Just like many things in life, success often comes down to who you know, not what you know. In my case, this was the key to owning my very own airplane.
I had been window shopping various online airplane classified ads for many years as one does while I attempted to pad my savings account with sufficient funds to purchase an airplane I could call my own. As my stash grew to an acceptable level, the cost of used aircraft began to skyrocket. As the COVID pandemic settled in, the price of used airplanes doubled and even tripled in value.
My hopes of airplane ownership began to dwindle and my dreams were relegated to a dwindling pool of Tri-Pacers, Aerona Champs, and the like. While the seat-of-pants, stick-n-rudder flying was appealing, I was hoping to bring home something a little more practical for weekend trips. I had four-seat airplane aspirations on a 2-seat budget.
Not only had airplane prices gone up, but getting a rental had become exponentially more difficult. The schedule was almost always completely booked and increased restrictions made renting practically useless. As it turned out, the very day I had earned my Certified Flight Instructor certificate, the FBO dispatcher, Julie, was asking me why I decided to get my CFI. I mentioned how I wanted to be able to teach my kids to fly one day and was hoping that a CFI ticket would also reduce insurance costs if I ever bought an airplane. After I finished lamenting my predicament, she mentioned that her husband was planning to sell his airplane. She had no other details, but my interest was piqued despite assuming it would likely be triple my budget.
A few days later as I was loitering at the FBO desk, Julie updated me about her husband, Joe’s, airplane. He had a Cessna 172 to sell for $25,000. I slammed my fist on the desk and exclaimed, “Sold!” without hesitation. I assumed it likely wasn’t airworthy but if it was anywhere near flying condition, it was probably worth it. She put me in direct contact with her husband.
I learned the airplane was the very first model year Cessna 172 and was purchased a few months earlier and flown from Georgia to Ohio. Joe, an accomplished mechanic, planned to keep the airplane for himself and had begun a significant overhaul. The motor received new piston rings with freshly honed cylinders, reamed valve guides, cleaned and buffed valves, a rebuilt nose gear shock, engine mount bushings, and a myriad of other necessary repairs. Otherwise, the airplane was in very original condition except for the addition of an ADS-B out transponder.
A few days later I popped over to take a look. My very first image of the machine was back on its tail held down by a case of oil. The front was stripped naked and the nose-gear removed. Various tools and parts were strewn around. I was pleased by the excellent paint job and only slightly concerned with the bit of hail damage on the wings and empennage. Joe agreed to deliver the airplane fully functional with a fresh annual and I agreed to pay his asking price. He encouraged me to have my mechanic perform a thorough pre-buy and even flew the plane to my home airport for the inspection.
My mechanic had a short list of minor issues to consider, but nothing to keep me grounded. I was pleased with his findings and did the deal before I ever took the pilot’s seat. By that time winter had set in and a week or two had passed before I was able to strap in and finally enjoy all the benefits of airplane ownership.
It is still dumbfounding to me that I was able to buy an airworthy and maintained Cessna 172 for such a reasonable price. I’ve convinced myself that the aviation community is extraordinarily self-preserving, caring of its members and I have quite poignantly learned the value of hangar flying.
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