We all want to own our own planes someday. If pressed many of our members would probably confess to that very desire. In fact, many of our members do move on to sole ownership (or a smaller partnership) after gaining much valuable experience at PFC. But most of us are probably unprepared for the demands of sole ownership.
First, there are the financial realities. Obviously acquiring an aircraft is a significant financial outlay. And then, there are the unavoidable fixed costs—the costs of an annual inspection, insurance, and tie downs, just to mention the obvious examples. Then there is maintenance, both routine and unforeseen. And if you want to keep the aircraft flying for the long term, you have to plan for the inevitable—engine overhaul at TBO, avionics upgrades/replacements, etc. Divide that by the relatively small number of hours many of us can devote to flying, and the cost-per-hour becomes astronomical. In fact, we were saddened but not particularly surprised to learn in a recent Aviation Consumer article that some small partnerships choose to sacrifice long-run reliability of their aircraft in order to lower their hourly rates.
Add to that the actual effort involved in maintaining an aircraft. We need to shop for insurance. Each squawk needs to be identified, investigated and repaired. Relationships have to be built with reputable and reliable mechanics. IFR legal GPSs have to be updated every 28 days. Annuals and other service have to be arranged, and the aircraft delivered to the maintenance shop. We need to investigate new technologies as they become available (WAAS, ELTs, in-flight weather, ADS-B, etc.). And we need to constantly worry about making sure that our aircraft is both safe and legal.
It’s enough to drive anyone batty. (In fact, many of our members are “recovering sole owners.”)
At PFC, both the financial and labor demands of aircraft ownership are shared among equal partners. We all contribute to the task of maintaining our fleet. New members quickly learn from the knowledge and experience of our older members. Some members have acquired a great deal of expertise in a particular area of aircraft ownership, and they are eager to share their knowledge with the membership. In addition, we can draw upon a large network of alumni, many of whom have moved on to owning their own aircraft. So even if you see yourself owning your own aircraft in a few years, PFC is a great place to learn the ins-and-outs of ownership.
In addition, having access to multiple aircraft improves dispatch reliability significantly. If one airplane needs to be taken off-line for service, there are still other aircraft available to serve the needs of our membership. In fact, several of our members own an aircraft, but choose to stay on precisely because they like the option of having access to club aircraft when their own aircraft is unavailable.