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Buying a family plane?

My experience is that it’s more fun doing more with less, than less with more. The practicalities of poorly managed airspace where applicable unfortunately do throw a spanner in the works of that model, making ‘more’ mandatory whether it’s really necessary or not.

Ignoring airspace issues, because in the following case there were none, I used to work for a guy who used a Cessna 320 for the sole purpose of a 120 nm out/same back flight about once a month, with two on board. The main reason for the twin Cessna was that his wife didn’t like flying in single. I think a big part of his pleasure was in maintaining the beast, he loved it, but I’m not sure if the up and down in rapid succession flying was all that fun.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 27 Apr 17:46

RobertL18C wrote:

@Antonio am trying to understand the % delta on your calculation? Isn’t 375/300 25%?

I agree my explanation was not very clear: I meant that if you travel twice the distance in the same amount of time, then the territory available for your family excursions is a circle of twice the radius. That is four times as much territory or a 300% increase in available places to go.
I have also factored that a 50% increase in cruise speed results in an increase in distance travelled in three hours of say around 35-40%.

LESB, Spain

Silvaire wrote:

My experience is that it’s more fun doing more with less, than less with more.

This is so true. It’s the hard challenges that one still talks about 5 years later not the easy ones. But I believe it applies only to a minority and most people will opt for the overkill solution. Just look at people’s car choices. I took a VW Polo for a road (more or less) trip through Namibia while half of my hometown needs a 4×4 to buy a pack of cigarettes from the machine next door…

EDQH, Germany

I guess with the 2+3 requirement anything less than a 6 seater is buying too small, with all the consequences this will have.

So realistically that means Cherokee6, Saratoga, Lance or C210. or certain Comanches.

Looking at the prices those planes fetch these days, one has to wonder whether a Seneca II/III or for the required range even a good I will do the job as well, with added safety due to the 2nd engine and the same cabin than the Cherokee 6/Saratoga/Lance.

Seneca I’s are generally low performers, BUT they will do the job of a Cherokee 6 slightly faster and with an average range of about 500 NM. Particularly over the North Sea and similar stretches of water, the mediocre single engine performace does not really matter. They are below 2000 kg as a standard and have very uncritical engines. If 300-500 NM is the standart mission, they would provide twin engine safety for comparitively small money. Fair Seneca I’s are available from 50 k up.

My favorite Senecas are II and III. LR tanks and Turbos will do most travelling really well. And, with the STC, they are 1999 kg. For carrying a family of 5, I could not think what plane in that price range would do better.

LSZH, Switzerland

Peter wrote:

One needs to think about what will deliver real value, relative to driving which – in Germany, where the OP lives – is not only fairly workable but also a huge national/cultural institution. Small kids don’t usually care much about the travel bit, and neither do most wives spouses, but everybody loves the mountains

An important point, easily overlooked. In Germany the Autobahn network is fairly dense and about 50% of it has no speed limit (de facto, construction and traffic congestion do limit the possible cruise speed further). Still, say you want to go from Hannover to the Bavarian Alps, in keeping with @Peter saying “everyboy loves the mountains”. I randomly selected Bad Hindelang as a destination, a small touristy village in the Allgäu Alps very suitable for family vacations in the mountains.

Putting this route in a common search engine gives us this:

Now let’s think about the same route by plane. The nearest airports to the start and destination would be

Hannover EDDV to Kempten-Durach EDMK. According to the distance is 287 nm. Let’s ignore airspace for this purpose and assume that can be flown in a straight line. Let’s also ignore landing and takeoff and say we can calculate the duration of the flight by simply dividing this distance by the cruise speed of our example airplanes. I used the speeds by @antonio from this post :

“Standard car” 661 km / 120 km/h = 5h 38 min (see above)

C172/PA28 287 nm / 110 kts = 2h 36 min

PA 32/ PA28R 287 nm / 135 kts = 2h 8 min

TB 20 287 nm / 145 kts = 1 h 59 min

PA34 / Beech 35/36 / C210 287 nm/160 kts = 1h 48 min

T/P 210 / PA-46 etc. 287 nm/190 kts = 1h 31 min

So we can deduce that, obviously, even the slow planes are easily twice as fast as the car. BUT let’s not forget that we need to get from our house to the airport and from the airport to our destination (hotel / holiday home / etc.), times which are already included in the car figure of 5h 38 min. Also, we need to put our family and baggage inside a car / taxi / public transport from home to the airport, then put everything into the plane, prepare the plane for takeoff etc., which will cost extra time. And the same thing in reverse at the destination. Time at the airports can easily add 30 mins on both ends of the trips, so 1h in total to all travel times.

Then, we still need to get to the destination. The same map tool (bing) I used for the car trip says that the trip to and from the airport takes about 25 mins on each end, assuming travel by taxi, so we add 50 mins to all travel times. Now we’re already at +1h 50 min for the journey by air.

This would give us

PA28/C172 2h 36 min + 1h 50 min = 4h 16 min. Still faster than the car and certainly more enjoyable, but the speed advantage is less pronounced than we would like.

Even the fastest planes at 190 kts are at 3h 21 min, as the +1h 50 min remains the same for them.

If we take the car, we also have the perfect tool to get around the holiday destination and carry extra baggage as necessary, further reducing the usefulness of journeying by air. So one really has to find destinations that are close to airfields and need a good way to get around at the destination, limit the luggage as far as possible and ideally choose destinations not easily reachable by car (e.g. islands). Only then does the advantage of the plane become pronounced enough to convince the typical unconvinced wife or child :)

Novice pilot
EDVM Hildesheim, Germany

Late to the party and didn’t read all. Not to spoil anyone’s ideas, only a breeze of realism: As someone who had the vision of flying with friends and family to vacation I must say that it causes additional stress that takes the fun out of it easily. Be aware I can reach some good destinations (LJPZ, LIPV, LDLO..) within an hour or two with a SEP, and it doesn’t work out often. Friends/cost sharing: forget it…to get 4 people to have time at a specific date is.very.difficult.

I came to the conclusion that emulating planned A-B airline style travel doesn’t work well in a SEP. Payload is the least issue. Planning/setting a fixed date, weather and booking hotels is the challenge.
A 5 hour car drive distance can take 3+ days in a SEP if there’s a stationary front looming. And, as you can read in @peter ‘s excellent article, flying IFR in a SEP doesn’t necessarily mean flying in IMC is a good idea.

Then add taking care of pax (especially young kids) and the involved logistics (packing, fueling, parking/securing) which quickly turn into a full time travel/tour guide/pilot “job”, and combined with the worries if everything will work out, especially the frantic weather checking, become dull soon.

If you can afford to burn the fuel and bear the (maintenance) cost of such planes without limiting any other areas of your life go for it. If not, get the plane you can afford to fly and maintain, and fly for your own enjoyment.

I have a family with young kids and I understand the desire to combine the flying hobby with family time, but I prefer to fly and do something good for myself, being responsible only for myself and not managing a what quickly becomes complex operation. I’ll probably pick one or two kids at a time at some point and spend a week touring, but it’ll be totally flexible and without any fixed itinerary.

It certainly is doable to fly a Saratoga from Northern Germany to Croatia, and it’s a wonderful thing to do if it works out, but if you do it only once a year and the rest of the time you barely manage to find a second person to fly with due to work/time constraints, or have to cancel due to WX not working out, it might not be worth it. Better spend less, work less and have the additional time to spend a week every now and then flying for your own enjoyment.

Or go all in and go the pressurized or even turbine route. Will cost 2x as much per hour, but you’ll mostly fly, instead of bearing the cost for a big old 6 seater plane remaining parked in the hangar 2.5/3 times. There’s probably enough people and capital available on EuroGA to buy and operate a (insert any PT6 pressurized plane here) membership club type operation. Maybe we could agree on a new EuroGA logo though, you know, to put on the plane ;)

I know experiences vary, and some people can fly in IMC with a SEP and never hit a TCU or CB in summer afternoons, but I don’t consider myself to be so good, and I certainly won’t take chances when I have unsuspecting pax/loved ones aboard.

Airline/Mentor/Safety/Instructor - Pilot
Based Austria | Operating Worldwide

I have to say that @Snoopy has a valid point.

A lot of people have found out way too late that their families do not share the idea of flying in a small plane. So quite obviously, the way to address this is to try it out first in rentals.

A project like a family plane needs to be backed by the family 100%, it needs to be a common project, not “my husband’s hobby”. Otherwise, @Snoopy is very right, you can go for a much cheaper 2-3 seater and fly for yourself. But more likely, if the family really does not want, that is a bad idea as well, as you won’t get the time to fly and moreover those “eyes” which make you feel guilty once you are home. I would estimate that a fair percentage (imho 60-80%) of those who drop out and stop flying do so because of spouse discontent and resentment.

However, if the family likes it, and there are such examples around, then they will like to fly in a bit of comfort and style, particularly if a 5 head family is concerned. This means they can take all the bags they can legally take to a scheduled service and sit in relative comfort. 3 kids need to be kept busy and calm too. Oxygen is not a thing kids will take kindly and some wifes neither, so you need to stay in breathable altitudes or go pressurized.

Families will want to do fun things, they will want to get something out of flying as much as driving. Knowing the German Autobahns more than I would like, I still think flying is much less stressful and probably also less dangerous in many cases. And you have to be a bit of a salesman towards them to sell them on the idea of a family vehicle with wings.

Another bit, which is not an issue with @Medewok but may well be with others is the change of spouses attitude towards risk when children are introduced to the family. I know quite a few examples of wifes who used to love to fly along but strictly refused to expose their children to flying, out of a totally different attitude to risk. In the end, this is the worst situation, as even extensive discussions and talks beforehand won’t help when instinct takes over.

So ideally, find a way to try out airplanes you like WITH your family but certianly with your spouse. As I said before, I know a guy from Hamburg who has bought a C210 and now flies a twin Cessna with his family quite a lot .

LSZH, Switzerland

MedEwok wrote:

This would give us

PA28/C172 2h 36 min + 1h 50 min = 4h 16 min. Still faster than the car and certainly more enjoyable, but the speed advantage is less pronounced than we would like.

As much as we love airplanes in this forum, I believe that being realistic a car has a few advantages that are almost impossible to beat with any “normal” SEP:

  • Dispatch rate is 99.99%. And for those 0.01% of cases where a car won’t do the job, the weather must be so bad that one better stay at home anyway. With a typical SEP (C172/PA28), your dispatch rate is too low to be reliable for any meaningful trip. One needs a plan B transport solution if one actually needs to get somewhere, realistically.
  • The car serves dual transport function: not only does it get you to your destination, it also becomes the transport you use AT your destination. You can fly a SEP to a “big” airport where a car hire can be arranged, and also spend a fortune on handling/parking; or you can go to a “small” airfield where possibly no car hire can be arranged but you’ll depend on taxis to get you to your destination, often up to 1h away, costing you another small fortune.
  • Time spent planning a drive is a non-issue. Planning a longer trip in a SEP takes many combined hours of preparation, also one has to start looking at things like routes and weather days ahed of the trip. One may spend more time planning HOW to get there, than actually planning WHAT to do once there. After all the BEING THERE is what our family/friends care about most, not the GETTING THERE.

I would say flying starts to make sense (actual sense, not “let’s fly because we love flying” sense) when compared to driving; all things considered; when the drive is so long that it would take more than one full day of driving, let’s say 10 hours. Flying also makes sense when there are water crossings involved. So flying from Southern England to Northern France or from Southern Spain to Northern Africa may make A LOT of sense, not only time-wise, but it may even be more cost effective because ferries/EuroTunnel are not particularly cheap.

But let’s be realistic, when you plan a trip you’re thinking of the big picture: how many days will I be travelling to/from places, how many full days will I have at my destination etc. In these terms, the difference between 4h and 6h is irrelevant. Both take one full morning or one full afternoon.

Last Edited by Alpha_Floor at 28 Apr 23:18
United Kingdom

Alpha_Floor wrote:

I would say flying starts to make sense (actual sense, not “let’s fly because we love flying” sense) when compared to driving; all things considered; when the drive is so long that it would take more than one full day of driving, let’s say 10 hours. Flying also makes sense when there are water crossings involved.

The same goes in alpine territory or even alongside alpine territory.

My most used example is my regular visits to Salzburg from Zurich. With my plane it is a 1-20 minutes flight. With the car it is at least 4 hours, often more. So I can realistically and relaxed fly this as a day trip and have, at least in Summer, quite some time available there, whereby with a car it would be a very hard trip to do.

Similar example is to go Zurich to the Ticino, which in my plane is usually a 30-40 mins exercise flight time. In summer, and particularly on certain holidays, it may take a Looong time standing in a traffic jam.

Even a relatively benign trip to Neuchatel from Zurich turned out to be well worth doing by air: 25 minutes flight time per way as opposed to about 3 hours by car.

LSZH, Switzerland

On the comparison between car and GA plane, I agree with what has been said earlier:
In a country like Germany or even France, for a the majority of destinations, car will be better or even train in quite a few instances. In a country like Norway, GA if the weather is decent can make a huge difference: Trondheim to Bodø by car, you start early in the morning and arrive late in the evening (like 23.00), by plane it’s around 2h30 minutes… We are looking into going to visit the aviation museum in Bodø with the C185 from Trondheim as a day trip (ie start from Trondheim, fly to Bodø, visit the museum, fly back to Trondheim all the same day). By car you would need 3 days…
GA plane gets quite interesting compared to car in terms of time for longer distances. But that requires to have everyone who joins willing to take longer trip by plane…

ENVA, Norway
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