Aeronca 7AC

Recently I’ve read a few aviation blogs that suggest hangars are in short supply. Based on my observations over the past several years, I would tend to agree with that statement. What is interesting to me however, is the fact that at several of the general aviation airports I’ve visited, many hangars are filled with “hangar queens.”

The reasons for this are many and range from financial, health, loss of interest, airworthiness directives, maintenance issues, or all of the aforementioned lumped together. Without trying to be sarcastic, I’ll take it a step further and submit that those airports with all of the hangar queens mostly resemble ghost towns. Now I know what you’re thinking: this guy is off his rocker. Hey, go check it out for yourself and report back. I’d be curious to find out what your observations yielded.

New hangar

A lot of hangars are full—but do the airplanes inside fly?

So how does this fit into what I’m talking about? No hangars are available because many are inhabited by aircraft that are no longer airworthy. Were they parked there by their owners because they can no longer afford the insurance premium? How about the cost of 100LL, or the cost of AD compliance, or the cost of an annual inspection? Or perhaps the owner had a health event or just no longer feels competent to fly alone? Lest we forget, maybe the cost of installing ADS-B Out was too prohibitive? Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to finding the answer to that question.

One thing’s for sure: it certainly does take a chunk of change to maintain, fuel, insure, and hangar an aircraft in today’s world. Never mind the cost of acquisition either. To try to understand, how about we take a sentimental journey for a spell. Okay, I get it, I’m over 65 and us old duffers like to reminisce every now and again. So just humor me and follow along; I really am going somewhere with this.

Before stepping inside of the red phone booth and traveling back in time, please allow me to get the following off my chest before moving forward, or should I say time traveling. Specifically, the target of my frustration happens to be a major aviation periodical that is provided to its membership as a value added benefit in exchange for payment of annual dues. Honestly, it’s an outstanding publication with awesome photography and well written feature articles.

My gripe is the cover. Yes, you read that correctly—the cover. Almost without exception, month after month, the featured “cover aircraft” is either a very expensive turboprop or an even more expensive jet, the likes of which I couldn’t in my wildest of dreams even think about owning, much less operating and maintaining. I did reasonably well in my career, but those aircraft are way outside of the realm of possibility, not only for me, but for most folks I know or even have known. From my simple perspective it’s just not real world, and it sure as heck isn’t the general aviation that I’ve come to know and love. So what is you ask? Glad you asked, so let me tell you! And while I’m at it I’ll try to explain where I think it currently is, where it’s going, and how it correlates to the title of this article.

Being in the throes of my second career (as a CFI), I’ve given considerable thought to the notion of perhaps purchasing a training aircraft and striking out on my own. I’m not exactly sure what happened, but it wasn’t all that long ago that a reasonably well-equipped Cessna 172M through P model could be had for somewhere in the neighborhood of $50K to $75K. Nothing too fancy, 5 to 8 on paint and interior along with a mid-time engine and steam gauge panel.

Well I’ll tell you what, just go and pull up Trade-A-Plane online and take a look at some of the prices for these aircraft. Most I found are well above my previously mentioned price range, and with run-out engines to boot. Upon further investigation you’ll find that the Piper PA-28 series of aircraft are in a similarly inflated status. After making myself throughly depressed, that line of thinking was ultimately abandoned.

Mechanic working on airplane

Buying the airplane is just the start. Then you have to maintain it.

The truth of the matter is, regardless of whether you intend to teach or just use it to punch holes in the sky, the cost of ownership is becoming a tough pill to swallow. So let’s let our imaginations run wild for a few minutes and assume we were able to swing the purchase of a 1985 Cessna 172P. Mind you, this aircraft is only a paltry 36 years old! As I write this, the first one I found on TAP had an asking price of $165,000. It’s touted as having a new interior and a decent avionics suite, but on the other hand the engine is near TBO. I don’t know, but it sure sounds to me like I just missed the last train out of Clarksville.

Okay, so let’s continue our dream. We’re now the proud owners of a 36-year-old Cessna 172. Now assuming that y’all are the savvy aircraft owners that I know you are, you’ve probably already taken care of the room and board requirements for your new acquisition. Were you able to find a hangar, or did you have to resort to a tie down outside on the ramp? If by chance you were able to find one, my bet is that it might be a shared space for a number somewhat north of $250 a month. In my part of the world (Colorado), you can figure about double that.

Oh geez, did you remember to contact your aircraft insurance agent? Subject to usage requirements and depending on how much time you have in your logbook, be prepared for another dose of sticker shock.

Hey folks, I’m really not a perpetual pessimist, but I’ve got to tell you—I’m not done yet. In checking AirNav today, the national average price for a gallon of 100LL is currently $5.09. Holy cow, here we go again! So let’s do the math on the 172’s fuel cost and see where that takes us. Assuming a burn rate of 8 gallons per hour, a 40 gallon purchase at $5.00 per gallon will set you back $200 for five hours of flying or about 1.5 hours a week. I think for most of us, reality dictates at least double that time, if not triple.

Pulling the handle down on my old Victor adding machine, I’m seeing close to $1000 a month, and that assumes no payment on the 172 and a fully paid insurance premium. Had that not been the case, I think it would be fair (depending on down payment) to add another $1200 to $1500 to that already crushing total. So where does that leave us? We will still have some expenses that are incidental to aircraft ownership like tires, brakes, oil, and general maintenance. Now it’s time for a drum roll, as I’ve saved the best for last. My very favorite time of the year: annual inspection. In my 16 years of aircraft ownership I’ve had “owner assist” annuals that only cost me $500, and I’ve had a very expensive “shop annual” that was over $10,000! To be truthful, that $10K annual only happened one time; thank goodness because I don’t think I could have swallowed too many more of those.

The price assessment mentioned above may not necessarily be representative of the cost of ownership for everyone out there in the world of general aviation, but having been there myself, I know for a fact that I’m not too far off the mark. Let’s face it, as stated earlier it costs a lot of money to fly today. Factor into that the costs of housing, vehicles, food, raising children, college, and it’s no small wonder we’re seeing ghost town airports and hangars loaded with inactive aircraft. Honestly, it’s really enough to make a grown-up cry.

Oh, by the way, while I was busy ranting about prices and such we never did take that walk back in time. I see time travel as the answer here. No, I’m not nuts, just bear with me a bit longer. There are quite literally a fair to middling smattering of old birds out there to be had. Vintage birds like Taylorcrafts, Luscombes, Aeroncas, Stinsons, Swifts, and more. Granted, many of them in my humble opinion are overpriced as well, but when you compare those prices to the previously mentioned prices, they are indeed a bargain. Not only that, they are a heck of a lot more fun to fly too, and cost a lot less to operate. Yes you will still need insurance, hangar or tie down, and annual inspection, but the total cost of ownership will definitely be much more digestible.

Aeronca 7AC

Vintage airplanes like the Aeronca Champ may be the best option in today’s expensive world.

I’ve actually even considered going the E-LSA route, but in the end I think one may be mucho dollars ahead going the vintage aircraft route. If you have a mission that justifies the cost of a larger and more capable GA aircraft that’s great. But for most of us, the lion’s share of what we fondly refer to as general aviation, we’ve got to figure out a way to continue onward as Bonafide Member Extraordinaries of this exclusive and very special club. If we can no longer afford to purchase a membership ticket, our flying dreams and aspirations will eventually all head West.

Having said that, I’d like to leave you with these parting thoughts:

“I still love to dream of days of old, with my dad’s Taylorcraft sitting peacefully on the grass, adorned in blue and gold. What a feeling, I’ll never forget, when the tail came up and I watched the ground we just left. That old bird hummed and strummed and made the music of Heaven above. Oh how I hope one day that she will once again return to me and play. Now that I am old but no longer so bold, the need to fly is such, I must admit I need it much.”

To all my pilot friends out there, my wish is to meet you all again up there. And by the way, there’s a reason I never made a living writing poetry.

Tom Slavonik
Latest posts by Tom Slavonik (see all)
62 replies
  1. Roger Hamilton
    Roger Hamilton says:

    Having suffered through a brutally hot summer it was refreshing last weekend to head to the local GA reliever airport for KSLC for some nice Fall weather flight time. I was met with rows of locked up hangar doors, zero activity with the exception of a couple of student pilots doing pattern work.

    I’ve always wondered why the airport, chock full of well-kept aircraft always seems to be closer to a morgue than a thriving hub of activity, but this past weekend really drove home the point that something is amiss.

    For all the excitement and pure joy of an annual visit to our GA mecca, Oshkosh, sadly I’m concerned that the day-to-day reality back home is GA, at least defined narrowly as fun flying on the weekends, has passed it’s prime either due to cost, complexity, or a general population that just doesn’t “get it” or care.

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Roger,

      Thanks for commenting on my article, I appreciate it. Yes, those rows of locked hangar doors are hard to look at. Best wishes to you.

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  2. David M Patton
    David M Patton says:

    DID I LOVE THIS ARTICLE…why?
    1. When I was starting my flight training and watching hundreds of aviation videos the message was all the same…aviation is affordable and fun and you don’t have to own a million-dollar jet to do so. And… aviation people are so friendly and accommodating and welcoming. WELL, as I earned my PPL, then my IFR, my Commercial, I kept noticing the grumpy men with arrogant attitudes, unfriendly folks at airports. I noticed the cover of AOPA magazine had the MOST unaffordable aircraft and avionics splattered through the magazine. AND never did any pilot, on rare occasions, offered to fly me in his airplane. And I’m a fairly friendly person and like to go up to people to talk… but soon realized the YOUTUBE version and the many articles about making aviation affordable and friendly was a facade. Don’t get me wrong, there are a few YOUTUBE folks out there that are genuinely nice and a few airports with friendly folks. But more times than many…grumpy people not waiting to greet or chat with anyone.

    2. Lazy airport managers that have no vested interest in changing anything. Allowing “hanger queens” to stay around and some even allowing a hanger as a storage facility. In fact, most GA airports look rather sad and depressing. Custom service lacks in all capacity at most of these airports.

    3. A lot of flight schools, you would think, should be filled with happy CFI’s that are gracious and thankful they fly for a living and are doing what supposedly they love to do. But most of the time the CFI’s are grumpy and have an attitude. It is almost as if they learn from a predecessor how to behave.

    4. The famous fly-ins we have in aviation have been mostly unwelcoming to my wife, a non-aviator and she has just been put off by the same observations. Enthusiastically I ask her to join me at a random pancake breakfast. We arrive only to be met by clicks and again, grumpy old men that are stand-offish.

    I have been noticing this for several years. What is going on here? Why is this the case? Is it that most aviators tend to be more mathematical and organized and it just happens to sort of attracting similar personalities? The personalities of an Accountant or IT professional with more introverted personalities? Who knows.

    Yes, I am complaining because I have very much so witnessed this at a multitude of airports spread across the country. Almost always the same. And yes, there are quite opposite airports and communities that are far few and between.

    I AM JUST SO GLAD I FINALLY READ ABOUT THIS IN AN ARTICLE AND CAN NOW FEEL SANE ABOUT THINKING LIKE THIS.

    I will however never stop loving aviation, wanting my own plane, and looking forward to the adventures…I’m just cautious now and keep the joy between my wife and me and my interested friends. I no longer have high expectations and feel at peace with what used to drive me nuts about the entire GA culture.

    Reply
    • DeWayne
      DeWayne says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more David. Far too many grumpy old men around. I too have tried to engage fellow aviators in conversation only to be met with half answers and disinterest.

      Reply
      • Ernest
        Ernest says:

        This is what I call “airman snobbery”. It has been going on for decades and has been a bane to aviation since I started learning to fly in 1965 up to this date.

        Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hello David,

      I appreciate your comments. There are many of us pilots that feel the same way. Like you I will never stop loving Aviation either. Hopefully things will one day change for the better.

      Regards,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  3. Hunter Heath
    Hunter Heath says:

    My last airplane was a 1946 Aeronca 11AC Chief, bought for $23,000. Turned out, it was overpriced, soon needing an engine overhaul, a re-overhaul, then new lift struts, tailwheel, seats, and tires. Then there were the conversion to a C-85 w/ starter, modern gascolator, Hooker safety harness, gas tank repair, new control cables, instrument replacements, etc., etc.– all done for safety and mission-readiness. The hangar was expensive but unusable for months in the winter due to ice buildup on the ramp and the hangar floor. All told, in 8 years, I put far more into the airplane than I paid for it, for well under 9 months a year of actual sunny day flying. Fortunately, I was able to meet the costs without strain, but most people could not. My attempt at inexpensive flying was a failure by any reasonable standard. To the article’s point, the modern, well-outfitted airport, with 2 well-maintained runways and nice FBO, was also ghostly quiet most of the time. I recall on many occasions spending 8 hrs in my hangar, working on the Chief, on CAVU/light wind days, and never hearing even one aircraft movement. The flying club may be the last workable way for non-rich people to fly certificated GA airplanes. Homebuilding is great, but the costs and practical issues there are more than most folks are able or willing to bear. The economic realities of s-LSAs have kept them from broad popularity. I think the stark reality is that personal flight and private plane ownership peaked a long time ago, and will increasingly be the province of relatively well-off aviation nuts like me.

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hi Hunter,

      Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it. I agree with your thoughts about flying clubs being a potential solution to this issue. AOPA has some good information available on how to get one started.

      Take care,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  4. Karrpilot
    Karrpilot says:

    As i was taxing off the runway at KFLY, saw a hangar full of vehicles getting worked on. Cars! There wasn’t one airplane in that hangar. At my home airport, there’s piper arrow that hasn’t moved or flown in at least 10 years. The owner refuses to sell it or fly it. He just pays the airport the monthly rental rate. This makes absolutely no sense to me. Just about once a year i take a long distance VFR flight across 5 states. I purposely fly over little airports. Just incase i have to put down for any reason. Rarely, if ever, i encounter any hangar doors open, or other aircraft in the traffic patterns. I don’t know what to make of this, but it certainly doesn’t bode well for general aviation. I mean, just what is the point of having an airplane, only to store it forever and never fly it? Those aircraft do not belong in a hangar. They belong in a thing called a museum.

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      aay
      Thanks for commenting on my article. I fly into KFLY fairy frequently and I’ve seen similar sights there. On the other hand it is a very busy airport. I’m amazed how much the place has grown over the past several years. Your comment about the Museum brought a smile to my face. Stay safe.

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
      • Karrpilot
        Karrpilot says:

        Tom, a good friend of mine bought out his partner in a Stearman. Then he bought a hangar to put it in. When I flew the rental 182 RG down to KGBG for the annual Stearman fly in event. He was there. Minus his airplane. I asked him what gives? Why no airplane? He said it has gotten too expensive to fly it any more. Ok, so he bought an airplane, bought a hangar, and then couldn’t afford to fly it? Did I miss something here? I fly rental aircraft more than most aircraft owners fly their own airplanes. And I certainly enjoy it a whole lot more. I might just be on to something with my dumb luck. As long as I keep up a good relationship with my FBO, they hand me the keys to an airplane. I fly it, and when I am done, I hand them my credit card. I get to fly. While others gripe about expenses.)

        Reply
        • Tom Slavonik
          Tom Slavonik says:

          Hello again. I had to chuckle after reading your note, as I literally had just finished watching a video about a guy that wrecked his Stearman in Texas. From the looks of it he apparently towed it to a parade but rather than tow it back home he decided to fly it off a 1300′ strip of pavement and ended up hitting a light pole – unbelievable! You can see the video on Juan Brown’s Blanc Olearo channel. Back to your note I think there’s something to be said about renting. The Cherokee 180 I teach in rents for $120/hr wet and $80/hr dry. It gets used all the time (about 100 hours a month). Pretty darn reasonable flying if I do say so myself!

          Take care,

          Tom

          Reply
  5. Ian Wilson
    Ian Wilson says:

    Thank you for such a candid and lucid article!

    At 63, I’m just beginning to follow my childhood dream of learning to fly. My wife and I have done very well with our careers. According to statistics, we are in the top 3% by earnings. The cost of flying is still daunting.

    My dream is to get my ticket and then look for a Cheetah or a Tiger. The waiting lists for hangers near my is ridiculous.

    I’ve gone through a few CFIs on my journey. The first was a retired airline captain whose idea of instruction was “Do this. Do that.” without ever explaining anything. Many seem to think teaching is a cheap way to get air time.

    I’m still pursuing my dream. I’ll have my ticket by the time I hit 64. I’ll figure out a way to keep flying until I can’t. Bring in the air is the second most fun thing in the world. OK, third… my grandkids are the second.

    Again, great article! Thanks for writing it. And, the poem was pretty cool.

    Ian

    Reply
    • Richard
      Richard says:

      Hi Ian…. the Tiger or Cheetah are great weekend flyers with enough speed and legs to do XC flights. How do I know? I have owned a Cheetah and now own a Tiger. I’m in Columbus, Oh. Where are you located?

      Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Ian,

      Thanks for sharing your story, and the positive feedback. Keep on pursuing your dream, you won’t ever regret it. For as many things we can find objectionable in Aviation there is so much more that makes it worthwhile. I couldn’t imagine my life without it.

      Best Regards,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  6. Dan Schiffer
    Dan Schiffer says:

    I believe this article paints with a much to broad brush and is in all respects over dramatized.
    I’ve owned and flown over 47 aircraft and helicopters…..it’s not like I’m a wall flower.
    Do GA a favor and find the good things that are current and amazing about aviation.
    Love aviation and the people I meet.

    Reply
    • Karrpilot
      Karrpilot says:

      I personally don’t think the writer has painted this issue with a broad brush. I think he’s spot on. Hanger doors closed, used as storage, airplanes that haven’t flown in years, etc.. This issue is country wide. Not just at one airport. One of the reasons I am a rental pilot. Yes, I can afford an airplane. No, I can’t find a hangar. Too many people not using their hangers for what they were made for.

      Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hey Dan,

      Thanks for posting your comments, I appreciate it. Sounds like you’ve had a great Aviation life! Not too many folks can say they’ve owned and flown 47 different aircraft.

      Regards,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  7. George
    George says:

    I was lucky to find a hangar at the prettiest airport in Connecticut, Goodspeed, some 20 minutes from my home.

    At 67, it takes a good chuck of my SS to maintain and fly my Cessna 150M… but I feel graced to be able to do it.

    I became one of only a few hundred Recreational Pilots just last month. Aviation‘a best kept secret.

    My understanding is many of the hangars here do not contain planes. Rather they’re used for storage. That’s sad and a great waste of needed space.

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hello George,

      Thanks for submitting your comments, I appreciate it. Congratulations on earning your Recreational Pilot Certificate! You are absolutely correct sir, it is indeed Aviation’s best kept secret.

      Best Wishes,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  8. Shane
    Shane says:

    The trends in GA are not good and getting worse. I’ve observed all that has been said at my home airport, low activity, scarcity of hangars due to storage of other stuff and planes that rarely fly. I’ve had success with partnerships as a good way to reduce ownership costs and with the right partner the benefits of a shared resolution of issues. The maintenance shop we had been using recently closed up as the building was sold to be demolished so a new jet center could be built. To me the threat of losing service on the field is a huge problem and hopefully the smaller shop remaining will be able to accommodate the increased business. I’ve been flying since 1969 and not ready yet to give it up but I realize circumstances may eventually dictate otherwise.

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Shane,

      Thanks much for your comments, I appreciate it. You’ve been flying a long time! Stay with it, I’m sure everything will work out. They can’t get rid of us old timers that easy.

      All the best,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  9. Don L Etchison
    Don L Etchison says:

    Great story, Tom. The price tag for having your own plane and flying it is truly shocking and getting more and more prohibitive for the average person. While I’m retire and can afford it, it still bothers me how expensive it is. General aviation must be reformed for the sport or pleasure pilot or there is no future. Young people can clearly not afford it and neither can many older retire people. The government mandates and insurance companies have a lot to do with the crazy expense of flying. The required annual need to be reformed to something more reasonable, say every two years or 100 hours. Many of the more liberal regulations for experimental aircraft should be allowed for old certified planes. As an example, I recently needed to replace the oil kidney sump on my C-85. New ones go for over $2000. Used ones on Ebay $300 to $1000. I found a beautiful new aluminum one on-line for $350 but it was listed as experimental only. There is no doubt that the best one at the best price was that one, but I was unable to put it on my plane due to regulations for certified aircraft. I ended up buying a sixty year old one that was double the price, but it was original. How absurd. It’s time for the regulators to assume some intelligence on the part of the pilot. We don’t need or want well meaning, but miss guided bureaucrats micro managing our lives with old planes.

    Reply
    • Duane Mader
      Duane Mader says:

      Many examples of that besides engine parts. Fuel quantity indicators, magnetos, flight instruments, nav & com radios etc.

      Reply
      • Tom Slavonik
        Tom Slavonik says:

        Hello Don,

        Thanks for sharing those great comments! If there’s one thing I’ve learned in Aviation, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and I agree. You have to be resourceful in order to keep everything affordable.

        Best Wishes,

        Tom Slavonik

        Reply
  10. James Olson
    James Olson says:

    I have halted my quest to earn my
    private pilots license, after monthly fees got to be to high when I was not
    flying, I may continue when I retire in a couple of years,

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      James,

      Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it. I hate to hear that you’ve halted your quest to earn your Private Pilot Certificate. Try to find a CFI that teaches because it is his/her passion as opposed to building time and/or making money. A good CFI may be able to hook you up with an affordable aircraft. I hope that you stay with it.

      Best Wishes,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  11. LarryGHowe
    LarryGHowe says:

    This article hit spot on. I worked hard and spent a lot of money to obtain my SP CFI WSCL and PPCL. Only to have to give up my dream of instructing in PPC’s and Trikes because of the rising cost of insurance in PPC and in Trikes there is no insurance available for instruction at any price. Aviation is becoming more and more a rich mans pass time and those of us in the middle class are systematically being booted to the sidelines.

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hello Larry,

      Thank you for commenting on my article. I agree with what you said about the rising costs of insurance. I don’t know too much about Trikes and PPC, but I’m sure it’s following the trends in fixed wing GA aircraft. Hopefully locating more competitive insurance providers will yield some positive results. Best wishes to you.

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  12. Sandy Munns
    Sandy Munns says:

    I’m only a couple years behind you in age and remember the cost of my Aeronca in the early ‘80s shortly after I got my license. I didn’t want much as a firefighter but that airplane was all I could affor. Then marriage, built a house, had a kid (and 3 dogs), career took off… and no flying for 28 yrs. Flash forward (different time machine) and I finally could afford to get back in. Bought a Beech Sundowner at what I thought was a bargain. Sunk about $90k into it not counting paint or interior (ugliest plane in the ramp). Can’t afford a hangar. Pension and 3 jobs pay for the plane, and that’s quite an expense. Owner assist annuals as $1200, $950 insurance, $1200/yr tiedown, LLC costs, and personal property insurance ($500/yr). And that’s before I fly. But I try to fly a lot and it breaks even or money abed on rental. And I have the freedom to fly where, when, how, and with whom I want. Just finished the Hayward Air Rally yesterday. Try that in a rental! Yes, GA is taking a hit. But look at what it costs for ski passes and equipment, jet skis, a Harley or Goldwing; those people who take cruises…name your passion. It costs them, too. I choose aviation until im too old. And CFI is my goal next year. Thanks for your support of GA. Im there with ya.

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hey Sandy,

      Thanks for submitting your insightful comments, I appreciate it. I owned a 1959 C-182B for 16 years. We made sacrifices such as driving older vehicles, and being somewhat frugal in terms of household expenses, all to make it easier to pay for hangar, 100LL,
      maintenance, insurance, etc. No Country Clubs either! It all depends on what’s important to you. Anyway, best of luck to you,

      Regards,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  13. arnold reiner
    arnold reiner says:

    What a sad piece. Makes me relish even more the simplicity and fun of learning to fly a J-3 Cub on a small grass strip in upstate New York in the 50s. Back then a student getting signed off for cross country flying meant you could navigate with a sectional chart and wet compass and understand light signals flashed to you from the control tower. And an hour of solo flying cost $6!
    (see A City Boy Learns to Fly in the Country, Air Facts May 4, 2017) )

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hi Arnold,

      Thanks for commenting on my article. Yes, I can still remember the “good old days.” In looking back it is a bit sad, but still we have to keep moving forward. In searching for the article you wrote (couldn’t locate it in the AFJ archives), I discovered your article “Flight to the Repose.” What an outstanding article, and as a former Marine it really touched me. You’ve got quite an impressive resume as well! Thanks for all you did in Nam, getting our Marines out of harms way. Best Wishes to you sir.

      Sincerely,

      Tom Slavonik
      Sgt, USMC, Former (1973-1979)

      Reply
  14. Stephen Phoenix
    Stephen Phoenix says:

    This must be a boiler plate article that gets reprinted about every 5 years with a different author. Any low volume activity that involves some complexity is going to cost a relatively large amount. Maybe the answer is the new home simulators. I hear that the Microsoft one is pretty good. With that and a few thousand dollars worth of computer gear, you’re in. You can fly a lot of different airplanes anywhere; with no additional expense. And you would be pleasing the SAFETY gods.

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Stephen,

      Thanks for your comments, I appreciate it. I agree, those “Sims” are certainly gaining quite a bit of traction these days, and the graphics are unbelievable. They’ve pretty cool and entertaining but at the end of the day nothing beats the real thing.

      Best Regards,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  15. William Heaphy
    William Heaphy says:

    Extremely well written article. What also bothers me is todays youth is fenced out of most existing airports. Visiting airports I haunted as a 10 year old is now very sad. Specifically the former Norfolk airport in Mass.. Lots of ex-WWII pilots with T-6 aircraft, a few sitting in the woods on 55 gallon barrels from gear up landings. The MIT Glider Club launching their gliders using a staked down 48 Packard with its rear wheels jacked up and the tow cable wrapped around a tireless wheel. After 35 years as a “cargo dog” I can say that those type airports were really my “roots”, Again, great article.

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hello William,

      Thanks for sharing the great feedback, I appreciate it. Those old airports we knew as kids were definitely very special places indeed. What I would do to take a trip back in time…

      All the best,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  16. Steven Horney
    Steven Horney says:

    Fortunately I live in an area where hangars are (slightly) more available, depending on the airport, and more reasonably priced. But all the other expenses are definitely there. Being part of a flying club has allowed me to fly a fair amount at a fairly moderate price, but I still plan to own my own plane in the not too distant future. Expenses definitely figure into that scenario, so I’m most likely to go the experimental route (and having a son who’s an A&P should be helpful). I think a lot of the issues mentioned in the article are behind the explosion in the popularity of ultralight flying. They’re not great cross-country machines, but if you just want to go aloft and enjoy the sky it’s tough to beat the price. The downside is you can’t take anyone with you…

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hi Steven,

      Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it. Yes, the Flying Club route is definitely a way to minimize costs. It may even be the long term solution to many of the issues we are currently experiencing. Good luck on building the Experimental Aircraft, that’s been a bucket list thing for me too.

      Take care,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  17. Richard Dorman
    Richard Dorman says:

    In my over 50 years of flying, I’ve sadly noticed a change. in people flying. When I was kid, we could always go to the airport and look at the planes. The same airport now is surrounded by fences and security gates. ID is required. I’m glad that as a kid I was able to learn to fly when so many older pilots encouraged me. I’ve tried to carry on the tradition with some success. I worked to pay for flying lessons as high school student. The ratio of cost of learning to fly today, is the same as in the 60’s and 70’s. 10 hours of labor for 1 hour of flying lessons. When my sons learned to fly; I bought a 172. The 172 hull insurance was cheaper than car insurance for them.
    The magazine articles have always been about expensive a/c and systems that those of us in “fly-over country” will never own. I own several older a/c. The hours to annual them takes more time than the hours I fly them a year. I try to carry on a memory to the many pilots who also enjoyed flying them over the many years.

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hello Richard,

      Thanks for submitting your comments, I enjoyed reading them. I’d love to hear more about all of your various airplanes. Feel free to email me at [email protected]. Best wishes to you!

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  18. R Peters
    R Peters says:

    I agree. In my last half of age 60s life, I often feel like the last of a generation who can privately fly and own a puddle jumper classic on a middle class income. Been involved since 1965 as an airport kid wandering the ramp. It has changed, with empty fenced ramps, lower pilot population and much lower activity. Without international students our local airport would have to close. Thank you to those gracious, humble, welcoming WWII pilots who swelled the numbers back then. Those who talk about positively about their experiences now often are people who earn their income from the industry and have a vested interest – or are comfortably above middle income and feel entitled without the passion for general aviation. Their solution is to throw money at it which raises the bar for us all. The industry has itself to blame by fencing off airports and making them aloof. Sad to say, the memory of Skyking dies with us.

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hello R Peters,

      Thanks for sharing those great comments, I couldn’t agree more! Wow, you really hit a chord with Sky King! I wonder how many young folks today even know about him, Penny and Songbird? Great memories indeed.

      Best Regards,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  19. Terry Karlson
    Terry Karlson says:

    I am the librarian for the Short Wing Piper Club. Would it be possible to get permission to reprint your article in the Short Wing News.

    Reply
  20. Steven Toby
    Steven Toby says:

    Excellent article, Tom. I wasn’t aware that so many hangars are filled with airplanes that are no longer airworthy but I’m well aware of the outrageous cost of flying. I also recognized the out of touch content of the magazines that focus on the latest avionics thing or multimillion dollar airplanes.
    But it’s not just economics. Before I got interested in flying, I really wanted to sail my own boat across the Atlantic. I owned 7 boats from high school to the brink of retirement and never did it. “Life happened” is correct but not the only explanation. I was middle aged when I saw an article in a boating magazine entitled “Deadend Key.” It was about a Caribbean harbor where hundreds of boats were berthed that would never sail again. Owners proved they could do what I never quite got myself together to do — they sailed from an East coast port to the Caribbean, intending to circumnavigate, but in the process discovered they didn’t want to cross oceans badly enough. For some it was quarrels among the crew. For others it was maintenance issues that were hard to solve without deep enough pockets to order parts from the mainland and even paying a technician to fly to the Caribbean to install them. For others the husband’s dream became a nightmare for the wife and both the marriage and the voyage ended.
    Flying is a little like boating. It requires that you, the practitioner, really want to do it very much. It involves risk. You have to tolerate a lot of annoying bureaucratic requirements and handle elaborate equipment that all has to work almost perfectly or you can’t complete the trip. The fact it’s expensive is the least of it — mostly it takes alert management, courage, and motivation. A person’s willingness to do all that decreases with age and eventually you get to Deadend Key and realize you’re done. Unless you have a supportive spouse or other family members, eventually you coast to a stop and realize it’s over.

    Reply
    • Rodney Cahow
      Rodney Cahow says:

      Dang old man, you made me cry! Why does it need to be this way, FOR ANY endeavor? It doesn’t. But you DO need that support of the ones who love you the most!!

      Reply
    • David Patton
      David Patton says:

      This is the very reason all of my frustrations about GA will not get in my way of living my dream. It is a risk for sure and one must definitely have the spouse on board. My wife, thankfully, is very supportive…not financially (half-joking), but encouraging. She believes at some point we need to enjoy our hobbies and what makes us happy and must not put it off too long.

      So despite all of the CONs in GA, the PROs for me are my personal quest and the dream of doing it with the wife and family.

      Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hi Steven,

      Thanks for sharing your very candid comments about sailing and it’s similarity to aviation. I think you are right on the money with what you wrote. A supportive spouse is certainly a key ingredient. Having experienced both ends of that spectrum I can definitely vouch for that. Your closing comment brought to mind one of my favorite movies, Animal House. Towards the end when Dean Wormer had all but shut down Delta House, good old John Belushi (aka “Bluto”) chimed in and exclaimed, “it ain’t over until we say it’s over!” In retrospect, pretty darn good advice.

      Take care,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  21. Nate D'Anna
    Nate D'Anna says:

    The article is accurate. After flying for 51 years and having owned 5 airplanes during that time, I have hung up my wings. All the costs mentioned in the article, increasing FAA equipment requirements (aka ADSB etc.) and increasing regulations, continuous ADs placed on vintage aircraft with the affiliated high cost of compliance, and insurance companies becoming stinkier by the day in denying coverage to older pilots regardless of their clean records and experience, it’s just not fun anymore. I never thought I’d see the day where my passion and addiction to flying would become a source of disappointment, aggravation and a financial drain giving me the reason to quit, but here I am. I’m just tired of fighting and have had enough. That being said, and in regard to hangars being filled with junk instead of airworthy airplanes, the offenders should be reported to whomever manages the hangars to have them removed. We did this at my home base years ago and as a result, management performs periodic hangar inspections and if hangars full of junk with no airplane to be found are discovered, management notifies the tenants with a notice of eviction. The removal of these people resulted in converting a 6 year hangar availability period to 8 weeks!!! When it comes to the outrageous asking prices of used legacy aircraft with high airframe time, engines well past TBO, lousy paint, lousy interiors and outdated avionics, the way to stop this is SIMPLY DON’T BUY THEM!!! If airplanes sit with no takers, the prices WILL come down. Quite frankly, if anyone is willing to pay just South of $100k for one of these airplanes, then they DESERVE to be financially taken advantage of in my view Stop enabling these sellers and you will see how quickly the asking prices and bluebook values decline!!!!

    Reply
    • David Patton
      David Patton says:

      Agree. Many sellers believe in making up for the cost of all of the upgrades at a break even selling price. So yes, just do t buy them and eventually the sellers will get the point.

      Airport managers, I believe, have a hard time telling buddies to clear out and move on.

      Lastly, I’ve noticed a trend building corporate hangers in hopes of getting wealthier clients to pay thousands a month for these large hangers. Yet the field has no maintenance shop or avionics shop infrastructure.

      I was kicked out of my Hager. Yes, they were tearing down the GA plane hangers to put corporate hangers. I had a 1949 Piper Clipper. Fabric and ramp do not mix. I had to sell her because of this. And guess what… the hangers built are un occupied.

      Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hello Nate,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feedback, I appreciate it. What you mentioned about the hangars filled with junk and overpriced airplanes is so true! I’ve seen some Airport Managers make an effort to enforce that (especially those receiving Federal funding) and they’ve had a modicum of success. And then there’s the “good old boy” network… Need we say more? Yes, if overpriced airplanes remain a part of the sellers legacy I think they might finally get the message. The trouble is, I hope the airplanes don’t sit for so long that they too end up in the junk pile! I see that trend already starting to unfold. Potential buyers are finally having their fill of being caught up in that buying frenzy and are walking away.

      Best Regards,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  22. Rodney Cahow
    Rodney Cahow says:

    This IS a new installment of a long discussed topic in GA. Just went over 48 years of flying, although most being airline and corporate and now back to teaching, my local airport seems to be in the same shape as most of the comments made above. Here in south Alabama, with the US Army being so noticeable, you’d think more people would be excited to be involved with the idea of flight. Not so much. And over those 48 years, staying active in aviation and specifically GA, other than Oshkosh and Lakeland every year, most small airports have a ruff time making ends meet with all the regulations and cost going up. And that’s on the airport side. Always wanted an airplane of my own but its always been just out of reach.
    So whos fault or better, what needs to be done to reenergize the idea of flight? Is it truly a dyeing idea for the youngster whos hanging on the airport fence (me) but unable to enter because of lock and key? Yes, my 9$ an hour for a C150 (wet) is equal to 55.45 today, so my rental fee of 140.00 wet for a nice 172 has outpaced inflation.
    Can we survive? Can ALL of aviation survive without General Aviation as the bed rock foundation of flight?
    Interesting thoughts, many questions, many ideas, and whos going to “take the Gideon” and run with it?

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Rodney,

      Thanks for your comments and feedback, I appreciate it. Congratulations on your 48 years in Aviation, that is great to hear! Your final comment about who’s going to “take the Guidon” and run with it evoked a lot of memories of my time in the Marine Corps, especially Boot Camp! What a great way to characterize our present dilemma and moving forward. Best wishes to you,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  23. Scott Powell
    Scott Powell says:

    Yes the cost is, to put it mildly, daunting. Here in Canada, $5 a gallon for 100LL would be a bargain (I just filled up yesterday at $2.04/litre…3.8 litres a gallon…close to $8 a gallon CDN). And we have the same issue with many airports devoid of activity, and closed hangar doors. Fortunately, my home airport always seems to be buzzing, with new hangars being built, and there are a couple of little airports with activity whenever I’m there. I’ve also been fortunate to meet many chatty, not grumpy, old men (and women!) in my short time in aviation.

    But yes the costs are crazy. I’m in a partnership with two other gents, in a PA 34. Even with 3 of us, it’s a drain for sure. Parts are ridiculous in many cases, and the cost of new avionics is insane.

    But despite all that, I love it. I came to the flying game late at 48, despite wanting to do it since childhood. Now six years later, I can say without a doubt, it has been the most amazing journey and incredible activity I have ever been involved with.

    I might go broke, and I’ll never own a new car or take a cruise, but I will go out smiling.

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hello Scott,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and comments, I appreciate it. Wow, you folks are really paying some big bucks for AvGas up North. Reading that certainly helps put things into their proper perspective here. And yes, I’m right with you, when it’s time to go let’s all leave with a big smile! Hopefully we’ll also hear the words “Well done good and faithful servant!”

      All the best,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  24. John Canavan
    John Canavan says:

    Great article! I started flying in the late 80s, flying 152s, 172s, and a warrior a time or two. I recall rental rates for the 172 being in the neighborhood of $65/hr. I soloed, flew some afterwards, but job changes, family, etc. (see:”life”) took precedence. A friend of the family bought a new 172 in 2007… rented for $115/hr. I couldn’t justify that kind of money for a hobby, especially with two kids looking at college soon. A couple years ago the bug was biting again, so I called up an FBO here in HSV to see what their 172s were renting for; $140/hour. I was floored-these are nowhere close to new or late model airplanes. This past June, I was at an air show at MQY, and a flight school out of BNA had a rough around the edges 172 on display. Talking to the CFI, I related my $140/hour conversation. He half smiled, and said “it’s gotten worse- more like $175/hour now.” I’m sorry, but $175/hour for a well used 172 with mostly antiquated avionics is asinine IMO. I realized that day that I likely won’t be finishing my license. A friend of mine who works as a pharmacist has his license, and has all but stopped flying due to the cost.
    My dad got his license in the early 70s.at a Piper dealer. I grew up around GA, in the days of waist high fences, rows of new airplanes on the ramp (likewise at the neighboring Cessna dealer). By the time I started flying, we had towering fences, intercoms, and locked gates. Between the skyrocketing costs, and unwelcoming nature of many of today’s airports, I have to wonder how much longer GA will be around.

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hi John,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feedback, I appreciate it. Yes, costs seem to keep rising higher. The aircraft I teach in at KPUB is a Cherokee PA-28-180 with upgraded avionics; it rents for $120/hr wet or $80/hr dry. If you are close by give us a shout, I’d love to help you finish up that PPL.

      Take care,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  25. L Dalton
    L Dalton says:

    As one of several million pilots were priced out of flying I finally discovered a thing called a powered parachute. Absolutely wonderful and the best part of it is the great people who fly them and have become good friends. If you can’t afford flying anything else check out a powered parachute I guarantee you will love it

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hello L Dalton,

      Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it. I was sitting in our living room the other day and heard an interesting sound. When I stepped out to investigate it ended up being a Powered Parachute! It looked to be an absolute blast. The other thing is that you can get in and out of some short fields and take it with you on a trip! Maybe I’ll give it a shot one of these days!

      Best Regards,

      Tom Slavonik

      Reply
  26. Larry Wickter
    Larry Wickter says:

    Boy does this article and the comments ring true to me. Sold my completely refurbished PA-28 40/160 2 years ago after moving further from family – no longer fit the mission. I probably had $85-95K into it- new paint, OH engine, interior (Airtex), panel. I got 55 for it. Good news there is that I put 600 hours on it over 11 years.

    So I buy a high performance, complex and get my endorsements so we can deal with the new mission (longer x countries to see family). I’ve owned the plane 2 years now and we have yet to make our FIRST flight to see family ( I’ve got 100 hours in it around home base mostly). I’ll bet it’s been in the shop 25% of the time I’ve owned it, easy. New prop, new AD, and NOW I’m facing a staggering annual bill by a premier shop for issues with flight control surfaces.

    I’ve been flying for 40 years, owned aircraft for only 15 of those. This is truly an existential moment though; serious thought about selling the airplane and hanging it up. I simply can’t afford these surprises any more. And I won’t go to partnership, club, or rental. No good options for those alternatives where I am; and owning your own traveling machine spoils you.

    It’s a sad reality for all of us except the truly rich.

    Reply
    • Tom Slavonik
      Tom Slavonik says:

      Hi Larry, thanks for sharing your thoughts, I appreciate it. After my first $10K annual I told myself that’s the last time going down that road. I was fortunate enough to have found an IA that really understood the financial ramifications of owning and operating an aircraft. He was also mobile which cut his overhead dramatically. By getting involved in “owner assisted annuals” I was able to reduce that “shock and awe” factor of facing a staggering bill. No doubt about it, owning and operating an aircraft in today’s world is certainly a financial challenge. I sold the 182 about four years ago and both my wife and I miss it immensely. That said, we don’t miss the expense of it at all. I feel fortunate to be a CFI and fly other people’s aircraft and get paid to do it. I’m not sure what I’d do if I didn’t have that to fall back on. I’m sure I’d find a way. As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention.”. Take care Larry, I hope you find a way to keep on flying.

      Reply

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