
  • Marginal (hourly) cost is the lowest possible (maximises currency incentives)
  • No money going to somebody else’s profit
  • Maintenance can be done to your standards
  • You can keep all your junk in there (liferafts, headsets, etc)
  • Anything else?

The downside is the commitment, of course, but there is no free lunch in life.

Most renters chuck flying in pretty quickly. Renting has the highest marginal (hourly) cost and thus the greatest disincentive to currency. I know – I did it for a year. And most syndicates suffer from a range of problems.

Congratulations from another TB owner

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Coming up on 4 years ownership for me and it has been an absolute disaster from start to finish. Now I have 0h SMOH on engine and prop, and airframe in tip top shape and all systems working, so let’s see what can go wrong from here on out! If I were to sell I’d just pack in flying as going back to renting a 172 by the hour for an A to A flight holds no appeal for me.

EIMH, Ireland

This is really sad to read. I do however think that an analysis of what and why would be really useful to others here.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

To give OP a bit of perspective, I had a disastrous year of renting aircraft: I had a familiarisation with the PA-28 in spring last year, in the middle of the first wave of Covid, and thought things were finally looking up. Did two solo flighs with it thereafter, nothing spectacular but at least I took my father flying for the first time since getting the license.

Then, despite working hard to create some free time in my busy schedule of being a full-time university hospital doctor + husband and father of two, I never managed to fly again in 2020 after June. I had booked an aircraft for at least once a month in that period, but the school cancelled all my booking either because of “bad weather” or their aircraft being grounded for technical reasons. Last month, my patience finally ran out when I drove to the airfield on a CAVOK day, only to be told that – once again – all three aircraft I was qualified to fly were simultaneously grounded and – oh, they forgot to tell me before I drove 30 minutes to the airport. Great.

Now I am in the process of switching schools, but I was trying to illustrate that renting has it’s downsides too – and many of them – and if I had no financial disincentives to do so, I would always want to buy and own (though it’s not really a sensible decision for a low-time pilot like me)

Low-hours pilot
EDVM Hildesheim, Germany

DeeCee57 wrote:

On the other hand, once all the mods/repairs will be done, you will have a nice flying machine, tailored to you. The TB-10 ought to be a pretty reliable mount, and you can expect only little downtime, fingers crossed These will be mainly dependant as to how much you’ll be flying… on the TB-10 count a day downtime for a 50h, 2-3 days for a 100h or annual inspection.

This is encouraging to hear. Thanks for the input!

Mooney_Driver wrote:

A lot hangs on how you plan your maintenance. Me, I try to put it in Winter or other times I know i won’t fly much. If you also keep a good watch and pre-order parts you will need (i.e you know that a part is going to need replacing in the next annual but not just now) helps tremendously as sourcing parts can be time consuming.

This is good advice re: the parts and timing. Fortunately the current annual inspection calendar occurs in winter. I also plan to do the paint and reg transfer in the winter so I can fly for a while.

Mooney_Driver wrote:

How urgent is the transfer to PH? Plan it together with the repaint? Can it last until you don’t need the plane for a while and why does it take that long? EASA to EASA?

It’s not urgent, and in theory I’d like to handle it at the same time. Problem is I can’t find a good shop that anyone recommends in NL for the paint. Word on the street here is to go to Termikas in Lithuania for a first-rate job at the cost of a crappy job in N Europe. If I do that I won’t be able to do the two concurrently. As to why it takes so long, my understanding is that it’s related to having to wait for the de-reg process in Romania before I can start the registration here, during which time the airplane is not airworthy.

Peter wrote:

Most renters chuck flying in pretty quickly. Renting has the highest marginal (hourly) cost and thus the greatest disincentive to currency. I know – I did it for a year.

I stuck with renting for a long time, and made it interesting by flying a bunch of different types, often getting checked out in the “weird” aircraft that others eschewed because of the extra cost or checkout required. This tended to help availability a bit at least, and definitely gave me an opinion on what I want in an airplane, since I’ve flown many more types than the typical Cessna/Piper club fare.

UdoR wrote:

It had all avionics I wanted already installed – lacking only an advanced autopilot, which I may or may not install whenever I find what I am looking for. I would not have bought the plane without avionics.

I would have preferred this for sure, but unfortunately could not find it. Ultimately I decided that it must have a low-time, recently overhauled engine, 5 seats, and an autopilot, because those items were either impossible to retrofit or extremely costly with little ROI. Avionics turned out to be much more expensive in install cost than I had anticipated, and I realized you can end up in a similar situation to remodeling your house because you bought a new sofa. So I kept it reasonable by putting in the 530 (which I still prefer to the GTN) and FlightStream, and then just fly for a while before deciding whether to do anything else. Having flown behind just about every type of panel (including GTN750 + G3X), I’m quite happy with my choice at the moment, even if it did take a ridiculous amount of time to do the install. Pretty sure with my electronics experience I could have done it myself in a few days if I had the wiring diagrams.

zuutroy wrote:

Coming up on 4 years ownership for me and it has been an absolute disaster from start to finish.

I sure hope it’s not 4 years for me! Please do elaborate if you don’t mind…

EHRD, Netherlands
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